There are not a ton of overnight backpacking options in the Midwest, so I try to find all the options and try them out. I have hiked the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, the North Country Trail through Pictured Rocks, and many more. I searched backpacking Michigan and the Huron National Forest came up, so I checked it out thinking it would be a great new adventure. Fortunate that I found this link because Byron Lake camping did not disappoint.
Byron Lake Camping
The description of camping on Byron Lake was what really sold me on this adventure. A sand beach campground with a view of a remote lake in a national forest sounded pretty sweet. Even better, there are no camping fees. There is only a $5.00 per day parking fee at the trailhead. From the parking lot it was only about seven miles to the lake on the Hoist Lakes Trails. There were a few people camping at the Hoist Lakes, so I figured there would probably be someone on Byron Lake.
I was pleased to find the campground empty. At the end of the lake there is a sand beach with a fire ring. There is even a primitive toilet just off the trail. There are several good campgrounds that surround the lake, so even if the sand beach area is taken, there are other options. I set up camp and enjoyed a wonderful sunset. The sand beach campground faces west, so another perk is hikers get to enjoy a sunset over the lake.
Byron Lake campfire
After the sunset, it was time to hang out with my hiking partner Jim Beam. I used my Stanley products to carry and hold the drink while I cut wood and tried to cook my food. I was trying out a new wood burning stove. The idea of having no fuel canisters to hold really appeals, but the wood burning stove took over two hours to cook my food. I can only imagine the frustration one would experience with wet wood. I am thinking the experiment is over for now.
Finally after eating, I enjoyed the stars and a nearly full moon coming out over the lake. I relaxed around the fire and continued to converse with Mr. Beam. It was the perfect way to end a great day.
Morning mist off of Byron Lake
If the sunset and stars were not beautiful enough, the next morning was even more amazing. I pulled back the flaps on my tent to a shroud of mist rising off the lake. The lake was almost like glass and a perfect reflection of the clouds and trees mirrored off the lake. Combined with the sunrise, fall colors, the mist, and the reflection, it was just sensational. I walked around the lake taking pictures. It was difficult to break camp when all I wanted to do was take photographs and soak in the natural beauty.
Enter two swans
I was looking out over the lake thinking to myself that the scenery could not get any better. Suddenly, I heard a strange sound and two swans sailed down and plopped on to the lake. They then circled the lake for over an hour before departing.
I am not a huge fan of swans ordinarily. They are usually domestic in nature, and I do not really count them as wild birds. These two were just beautiful and seeing them float along the lake and interact with each other while drifting through the mist was something I will not soon forget. It reminded me of the beautiful poem by W.B. Yeats called Leda and the Swan. It begins: “A sudden blow, the great wings beating still.”
They even made an appearance on my GoPro camera, which was shooting on the other end of the lake on time lapse capturing the mist and the sunrise.
Departing Byron Lake
The mist soon dissipated, the swans flew away, and so did my tent and belongings into my backpack for a return trip to my car. I definitely would recommend a hike on the Hoist Lake trails and a stop at Byron Lake. Even if two swans do not visit your camp in a morning mist, I am sure you will still enjoy your night camping. Always good to have another backpacking option and two days in the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan is a spot I will definitely come back to again.
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