This turned out to be the most picturesque day, hands down! Beautiful shoreline cliffs (the famed Pictured Rocks), peaceful beaches, awesome waterfalls; the very things that drew us to this hike! We woke up a little stiff and sore, well, most of us anyway. Julianne came out of her tent all smiles about how fantastic her inflatable sleeping pad was and how snuggly warm she was in her giant sleeping bag. Remember, Julianne is our newbie hiker and had purchased much of her equipment shortly before our hike. Kudos to the salesman for helping her have a great night’s sleep in the woods! The rest of us were a bit jealous…
Before heading out onto the trail, we ventured down to check out Mosquito Beach. Unlike ordinary sand beaches, this one was made up of layered rock. It was quite beautiful!
Our lunch destination for the day was Grand Portal, a “beach” far above the water that extends out into the lake. The cliff forms an arch that used to allow for passage of small boats and kayaks. The ceiling of the arch has collapsed and the debris now prevents travel through it. Still a fantastic sight to see and a perfect spot to stop for a picnic.
One of the unique things for us on this trip was sharing the trail with a large number of other people. While some would say that the best part of backpacking is getting away from people, this turned out to be one of the things that made this hike memorable. The night before, we passed the Mosquito Group Camp prior to arriving at our camping location. As we were walking by, we heard a large group of kids laughing and having a blast. A short time later, we ran into a chaperone for the group who told us there were two groups of middle school students from Holland, Michigan who were backpacking. Each group had started at an opposite end of the trail. She assured us that they would be having “quiet time” soon but honestly, we thought it was great that a school was getting kids out to enjoy nature. As we were settling in for lunch on Grand Portal, we ran into the second group hiking in from the east. A few minutes later, the group we had met the night before showed up. While not planned, Grand Portal was a great place for the two groups to meet up! They both stopped for lunch and pictures. One young lady asked us to take her picture and we were happy to oblige. She could not stop talking about what an awesome experience this was. I wholeheartedly agree! I did feel a bit sorry for the solitary hiker who was enjoying a peaceful lunch prior to the arrival of the crowds. He packed up quickly and headed out once the kids showed up.
Another interesting person we met at camp was a kayaker from Washington. He had actually been a kayak guide at Pictured Rocks years before and liked to come back and visit. He told us the plan for the day was to kayak to Chapel Beach and then back to Mosquito Beach. We told him we would watch for him and wave if we saw him. Turns out, we did see him while lunching at Grand Portal. The kayaks give you a good idea of the grand scale of the cliffs! And yes, we did wave.
A look at Grand Portal from the east side showing the latest rock collapse.
Our next planned stop was Chapel Beach for a rest and water filtering. This was our first experience with filtering from the lake. The waves were a little tricky but we developed a system. We used the Sawyer Squeeze Filter (https://sawyer.com/products/type/water-filtration/) which we like for it’s simplicity. We used an empty Gatorade bottle for our “dirty” water. It is easier to fill than the squeeze bags. I waded out, filled the bottle, poured it into the squeeze bag and handed the bag off to be filtered. We had several bags and two filters so the whole process went fairly quickly. The waves caused there to be a bit of silt each time in the dirty bottle, but we just let it settle before pouring the water into the squeeze bags. This kept the silt from plugging up the filter.
Chapel Beach was a beautiful place to take a break and filter our water. We ran into our kayaker friend again and he was commenting on the increased waves. He was a little concerned about his trip back to Mosquito Beach. We wished them luck and headed on down the beach. Chapel Rock was at the east end of the beach.
One interesting feature of Chapel Rock is a tree growing on top of it. At one time, a rock bridge connected the “chapel” to the mainland. The roots of the tree grew along the rock bridge. Eventually, the bridge fell, leaving just the roots to span the gap.
Shortly after leaving Chapel Beach, we came to a spur trail going to Spray Falls. We opted not to hike to it to make sure we didn’t have a repeat late arrival into camp. Fortunately, we came to an overlook further down the trail that gave us a good, albeit distant, view of the waterfall. It was an impressive sight. A 70-foot waterfall dropping straight into Lake Superior that is only accessible by foot or by boat.
As we worked our way along the shoreline, we soon began to see why our next camp was named Coves. This one looked like an inviting place to spend and afternoon.
Most of the camping areas have a place for groups and a place for individuals. At Mosquito, the two areas were fairly close together with a shared pit toilet between them. (Unfortunately, the pit toilet was “out of order”. Not sure how that happens but that was what the sign said.) We came to Coves Group Camp and were excited to think that we were near our destination. As it turns out, Coves Group Camp is quite a distance from Coves Individual Camp. If memory serves correctly, about a mile and a half. We had been told that this camp had a toilet as well but it was an “open concept” toilet, as in no privacy. Privacy or not, it sounded better than squatting behind a tree. We had one member, who shall not be named, who had some urinary urgency and decided to hike ahead to find the outdoor throne. Unfortunately, this resulted in another potty disappointment as no throne was to be found. We did arrive at camp in plenty of time to set up in daylight and cook a hot meal. Becky is becoming quite the camp chef. Fortunately, she is really good about sharing her creations. This is another area where we keep things simple with canister stoves. We are thinking of upgrading to a JetBoil in the future. The outdoor throne was eventually located down a narrow path behind campsite 5.
After a filling dinner, we retired to our tents with a bit of time to relax and do a bit of journal writing. Slipping into a warm sleeping bag after a day of hiking is immensely satisfying.