Porcupine Mountains, May 2004

Day 6

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Friday morning brought a gentle breeze, bright blue skies and a mild temperature. We ate breakfast and left the campground early to do some sightseeing. The first stop we made was at Summit Peak, roughly 13-14 miles from the Union Bay campground on South Boundary Road. A mile trail departed from the parking lot and rose approximately 250 feet in elevation before arriving at the observation tower. The trail was not very difficult though because much of it was covered by planked walkways and staircases. Shortly before reaching the tower there was an observation deck with a set of binoculars for viewing distant points throughout the Porkies and beyond. The sky was so clear that I was able to see the Copper Peak Ski Jump approximately 16 miles away to the west on highway 513. We followed the planked walkway over to the tower a little further down the trail. The Summit Peak tower is 40 feet tall and stands on the third highest point in Michigan, and the highest in the Porkies, at an elevation of 1958 feet. The ruggedness of the Porkies was plainly visible from the top of the tower. Far below us lay the densely forested park; its various types of trees and vegetation looking like a giant green carpet draped over the rocky mountains and valleys.

The next stop was the Presque Isle campground about 15-16 miles away on the west side of the park. The Presque Isle River is the largest river in the park and contains three waterfalls, the Nawadaha, farthest to the south, followed by the Manido and finally the Manabezho to the north. The river is flanked by two trails, one on the east side and one on the west. On the west side is a sturdy ½ mile boardwalk that parallels the river from the Nawadaha falls down to the mouth of the river near Lake Superior. We walked along the river and stopped at all three of the falls. My favorite was the Manabezho, an impressive fall, similar to the Upper Fall on the Tahquamenon River. Although the Manabezho's drop is a bit shorter than the Tahquamenon's it does share the same root beer colored water. The water acquires its tint from tannin which is produced when dead trees, like spruce and cedar, break down and decay. The tannin leeches into the soil where it is picked up by the ground water and eventually works its way into the river. A large amount of water was thundering over the rocky edge and crashing into the river 20-25 feet below, forming a large wispy cloud of mist over the river's surface. We walked the boardwalk from the Nawadaha falls to the mouth of the river at Lake Superior. The river area near Lake Superior is another unique sight because much of the river bottom and surrounding ground is comprised of layered rock called Nonesuch Shale. This sedimentary rock consists of layers of black or gray shale, sandstone and siltstone and is especially evident between the Manabezho fall and Lake Superior. The other common rock visible in this area is called Freda Sandstone. Freda Sandstone is also a sedimentary rock but it is usually tan, brown or red in color and contains medium to fine grain sediment.

On the way back to the campground we stopped off for one more short hike. On South Boundary Road, approximately 1½ miles from M-107 is the Union Mine Trail. The trail is a one mile, self-guided interpretive path that passes several points of interest from the Union Mine which began operations on the site in 1845. A pamphlet available at the park office or the beginning of the trail explains each of the points of interest, such as locations of mine shafts, partial structures and pieces of old equipment. Another interesting site was the rectangular 'chute' that had been carved into the rock on the river bottom to make room for a water-driven wheel that supplied power for the worker's tools. I'm sure the scenery in this area has not changed much over the last 150+ years since the mine shut down so it was easy to imagine employees walking through these woods, tools in hand, mining for copper.

After the hike we returned to the campsite, ate dinner and packed up as much gear as possible so we'd be ready to head home by 7:30 a.m. the following morning.

Final count for the day: A few chipmunks and a bald eagle making lazy circles in the sky over the road (that was an awesome sight!)

Miles covered today: 4.5
Total trip miles: 33.25

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