Week 8 and 9 – Pancake Bay Provincial Park to Munising, MI
During this journey, it often seems like milestones whiz by far too quickly as we try to find moments to reflect on them. Or, maybe in the moment it’s too hard to wrap our heads around those milestones and what they mean, so we let them zoom by and hope we can find time to reflect on what they mean. These past weeks have held more than one of those moments, and as our feet continue to carry us the miles, it’s hard to fathom how far we have come.
Heading south along the eastern shore, Pancake Bay marked the last Ontario Provincial Park where we stayed. This also signified nearing end of our trek along the Canadian coast. We began the week by closing the remaining distance to Sault Ste. Marie, the biggest city since Thunder Bay. At a private campground at Harmony Beach, we were invited to enjoy the campfire of some seasonal campers named John and Carol, and had the opportunity to learn more about the history of the city they had lived in most of their lives. The next day we woke up early to run to the Soo. Ever since our entry into Canada in the beginning of June, the road signs had reminded us of the incredible distance we had to cover to Sault Ste. Marie. 697 kilometers, 423 kilometers, 212 kilometers, 20 kilometers, the numbers had ticked down slowly. In an experience that felt slightly unreal, we ran into the city and made our way to our destination for the night. Velorution is a local bicycle and ski shop with a free campground for bike tourists. While not exactly their usual tourist, we were welcomed warmly and had the chance to meet other cyclists spending their summer bicycling across Canada. The next day we said good-bye to our new friends and our last Canadian city, and caught the International Bridge Bus which takes pedestrians across the bridge to the United States.
Border crossings remain strange and less-than-welcoming. To cross the border we were asked questions about our possessions and criminal records. We dubiously glanced at each other as we answered the brusque customs officer. After being asked the usual questions, we and our stroller were allowed re-entry into the United States. Not only is it a strange experience to cross these constructed, imaginary lines and end up in another country, but all of a sudden all the details were different too. Snickers! Fahrenheit! Miles! Being in Canada for over a month, we had become quite accustomed to these different day-to-day details. Just like that, we were back. Did we really run up and down all those hills and through all that rain and bugs?
Feeling strange to be instantly back in the United States, we made our way to the town campground for the night. The day after that was a long one, twenty-nine miles to Bay View Campground. With fresh legs we woke early, hit the road, and got to the campground in record time. Our campground host, Gilly, treated us to incredible hospitality and stories of life in the Upper Peninsula. In sharp contrast to our experience in Canada, the UP so far is enjoyably flat and bug-free. From Bay View we headed to Tahquamenon Rivermouth State Park, where we snagged the last remaining campsite. In the spirit of this summer, we got rained on. Again. We have become so accustomed to cold precipitation, but it can still be annoying when it surprises you.
Tahquamenon marks another strange milestone for our trip. On our drive around the lake to drop off supply boxes, we traveled from Ney’s Provincial Park to Tahquamenon in one day. On foot, it’s taken us almost a month. Yep, still wrapping our heads around that one.
From Tahquamenon Falls we headed to Pike Lake State Campground, in one of our longest days yet. We turned off the highway onto forest roads, complete with some well-packed gravel and some quite sandy patches. Pushing Rig uphill through sand is a whole other kind of workout, we soon found out. Thirty-three miles and a couple handfuls of wild blueberries later, we made it to Pike Lake. While the State Parks off of the highway are packed this time of year, Pike Lake was a tucked-away gem. Feeling wiped, we went to bed early and slept in a bit the next day, and were even treated to pancakes and jam from our neighboring campers. We were going to be entirely on forest roads that day, headed to Lake Superior Campground. Feeling tired but appreciative of the quite wooded roads and blueberries along the way, we made it to another hidden gem of a campground right on the lake. We felt blessed and fortunate as we watched the sun set over the lake and put our tired bodies to rest.
We ran back onto paved roads and into Grand Marais the next day, where another resupply box as well as our new shoes(!) awaited. Feeling pretty dang tired and proud after covering about 120 miles in five days, we treated ourselves to lunch at Lake Superior Brewing Company. Grand Marais will be remembered for its food, as we also treated ourselves to breakfast at the West Bay Diner the next morning. Grand Marais is one of the gateways to Pictured Rocks, and we enjoyed a much needed rest day as we prepared for an early start into the National Lakeshore.
When summer is in full swing, so is tourism. The road through Pictured Rocks was slow and meandering, and we’re always grateful for stretches away from busy highways. Deciding to spend a large chunk of the day relaxing at the beach, we napped and swam and read and enjoyed the crystal clear waters of the aptly named park. As the evening crept closer, we added another fifteen miles to the day and made it almost through the park.
Although the Upper Peninsula is quite flat, we have definitely been adding some high mileage days. Looking forward to a rest day in Munising, on the other side of Pictured Rocks, we pushed on the next day through some intense heat. After spending some time at the Falling Rock Café, we were graciously welcomed into the home of Barbara and Charlie Isom, who had reached out to us during our planning process. Living on the shoulders of the road and in our tent for so long, our hearts are warmed by the incredible hospitality and support along the way.