A trip to the north woods offers scenic fun. With the fall colors approaching in the next few weeks, it will be primetime for this woodland area. I made a camping visit this past weekend, as autumn has just begun. There was a hint of color, along with the disappearing green of summer, to suggest a beautiful fall panorama just around the corner. My camping journey was to Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
This area also has abundance of wildlife roaming the region. From popular North American animals such as Timberwolves and Lynx to Moose and Black Bears, there’s chances to steal a glance that could endure a lifetime. I didn’t get to see much wildlife besides whitetail deer and turkeys but the thought that they prowled the forest was thrilling.
Hiawatha National Forest, as all National forests, is managed by the USDA National Forest Service. In contrast with a National Park, which is established for preservation, a National Forest is there to sustain generations into the future, managing timber, grazing, fish and wildlife.
The forest is in two separate area’s, an eastern and a western half, both situated in the Peninsula. The trees and vegetation differ in different regions. There is a Red Pine plantation, where I spent my first night of camping, towering into the air and protecting me from a rather boisterous thunderstorm. Other places feature species such as Beach and Maple. The area’s soil is comprised of a lot of sand making it impossible to farm the area.
I camped two different places in Hiawatha, being named after a famed Mohawk Chief. The first was deep in this forest, set atop the steep valley slopes of the Indian River. The second place, and longer visit, was near the sandy shore of Lake Superior.
I arrive about five o’clock on a Thursday to find a canoe access area. I haven’t scouted the Indian River before my trip, proving a disastrous decision. We set up camp and enjoy the remoteness of this five site campground. It is set up on a first come first serve basis. Simply fill out an envelope and place your twenty dollars into it. We have our pick of sites and are the only people here tonight.
We sleep fairly well despite the light show accompanied by rumbling thunder. When we wake up ,we pack the canoe and head down the slope of the valley. Our plan was to head north, up river. It is not a good plan, even if the website claims this to be a slow moving river. The current is plenty strong and any attempt to paddle up river is futile. We decide to give up and do some sight seeing in Munising instead.
We strap the canoe to the car and head out. As we drive the canoe is shifting above, as today calls for a high winds advisory. We make it to Munising but not before I loose a foam foot that keeps the canoe from sliding. We make do and decide that we need to get the Canoe off of the car. So we drive to another Hiawatha National Forest campground known as Bay Furnace
We weren’t sure about the name, sounding like a heating company more than a campground. However, when we discover the origins of the label, we’re delighted by the historical significance. Before we make that find however, on our way there, the rest of the feet blow off and the canoe radically shifts above the car, as we are exposed to the strong winds coming off Lake Superior.
We limp the canoe to the campground, as we are only half a mile from the destination. Claiming a campsite is the same as the first site and we find one easily. We decide that’s where the canoe will stay. We drop off the Canoe and do a little sight seeing in this unassuming tourist town.
The campground is actually located in the neighboring town to Munising, known as Christmas. It is close enough to another great area known as Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, allowing us some prime waterfall hunting opportunities. There are also waterfalls in and around Munising. As well as Pictured Rocks lies the National Recreation area known as Grand Island. The ferry is literally a couple miles away.
As I mentioned before, besides a great location, the campground has a great history. We walk to the shore of lake superior and discover the remnants of an Iron blast furnace. The town was an Iron making town and went by another name in the late 1800’s. A fire destroyed the town and it was mainly forgotten. In 1992 they restored the furnace.
There are tons of camping places in Hiawatha National Forest and its a great time of year to check it out. Although make sure your sleeping bag is a quality bag rated at 30 degrees Fahrenheit. We did freeze a bit our first night. If fall camping is not your thing, you could always take a ride!