Pictured Rocks Section. Au Sable East Campground to Grand Sable Visitor Center, 7.1 Miles. Day 5, September 26, 2015

I am a worrier.  Not the paralyzing, “scared to step an inch out of my comfort zone” sort of worrier.  Rather, the “did I forget or overlook something important” sort of worrier.  The type that replays conversations and events over and over in my head to see what could have been improved or corrected.  The tree leaning over our campsite was my object of worry as I drifted off to sleep.  Sleep came fairly easily though since the night air was still and the tree was firmly lodged in the other tree.  I assured myself that it had probably been that way for months.  And soon enough, the deep sleep of the hiking soul took over.  At least until 3:30 am, when the sounds of the wind howling through the trees awoke me.  Damn, it had been so still every night and the one night that I worry about the wind…  I toss and turn, trying to forget the wind and return to the land of slumber.  No luck.  Finally I decide to get out and observe the situation.  I figured once I could see the trees weren’t moving, I could crawl back in my tent and sleep a few more hours.  Seeing didn’t help.  The broken tree was still firmly lodged, but pushing enough on the other tree to cause both to sway in the wind.  You could even see the ground pull up a bit at the base of the supporting tree with each strong gust.  Would both trees come down?  Probably not, but….  I crawled back in the tent but it was obvious that no sleep was coming.  I woke Becky to explain the situation and give her the option of staying or getting out.  She said she was going to sleep longer.  I got out and sat by the now darkened fire ring.  Soon, my sister joined me.  My worrying was apparently contagious.  We talked about the other two but noted that the tree was over our tent, not theirs.  We decided that there was no need to wake them too.  We passed the time making coffee and talking.  As dawn approached, we walked to the lake to watch the sun rise over the dunes.  There was an upside to our very early morning; we took some fantastic sunrise pictures!

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After watching the sun climb over Grand Sable dunes, we wandered back to camp for breakfast.  Shortly after our return, our friends were up and moving.  Julianne shared her night excitement.  Sometime after all were peacefully snoozing, Julianne woke up to a bladder need.  As she was making her way back to camp, she heard a concerning noise.  Heart pounding, she stopped to try to get a fix on the location of the sound, sure it was a bear lurking in the dark woods.  After a couple of nervous minutes, she tracked down the sound.  It was coming from one of the tents.  One of those ferocious snoring bears!  Laughing to herself, she retreated to her tent for a restful remainder of the night.

Below is our campsite, note the tree on the right side of the picture hanging over our tent.  It is actually broken at the base.  You can see that the tree that it is lodged against is leaning as well.  It was still standing when we left but we did report it when we arrived at the Grand Sable Visitor Center.  The lady seemed quite concerned and said she would immediately notify the trail maintenance crew.

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Despite our sleepless night, we hit the trail in high spirits with thoughts of cold beer and showers on our minds.  We came across more interesting fungus.  We thought this one looked like a psychotic laughing skull.

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The first couple of miles of trail followed the shoreline and several places had reroutes from the trail collapsing into Lake Superior.  The reroutes were VERY steep!

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There were several places with overlooks where we could see where we were headed.

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As well as see where we had been.  Here is a look back at the Au Sable Lighthouse.  It was interesting to see not only how far we had come since the day before, but also how high we had climbed!  The lighthouse is that little white spec on the upper right side of the peninsula.

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We stopped for a rest at Log Slide.  We slipped off our packs and spent some time exploring and kicking back to take in the view.  We did not hike down to the water because we did not want to make the strenuous climb back up.

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As we were resting, we heard a strange buzzing noise.  It sounded like a giant bee.  We looked around, not seeing anything at first.  Suddenly, a drone popped over the edge of the dune.  Now that was a little unexpected. It hovered over us for a bit, flew off, then came back to survey us again.  I was torn between waving at it and giving it the one finger salute…

By this time in our hike, my camera battery was running quite low.  Far below, I saw what looked like ducks floating along the shoreline and was tempted to try to get a few shots.  I knew I would be maxing out my zoom and would likely waste a lot of time (i.e. battery) trying to capture that perfect shot.  I opted not to at first but finally couldn’t resist.  I didn’t get to look at the pictures until a couple of days later and was surprised by the pictures.  I don’t know what these ducks are but they were pretty cool!  Glad I took the pictures even if they didn’t turn out terribly clear.  One of these days I’ll try to get them identified!

