Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Trails and Not-So-Happy Weather

Our final days in Michigan were among the most exciting we have had. The Trails Festival came to Copper Harbor for Labor Day weekend and the town really came to life. The festival is a series of mountain bike races and competitions. One of the competitions is a memorial dock jumping contest for a guy named Dan Wissman (they also named one of the trails, Danimal, after him). Watching mountain bikers jump a huge ramp into the icy waters of Lake Superior is good clean fun and I recommend it to anyone of any age. As the event was going on, the Isle Royale Queen IV pulled into port and honked her horn while the waitresses at the Harbor Haus did the Can-Can on the back deck. It was like a backwoods variety show of epic proportions.
Notice the judges sitting in the row boat. 
On the final night of the festival (sponsored by Bells Beer) they had a party in the park complete with a fine selection of rare beers and bluegrass music performed by the Henhouse Prowlers. I am a big fan of bluegrass. As soon as these dudes took the stage you could tell they were pros. They are a well oiled machine that is designed to entertain a crowd. So we stayed out late with the kids, had a few ales and did some dancing. The boys were REALLY into the music, especially Noah.

After the excitement of the holiday weekend subsided, we took a trip back to the Porcupine Mountains to meet up with some family. We ended up at a Township park in Ontonagon that was awesome. We set up camp right on the beach and started cracking beers with Uncle Don and Young Andrew. They are a father/son duo that, along with being our family, are part of the core group of bicyclists that we roll with (fellow ragers). They came to the area to do a 4-day bike tour of Gogebic and Ontonagon counties. I was jealous of their plans but we had some interesting plans of our own.

The next day we woke up, loaded up our backpacks and headed to the Porkies for an overnight hike with the boys. The original plan was to hike in 5 miles to Mirror Lake, camp, then hike out the next day. The weather reports basically guaranteed overnight storms, so we brought a tarp to hang over our camp and hiked into the backcountry.

About halfway into our hike we came to a river crossing that stopped us dead in our tracks. The week before we showed up, the area had gotten about 6" of rain so the streams were unusually high. I waded across the river and scouted it out and determined that we wouldn't be able to bring the whole family and all of our gear across safely. We decided the best course of action would be to go to a different campground that was about 3 miles from us but only about a mile from the car. This would prove to be a key move later on.

The trail we were on was really muddy. At times, it looked like a creek. We got to a technical section that was slippery and Jessica had to pick up Sam and carry him. Carrying our son and our biggest pack took its toll and she fell into a large puddle of muck and dropped Sammy in the process. The mosquitos were biting me like crazy and Noah was whining a lot. Morale was definitely getting low but we arrived at our campground around dinner, setup camp and made ourselves at home. After some relaxation time by the fire, we crawled into our tents for the night.

At about 1am the storms arrived. Heavy downpours, lightning and loud thunder. The boys slept through the whole thing and all of our gear stayed dry!

The next morning we woke up to the sounds of chirping birds and the rushing waters of the creek. The conditions looked promising and everyone was relaxed. We knew we only had a 1 mile hike to the car so we could just take our time and head out when we were ready. I started breakfast and coffee and suddenly things got really dark. It wasn't just overcast either. It looked like midnight. I grabbed the weather radio, turned it on, and these were the first words I heard, "Wind gusts of 80 miles per hour. Baseball sized hail. Expect significant damage to roofs and mobile homes. Find a sturdy structure to take shelter in. Possible life threatening situation."

I am not exaggerating here at all. One minute I was fantasizing about coffee in the woods, the next minute I was frantically trying to cram all of our shit into backpacks. I was trying to convey the sense of urgency to Jessica while staying calm for the sake of Noah and Sam but everyone could tell I was anxious. Jessica stopped for a moment and presented the idea of trying to wait-out the storm. That's when I explained to her exactly what I heard on the weather radio and, without hesitation, she kicked it into high gear with me.

Within 15 minutes we had our packs on our backs and Jessica told the boys that we were playing a hiking game where the object is to hike really fast and try to beat the storm. Keep in mind, these trails were muddy when we hiked in and they got poured on all night. So, with 1 mile of fast, messy hiking in front of us, we high-tailed it back to the safety of our car.

We made it back in record time (20 minutes) and beat the storm. The family was safe. We had our main priority covered. We breathed a short sigh of relief and then sped off to our home-on-wheels, which was also in the path of the storm. If we could make it there in time, we planned to hook-up, pull it off the lake, and try to find a car wash/garage to park in until the storm passed. We kept our eyes on the weather radar as we were driving and it looked like the worst of the storm was turning south. I thought we might get some heavy winds so I tied down the camper real quick and we went into town to ride the storm out at a restaurant/bar where we could get some much needed FOOD!

The town we were in got hit by the edge of the storm but the worst of it hit south of us. The area where we had been camping got hit pretty good. I won't ever know the extent of it but the radar told us that we made the right decision getting out of there like we did. We headed back to the camper and the sun came out, right on cue. We spent the remainder of the day swimming and hanging on the beach, something that was easy to appreciate after the crazy morning we had.

For the rest of the weekend we chilled with family. Uncle Don, Young Andrew and his younger brothers, Ray and Robert, joined us for a couple days. Aunt Luann was in the house too. She made us some AMAZING steaks on the grill that we coupled with some of my fresh caught perch for our last meal together. After finishing our amazing surf-n-turf dinner, we were treated to an unforgettable sunset and a huge camp fire. The mood was good, we were all feeling grateful, so we did what all sensible people do in that situation. We got drunk.
A day hike at Lake of the Clouds complete with a lunch/beer stop. 
Copper Peak. One of the largest ski jumps in the world...right in the middle of nowhereland, MI. It's really bizarre to stumble across this thing. 
Our last sunset in Michigan. 
Our final campfire in Michigan. 

With the Michigan chapter of our trip closed, we headed to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin with no particular plan in mind. We just rolled up, found a campground, and started gathering information. This area looks really nice and I am sure it's a blast in July but, it looks like things are starting to shut down for the season. We are making the best of it but last week was so great and we are feeling slightly homesick.
Noah enjoyed the ferry boat ride to the Apostle Islands. 

In a few days we are heading to Minneapolis for a bit. We are going to resupply, enjoy some modern conveniences and maybe even do some shopping at a certain mall in that area. We are gonna head west pretty quick after that in an attempt to beat the snow to the mountains. Until then, there's gonna be a whole lot of ferry rides and cheese curds in our life.

After an action packed, send-off  from our home state, we are off to see the rest of the country. Michigan, you are gonna be a tough act to follow. Until next summer, old friend.

- We love blogging about our adventure and we will update our blog as often as possible. For an up-to-the-minute view of our trip, follow us on Instagram @yumfam. 

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