The Porcupine Mountains are crawling with porcupines. Not exactly. There are some porcupines, however the area I explored this weekend takes its name from the fact that the tree covered mountaintops have a silhouette similar to that of a quill covered porcupine. The crown jewel of the Michigan State Parks, and the largest at 60,000 acres, the park offers so much scenic variety and so many recreational options that I could spend at least four days to get a real taste of what the Porcupine Mountains are all about and really appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of the Porcupine Mountains. I want to go back once fall leaves pop. http://porcupinemountains.com
Before heading to the Porkies I was warned that the 11th Annual Music Festival was taking place. I was concerned about the crowds, however when there’s 60,000 acres to disperse the crowds it’s not a problem. Performers are booked from all over the world and have played for packed audiences of thousands over the years. I’m sure it’s a musical experience unlike any other, but it wasn’t for me. I was visiting for the waterbagging.
Hundreds of waterfalls grace the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and surrounding area. Waterbagging is to visit as many waterfalls as you can in a single visit and I barely touched the surface by seeing the Presque Isle falls: Nawadaha, Manido and Manabezho Falls to where they empty into Lake Superior.
Wild and scenic, the Presque Isle River tumbles over these and several smaller waterfalls and rapids as it races to meet Lake Superior. This trail parallels the river and provides breathtaking views as you wind through the forest, walk along the boardwalks and the observation decks. Hikers are permitted to climb on the rocks, but there is no swimming permitted due to obvious safety concerns.
Surrounded by the silhouettes of the ancient Porcupine Mountains, the Lake of the Clouds is a gem amid the thick forest. The Lake of the Clouds is probably the most photographed feature in the Porcupine Mountains region. It’s a truly breathtaking sight to behold. The best view of the lake and the surrounding hills was from an easily accessible boardwalk. The hallmark view was atop a 300 foot precipice that overlooks the lake.
Many of the communities in the Porcupine Mountains area started as mining towns. Copper, silver and iron are all found in the area. I haven’t visited a mine yet, however I visited the Ontonagon Lighthouse used to guide ships to the busiest cooper district port on Lake Superior.
The lighthouse was built in 1852, however the wooden structure had a problem with flooding. In 1866, the original structure was replaced with the existing schoolhouse style building, a simple 1-1/2-story rectangular cream brick building with a square light tower at the west end. The extremely high basement was built far above the ground to protect the living areas from flooding.
Originally built on the Lake Superior shoreline with a high basement to protect it from the high waves and flooding, the lighthouse has since “moved” ~ 200 yards back from the shore as the land has filled in with deposits of sediment dropped by waves coming off the lake after the town built jetties. It’s been great in lowering the threat of flooding, however the town has had to continue putting the East Light out further and further.
In April 1963, use of the lighthouse was discontinued after an automatic foghorn and battery-powered light were installed at the end of the eastern pier. The lighthouse was officially closed in January 1964, after which it was leased to the last keeper. The light was removed from the structure and is now housed at the Ontonagon County Historical Society Museum. There’s more interesting history about the keepers and lighthouse at: http://www.ontonagonmuseum.org/lighthouse1.htm
May your head be in the clouds, high above the madness of the world as you let your light shine, unconsciously encouraging other people to do the same.