As of this writing the UP of Michigan has already experienced two frosty mornings, one in which my thermometer registered 30 degrees F. Leaves of certain trees are beginning to change. The roadside apples are blushing with pink and dropping from their trees. Hat 63 appears here with a particularly rich concentration.
I ain't too proud to pick up food from the ditch. Trust me, this variety is sweet and juicy.
When the morning chill confronts the warm waters of Lake Superior, the result is fog. Fog makes for some special photo-op's. It lends extra depth to scenes like the peat bog in the headline photo, and it dressed all the normally invisible bowl-and-doily spider webs in a lace of fine droplets.
That bog contained thousands of pitcher plant blooms that were turning purple and yellow--another sign of fall. I wish I could have captured close-ups of those blooms with the camera, but peat bogs are no place to walk. Instead I had to settle for foggy subjects on solid land. Here's my favorite.
That balsam fir loomed up before me along a road walk that was not part of the North Country Trail route. I had been alerted by a knowledgeable local hiker to a section of trail that is virtually impassable due to all the recent rains. The Local Chapter's web site confirms this problem with its Segment 2 (which is open for adoption by a volunteer maintainer):
"The crossing is difficult because a maze of beaver dams create a virtual swamp, and the continuation of the trail to the west is not always easy to locate."
The road walk itself seemed especially remote, particularly in the fog. But then I encountered this encouraging sign (shown with Hat 64).
And soon I was back following the blue blazes again.
I've covered the fog and the frost and the falling apples. Were there other signs of fall? How about this play on words: it's Munising Falls
The Munising Falls parking lot, which lies on the east edge of the town by the same name, is the gateway into Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I hiked the final section between the falls and Miner's Castle without getting a single decent vista. It's just trail in the woods. The first good look at Lake Superior came from the old tannery site on the fringe of town. This view is westward across the bay and provides glimpses of the other end of Munising.
Then in downtown Munising the trail passes the visitor center where Hat 53 posed a week ago in brighter weather (note the glimpses of the Lake behind).
From the visitor center the trail turns inland waking busy highways for three more miles before returning to the woods for three miles to the Valley Spur Trailhead. It was in those woods that I met the nice local lady who was chock-full of information about trail conditions. She said she was on the board of the group that maintains the network of mountain bike trails at Valley Spur.
Here's the GPS track of this varied day of hiking.
Beyond Valley Spur, the trail westbound enters the western unit of Hiawatha National Forest, and the trail got interesting.
Interesting if you looked close--if you delved into the detail beyond just forest and trees. Most of the coverage of this day will appear in the next report, and I'm super excited to share it.