Gibraltar Rock

If you want a nice view without much work or you just need to get out of town Gibraltar Rock is a great trail, just 30 minutes north of Madison. It’s also part of the Ice Age Trail!

The trail through the natural area is about 2 miles total with the main attraction, the view from the top of the rock, being roughly in the middle. We started from the northern end of the trail and did an out and back to the car. This side is steeper and often icy in the winter since the trail is all on the north slope to the rock.

A mostly clear day yielded some nice views and we had the trail to ourselves.

Gibraltar Rock-1175.jpg

Speakers Cabin - Porcupine Mountains State Park

The hike into Speakers Cabin is hardly constitutes a hike (it’s about a mile), but the cabin has arguably the best view of Lake Superior of all the cabins in the Porcupine Mts. It also sits on the Lake Superior Trail making for nice day walks in either direction.

SpeakersCabin-0989.jpg
SpeakersCabin-0987.jpg

About a foot of snow fall near Summit Peak a few days before had us daydreaming about some snowshoeing, but other than the drive from ranger station to the Speakers Trailhead there was no snow at lake level. (We did learn that our little 2WD RAV4 can power through the snow surprisingly well, yay!)

Arriving at the cabin in late afternoon we cranked up the woodburning stove and got it nice and toasty. Then, glancing through the log book, we noticed multiple warnings to NOT get it too hot. Why? If it gets too toasty hundreds of flies resurrect and delight in the warmth… It was already too late, the buzzing had begun. We spent the rest of the weekend trying to find the sweet spot of keeping warm but not so warm that the flies would come back to life.

 
 

After the fly drama we settled into a relaxing night looking at the many guidebooks left in the cabin and a few board games we packed in (the luxuries of a one mile hike).

On day two we did the short 2-ish mile hike to the Presque Isle scenic area. It was fairly flat and had a decent amount of water on the trail, likely from the storm that dumped the snow higher up. The hemlock trees lended a spooky ambiance on an overcast day.

SpeakersCabin-1018.jpg

Had lunch at the falls, ambled back to the cabin and were treated to a gorgeous sunset before heading back in to a warm (but not too warm) cabin. The next morning we headed back to the car and back home.

43 Miles in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I’ve been coming to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (PRNL) since before I could walk. Over the years I’ve hiked most of the Lakeshore Trail, the 43 mile section of the North Country Trail that runs from Grand Marais to Munising, but this will be the first time I’ve done it in one stretch.

I drove up early to meet the hiker shuttle at the Munising Falls parking lot. After the 45 minute shuttle ride I was dropped off at the Grand Sable Visitor center with a friendly midwestern goodbye paired with the comment “people who hike out here alone are crazy”. Gee thanks…

Two miles in I passed a group of 4 heading back to the Visitor Center. They would be the last people I saw until Munising Falls.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0510.jpg

What I’ve always liked about PRNL is the variety of scenery packed into the park. Heading east to west I start in a forest before weaving in and out of view of the sand dunes. At the old log slide the trail follows the ridge down to Au Sable Lighthouse with sweeping views of Lake Superior along the way. Just before dusk I reach the Au Sable East campsite and make camp.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0540.jpg

Day 2:

I wake up to a cool damp morning. Skies are still overcast. After a warm breakfast I pack up and head out past the lighthouse. This time of year it’s deserted. I pass through two car campgrounds (the first empty, the second has a single RV but no signs of life as I walk past) before starting the section along Twelvemile Beach.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0554.jpg

The trail technically is just inland from the beach but it can be quite soft with sand so I chose to walk on the packed sand near the water. The lake is calm and the walk to the Pine Bluff campsite goes by quickly.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0606.jpg

Day 3:

Much sunnier today. I finish the last few miles of the beach and get to the Coves section of the trail. I love this section: lots of secret coves and rock lookouts a short scramble off the trail. I spend way too long sunning myself here and drinking a mid-morning coffee.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0725.jpg
BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0709.jpg

Now the trail heads on top of the Pictured Rocks and then down to Chapel Beach. The sun is out and the lake is perfectly still. It’s gotta be 50 if not 55. I can’t resist a swim (it’s Nov 3rd!).

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0770.jpg
BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0823.jpg

The trail heads back up on the rocks and I catch the sunset there before heading to the (eerily creepy) Mosquito campsite in the dark.

Day 4:

I wake up before sunrise and can’t get back to sleep so I pack up and decide to have breakfast on top of the rocks about two miles into my hike. A bit hazy at the start of the day but hopefully that burns off soon.

BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0890.jpg

On Miners Beach the sun starts to shine and the view through the wild blueberry bushes is stunning. Heading up to Miners Castle I expect to see a few people but the area is empty. From here the trail stays slightly inland and I get only occasional views of the lake. The walking is easy but it’s the most boring section of the trail.

 
BLOG 2015-11-05 PR-0929.jpg
 

Mid afternoon I reach Munising Falls and soak my feet in the (cold!) stream before heading back home.

If you go:

Devil's Lake Loop

Growing up in Baraboo I’ve been to Devil’s Lake a lot. It’s a gem of southern Wisconsin. One of my favorite hikes is scaling both east and west bluffs and doing a loop of the lake. It’s about 6 miles, depending on which trails you take, and covers some of the more popular trails in the park. For Wisconsin the elevation gain of ~1,000ft is cool too… if you’re into that kind of thing.

Blog-DevilsLake-0318.jpg
Blog-DevilsLake-0333.jpg

We started at the south shore parking lot and headed up the Balanced Rock Trail. This one will get your heart pumping. At the top we headed down the East Bluff Trail and along the north shore beach area. Pro Tip: If the concession stand is open you can break the hike up with snacks (or beer!).

Blog-DevilsLake-0331.jpg
Blog-DevilsLake-0299.jpg

From here we headed up the West Bluff Trail to the highest point of the hike and then down along the lake back to the south shore. There is also a concession stand here, but, Pro Tip #2: save the money and go get your cooler out of the car and enjoy a beer/picnic on the lake, you earned it.

If you go: