Pictured and Painted Rocks

About 30 miles east of Munising, I was regretting my decision to take the more direct M-28 route instead of joining Top and Mongo and gang on the more scenic H-58 shoreline road.  Not only was there road construction, BOTH lanes were under construction at once, FOR A WHOLE 20 MILE SECTION.  I appreciated the signs that warned me of an automatic $7500 fines and 3 years in jail for injuring a worker in a construction zone (those guys should get hazardous duty pay!), but I couldn’t help but wonder what the penalty would be for the state of Michigan for my injuries and property damage if I went down, as my bike and trailer slid around, losing traction for 20 miles, on mostly loose, oil covered gravel.  Again, I recalled the t-shirt logo “But did you die?!”  Obviously, since I live to tell the tale, I did not die, so I guess all’s well that ends well, right?

I arrived and set up camp in Au Train Lake Campground in Hiawatha National Forest, about 10 miles west of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  What a gem of a campground!  Though a primitive campground (ie, no electric or water at sites; only vaulted toilets and no showers at the bathhouses), the sites were spacious and wooded. 

Pretty sweet campsite!
Though generally against the Leave-No-Trace principles of good outdoor environmental stewardship because of potential toxicity of paint (through leaching or licking by animals), and well, just because they are not part of the natural environment, I have to admit it did make me smile to see these rocks tucked into indentions in the tree at my campsite.  I do hope that they used local rocks and non-toxic paint though :-/ 

Since it gets dark so late at this latitude, I had plenty of daylight left after setting up camp to walk down to the campground boat launch to check out the lake.  While at the dock, I met Joe, another veteran and, of all things, a former avionics guy!  He, and his wife Amy, have been involved in aviation for decades, so between airplanes and camping, we had lots to talk about! As one of their favorite campgrounds, they had lots of knowledge of Au Train Lake and the surrounding area and gave me lots of good insight on things to see and do.  It was so great to sit around the campfire in the evenings, or under their awning when it was raining, to just visit and catch up on the day’s happenings.  Campgrounds are great for making friends!

Kindred spirits in the Au Train Lake Campground! Me, Amy, and Joe.

I had purchased a ticket for a boat tour of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore online the week prior, so I rode the 10 miles into Munising from the campground one morning to do a little sightseeing before my tour at 1 pm.  I met a family while having breakfast at the bar at Earl E. Byrds who were also touring the area on motorcycles.  They hadn’t traveled as far as me, but they were enjoying the ride as much as I was, but had similar stories of treacherous riding through road construction!

I’m a sucker for town murals.

Having learned early on to take screenshots of directions and tickets ahead of time when going to areas with poor cell phone coverage, I had saved a screenshot of my online boat tour ticket, but realized too late that I hadn’t captured the bar code.  So I walked over to the boat tour office (Munising is not very big) and asked the representative at the counter if she could print me a ticket.  When I realized that there were tours every hour, I asked her if I could get on the one leaving at 11 am (in 20 minutes) instead of my scheduled 1 pm tour.  She said, “Sure!”  And off I went into a beautiful morning to see a gorgeous shoreline!

There were kayakers everywhere enjoying the calm waters and cloudless skies in the morning.
The name “Pictured Rocks” comes from the streaks of mineral stain that decorate the cliffs.  Stunning colors occur when groundwater oozes out of cracks and trickles down the rock face.  Iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), and limonite (white) are among the most common color-producing minerals. –NPS website
Even though the late afternoon and early evening sunlight is said to bring out the richest colors, I was grateful to have gotten on the earlier tour as the wind picked up and clouds covered the sun by the time my morning tour was ending.
You know, you can’t sit next to someone for 2.5 hours without chatting a bit.  Turns out Konnie, from Florida, is a biker too!  It was fun sitting next to someone else who understood my lack of concern over windblown or biker hair 🙂

I didn’t know much about the Lakeshore other than it is best seen by boat, so I was unaware that, in addition to the colorful cliffs, Pictured Rocks also has “deep northern forest, miles of beaches, immense sand dunes, tall waterfalls, and 100 miles of hiking trails.”  Also according to the NPS, “the area usually receives around 200 inches of snow each year…which facilitates snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, viewing frozen waterfalls, ice climbing, and ice fishing.”  Yeah, I think I’ll pass on those winter wonderland activities, but the summer sure is nice!

An easy hike behind the Visitor Center takes you to the Munising Falls.  I was sitting on a bench enjoying the falls when a couple walked up and joined me on the bench.  They asked me if I had seen the Northern Lights last night.  I looked at them in disbelief. . . I was heading even farther north into Minnesota later in my trip in the hopes of seeing the aurora borealis.  Apparently there’s a Facebook group of Aurora chasers, and the night before was a spectacular show.  A whole group of people had converged on this area just for the predicted sighting.  They showed me incredible photos of skies with green hued lights… taken about 2 miles from my campground as I slumbered away unaware :-/

Even beyond the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline, the scenery around Lake Superior in this area is gorgeous. As I was cruising around, taking in the sights, I looked over at a parking lot, and who do I see walking towards a couple of motorcycles? Top and Mongo! I honked the horn and waved, but they didn’t recognize me at first without the camper hooked to my bike, but I cracked up laughing when it dawned on them that is was me and they enthusiastically waved back. So much fun to keep crossing path with those two! 

A random rest area on the Lake Superior shoreline along MI-28 between Munising and Au Train Lake.
I wasn’t able to identify these flowers, but they were gorgeous and everywhere in the Au Train and Munising area.

After some overnight rain showers, I dried off the camper as best as I could, packed it up, and continued westward…

6 thoughts on “Pictured and Painted Rocks

Add yours

  1. I would beating my head against the rocks if I had missed the northern lights. I hope you get to see them. I was not aware of them being seen in Minnesota. There may be hope for me seeing them yet.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been reading your blog since we met on the Pictured Rocks tour and I am now hooked! It was so nice meeting you and chatting about your adventures. I hope you finally have experienced the Northern Lights by now. Safe travels and I hope to run into you again sometime. Konnie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe and I were sp blessed to meet you and really enjoyed the time we spent visiting! You were the highlight of our trip! Safe travels to you and we will continue to read your blog and learn about all of your adventures! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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