It was late afternoon as I walked away from my parked car on the Northwestern Road. The air was cool and damp from the morning's rains, keeping the normally pervasive black flies and mosquitoes to a background detail. Several logging roads branch north from the Northwestern Road here before it becomes impassable in the west, as most of the big trucks and equipment come in from Big Bay area in the east. I followed one of these gated logging roads up into the Longyear property nestled in the Huron Mountain Club land this afternoon hoping to find a good view.
This was my first time on this particular route. I've taken a track further to the east and another to the west, but this road promised easy access to my destination. With a little bit of imagination the hills just off the Northwestern Road march northwards in columns, with creeks and rivers running parallel in between towards the sandy flat-lands between Mountain Lake and Ives Lake. These columns of hills often have multiple outcroppings, even north facing ones, and hold small waterfalls and rapids along the waterways. I've already climbed along many of these hills, from the Snake Creek outcroppings over by East Branch Salmon Trout River to the double-peaked mountain south of Ives Lake. Today I was heading to an outcropping on Section 17 thanks to a recommendation from Joel, another Huron Mountain hiker. A series of logging roads lead within several hundred feet, and less than a hundred feet below, a panoramic clearing. With a bit of luck I'd have a few minor slopes to tackle before seeing one of the more expansive views of the Ives Lake area.
My walk along the sandy logging road was easy for a while. It was wide and well-traveled, allowing me to quickly head north. The Northwestern Road climbs up out of the Salmon Trout River Valley to an elevation of 1200 feet and this road, like the other logging roads, trend downhill along creek valleys. Distracted by how easy my route was I walked right past my first fork, losing almost a half mile in the process. Doubling back I turned right at a fork down a grassy, overgrown track over a swampy headwater of Elm Creek.
Several overgrown forks complicated my route after I started down the overgrown road. Luckily I had done a decent amount of research on satellite photos before and knew which way to turn, avoiding any more mistakes. For the most part my path followed the most obvious route, even though there were more than a few downed trees to step around and the grass often came up to my waist. Eventually I got close enough to the outcropping to cut east off the trail.
The climb was gentle and easy through a clear forest. While the forest was composed of large hardwood trees, the undergrowth was almost nonexistent and I easily strode up the hill. Before long I was standing on the edge of a sweeping northeast-facing stretch of rock.
Ives Lake stretched to the north with Mount Ives and Breakfast Roll poking up on either side. Dull grey rock poked out from the western flank of Ives Hill to the east, a tempting destination for a future adventure. I couldn't see much to the west but the views north and east were definitely worth the climb. Sitting down on a large boulder I rested, peering out over the untouchable Huron Mountain Club land beyond to Lake Superior beyond as the sun crawled across the sky.
The original plan was to continue north to a shoulder of Mount Homer that appears to be on public land. As the sun set, though, the bugs started to come out. The swampy lowlands of this area generate clouds of annoying insects unlike anything else I've experienced in the Upper Peninsula. I beat a hasty retreat. I had been hopeful with the earlier lack of bugs and wasn't prepared for this onslaught. As I walked back to my car I planned a future trip to Mount Homer and possible autumn visits back here and to other outcroppings overlooking this beautiful, remote area of the Huron Mountains.