Setting sun shining through the trees, Black River Harbor, north of Bessemer, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, August 2008.
One of the things I love most about Duluth is how many cool places are within a day's drive. Every so often I like to zip out of town for a weekend - heading north to Canada, northeast up the Lake Superior shore, east to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, etc. Last August I headed east to the Black River Harbor area of the far western U.P. There are a bunch of waterfalls, a little wharf tucked along a riverbank off Lake Superior, a nice beach and a campground. It's also just north of the massive Copper Peak ski jump (link to another of my stories).
I pulled into the campground in the afternoon; it's located on high ground about a quarter-mile from the harbor. I found an awesome spot a stone's throw from the bluffs over Lake Superior, where there was a wide-open view of the lake and, later, the sunset. After dinner I decided to walk down to the harbor. It was a pleasant trail through the woods, winding down a slope to the harbor below. There were ripe berries everywhere. Right as I got to the end of the trail, I saw a massive pile of bear scat - full of berries, in case you wanted to know - in the middle of the path. In the middle of the trail I had to take to get back to the campground, unless I wanted to walk well over a mile out of my way on the road. The trail full of berries I had to walk back on at dusk, with underbrush and twists and turns.
I spent some time walking around the harbor area and out across a cool suspension bridge to the beach. But before it got too dark in the woods - the sun was still up, but it didn't penetrate the leaves very well - I steeled myself to head back into the woods. In a throwback to my solo hikes in Alaska, I repeatedly kicked stones and banged my walking stick against trees in a surely-comical-to-anyone-watching effort to make my presence known to any animals up ahead. On some occasions - not here - I've been known to yell, moderately loud, "Hey, bear" when rounding a blind corner. It takes a lot, though, for me to break my Midwestern modesty and do that.
Anyway, I made it almost all the way back - I could see the campground ahead - when I noticed the sun breaking through the forest canopy. I found a good spot, and snapped a series of photos that included this one. The ensuing sunset was awesome, and I took a series of photos I hope to frame someday of the sun sinking beneath the Lake Superior horizon.
I realize now that this whole story was totally setting itself up to have a bear sighting... sorry, there wasn't one. Not this time. But I have had close encounters with bears other times. I'll save those for another post.