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As tempting as it was to keep hanging out at log slide, we knew we needed to get moving again.  The trail moved along quickly, eventually working away from Lake Superior.  We saw more bear scat and more fungus, including some we thought looked just like coral.

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Eventually our trail brought us to Grand Sable Lake.  Here the trail followed the lake shore and parts of it were quite low and muddy with a few flooded sections.  Mosquitoes, which had been noticeably absent most of our hike, made their presence known.  We had discussed where to stop for lunch as we were passing Masse Homestead campground awhile back and had decided that on overlook on the lake looked like a good choice.  As we worked our way around the lake, it seemed like getting to the overlook was taking a lot longer than we had anticipated!  The low ground and mosquitoes made stopping earlier a poor choice so onward we trudged.  The scenery was quite beautiful and we enjoyed the change from miles and miles of sand.

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Finally we reached the overlook and stopped for a relaxing lunch.  We were pleased to find that our food supplies were actually pretty low.  We have taken way too much food on our previous backpacking trips and did a better job of planning this time.  We wanted to end with a little food left, a cushion in case of emergency, but did not want to be packing out several pounds of uneaten food.  Getting our pack weights down is an ongoing goal for us!

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Leaving the overlook, we  had a bit of road walking to do.  This was a little disappointing and we really hoped our hike wouldn’t end on road.  Eventually, the trail merged back into the woods.  We came to one of the few places where the trail was not well marked and a little confusing.  One way went across a creek dammed up by beavers, the other way went into the woods.  We opted to cross the bridge which turned out to be the right call.  We found out later that the rangers aren’t happy about the beaver dam as it is restricting flow to one of the park’s waterfalls.

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As we neared the end of our hike, we ran into a couple of older ladies just starting their journey.  What an inspiration to see people of retirement age venturing into the wilderness with packs strapped to their backs!  We discussed the possibility of cold weather coming in and they had a wonderful bit of wisdom.  They told us that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.  I love that!  We wished them happy hiking and continued on our journey.  Soon enough, we popped out of the woods and across the open field was a familiar sight.  The Grand Sable Visitor Center!

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We made it!  After 42.4 beautiful miles, we were back were the shuttle had picked us up 5 days earlier.  Our future AT hiker friends were also at the end and kindly took a group photo for us.

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We stopped back in the visitor center to take advantage of the flush toilets and even better, running water and soap!  Ahhh, the simple pleasures of washing your hands.  We also dipped into our cooler for a cold beer, another of life’s simple pleasures!  Our plan for the night was to drive back to the Mackinac Bridge to shorten our drive home the next day.  We washed up and hydrated (if beer counts for hydration) and then headed for the bridge.  We did a quick Google search to find a campground with two simple requirements, available campsites and showers.  We found one that had both that turned out to be a HUGE campground.  It had sites for everything from tents to giant RVs. The people were super friendly and more than happy to find us a spot to accommodate our 4 individual tents. They even found us a spot close to the showers.  Before arriving at the campground, we had stopped to pick up some pasties for that night’s dinner.  And of course more beer now that the driving was done for the night.

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After dinner, showers and setting up camp, we explored the campground a bit.  What a great looking place for family camping!  Just a short walk from our campsite was a pool (closed for the season), shower house, playground, lots of shoreline and great views of the Mackinac Bridge.  Despite being a huge place, the campsites were set up to be reasonably private with trees separating the individual sites.  We were obviously here in the “off” season but from what I could see and the friendliness of the staff we dealt with, I would definitely recommend it.  Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground

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As we walked back to our campsite, we were treated to the moon rising over Lake Superior.  We were one day ahead of the supermoon but it was still bright and beautiful reflecting on the water.  What a scenic end to a fantastic week!

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