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