Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 4: Hike to Chapel Falls, Lake, Rock, and Beach...Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Distance: 6.1 miles round trip

Chapel Falls

There is a great 10-mile hike around the entire Pictured Rocks area, but since it was quite cold and threatening rain, we opted for the shorter 6.1 mile journey down to Chapel falls, Chapel Rock, and Chapel lake. This was a surreal hike through very dark and dense trees. We kept asking each other how would they describe the sensation of being there. It was not sinister per say but nor was it bucolic. I was reading Last of the Mohicans at the time and I could not help but imagine that just out of sight were wigwams filled with Indian warriors just waiting to erupt through the trees like fire ants from a disturbed nest. I certainly would not have wanted to leave the trail in that forest. Without landmarks, it would have been difficult to find ones way back. In Colorado, it is much harder to get lost unless stuck below treeline. There is almost always a peak of some sort visible.

The road to the trailhead hinted at the density of the trees we would encounter.

Elaine is almost engulfed in the trees less than 50 yards from the trail

Chapel falls is very picturesque being in a deep bowl surrounded by dense and dripping vegetation. I took way too many pictures and without a tripod, they only hint at peacefulness of the lightly flowing water.

Freeze frame of a Chapel Falls rivulet

Detail of Chapel Falls

Chapel Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a short hike to a wonder waterfall
An blurry attempt to slow down the falls. The two Germans each had tripods. I almost threw some slimy fungus at them in an attempt to make off with one.

The slimy fungus mentioned above. These shrooms looked like they had been coated in goo from some Alien movie

Chapel rock is very interesting and is probably more so on foot than via the boat tour, which a small craft advisory prevented us from taking. It is an eroded sandstone edifice upon which is perched a large tree. The rock has eroded out from under the tree roots, which stretched across the abyss like an anaconda rope bridge. The edifice is gouged out in many places, forming arches and holes through which the tumultuous waves can be seen.

Shelf fungus was ubiquitous in the forest. This species was covering a downed tree trunk.

There are many nice campgrounds in this area and to escape the relentless and biting wind we snuggled up in one to quickly eat our lunch. In the trees, we were not miserably cold, but out on the exposed shoreline of Lake Superior, it was cold and we did not linger on the sand.

Chapel Rock and tree with its exposed root system

Chapel Beach in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a chilly spot in the fall
Chapel Beach. The 10 mile trail continues on to the right around the headland. Our trail cut back inland at the end of the beach.

The trip back up the Chapel Beach trail takes the hiker by a small lake that is quickly becoming meadow. Here we chatted with two photographers from Germany. They pointed to the meadow and said “Moose…perfect place”. It sure would have seemed so but Moose are in fact rather rare in the UP and have only recently been reintroduced.

Chapel Lake

A little farther up the trail is Chapel Lake, which glittered in a freakish break in the clouds. It is far below the hiker, however, so no waterfowl sightings are possible without a seriously big lens.

Jelly Fungus (Tremella mesenterica)
Jelly Fungus (Tremella mesenterica). Despite its bizarre appearance, Jelly fungus are not poisonous.

While most people visiting the Pictured Rocks area opt for the loop that takes you out by the rocks and on to Mosquito Beach, this loop was very interesting, particularly to us Coloradans who have spent little time in the hardwoods. While we saw no fairies, we did see lot of fascinating mushrooms, even one that looked like Cheese Wiz. Surreal indeed!


Nina said...

All your fungus photos are excellent! Nice pictures of Chapel Falls too. I'm sorry that you didn't have a little bit better weather.

Shellmo said...

Nice to see this gorgeous imagery thru your eyes!