Continuing to explore my local highways, I decided to drive west and check out the recently opened seasonal Highway 58 between Munising and Grand Marais. My first stop was Sable Falls. After viewing multiple U.P. falls, I think Sable Falls could just be the most underrated waterfall in the Upper Peninsula. Tahquamenon Falls gets all the glory, but the 75 foot drop of Sable Falls is just as worthy of your time and the 178 steps to the viewing platform.
As part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this spot is also one of the trailheads for the Grand Sable Dunes, so if it were warmer you could spend quite a bit of time here hiking the trails or playing around on the beach.
Sable Falls dunes and beach overlook
H-58 is a seasonal highway and was only cleared a few days ago. By cleared, I mean to say it appears as though an ice breaker drove down the center of the highway breaking a path through the 3-4” ice. It was still an interesting challenge without the 6 feet of snow and I was happy there weren’t many vehicles coming the opposite direction.
You can easily understand then, why the first time I drove past the unplowed entrance to the Log Slide, I drove passed it. Upon my return, I was more careful and pulled off the road to hike the 1 mile stretch. I’m glad I did. The Log Slide is a piece of U.P. logging history, and an access point to one of the most stunning views of Lake Superior I’ve seen.
View of the 500′ slope slide looking east from the viewing platform
The still snow covered road into the Log Slide
The innovation of “big wheels,” was invented in the 1870’s and was responsible for increasing the transportation of logs regardless of the weather. These ten feet diameter wheels were pulled by a team of oxen or horses and allowed rapid movement of logs without the need for snow cover previously needed to move over stumps and rough terrain.
Ten foot high “Big Wheel” used for hauling logs in winter
The loggers would haul the mostly pine logs to the edge and slide them down this very steep 500 foot slope into Lake Superior, where modified barges would hook, load and haul them away. Legend has it that logs sent down the dry log chute would sometimes generate enough friction to cause the chute to catch fire. Today there’s no evidence of the chute. http://www.grandmaraismichigan.com/Printables/Logging.pdf
Log Slide as seen from the Au Sable Light Station
You can view and/or hike to the awesome Au Sable Light Station from the Log Slide. I decided my legs needed a break and drove to the Hurricane River trailhead instead. The Hurricane River empties into Lake Superior and is supposed to be a good trout fishing area. From the parking area it’s a 2 mile hike to the Au Sable Light Station.
The Hurricane River emptying into Lake Superior
In the summer you can walk the beach along Lake Superior to the Au Sable Light Station
It’s still very early in the season, which meant the closer parking lot/trail weren’t yet groomed and the light house buildings weren’t opened so I’ll focus on the hike. It was mostly a flat 2 mile hike through snow and sand and even climbing over the occasional fallen tree that leads to the historic U.S. Coast Guard light station. Whew! But it was worth it because the Au Sable Light Station is THE standout light house in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Built in 1873-1874 to protect North America’s most beautiful and most dangerous shoreline, the light tower’s base diameter is 16 feet with a height of 87 feet. The lens focal plane is 107 feet above lake level. A fog signal building was finally built in 1897, which may be way several ships ran aground prior to that.
The 1.7 mile wooded trail to the Au Sable Light Station
Au Sable Light Station
Au Sable Light Station
Along the trail there were informative signs about the “Graveyard Coast” areas where, if it weren’t buried in snow, you’re able to get up close and personal with three ships that ran aground there. I’d recommend this as a fun, family place to camp during the summer. There’s a long beach, shipwrecks and a cool lighthouse. What more could you want? To see podcasts on the area, click: http://www.nps.gov/piro/learn/photosmultimedia/multimedia-presentations.htm
Today’s adventure was the first time this year I’ve really noticed signs of spring. I saw the slightest hint of buds on trees and while walking through the woods there was a noticeable change from the crisp smell of my winter hikes to the organic scent of spring soil in the woods.
Spring is really coming … yeah!