The long drive from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor helped calm my jittery nerves. After all, I had just bumped into a bear and dozens of bats in the pre-dawn forest above Copper Falls. Driving the winding, familiar M-28 under a dark morning sky was oddly soothing. By the time I pulled into the parking lot to Hunter's Point, some forty minutes before the dawn, I was ready to wander back into the woods.
Not that Hunter's Point is in the wilds. The skinny point reaches east to protect a good chunk of Copper Harbor, within sight and sound of the small town. Beyond the tip is a small chunk of land, Porter's Island, that also shelters the bay. The island is maybe fifty yards from Hunter's Point and the water separating them is shallow, with rocks poking out when Lake Superior is low.
This area houses a rather nice township park, complete with trails, parking, restrooms, and boardwalk. Which is one of the reasons why I was here so early - I wanted to enjoy the point and sunrise alone. After parking my car I headed down the boardwalk to the north to get my first look of the vast Gitchee Gumee.
The eastern sky was already alight with the orange/pink of the coming sunrise. Ripples dotted the water, skittered up by a light breeze that would soon die down. The boardwalk ended on a wide cobble beach, letting me head down to the shore's edge as my boots caused the rocks to screech loudly underfoot. I paused here for a moment, letting the fresh lake air flow around me. It was wonderfully silent.
Glancing west along the shoreline broke the moment. Two sleeping bags were stretched out on the rocks next to the water's edge near a pair of kayaks. Dang, that would be nice - to kayak and camp around the tip of the Keweenaw. It's a popular route, one that would take someone around some crazily scenic areas without having to bushwhack through the thick, nasty forest. You'd still need to deal with a different set of challenges, the whims and wiles of a Great Lake, but dang.
After an awkward wave to one of the waking kayakers I headed east along the shoreline, rocks scraping loudly underfoot, and was soon stopped by solid rock. The beach here may be pretty but it's still Keweenaw shoreline. I was forced up into the woods where a wooded trail was waiting for me.
There are two trails, a north one and a south one, that roughly loop the point. They bump into each other at least once, brought together by the narrowness of Hunter's Point. If the cobble beaches were too rough to walk on or the rugged outcroppings too nasty to climb over they offer an easy way around. I was here for the shore, though, so I soon ditched the trail and headed back to the lake.
It didn't take long to reach the point. Once here I poked around aimlessly for a time, tossing rocks into the water and gazing over to Porter's Island. Was it possible to hop, skip, and jump over the gap? I really wanted to continue east, along the island, and catch the rising sun on the far side. The rocks were green and slick under the water, huge seams and boulders creating an unsteady surface. It would be far too easy to twist an ankle or slip under the waves, drenching my (only) pair of pants and camera. Eh, maybe Porter's Island is best visited during the winter freeze.
Instead of daring the water crossing I headed out to a random outcropping that reached out to the lake, separated by a narrow strip of coarse-grained sand. From here I got my first good view back west along the shore I had just walked, a mix of beaches and rocks that made a small half-curve north before a sharp turn. I think a housing development is over there, next to the park, making a walk from here to Devil's Washtub difficult.
I still had some time before the sunrise so I headed south next for my first view of Copper Harbor. All morning long I had heard rumbles from this direction, and as I the bay opened up I saw why. The Isle Royale Queen IV was sitting there, warming its motors next to the shore. The sound carried easily over the flat water, echoing off the forest and bulk of Brockway beyond.
Having explored the small tip I sat and waited for the sunrise. It was still some fifteen minutes away. I had buffered this trip to have enough time to walk along Porter's Island and now had to let it slip away. It wasn't too bad - sitting next to the lake in (relative) silence, munching on the occassional thimbleberry, watching the eastern sky slowly lighten as a tiny pinpoint of light poked through the distance.
Once the sun had broken free of the lake's grip I decided to start heading back. I had a full day ahead of me, new lands to explore and long hikes to attempt, and the temptation to remain here was strong. I headed into the woods and followed the south trail back. The shoreline facing the bay was quite overgrown and mucky compared to the north side.
As I trotted back along the wide footpath a few random things showed up for quick distractions. A few openings in the woods gave me new views back at Copper Harbor: another look back at the Isle Royale Queen IV, a north-facing view (where the trails merged) at the rising sun, and the marina filled with sailboats. There is a trail that connects the one I walked to the marina, one that I wasn't particularly interested in today, though it would make an appealing after-dinner walk for locals and visitors alike in town.
Distance passed quickly along the wide path. There were a few tricky spots, where the hard-packed earth gave way to mud or where a random path trickled away to the side, yet nothing to slow down a brisk walk. Before I reached the parking lot the shore curved and I got one final glance back at bay, now with a hot sun piercing over the wooded point. I paused to let the sun's rays soak in before heading back to my car and the next hike, far above the lake's waters.