My ultralight sleeping bag was challenged during the night. It got down to the low 50s or perhaps even upper 40s along the lakeshore. I had on a silk long underwear set, a merino wool long-sleeved shirt, wool socks, and my down puffy coat. Remarkably, I slept well. I was so perfectly contented as I fell asleep…I had a sense of accomplishment and reassurance that we really were going to complete the remaining miles before us. I’d had another dream in the night that I showed up at Plum Loco…our home…but could not remember the last full day of the hike or how I’d managed to arrive there. All the psychic signs were pointing to a concussion…or so I humorously warned myself. Penny and I decided to forego our ritual oatmeal…which we were pretty sick of…and just eat half a Pro Bar for breakfast along with a cup of coffee. We expected this day to be tedious compared to the others and had a long hike ahead, 8.9 miles. We savored the moment.
The three young women had broken camp early. We were the second group to leave Potato Patch. It was a short downhill walk to the parking area at Miners Beach. We could hear cars from our campsite the night before. We hiked along the beach a short while before entering the area of incline to Miners Castle rock formation. I was especially intentional when choosing my steps…had to avoid that concussion!
Picture below clockwise from lower left: Miners Beach, trail down from Potato Patch, detail on the trail, signpost, trail incline to Miners Castle.
Miner’s Castle was less than two miles from our camp. We met a nicely put-together couple visiting there for the first time. They were from Wisconsin and their kids had gifted them a trip to Munising for Christmas the year before. They kindly agreed to take our picture; however, we suggested that they stand some distance away from us due to our discernible stench. We shared with them the condensed version of our journey. They seemed to be impressed. But then…Penny asked if they were campers or hikers to which they answered “not really”. Cue the dramatic music…I instantly knew we were in trouble…as my dear sister then proceeded to extoll the virtues of the Kula cloth and how it eliminates toilet paper along the trail. Their faces went from regarding us with curious appreciation…to a mixture of fear and disgust. You’ve got to know your audience!
We saw no other folks at Miners Castle except for a guy mowing the lawn. Maybe the word got out about us? It was nice to have the place all to ourselves so that we could take pictures and enjoy the viewpoints. I did make a mental note not to ever wrinkle up my nose at smelly hikers again. I understand now how that can happen.
The hike to Munising Falls was through woods and no longer skirting dramatic cliffs, or narrow ledges. We saw several minor waterfalls along the way, at least one that we could only view from above.
It was a bit of an anticlimactic end to our epic hike, or perhaps we were just spoiled by the previous two days. We encountered few hikers and a lack of signage near Munising Falls nearly caused us to walk to our final destination on the road. This was narrowly averted., thanks to Penny. We stepped out of the woods at 1:05 PM. We had done it. I was a bit verklempt. We encouraged ourselves to walk…with packs…to the falls for photo opportunities. Of course the guy I asked to take our picture looked like he might have just climbed off his Harley. He did have a really nice camera and seemed a bit perplexed by using a cell phone to take a picture. We could have stopped there but…oh, no! We decided to hike up to an elevated view point as well. We were feeling pretty awesome. We hit up a high-school-aged boy to take our picture there.
We finally headed off to find our car but first passed the ranger’s station. We yelled to the ranger behind the window that we wanted a badge for finishing the hike. A young female ranger offered us stickers with “50 Superior Years ~ Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore”. It was all she had and we each took one. (What? No stinkin’ badges?)
From there we went to the house of friends of Penny’s and enjoyed SHOWERS and clean clothes! I discovered to my chagrin, that I had failed to pack a clean bra. There was no way that sports bra was going back on my body…maybe ever! I will confess that braless was not a good look on my body. I send this virtual apology out to anyone I may have scarred for life in Munising that afternoon! We stopped at Miners Pasties for lunch before our long drive home. We’d called ahead from Miners Castle and had them reserve a vegan pastie for Penny and a Yooper for me. The older lady working the counter was so delighted with our accomplishment she clapped her hands and made us feel like superstars. We took our meals out to a picnic table to enjoy. I quickly realized that I couldn’t swallow my pastie without water, so I headed back inside to buy a couple bottles.
I grabbed two water bottles from the cooler, and extended my credit card to pay. The nice lady pushed the bottles back at me to indicate “free” and loudly said to the women in line behind me, “Do you know what she just did?” I turned around and there were our three new friends from the trail! I said, “Yes, they do! They just did the same thing!” It was so fun to see Erica, Brandi, and Angie there. Nice Lady couldn’t believe we’d just met on the trail and it was a very “cool” moment. The gals joined us at the picnic table for a quick chat before heading off. We ran into them a last time where we stopped in for chia lattes for the trip home…mine with a shot of espresso.
Our journey home was punctuated by calls to our loved ones, letting them know we’d survived and thrived. I dropped Penny off at her house where her husband was recovering from COVID-19 and reached Plum Loco by 9:00 PM. What a day of contrasts! What an amazing adventure!