When you cross the Mackinaw bridge you know your entering a different place. There are no major billboards or shopping plazas, fast food joints, Wal-Marts, hotels or anything else you would expect from a tourists destination. The land is covered with evergreens, almost too much green to take in. The contrast from the bright sky and the dark forest floor is incredible, it's like someone has shut the lights off in the forest without letting the sun know about it. This land is dense. Expect a mixup of dense swampland and evergreen forests as well as small cold streams carrying trout, salmon and steelhead to and from the major surrounding great lakes. In other words if you really want to camp and experience a kind of unexplored frontier that mimics and an Alaska, Montana, or Washington.... This should be on your list.
The Battles of the U.P.
There are two major points I want to make when it comes to preparing and camping the Upper Peninsula:
(These items would be nice)
The Mosquitos work in teams in the U.P. One morning I was preparing to head to the river to take another swing at some trout (see my youtube video with mosquito head net) and as I gazed off down the logging road I could see a fog building... entirely mosquito-made fog. You could see these suckers coming from there swampy beginnings down the road towards you. Once the mob appears it's time to reach for two things: deep woods mosquito spray and mosquito netting headwear. The 10 dollar investment on these two items was absolutely necessary.
One great thing about the far north is the change in weather, yeah it's get cold at night. 75 during the day and down to around 40 just before dawn. Thats the great thing about the bug wars, the off switch comes around 8'oclock when it gets too cold for the mosquitos to keep up their pace. This gives you a nice break and dinner time with limited amounts of mosquitos. But, it does get really cold at night. I thought I packed heavy on the blankets for the night but I was wrong. 2 blankets, long johns, sweat pants and shirt, socks and beanie were all in place when I laid down at night. This is the middle of June we speak of.
The absolutely restoring beauty
This place is so remote and un-tainted it really gave me a sense of optimism. I'm not giving up totally on civilization but places this wild command your respect and almost urge a sense of fight for conservation. The conditions with cold nights and mosquitos were pretty brutal for modest tent camping but those negatives were far outweighed by the holy beautiful nature the U.P. offers. You have to really love the outdoors to camp in a place so wild and sparse. If you like to escape to town on your camping trips and really need electricity or modern comforts then go elsewhere, that's what most do. It was primetime camping season in the second week of June (and free fishing weekend) and we were one of 2 campers in the small 40 spot campground. I think that says a lot about how rural and awesome this place is for sportsman and outdoorsman alike.
I woke up at the break of dawn on Saturday to start fly fishing. The woods were silent and I could hear the river doing it's normal morning babble. I couldn't hear cars, or people talking, or much of anything. I once read that you had to record for 16 hours in order to get one full hour of uninterrupted nature, I bet this place could do it in a lot less time.
I watched a few fish rise and splash on the surface for the first two hours of the morning but what I offered never got touched. So I went back for breakfast and to wake my dad and sister.
After a quick steak and eggs breakfast, we hit the river again. No bites in two hours... Here comes another lesson in U.P.; obstacles that you might not think of elsewhere. The car wouldn't start due to a dead battery. Luckily the only other guy in the campground was awake and willfully gave us a jump to keep us going. You need to make sure your car has a jumper pack for dead batteries as well as a good spare and random tools to fix minor problems to get you home. Being broken down on an old logging road buried in a dense swamp might strand you for a pretty good while. There may not be any other cars down that road the entire day.
Finally, after 5 hours of no luck/bad fly patterns and a dead battery situation I was able to catch my first brown trout. Caught it on a little olive woolly bugger I tied myself. Not a big trout at all but I was happy just landing a fish on my fly gear with my own hand tied fly.
Though I don't have many pictures to co-align with the many adventures of the trip, I left with a feeling of an "all too short" trip to the wild upper peninsula. I wish I could have stayed longer. I got to hear the call of loons, saw a grouse flutter and run into the brush, got chased off by some sort of heron that was foreign to me, saw a great white owl, ferns galore, tall birch and pine trees, lake huron, mackinaw bridge, a doe and her fawn, it all just went by too fast. I'm itching the mosquito bites on my wrists and hands and grinning thinking about the fun and beauty I had a taste of a week ago. Next year's trip is already in the works.
Look for my video cut-up of the trip on my Youtube channel and if you haven't yet check out my Facebook page, do so and give a like to keep up with the media I'll be pumping out in the next few weeks. I'm excited to fly fish/hike the smoky mountain with my family in 2 weeks. I'm also getting a few DIY ready to go right now. (I've kind of been all about fishing so far....)
Thanks for reading this far, Find Wild!
Robbie is the creator of WF and loves to spend time in the outdoors chasing steelhead, upland birds, and the beauty of nature.