Point Abbaye had lured me out many years ago during some of my first adventures east of L'Anse. The long peninsula separated Keweenaw and Huron Bay and looked like a tiny version of the great Keweenaw Peninsula itself, stretching out into Lake Suprior like a crooked finger. Also, it promised (and delivered) some of my earliest views of the western Huron Mountains, land that still holds my imagination today. There's just one problem with the point: it is a real hassle to get to.
A single paved loop heads north up the Abbaye Peninsula from Skanee Road. It starts at the small town of Zeba (Whirl-i-gig Road), brushes the historic Pequaming Bay and town, cruises through Aura, and then quickly bends back down Townline to the mouth of Silver River. This loop will get you maybe a third of the way up the peninsula. To actually reach the very tip, Point Abbaye, there is a winding and rutted eleven miles of gravel road that rarely allows you to top thirty mph. And there's not much up there aside from a few trails: no beach, campsite, or side destinations. Two hours of driving there and back for maybe thirty minutes of walking.
Still, it is a unique spot and one that drew me out today. I had been to the point at least three times before and had never gotten enough photos to warrant a post. The first time had been very late at night, after the sunset, after Katie and I had an unsuccessful attempt on No Name Falls. A year later I brought Faith, Cory, and Katie out to check out the view of the Huron Mountains. Then, in 2011, Katie and I stopped by during one of our last camping trips together in the Upper Peninsula. Each visit was fun, with a companion to chat with during the long drive to and from, I just never got more than a handful of pictures. So today I headed on the long drive alone, still itchy from morning bug bites, hoping that cool lake winds would keep the insects down and let me have a relaxing stroll along the shoreline.
After a few confusing intersections I made it to the small park on the shore of Keweenaw Bay and stepped out of my car. The bugs instantly attacked. They weren't mosquitoes or deer flies, though; they looked like house flies. These were the same flies that harassed Katie and I on our last visit. I wasn't worried - I could deal with house flies. They clustered quickly, creating unnatural weight as they clung onto me in stacks of dozens, and I tried not to care. Maybe they were mating, or were attracted by my sweat. They weren't bugging me too much.
I made my way down to the shoreline, skipping away from the forested trail in favor of the rugged rocks and cold Superior water. Here the edge was cobblestone, fist-sized rocks rounded by years of pounding waves. It was too hazy to see much without squinting. Normally the other side of Keweenaw Bay would be easily visible from here, South Portage Entry and the swoop up to Rabbit Island and beyond, but the haze hid most everything except a wispy and distance ridge. I bent down for a few skipping stones, trying my luck over the gentle ripples, and managed to squeak out ten hops from one. Out of practice.
When I turned east and started to follow the lazy curve of the point up I began to feel little pricks near my ankles. Probably just sweat-hardened socks or embedded prickers from morning hikes. The shore turned from cobble to hard rock, rough black stuff that the forest tried and failed to overrun. I skipped and hopped along, making good time, while the prickling sensation intensified. Than I looked down.
In order to deter ticks I usually tuck my pants into my socks. This practice has the side benefit of keeping my hems from getting wet and muddy on wading ventures. Now my white (ish) wool socks were completely covered in those normal-looking flies. They were biting through my socks. What? I stomped hard, trying to shake them off, and they rose like an angry cloud of locusts. Well, this stroll just got more challenging.
Hoping to outpace them I sped up, leaping over gaps and half-trotting up the shore. The bites continued and began to move up my back as they started to go through my jacket and shirt. Two layers of clothing were nothing for these hungry guys. The bites hurt more than mosquitoes or deer flies, sharp needle jabs attacking me from multiple spots at once. This sucked. By the time I rounded the point I was frequently stomping, shaking my jacket, and brushing my arms to keep them in the air and off of me. Hundreds of energized black dots circled around me in a tight, maddening buzz.
The views from the point were enough to warrant a momentary pause. While the air over the cold lake was still hazy the Huron Mountains and Huron Islands were still recognizeable, especially the huge bulk of Benison/Clause. The islands in particular distracted me from the flies. I knew little of them, just that there is three large ones with the lighthoused island being the only 'allowed' one to dock and explore. The rest are protected (I think). How fun it would be to kayak/boat out there and explore them, small as they may be, sitting out there like drowned mountains from a long-past era. A sharp bite on my ear brought me back. It was time to book out of this bug-infested area.
I rushed south along the point towards Finlander Bay. Didn't make it far, though, before looping back to the trail and breaking into a full run back to my car. They kept up with me, but at least the hard foot falls shook them free from their biting holds. When I reached the car I brushed as many as I could off of me before diving into the relative safety of the hot, enclosed interior. Forty or so followed me in. I spent the next fifteen minutes killing as many of them as I could, leaving bloody smears and dead flies littered through the car.
Outside of the flies I was glad to have visited Point Abbaye. Compared to my rugged morning hikes up and down ridges and through wet bushwhacks the open shore was nice. If it wasn't for the southern wind pushing all these flies to the point this would have been a great hike. Them flies, though. As I drove away, bouncing up and down the rutted road while swatting at the few remaining bloodsuckers I decided that there was no way I'd revisit during the summer. Sure for the fall, maybe for the spring, but not in the summer.