"There's no good overlanding in the Midwest, or actually, anywhere but the West for that matter"
Doesn't it seem that somehow all good challenges end up starting over a beer or two at your local drinking establishment of choice? I just so happened to be sitting next to an anonymous person that refused to believe there were any opportunities to do some overlanding in the Midwest. Even though I named a few locations (predominantly in Michigan's Upper Peninsula) they still made some pretty loud remarks—being an occasionally proud native Midwesterner, I took it upon myself to show him that there's actually a lot to do in the Midwest other than going to shopping malls and driving through corn fields.
It just so happened that I'd be leaving the bountiful trail opportunities of Prescott for a wedding a few weeks later, a challenge was made, and here I am, sitting in the Keweenaw Peninsula, writing about my first day here. I ended up having the opportunity to take my Father with me, so don't be surprised if there's a few "take your Dad to work day" jokes thrown in here and there.
I assure you, after today I can tell you that there's plenty of great places to explore in this region, although you definitely do not have the luxury of simply pointing your vehicle down a random road as you could do in the West.
Considering that it's about a 7-8 hour drive from my native Chicago, and that I'm not exactly known as a wonderfully enthusiastic morning person, we ended up getting in a bit late the night before. We decided that our first day was going to be a "scouting trip" since neither of us were incredibly familiar with the area, which just adds to the adventure. I'm a firm believer that too much planning can be a bad thing, though perhaps I should have done a bit more, as we found several of the trails and OHV routes to be closed for maintenance as it's getting near to the region's popular snowmobile season.
The first trail that we found was just outside of Porcupine Mountains State Park, while not technical (a Prius wouldn't have any issues) it was a quick reminder that the type of trails we would encounter would be vastly different than the ones I've become accustomed to in Arizona. Note the green.
The trail ended up landing us right near the Nawadaha Falls, which were the highlight of the day.
It's amazing how clear the water is.
The falls are located on the Presque Isle River shortly before it drains into Lake Superior.
I really dislike people who liter—including the people who left these years ago. (The State Park chose to leave them for "historical" effect.)
While attempting to find a trail that would take us from Greenland (MI) to Houghton, we ran into a very nice couple, Heidi and Hans, who just happened to be a set of matching Pinzgauers.
If you've read the latest issue (Fall 2012) of Overland Journal, there's a fantastic story about a Willy's Wagon. Rumors are true that I'm a bit of a Willys Wagon enthusiast, so clearly this random vehicle needed to make it into the post.
We ended up finding a different trail which we will explore in more detail tomorrow. It varied from hard rock, to sand which you'll see below.
Generally, where there's sand, there's water.
One of our goals for the day was to find a remote beach on Lake Superior. I will say, after being in Arizona for some time now, there's nothing like a giant Lake.
An interesting fact—Two members of the Expedition Portal team happen to be next to two of the largest sources of freshwater in the world. Myself on the shores of Lake Superior, and Scott Brady on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia—on nearly the opposite side of the world.
As tempting as it would be to drive on the beach, it was clearly marked that we couldn't. But wait, are we a vehical?
I couldn't believe how rough the water was for a "calm" day on the lake.
We're using a 70th Anniversary 4-door Jeep Wrangler JK for this trip, it's bone stock, although it was outfitted from the factory with a set of mild all-terrain tires. It was more than capable for anything we did today.
A special thanks to Kristian of UP Overland who has provided us with some great ideas for trails and routes tomorrow. We'll be headed to the end of the Keweenaw tomorrow.