Fall Camping and Hiking at Wilderness State Park

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On a whim, my friend Megan and I decided to take an impromptu road trip to the Mackinaw City area to soak in the beautiful colors of the northern Michigan fall foliage.  Naturally, we thought the best way to experience fall “up north” would be to get a few hikes in, as well as some camping at Wilderness State Park.

Although we had visited the park to camp back in May, my friends and I had just finished our hike of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore two days before and were pretty tired of hiking at the time, so we didn’t really get a chance to explore much.  Also, it was mayfly season.

The drive up towards Mackinaw City was beautiful, with more and more shades of gold, orange, and red emerging the farther north we went.

We blasted hip hop and R&B songs from our high school days, country, and 80s music, and sang along to our favorites as we made our way along the freeway beneath the golden October sunshine.

Finally, we had arrived!

Unfortunately, that also meant we had just found out that all of the modern restrooms in the park had closed early for the season, so we wouldn’t be able to shower all weekend and were limited to using the smelly outhouse.

We both wanted to get at least a few good miles in along the North Country Trail, so after checking in and arriving at our site, we quickly got Megan’s tent set up, checked out the bathroom situation, and then hit the trail.

Our campsite was right on the water, with beautiful (partially obstructed) views of Lake Michigan.

A short, narrow, sandy path led from our campsite directly down to the beach.

Since we only had a few good hours of daylight left, we decided to hike the section of the North Country Trail that was closest to our campground.  Luckily, the trail itself was only about a half mile walk away.

We hiked a couple miles down the section of trail heading west, which followed an unpaved road deep into the woods.  Since we were nearing evening, the animals were beginning to stir.

Eventually we decided to head back the way we came from, then hiked in the opposite direction, east of Swampline Road.

The trail to the east was much more interesting.  There were little foot bridges, a pond, and wooden planks that kept our feet dry as we made our way across the marshy, muddy, swampland.

The fact that it was the “golden hour” only made this section that much more enjoyable.

After getting a couple more miles in, we decided to head back to camp so we could get our fire going before we got too cold and hungry.

We also decided to spend some time playing around down at the beach.

We spent the evening eating backpacking meals and chips, warming up beside the fire, and gazing up at the starry sky above until we couldn’t stay awake any longer.

The next morning we got up just after sunrise to enjoy a hot cup of coffee before setting out for the second day hike of our trip, a section of the North Country Trail near French Farm Lake.

We managed to get in a little over ten miles of hiking along a mostly flat trail under beautiful, sunny skies with plenty of time to spare for relaxing in our camp chairs on the beach, soaking in views of daylight fading over Lake Michigan.

When the sun went down we built a fire and sat beside it to keep warm.

We made burrito bowl backpacking meals and enjoyed them with a side of chili and some hot apple cinnamon tea.

After dinner we crawled into our tent and fell asleep to the faint sound of gentle waves lapping upon the shore.

Long after we had fallen asleep, the clear, starry skies eventually gave way to soft rain.  Both of us slept like rocks.

When we awoke in the morning, everything around camp was wet from the rain, but the cloud in the sky were beginning to part.

Since neither of us are really “morning people”, we decided to relax and sip some hot coffee before starting to pack up.

Eventually it was time to break camp, get the car packed up, and drive to the trailhead for the final hike of our trip, an out-and-back day hike along the Jordan Valley Pathway.


Campground Details

Activities:  Hiking, Swimming, Fishing, Wildlife

Amenities:  Campground, Restrooms, Playground

More Info:  Michigan DNR

 


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