As the day broke on Day 5, the entire 2015 Upper Peninsula Overland (UPO) group was ready to really kickoff several days of trails and camping along the shores of Lake Superior. Today’s plan would take us along the southern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula down to the small village of Gay, MI
where I was hoping to find Alex Kang at the Gay Bar. Just to the East of Gay, we would end our day at the Stamp Sands—a recreation area of sorts.
Since entering the UP at the Mackinac Bridge, cell service was spotty at best between various towns and villages. It was refreshing not having “work” calls coming in every so often and emails beeping every two minutes during “normal” work-day hours. As we made our way across various trails, roads and through several towns over the course of today, I would receive a number of messages from my office that would ultimately push for an early return home.
The group saddled up and headed out of camp at around 10am, I chose a spot about 6 trucks back to get a better vantage point of trail obstacles and to simply have a view of as much of the group as I could. We followed the trail out past Schlatter Lake and then headed south towards Keystone Bay. At first the trails were fairly tame and much like what we encounter in the Mid-Atlantic—lots of overgrowth and in some spots, very tight lines around various trees. The trail going in/coming out of Keystone Bay was GREAT! Primarily used for snowmobiles, it was very tight with a lot of rolling, off-camber twists and turns only to open up to one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever been too!
We did a bit of exploring around the bay on foot before heading towards Houghton Mountain trail (47.40584, -87.94936). At times, the group was able to pick up some speed along several dirt roads and this resulted in almost “brown out” conditions for anyone behind the trail leader, Michael Smith. At Houghton Mountain, we disembarked our trucks and hiked the trail to the summit and what a view greeted the group that made it there!
From Houghton Mtn, about 4-5 folks decided to return to the High Rock Point Campsite while the rest of us continued on to the Stamp Sands. Upon arriving, it was brought to my attention that the Stamp Sands are essentially long standing sand dunes that were covered in a very fine gravel from early/mid-1900’s mining operations. The gravel has essentially kept the sand dunes from fluctuating as they typically would. Coming into the “grounds” it was a sight to behold and I’m not sure what happened, but the second vehicle in our group (a CRD Jeep Liberty) didn’t see the trail leader, Luke Comstock, come to a stop and ended up pushing the radiator through the engine as a result of a rear-ending! Thankfully, everyone was okay from the mishap and the Liberty was able to limp back to a service center to have an emergency operation on some vital components.
We took our time at the stamp sands to really get out and fly around. I had the jeep up to 50 or 60 on the flat, firm open sections of the sands. As with regular sand, please be cautious with this terrain. We almost lost a truck to a rollover and had to act quickly to stabilize and keep the truck from rolling off the side of a soft dune. After that incident, everyone could see our luck was running low so we turned back to the northwest and headed to the High Rock campsite for the night.
As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, work emails and phone calls were able to find me late on the Thursday afternoon. Sensing some panic in the voices of my co-workers on a program that we had been preparing for, my conscience started to weigh on me about the rest of the trip and if I should return early to address the issues that were manifesting at the office.
Back at camp, we were greeted with several kegs and the owners of Brickside Brewery. After completing about 105 miles over 10 hours of driving, it was great to sip on a fresh, great beer for FREE. We turned in that early that night with the full intention of having another day of trails and heading towards our second campsite for UPO2015 later on Friday afternoon. Shortly after 3am, I awoke to large crashing waves along the shore and lake-spray drenching the tent. As I laid there thinking about the next two days of trails, the drive back to Virginia and the work that was possibly piling up at the office, I made a snap decision to pack up and head out. It was not the way I wanted the trip to end but you have to listen to your gut decisions and go with it.
We were able to hit tarmac shortly after 5am at the town of Copper Harbor where it occurred to me that we had an insanely long day ahead of Raegan and I. We were 1114 miles from home with an expected drive time of 18 hours. Over the course of the day, we made great time and stopped as little as possible and arrived home approximately 22.5 hours later. In looking back on it, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Rae and I had such an amazing time with the people we met. I was able to use the time to experience a lot of new things with my daughter and grow her passion for adventure—I’d call that a Win Win! Thank you UP, until I see you again!