Hello REI community,
With a looming divorce I recently decided it's time to follow a desire I once had to backpack, I live in Michigan and have two ideas in mind, however, in both instances I believe it is best I find someone to go hiking with. Covid 19 already makes things difficult, but not having someone to go with makes it even worse. I am wondering if this community is a place I could possibly reach out to people and possibly find someone to join me, or if people have suggestions where I can look. Is there a Meetups group for this? I don't use Facebook currently so that's not an option.
I am looking to go either to Smoky Mountains or Michigan's UP early October (I know opposite directions, lol).
Will appreciate any suggestions. Thank you!
@Gidonj I can't help you find a hiking companion, but I can give some advice on Upper Michigan. I've backpacked in the Porkies (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park) several times, and I've found peak color is usually the first week in October. If you've never been there, you're in for a real treat.
My favorite trek is a 4 day 3 nite counterclockwise loop beginning & ending at the LOC (Lake of the Clouds) overlook. Most visitors drive there for the great views, but don't hike far from that spot. Here's the trek I recommend:
On day one hike the Big Carp River Trail about 9 miles down to the Superior Trail. The Big Carp trail has great views from escarpment before descending to the river with a good sized waterfall and several pretty cascades. Turn left on the Superior Trail to find a campsite along the one mile stretch of shoreline between the Big Carp & Little Carp trails. These backcountry campsites have established fire rings, and some have flat rock "furniture" positioned as chairs & recliners around the fire rings. Start your hike early on day one, as these sites can fill up quickly on nice weekends.
Day two take the Superior Trail a short distance to the Little Carp River Trail, very pretty with waterfalls & cascades. Go past Lilly Pond to Mirror Lake to camp for nite two. This section of the hike is about 12 miles, but it's not difficult. I was in my 50's and a bit overweight, but had no problems.
Day three (about 7-8 miles) take the North Mirror Lake Trail to the Government Peak Trail, up and over the peak with very limited views. The GP trail swings around to join up with the Escarpment Trail, which you ascend a few hundred vertical feet to the Escarpment with great views and the campsite for nite three shortly after gaining the ridge. No water source, so fill up along the river GP Trail which has a river (more of a creek) and waterfall after descending Government Peak.
The Escarpment Trail from the night three campsite back to LOC is one of the great scenic stretches in Upper Michigan, rivaled only by Pictured Rocks in my opinion. Occasionally the trail heads into the forest, but you keep coming back to outstanding views as you get closer and closer to Lake of the Clouds hundreds of feet below.
If you have time, be sure to visit the Presque Isle River at the west end of the park for hike of about 2 on miles which loops around both sides of the river and takes you past three major waterfalls. Make sure to follow the river to the outlet into Lake Superior, past beautiful sculpted riverbed to a very nice stretch of shoreline.
@Gidonj Backpacking in the Smokies is something you should do if you've never been. It's a national park, but also a primordial wilderness in many respects. The mountain environment and flora & fauna are key attractions. There are some great waterfalls and views, but be prepared to work hard for them with miles of uphill hiking.
Over the years I've ventured more and more into the North Carolina mountains east of the Smokies. The Shining Rock Wilderness offers miles of spectacular unobstructed mountain views, and access from the Blue Ridge Parkway (over 5000') will have you hiking over 6000' peaks like Black Balsam with much less effort.
Further East, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is the spectacular Linville Gorge. Backpacking into the wilderness is rugged and remote. The view from atop Hawksbill Mountain (be sure to ascend all the way to the top for 360*) is breathtaking, after a 3/4 mile uphill climb from the parking area. If you want a rugged & remote backpacking experience, here's a link to that adventure:
The North Carolina Mountains offer years of exploring great scenery, from short hikes to awesome waterfalls (many centered around the town of Brevard) to more remote wilderness to Panthertown Valley (link below).
These suggestions barely scratch the surface of what North Carolina has to offer.
@Driftwoody It seems I'll have to wait until after the winter, a lot of the camp sites are still closed where I was looking to go and the two back-country sites were also closed because of bear activity, I took both those notices as a sign to wait with the Smokies, but I already have some ideas, just need to find someone to go with, will be working on that in the coming months. 🙂
Thank you for the advice! I really appreciate it.
Made a trip to the Smokies from Michigan last week, and this definitely makes me want to go back. We only did the Tennessee side (Cades Cove + Gatlinburg area). Thanks for the recommendations for NC!
@Gidonj , Outside of the facebook group already mentioned I don't have any "Gotcha" ideas, but every trail I hiked in the Smokies had hoardes of people at the trailheads. It wouldn't fulfill the companion role you're asking about, but someone would likely be willing to walk and talk. Similar with several trails in the L.P. of Michigan, can't speak for U.P. Jordan River Valley Pathway and Manistee River Trail tend to have lot of people on them spring-fall. Again not fulfilling your desire to have a hiking companion, but there are folks there, you wouldn't be in the woods alone. The MRT side has several backpacking camping spots that are close enough someone would hear you yell for help if that's a concern (though it's perfectly safe). Jordan River Valley Pathway has a campground at one end. Hope that's any kind of helpful.