Lightfoot Bay near Skanee
A cold breeze drifted up from the small bay and through the trees. Finally. All day I had been hiking through stifling heat of the forest near Mount Benison, unseasonal heat that had sapped the energy out of me, and even the narrow waterway of Huron Bay offered some relief. With a grateful sigh I trotted up to the cabin, trying to make sense of things here at Lightfoot Bay.
Lightfoot Bay sits less than a mile northeast of Witz's Marina in Skanee. This small estuary is protected by the Keweenaw Land Trust, though I wasn't completely sure what that meant. A few signs along the road in helped me out. The cabins were available for rent though the land could be wandered on for free. I happily strode out past the cabins to the dock, basking in the cold winds coming off the water.
I gazed up the waterway trying to map things out. This docks protrudes into the small bay, providing easy access for the two (locked up) canoes behind me. The bay might be connected to Huron Bay, though it was hard to tell from here. Glimpses of the larger body of water could be seen beyond a low rise of land, and further out was Abbaye Peninsula. To reach the shoreline I'd probably have to go along the west side of Lightfoot Bay, which was where the trails led anyways.
When I turned off the dock and started west I passed right in front of the main cabin. These things are impressive. I had tried to maintain a wide berth of the structures, not wanting to lurk around too much. The woodwork above the porch was fairly intricate, reminding me of the details that went into the cabins on the White Deer Lake. I wondered how old these things were, if the original structures had been renovated for their new role as rentals, or if they were a more recent addition.
The path started near the cabin, right next to a slowly collapsing shed that may have once been a boathouse. Quickly the forest closed up around me, tall pines over a sandy ground with little undergrowth. Cool wind still filtered in through the open woods, a wind that I was still thankful for. Off to the left were some old wooden buildings in disrepair that further deepened my wonder on the age of this place.
Soon the path made a sharp bend north into the marsh around the bay. There were plenty of signs warning ATVs to stay off these trails, signs that were probably much needed with the off-road traffic that this area sees. I stepped over the sign and trotted down the narrow path. Swampy brush grew up around me, stretching up in a faux tunnel above me, though there were a few breaks here and there to catch a view back at the cabins.
For being on a narrow track in a marsh the bugs were nonexistent. Everything about this area was a huge shift from my earlier hikes: cool temperatures, no bugs, and easy trails. I was rather enjoying this hike. When the marsh path ended onto an open area with a few trails branching off I took my time picking a path, eventually deciding to head right. I wasn't in any rush.
The first path led along the northern shore of Lightfoot Bay and ended at a large flow of water. Maybe this is where the bay empties into Lake Superior. I backtracked and followed the next trail to the right. This one ended quickly onto the same flow of water, though now I could see that the flow ended before breaking through. So this isn't where it empties. Retracing my steps again I passed by another old foundation, the second or third one I had seen out here. There was once a small cluster of cabins out here, hugging the narrow strips of dry land between the marshes, and now only the foundations remained.
Huron Bay opened up on the last path I tried, sand and water pouring out in front of me. And ice. There was still ice on the water, far across next to the peninsula. I stood on the beach, eying up the distant specs of white, wondering how many more 80+ days it would take to knock out the rest of winter's remnants on the great lake.
There were some interesting smatterings of tracks on the beach here, holding their shape in the wet sand. A moose was out here, as well as some smaller animals (raccoon? beaver?) that I didn't recognize. Moose prints are easier enough to spot. There were some bootprints too, another human that had walked this way, though they were older than most of the other prints. Animals roamed this beach much more frequently than people.
Turning I headed northeast, following the beach up along the water, avoiding the fragile grass on the dunes and playing tag with the waves. I passed the fake exit to the bay, the sealed off flow that almost makes it out into the lake and is now blocked by a hefty chunk of sand. The real exit is just beyond a narrow and sluggish flow that eeks in and out, probably letting as much water flow in as out (aka estuary).
Here I simply turned around and headed back down the trails to my car. The visit had been refreshing, a needed pause from the tough hikes of the morning, and it was time to move on. It was tempting to try a full circle of the bay but there were no trails, or to walk the beach to Witz's though there were probably private cabins, so I just headed back. This short visit to Lightfoot Bay was perfect enough as-is.