Epic UP Hikes: 2014 (and Beyond!)

Schemes of epic hikes always seem to pile up when winter slowly lumbers along. This month has been especially filled with shiny ideas. Its been a long three months since my last trip to the Upper Peninsula and now, thanks to a busy work schedule and the constant threat of record-setting cold temperatures, it may be another month before I can return to Michigan.

I've already been gearing up in anticipation for the year to come, though. Last week I bought my first pair of snowshoes, a purchase long overdue, and a friend of mine bought me a sweet filtration system for Christmas (so I don't have to haul around gallon jugs of water to remote campsites anymore). I've also been eyeing up some better equipment for backpacking, including small gas stoves and lightweight sleeping bags. There's a lot of land to cover this year, old and new, and plenty of new stories that are waiting for this blog.

Porcupine Mountains

Emily has been a friend of mine for many years, dating back to the adolescent days of Huron County. Over the last few years she moved to the Upper Peninsula and has worked at parks in the Newberry and Gogebic area, and, currently, Porcupine State Park. We've been to a few hikes together (like Wolf Mountain and Norwich Bluff) but I have yet to take advantage of her knowledge of the Porkies.

Porcupine Mountain destinations

Some of the areas that I'm hoping she'll show me include Summit Peak, and Presque Isle waterfalls, and the well-known Lake of the Clouds, Of course, if there are some park secrets or off-the-track treasures I'm sure we'll hunt those down as well. While I've heard that there are miles and miles of trails combing through the forest neither of us are afraid of a bit of bushwhacking.

Huron Mountains

Huron Mountain destinations

There are a few areas I have left to explore in the Longyear Tract, nestled close to the Huron Mountain Club. I've walked past the outcroppings above Florence Pond too many times to continue ignoring them. Also, there are some parts of Mount Ives that I believe are on public land that I'd like to tackle. Its hard to say where else I'll wander too if I'm that far north of the Northwestern Road.

Outside of this area there are few spots remaining in the Huron Mountains. There are a few outcroppings up around Bald Mountain that are tempting, as well as a few spots near Birch Creek, but I'm running out of new spots to visit in this range. Which is another reason why I think that this year may be my first venturing into the Porkies.

Mulligan Plains

Mulligan Plains destinations

Well, yeah, Mulligan Plains has to make this list. I haven't been on the plains for almost three years now. During that time there's been some massive changes, a new bridge over Mulligan Creek near Buick Corner and clear-cutting in the north end (think they came in from 510, near Big Pup Creek, a route I didn't know about until recently). I've been up and down most of the plains but there are still two areas to explore deeper, the northeastern cliffs and the highlands between Clark and Mulligan Creek, and I can't wait to return to my old haunt and get reacquainted.

McCormick Tract & Peshekee Highlands

Peshekee Highlands destinations

2013 was the first year I made some serious headway into the McCormick wilderness. Over the course of two days I explored the Baraga Lakes, White Deer Lake, Lake Dortay, and the Acropolis - and had barely grazed the offerings of this land. There is still plenty to explore, from Lost Lake in the north to Dead River's headwaters in the south, and whether I go by foot or boat I'll be back in those woods soon.

Around the McCormick, scattered through the Peshekee Highlands, is a handful of other areas that I'd love to explore. The bluffs near Wildcat Canyon, the forest trestle, Craig Lake State Park, even the lakes of Mount Curwood to the west are all targets for the coming years. Access is notoriously difficult in the highlands, though, so it's hard to say how easy it will be to just drive to these areas, let alone hike through the brush and bugs.


Oh yeah, and the waterfalls. There are still plenty of them out there. While I have no goal to visit all of the falls in the Upper Peninsula (there are plenty of other people who are doing a great job at that) I'd love to add some more to my website. Or at least some better pictures. So there may be a small smattering of hikes or routes that 'happen' to brush close to a waterfall (or five).

Side note: A few months ago, when I was looking around for a new job, I had accepted the chance that Katie and I would be moving out of Wisconsin and far away from my beloved Upper Peninsula. Thanks to my new remote job at Shutterstock that won't be happening. The McCormick Tract weekend was supposed to be my last trip, my final hike in Michigan, and instead it feels like an entire new realm of possibilities have been opened up. The areas I've listed above are only the tip of what I hope to visit next year - and I can't wait to get started.