On several adventures east of Skanee, MI during the summer of 2008 I noticed a large mountain near the mouth of the Huron River. It wasn't until I started looking at geocaching websites for interesting hiking spots that I learned its name, Bald Mountain, or noticed that it was the easternmost point of the Huron Mountains. There are several rocky peaks closer to the Huron Mountain Club property, offering potentially great views of their rugged landscape, but Bald Mountain offered three rocky outcroppings, an altitude of 1,184 feet, and a good view of the Huron River and Keweenaw Peninsula. So I decided to climb it.
Hoping for good weather, Cory, Logan and I headed over Big Erick's bridge around 9am on a cold Saturday morning. While the weather wasn't bad during the drive, it was snowing lightly for the entire way down. We were surprised to see that the roads were plowed past Huron River all the way to our planned entry route, allowing us to park several dozen yards from the snow covered two-track leading north to the mountain.
Neither Cory nor I had snowshoes; we didn't think the hike was long enough to warrant renting them, especially since Katie had made it very clear that we were to be back by 1 pm so she could take the car to work. We did bring along basic survival gear (knives and matches) and were quite bundled up against the low-teen temperatures. Besides, after a quarter mile of trudging through knee deep snow, we were both quite warm from exertion.
The first bit of the hike was merely along a two-track that is probably suitable for driving during the summer. After meeting with a small tract of pines, managed by Mead Paper Company, the road split in half. It appeared that both roads would take us to the mountain (they just make a loop), but we took the right one to get better views of the upcoming climb. The road split again and we took the left fork, as the right one led down to a swampy creek.
During the hike through the managed forest, we were surprised by the depth of the snow protected by the small trees. While our path was only about knee- to thigh-deep, four foot drifts in the midst of the trees were only yards away. If there hadn't been the two-track, it would have been impossible to force our way through the drifts and branches.
After twenty minutes of hiking, we finally saw our goal - a forbidding snow-covered bulge in the distance. We were aiming for the southwest peak, which appeared to be the tallest and steepest of the three. The mountain disappeared as we continued out of the Mead forest and into the older forest that surrounded the base. Luckily, when we cut off the road towards the mountain, we missed the swamp on the southern side and only had to cross a tiny, frozen creek before heading uphill.
The hill rose quite quickly before us. Numerous large rock outcroppings forced us to wind our way forward, but we were able to make good time up the small canyon between the two southern peaks. We took a small pause about two-thirds of the way on a large ledge to catch a sweeping southern view. Though the snow was falling thicker now, we could make out the nearby swamp and also see a steep peak to the southeast near our road.
Logan was having a fun time in the snow, and both he and I got excited when we saw a blue, icy formation that looked similar to a frozen waterfall. I had taken him on the majority of my waterfall hikes, and he learned that flowing waters or frozen falls usually meant the trip was half over. When we continued past it, though, he didn't seem too upset that we were spending more time in the snow.
The hardest climb was at the end. There were few trees up here to provide handholds and we were forced to crawl on our hands and knees through the steep, fluffy snow. The peak had surprisingly deep snow, and the only stone we saw up there was a small, snowy cairn. The wind was quite cold and the snow had picked up during the climb, so our visibility was limited to less than a mile. Unable to see Lake Superior or even the road where our car was parked, we headed down the mountain a bit disappointed.
The trip back was much easier for Cory and me, with the slope allowing us to trot most of the way. Logan, however, was getting quite cold by this time without any extra gear on. By the time we made it to the managed forest, he was running ahead of us so he could sit and hold his paws up out of the snow. I ended up carrying him on and off for the last half mile - though he did jump out of my arms and start running around again when he saw the car. When we got home, the first thing I did was look at dog boots for him so we could make these longer hikes without worrying about frostbite on his paws. Several weeks later we bought Bark'n Boots from Ruffwear for winter hikes, which help quite a bit with his endurance in cold temperatures.
Overall, the hike was about 3 miles and we were able to make it there and back in two hours without snowshoes. We may not have seen much on the peak, but the views promise to be better on a clear day and the climb wasn't bad for a mountain. I'd recommend this hike to anyone with a good sense of direction and willing to climb a few hundred feet.