Soft, cold rain drizzled down around me. I was attempting to cross Lower Silver River Falls, a waterfall near Skanee, MI that I've visited at least a dozen times (and even proposed to Katie at). The river was higher than normal and the rocks were wet-slick, making a crossing tricky and dangerous. Three slow, careful steps on the rounded, slippery rocks and I was on the eastern bank. A long hike was ahead of me, so I checked my gear and lowered my shoulders into the dripping underbrush.
Just east of Silver River and south of Point Abbaye a number of rocky outcroppings poke up from the surrounding deep northwoods. These peaks, scattered randomly about, are roughly located at the site of the old Dakota Farm. Back in the mining days this was one of the farms that provided the Keweenaw fresh foods although there is no buildings or fields remaining today. Rumor has it that the men working at the farm would watch for ships sailing down Huron Bay from some of these outcroppings to know when to haul crops down and supplies up. My hike today was to check out these outcroppings with the goal of getting a nice view of Huron Bay and Point Abbaye to the north.
The climb started quickly. One of the high spots was nestled right close to Silver River so I tackled it right away. Sopping leaves and branches rained heavy drops down on me, soaking my hat and jacket as I climbed the steep hill. The woods were thick and young, forcing me to squeeze sideways multiple times to get through. By the time I reached the open mossy rock I was wet through to my shirt and my jeans were dripping. The view was pleasant but not great. Most of my climb was spent just getting out of the Silver River's gorge and not gaining prominance.
Turning away from the view I headed due east. A slight downhill took me throw an older, pleasant forest with some undergrowth. I enjoy walking through this type of woods, even though there are plenty of branches underfoot to snap and give away your location. Everything was shiny clean with the rain, which had stopped while I was climbing down off the rocks. Clean and quiet, with only the sounds of my footsteps blundering through the undergrowth.
A dark gravel two-track cut through the peaceful woods like a foreign intrusion. Dakota Farm Road, which is gated on both ends, runs along Silver River from Skanee Road to Arvon Road. It was surrounded by dripping trees but still felt like an unwelcome alien here. I still took the opportunity for a few hundred yards of easy walking and heading northwest along it, making good time on the well-traveled and smooth road.
When the thick pines on the right of the road opened up for an overgrown logging road I cut off the road, heading up a gentle slope. The sky was still cloudy, and thanks to the elevation gain and low hanging wisps, I'm pretty sure that some of the mists I walked through were low clouds. This surreal hike didn't last long enough. Soon the next outcropping made it's presence known, with the dark grey rock rising up from the forest floor and beckoning me up. This climb was tougher than the Silver River outcropping, forcing me to crawl and zig-zag along crevices to reach the top.
This outcropping was more reminiscent of the peaks of the Huron Mountains to the east than the Silver River outcropping. Bumpy, misshaped grey rock rose suddenly out of the forest floor, giving excellent views to the west and north. This had to be the lookout for Dakota Farm… even with the mist and fog I had a great view of Huron Bay and could easily tell if a boat was approaching the mouth of Silver River. I rested here awhile, drinking in the scene and planning the rest of my hike.
There was still a few high spots I wanted to check out so I turned to head south. The south slope was much more gentle and had a four-wheeler path, so I headed down that for a bit before cutting through the woods. These woods were a bit younger than before, twisting my route and raining down water when I brushed against a tree, but it was relatively easy to each of the other outcroppings. While they were bare on top, neither were tall enough to grant me a view over the surrounding trees, and I continued south without too much delay.
Most of my attention had been spent looking north towards Point Abbaye. There was one spot that I hoped to get a south view, up the Silver River valley. A short distance from the two low outcroppings was a ridge facing south, so I ventured over to it. A surprisingly long, east-west rise of rock offered a slim view south to the greenery upriver as well as easy walking. I trotted downhill along the rise to the west, careful of the wet rock below but enjoying the break from the soaked woods.
I dropped back down to the forest floor inside of a low, flat valley. Done with outcroppings, I now wanted to head south towards Dakota Creek to check for waterfalls. There was a suspicious elevation change that I wanted to check out but first I had to push my way through a young forest left over from recent logging. The trees were less than twenty feet tall and packed close together, perfect for collecting the rain and mist to shower down on me while I walked past. Eventually I gave up trying to avoid it and just pushed my way as quick as possible, getting further drenched in the process. Finding an overgrown path, following it to wider road, and finally finding the main logging road along Dakota Creek was a blur of cold and wet that I was glad to be done with.
Guessing that the falls were to the west I turned right, following the logging road downhill. I passed Dakota Farm Road where it crosses the creek and soon heard a familiar noise to my left. Cutting off the road down towards the creek over a surprising amount of old boards, wires, and trash I found a small and narrow creek running over dark rocks. It was only a short distance upstream that I found Dakota Creek Falls, a stepping set of drops cutting small slides into the solid rock.
The feeling you get after finding an unmarked waterfall is always pretty cool. There are many named drops in the Upper Peninsula, but to find one that is so relatively close to a well-known spot (Lower Silver Falls) that is not visited often or named is definitely exciting. After slipping and sliding up the waterfall, taking pictures of the individual drops, I headed back up to the road and continued on, elated. I had found both the lookout I was looking for and a new waterfall, and I was less than a mile from my car.
My return trip was soon complicated once I walked into a small meadow. My nice road ended with only a small spur leading north. I took it in hopes that it would take me to Silver River, but it petered out after a few hundred yards. In hopes to find the river easier to follow I veered westwards and found a cluttered, steep riverbank that slowed my progress to a crawl. Fighting for every yard through some of the thickest undergrowth in the area I cursed my path, knowing full well that I could have backtracked onto Dakota Farm Road and my original route up the first outcropping. It took awhile, but I finally made it back to the falls and my car.