September 19th, 2022:
With several days of daylight left I decided to take a scenic drive along Lake Superior, south towards Ashland, WI – a lakefront ‘city’ of 7,000. There are several chain hotels as well as local inns in the area. Ashland has a major grocery store and other necessities if you need to stop up on gear (especially if you decided to camp in one of the region’s campgrounds).
The sky was a brilliant blue – a welcome relief after mostly overcast days so far on my trip.
When I worked in the music industry I learned about several music festivals in the Porcupine Mountains region of Michigan, near Wisconsin, on the border with Lake Superior.
While it was a bit ambitious of me, I couldn’t resist driving into Michigan and taking in a bit of backroads scenery.
My original plan to drive to the Porcupine Wilderness State Park was just a bit to far that late in the day, but I discovered a wonderful surprise as I entered Michigan.
The Black River Harbor National Recreation Area…part of the Ottawa National Forest area is an unrivaled gem that is easily reached and offers just as much scenery as any spot on the southern shore.
The area around Black River includes ambling rolling mountains that remind me of the Sauratown mountains (foothills to The Blue Ridge) in NC. The Porcupine Mountains are cut in stone and covered in colorful deciduous trees and evergreens.
Getting there: From US 2, near Bessemer MI, you’ll turn at Powerhorn Ski Area sign (there is a huge carving of a man on skis) and drive about fifteen miles.
Along the way you can stop at scenic pullouts – each with hiking trails to waterfalls.
I hiked to Conglomerate Falls (the first scenic pullout). This moderate hike is the ‘hardest’ of the waterfalls trails at 3/4 of a mile (1.25 round trip). It ambles through a tapestry of beech, maples and pine into the heart of the forest before you reach the astounding Conglomerate Falls.
This trail has a good amount of steps but nothing too difficult for experienced moderate hikers.
The reward is worth it.
I then drove down the road a bit to Powatomi Falls – this quick trail packs a punch as one of the most powerful falls I’ve seen on this trip.
Two additional falls, Sandstone and Rainbow are only 1 mile RT
Unfortunately I was running low on time, as I also wanted to stop by a Wisconsin State Park on the way back.
So I bypassed the other two waterfalls and headed to the end of the road – Lake Superior.
The Black River runs into Lake Superior in a tranquil marina area with picnic tables and a neighboring campground.
Be warned though – you won’t find many bathrooms here in the off season.
The Black River is named due to the natural occurring tannins in the water (tannins make your tea black for instance).
After enjoying several hours in this unexpected wilderness, I headed back to Wisconsin, stopping briefly at Copper Falls.
The sunset was stunning…the sun so bright you were blinded by the light and I nearly pulled over because I struggled to see the road.
As the sun caved beneath the foothills a rose red broke out on the horizon.
Unfortunately by the time I made it to Copper Falls it was too dark to hike the 1.7 mile loop to the main waterfalls – but I did get to enjoy a picturesque river scene.
I’m sad my trip is coming to a close – Lake Superior will hold a piece of my heart forever.