The first time I heard about a Mt Baldy in the Michigamme area was some three years back on a random web site. I was intrigued. The idea of a mountain near the reservoir seemed novel, as most of the hills are rolling and forested, and the chance of getting a good overlook of the town and basin was exciting.
Finding the location proved to be challenging, though. The only clue that the internet gave me was that Mt Baldy offered views from the north and a mention of a 'red door' near the parking lot. I slowly narrowed down the possibilities, searching for a mountain with an overlook around US-41. There are only the cliffs, the long line of dark outcroppings that stretch along the highway and have distracted me many times as I drove past. Then I saw the building by Brown Beach Road, an abandoned roadside building with red doors, and realized that Mt Baldy had to be a section of the cliffs near Mud Lake.
It was just after dawn when I parked my car next to the building with red doors. I couldn't tell what it was, though it was obviously abandoned. Snowmobiles and trailers were heaped around it, randoms were heaped up around the insides of the doors, and the interior was in disarray. Looked like the owners were either renovating or scavenging the old place. It might have been a rest stop or little knick-knack store at some point. Today it was only the starting point for my hike.
A fresh snow had coated the roads and woods, old snow was still sitting in the shade, and I briefly debated hauling out my snowshoes. Probably not worth it. With any luck this hike would be less than a mile. I wandered across US-41, using the snowmobile trail to wander west.
There were three possible outcroppings that could be Mt Baldy and I hoped to bump into an obvious trail to point me to the right one. A wide, unmarked trail yawned soon enough and I dove into the dark woods. And sunk into deep slush. The thick pines sheltered the snow, keeping a good two feet of damp snow for me to slog through. I stubbornly pushed forward, sloppily following the trail, until I came out onto the powerlines. The snow was deeper here. It didn't need the pine's protection, it could plug up my route all by itself.
I retreated back out of the woods to my car, stomping to shake the snow off my already-soaked boots as well as showing my displeasure at this development. Snowshoes in the end of April? Pshaw. At least it gave me a chance to check out the climb. I paused before reaching the car, taking a look at the woods and outcroppings that I was going to be tackling. Didn't see any outcroppings up there. Hope that I was in the right area, with the hassle that the snow was going to be and all.
Once I got back to the snowmobile trail I strapped on the shoes, moving quickly to regain the lost ground. They worked, only sinking a few inches into the wet snow, keeping my knees high above the crust. In a few short minutes I was under the powerlines again, looking for the trail to continue on the other side of the cleared ground. It didn't. The wide trail in from the snowmobile track disappeared into the powerlines clearing and thick woods sat waiting for on the north side.
Lowering my head I snuck into the woods, roughly following the outflow of Mud Lake up the incline. The trees were thick and nasty, red pines clawing and tearing at my clothes, small downed trees forcing me to zig and zag around. Snow scooped up by my passage weighed down on my shoes, piling and clinging around the straps, and I soon felt cold water seeping into my socks. The little outflow cut a deep channel in the woods and rock, tilting my trail at a sharp angle that was difficult to maintain in the soft snow. This hike was not fun.
The creek lightened things up. The dark flow was swollen with spring melt, bubbling loudly over small drops and easily overflowing banks. A few of the rocky croppings burst free from winter's grasp, dull gray rock poking up and contrasting with the white snow. I began to wander if there would be a waterfall on the tiny unnamed creek. It's not even marked on topo maps, probably a seasonal spring at best, but it'd be nice to see a waterfall.
I got my wish. After topping a particularly slick and wet portion of the woods a roar filled my ears and whitewater gushed down the rock. It looked like two& hellip; no, three tiers at least. The lower one was a mere few yards from my feet, two or three feet tall, and the middle one was closer to six feet in height. The upper tier was mostly hidden in the thick woods above. I crept up, taking pictures of the unnamed falls on the unmarked creek, enjoying the familiar smells and sprays of waterfalling.
