Heading towards Munising Falls on the North Country Trail
Sometimes when you are backpacking your priorities get skewed. I was approaching the end of a 42 mile hike on the North Country Scenic Trail in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I could not wait to finish. The parking lot at the western terminus of the park happened to be also the parking lot for Munising Falls.
I was exhausted after hiking three days with a full backpack. My feet and shoulders throbbed in pain, the skin along my inner thighs was torn away and raw, and I was hungry and thirsty after eating granola, dried rice, and nuts for three days. It always seems like the last two miles of a backpacking trip are the longest.
A dog barked in the distance and the familiar sound of a lawn mower began to compete with the only sound I had heard for days which was the wind rustling through the trees. A return to civilization was imminent. Suddenly, I turned a corner and a family was coming up the trail. I asked where Munising Falls was. The mother pointed and said it was right there. I turned to the sound of rushing water, and I said, “not the falls, but where is the parking lot.”
She gave me a quizzical look and pointed straight down the trail where she had come from. Thank god, I exclaimed. It is not often someone prefers a parking lot to descending water, but I had been so fixated on Munising Falls being my end point that it ceased to be a geographic wonder and was now just a goal to reach.
I headed to the parking lot and called a friend to pick me up. He said he would be there in 20 minutes. Instead of walking the 800 feet to the falls while I was waiting, I sat on a picnic table in a drunken stupor enjoying the feeling of only air on my back and feet. My friend arrived and we took off to get my car.
Returning to Munising Falls and Wagner Falls
After getting proper sleep and nourishment, I returned to Munising Falls on my way out of town. I always try and make time for the sites of a national park that are accessible from the road before departing. I felt I needed to make amends for blowing off the falls the day before.
I am glad I did as I limped up the planked trail with beautiful fall foliage in full bloom all around. I soon heard the soothing cascade of a creek and then the roar of a falls. Munising Falls did not disappoint. It had an upper and lower overlook to take in the 50 foot or so drop.
I then pulled out of Munising and Pictured Rocks and headed down 94 towards Trenary into the Hiawatha National Forest. As soon as I skirted south I noticed a parking lot with a handful of cars. The sign said Wagner Falls. I got out and was soon waddling up another short trail to another scenic falls. You do not have to drive far in the Upper Peninsula to find a waterfall or a beautiful view.
The moral of the story is to save a little gas for the end of the trip in order to walk the 800 feet to see Munising Falls in order to save yourself a trip the next day. This way you will not confuse the family that does not understand why you are more interested in the parking lot over the falls.
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