Return to Bald Mountain
Three years had passed since I last climbed Bald Mountain, the last significant outcropping of the Western Huron Mountains. My first visit was a significant milestone for me, as it was the first non-waterfall hike I attempted in the Upper Peninsula. This initial climb triggered a long and lasting interest in the Huron Mountains and other UP features that still drives the majority of my hikes. Today I was revisiting Bald Mountain in the winter again both to commemorate the anniversary and find something that eluded me three years ago - a clear view of Lake Superior to the north.
Leaving my car just off of Erick's road, where snow plows had cleared some extra room at the two-track leading to the mountain, I headed north along week-old snowmobile impressions. The snow was not deep with this winter's frequent melting spells and the few times I stepped off the snowmobile tracks I only sunk down a foot or so. A few animals also used this two-track (left from the Mead forest planting just south of Bald Mountain), either because the managed pine forest ahead was growing thick or the trails exposure to the sun left the snow layer relative thin. I turned east when the route split and made my way through the forest, surprised by the tree's quick growth over the last few years.
While the two-track offers a few good views of the mountain, especially when it twists back north, I was eager to cut off the trail a bit early. There is a large pond or swamp directly below Bald Mountain's southeast slope that I wanted to check out. The snow deepened quickly in the woods so I followed as many deer tracks as possible (when enough of them follow the same route they make a great ground-level path) until I reached a wide open expanse of snow. The snow was surprisingly deep for the level of sun this spot received (I sunk in well past my thighs) but it offered an excellent view of the southern slope of Bald Mountain.
As tempting as it was to cross directly to the mountain here, the lack of animal tracks and lack of knowledge of what exactly was under the snow kept me in the woods. I headed west to the tip of the clearing where a snow-covered ridge showed a possible beaver dam holding back the water. Crossing on the ridge I started climbing the mountain. There are actually three main peaks (not counting the ridges that stretch northward). This triangle points north with valleys within each of the connecting sides. I climbed up a familiar route inside the south valley, between two peaks. The snow was deep and I quickly cut up to the west, leaning towards the exposed rock outcroppings on the southwest peak. It didn't take long to reach the tallest of the three peaks.
This was the point where I turned around three years ago. A thick blizzard had blocked all views and Cory, Logan and I were all cold and disheartened. Today was different, with the bright sun and clear skies inviting me further. I tumbled down the steep slope and continued north to the next peak. The valley in between the three peaks was awesome in itself. Protected and peaceful, this felt like it would make a great camping site in inclement weather. Walking through the valley I climbed up the northern peak of Bald Mountain and was greeted with the exact view of Lake Superior I was hoping for.
I spent a good chunk of time wandering along the northern peak enjoying the views. A ridge that stretches east to west, there was a lot of good outcroppings and spots to check out. Another similar ridge rises up just to the north, blocking all of the Huron Islands, but I could still make out Point Abbaye and the Keweenaw easily. It was tempting to continue north to try to see these islands, but I decided that could wait for a summer day and backtracked down the mountain.
The western Huron Mountains are a great place to see some great views without worrying about private property. Most of the peaks are on public commercial forest land, including Bald Mountain. The Huron Mountain Club has been buying up land near here, including pieces of Superior/Clause Mountain just to the east, so I'd recommend visiting this area sooner rather than later.