A Return to Copper Harbor + Porcupine Mountains

Copper Harbor

Copper Harbor, the upper peninsula of the Upper Peninsula, as I like to refer to it. This is the tip top of the UP of Michigan and it is a special place. Remote, rugged, beautiful, and awe inspiring landscapes all around. If you have never visited, I highly recommend planning a trip.

This time around we felt more equipped for our visit. We knew where we could get cell service and internet to do some work. We had 4-wheel drive to explore some new places. And we knew where to camp.

Trails End is a primitive, first come first serve campground with over 70 sites. There was no problem finding a big open spot for Ralphie as we arrived on a weekday. At $15/night, it was the first time we paid for a campsite in 2022 (late August).

The first few days we spent hiking, walking the beach, enjoying some beers at our favorite local bar, and exploring.

One big item on our list included making it out to the Keweenaw Rocket Range. Last year we attempted and failed to make it out there, as we were driving the much less capable Volvo 960. At that time, Shane vowed “next time we are in Copper Harbor we will make it out to the rocket launch site”.

With the day picked, lunch packed along with some adult beverages we loaded up in Eddie, the Jeep to explore this area. The road out to High Rock Bay and the NASA Rocket Launch site is rough and tumble. Four-wheel drive is strongly recommended. Taking it slow and easy we made it out without a hitch. Arriving we were greeted by expansive views of Lake Superior. Stopping first at High Rock Bay we high fived finally making it to the spot that eluded us last year.

Only a short drive away via another road we made it to the rocket launch site with no trouble. Turns out you can actually walk between the rocket range and High Rock Bay as they are close together.

Shane was ready for the occasion with his NASA T-shirt and NASA glass. This site was used by NASA back in the 60’s & 70’s to launch smaller rockets. It was pretty cool to stand in the spot they were launched.

After an afternoon of exploring along the shoreline we decided to stay the night. This was something we planned for by bringing our 2 man tent just in case it struck our fancy to camp right along Lake Superior. Our fancy was struck and the tent was set up in a matter of minutes. Its first use since being on the road, so glad we decided to keep it for times like this.

Sipping on beverages and admiring the big lake along with a beautiful night sky (not a cloud in sight), it was quite magical. And well worth giving up the comfort of Ralphie for a night under the stars. Josie enjoyed cuddling up between us as we drifted off to sleep to the waves crashing nearby. Well actually, the truth is we did not sleep all that well but I wouldn’t trade the memories for the sleep. That’s what naps are for.

What a treasured memory and a beautiful place to stay overnight.

A Change of Plans

Driving to the top of Brockway Mountain to get some work done, made for a nice office with a view. However, it wasn’t ideal for getting work done.

A decision was made to cut our 2 week visit down to 1 week. Despite the shorter visit we were able to do plenty of exploring of old and new favorites.

On our last day we spent the afternoon hiking along Lake Superior at Hunter’s Point Park. It was the perfect send off with stunning views and waves crashing on the rocks all around.

By leaving Copper Harbor early by a week it caused us to break 2 rules. 1) Do not travel on Thursday – Sunday and 2) Do not travel near a holiday weekend.

We traveled on a Thursday before Labor Day, rules broken.

Bond Falls

This proved to cause some frustration at our next stop, Bond Falls Campground. They have an east and west side campground. It is free and first come, first serve so we had that in our favor. However, this place is well known and many of the spots were already taken. Plus it was confusing where all the campsites were located. The east campground had them scattered throughout along the lake. Whereas the west campground was grouped closer together. We finally decided on the last secluded spot in the east campground.

With camp set up, off we went to exploring. The Bond Falls turned out to be larger than I expected. They were quite beautiful. We explored up and down the falls. Dipping our toes in to unwind from our travel day.

When we arrived back at the Jeep we found our keys locked inside. Now what? It was a 3-4 mile walk back to Ralphie and it was getting dark soon. Lucky for us a young couple who loved dogs arrived. They were stopping for a quick view of the falls before heading up to Houghton. Josie made friends so we asked for a favor. No problem, they could give us a lift back to our RV.

Of course the keys to Ralphie were inside the Jeep as well but luckily the weather was nice and we left a window open. Which meant, Shane had to shimmy me up and I crawled through the window, retrieving the spare set of keys to the Jeep. We thanked them profusely for the ride to and back.

Upon arriving back at Ralphie, we discovered another issue. Turns out the internet signal we thought we had was non-existent. Our whole reason for leaving Copper Harbor early was to get some work done before heading up to the Porcupine Mountains (no cell service or internet up there). After some failed attempts at boosting our signal, we drove over to the west side campground hoping to find a better signal and hopefully an open spot.

After determining yes we could get internet in the west campground and surprisingly several spots were open, it was time to pack up Ralphie and move in the dark. Rule #3 broken, Don’t arrive after dark.

With the awning put up, everything secure, off we went to the new spot. Lucky for us it was a pull through spot making it easy to park in the dark.

I will admit after all of the frustration of that day, I had a moment of, “screw this living on the road full time thing”. But I quickly got over that moment. For those that say they are envious of our lifestyle, this is proof it is not always wonderful. But it mostly is, not going to lie about that. 🙂

As if that wasn’t enough, we had one more blow during our stay. We both got sick. I must premise this with we rarely get sick. It came out of nowhere, with Shane getting sick first. He spent 2 days in bed, then I had the same thing. Two awful days where all we could do is sleep. Labor Day weekend was officially a bust for us!

Porcupine Mountains

A month and a half prior I made reservations for us at a primitive campground in the Porcupine Mountains State Park for five days. No free camping (that I know of) near this area. Here we are coming off being sick and it was time to visit a beautiful park full of hiking and exploring opportunities.

The sickness lingered although we felt better, just really low on energy and appetite. Not ideal for hiking and exploring. But what can you do. We made the best of it.

Our reserved site turned out to be rather spacious and we had a slight view of Lake Superior. The Presque Isle campground is a primitive campground (no electric hook-ups, no showers, vault toilets only and a water spigot). Perfect for us, plus it overlooked Lake Superior from a cliff top. And it was right across from the Presque Isle River Waterfalls, an area we explored and loved last year.

We had to take it easy the first couple of days, with shorter hikes but we were grateful for feeling better. Taking breaks as needed and staying away from people to avoid getting anyone else sick. One afternoon we had a leisurely hike along the waterfalls trail, stopping to soak our toes and rest as needed.

Can you spot Josie in the above photo?

Rain threatened to take our last opportunity to hike the Escarpment Trail. But finally the cloud of sickness and weather lifted and we were treated to a beautiful day of hiking our favorite trail. The Escarpment Trail follows along the mountain ridge top and offers stunning views of the Lake of the Clouds. It is worth the hike!

I had to stop for more breaks because I was still not 100% myself. We took our time and rested with views that made me smile.

Despite a frustrating Labor Day holiday and coming off being sick, we managed to enjoy ourselves in the Porcupine Mountains the second time around.

With our time in the UP drawing to a close, we had one last spot to re-visit. By far one of my favorites, so I will leave that one for the next post. For now we bid Lake Superior goodbye until next time!

Share your thoughts :-)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s