Crossing the swollen outflow was tricky. Snow and ice obscured the true banks, leaving me to guess at where to safely step. After a few false starts I inched across over half-buried branches and left a dark trail of wet footprints in my wake. I was more than far enough north, a bit closer to Mud Lake than I'd prefer. Pretty sure I had passed by Mt Baldy by now. It was time to start doubling back.
The hill was steep and soft with damp snow. I climbed up, clutching at short pines to haul myself up while they gouged back at me with clawed branches. As the sounds of the waterfall faded behind me my path began to slacken, rounding out on top, and I staggered to a stop. The woods were still thick and I had a ways to go but it was time to calibrate.
I had narrowed down the location of Mt Baldy to three spots (well, there was a fourth to the east, but I didn't want to go over there). One spot was a short distance from where I now stood. I ruled that out immediately. There was a trail to the overlook, one easy enough for a nearby summer camp to hike up with a troop of kids, and there were no trails here. The next two were back to the southwest. Planning to take a generous detour to the west to avoid losing too much elevation I packed away the map and lurched into motion, slowly curving to a mid-way point between the two possibilities.
Too soon I ran into a gorge filled with pretty, snowy woods. It cut right across my path, a sharp line close to a hundred feet deep blocking me from my destination. Sadly I tucked down, lowering onto my haunches, and slid down the slope. Right before I reached the bottom one of my shoes caught and I careened out over the snow, flopping down like a large downed duck. Well, at least I didn't get any snow down my pants this time. Maybe I'm getting better at snowshoe-sledding.
The climb wasn't as bad as the last few. By now the woods had opened up, huge hardwoods that let the dim gray light in and allowed easy passage underneath. I huffed and puffed a bit and made it to the top, sweat beading under my hat and the relatively warm and stuffy air, and checked my map one last time. One possible spot lay to my left, the other to my right. I peered to the left first. There were pines, sure, the usual vegetation for an outcropping, but something didn't click with that direction. To the right was nothing, just more hardwood. I went with my gut and turned right. If I was wrong I could just double back without losing too much elevation.
There was a bit of a saddle here, a low dip between the two spots, and I easily trudged up the one side. The woods were quiet here, even though I was a mere mile from the highway, the incline and woods hiding all but the loudest of engines. It was a pleasant walk through the woods, a nice change compared to the clawing and steep start of today. When I bumped into the wide overlook I almost regretted finding Mt Baldy.
The ground here was melted through, bare rock exposed by the sun, and my snowshoes scraped loudly across the bald top. I creaked over to a protrusion and sat heavily, looking southwards at the reservoir. The morning mist and snow hid much of the view. I could make out Brown Beach Road directly below, and the rise of Presbytery Point, but the bulk of the lake hid beyond that in the misty white. With how wooded and misshapen the lake is I wonder how much more would have been visible on a clear day, though.
The wet rock began to soak through my pants before I finally got back up. The view was nice, peaceful, even with the renewed roar of the highway below. While Mt Baldy is definitely not a mountain, and did not have a bald top, there were some good views to the south and it seemed much more open than most of the cliffs on the Peshekee Highlands. I took one last look at the leaning wooden cross that (I'm guessing) the camp's kids had erected and headed down the trail.
Oh yes, there was a trail! It circled around from the west, far away from the approach I took, and was relatively easy to follow in the snowy woods. Water was starting to flow down it, and there were more than a few pointy rocks to watch out for my snowshoes, yet it was a trail to follow. I happily clambered down it, taking in the last few wintry scenes of these woods, before emerging out on the snowshoe trail right across from Brown Beach Road.
The best place to park for Mt Baldy is either at the old red-doored building a few hundred yards of Brown Beach Road. Cross the highway and follow the snowmobile trail on the north side of the road west. There is a trail that will open up to the right, across from Brown Beach Road, or where the road guard starts up. Follow the trail into the woods and it will take you right up to the overlook. I don't recommend checking out Mud Lake or it's overflow.