Lost in Pigeon River Country

Northwoods Journal
Sunday, July 06, 2014

I jumped out of bed bright and early this morning, determined to make the most of our last full day here. I fed the dogs, put the pot of water on to heat for my shower and was dressed and ready before breakfast. I even dressed in my “Take a Hike” t-shirt for extra inspiration.

Mark made us bacon and eggs for breakfast which we ate out on the porch. As we ate, we discussed our options for what to do with our day. I voted for driving north of Onaway and hiking Black Mountain but Mark didn’t want to spend that much time driving so he suggested we head to the Pigeon River area and hike part of the Shingle Mill Pathway.
We washed up the dishes and then while Mark unhitched the canoe trailer and unloaded all our fishing gear, I packed us a picnic lunch to take on our adventure. It had been somewhat cloudy when we got up but then the sky cleared and the sun shone over breakfast, but by time we were headed northwest, the clouds thickened up. I guess that forecast of 60% chance of rain was pretty accurate for once.

Two different maps helped us navigate our way over toward the Pigeon River Country but neither one was spot on and nothing over that way is marked so we weren’t at all sure where the trailhead was exactly. We finally found the Pigeon River campground and drove in there, hoping to find some information. There was no information to be found so we just kept driving until Mark finally decided to stop at a two-track and at least walk the dogs for a little while, since they were getting antsy after more than a half-hour drive.

We wandered down the two-track thinking we were headed toward the river and low-and-behold we stumbled upon part of the pathway! We hiked along the river, stopping several times to admire the view or the wildflowers.

We found the trail!

We found the trail!

I thought this pine cone stuck in the V of a oak sapling was very interesting and made an artistic type of photo.

An interesting photo opportunity.

An interesting photo opportunity.

The view of the river was very pretty, despite the cloudy day.

The Pigeon River

The Pigeon River

Pretty flowering shrub.

Pretty flowering shrub.

Another view of the river from the bank.

Another view of the river from the bank.

There were damselflies everywhere and recently I was impressed by my blogging friend at Quiet Solo Pursuits and his recent photos of them.  So, I spent a good portion of our hike trying to get a bead on one that was sitting still.  I now have even more admiration for his talents and abilities!  This was the best I was able to get.

Damselfly

Damselfly

There was evidence along the path of beavers in the vicinity.

The beavers have been busy.

The beavers have been busy.

The trail came out at the campground so we wandered around there a bit before heading back up the road toward where we were parked.

The beagles took a little dip in the river near the campground.

The beagles took a little dip in the river near the campground.

As we hiked the clouds got darker and we figured we were going to get wet any second. Sure enough, a light rain started to fall so I tucked my camera inside my t-shirt. Of course, not long after I did so, Mark spotted this deer sticking her head out of the woods.

White-tailed doe.

White-tailed doe.

She was actually very far up this cleared line.  This really shows the benefit of the long zoom on my new camera!

Back at our vehicle we watered the dogs and discussed where we wanted to go from here. I wanted to turn around and go out the way we had come but Mark wanted to continue on down the road we had drove in on, insisting it looked to be well-traveled and had to come out on a major road somewhere.

Against my better judgment, he drove on down the road – and on, and on, and on. The trail took many twists and turns and forks and got rougher and rougher. There were absolutely no signs anywhere to tell us where we were and the clouds were so thick I lost all sense of what direction we were even traveling. Our two maps were completely useless. Mark’s phone was dead and mine couldn’t find a signal. After more than an hour of aimless wandering, my anxiety was mounting but I reminded myself that we had food, plenty of water, and a nearly-full tank of gas. And Mark kept saying we weren’t really lost – we were still in Michigan!

Finally there was an open meadow with a track leading into it, so Mark drove in and we tried to get a signal on my phone so we could pull up Google maps. The dogs were going nuts since we had been driving for so long, so I got them out and walked them up and down and around while Mark tried to figure out where in the heck we were and how to get back to civilization. I tried to tamp down my annoyance – not very successfully – as I tried to burn off some of the dogs’ energy. I couldn’t help but mutter that we didn’t go to Black Mountain because he hadn’t wanted to spend too much time in the car!

With a somewhat better grasp on our position, Mark agreed to turn around and try to find our way back out the way we had come. Of course, this was easier said than done because we had taken forks here and there and had been going so long that I had no idea how to get back to our starting point. We came to one fork and it turned out he took the way we hadn’t come but this was a good thing because we eventually found a crude road sign at a crossing that told us where we were – which was the intersection of Grass Lake Road and Pickerel Lake Road, in an area not even on the same map page as the Pigeon River campground.

As we traveled down Pickerel Lake Road we came across a scenic overlook right out in the middle of nowhere. Feeling the heat of my disapproval of this unintended adventure, Mark decided it would be a good idea to pull in and let me enjoy the view.

A beautiful view.

A beautiful view.

I would love to say where this is but I have absolutely no idea. I do know that we ended up nearly to Vanderbilt which is northwest of the Pigeon River campground where we started.

It was a good thing Mark stopped because as I tramped around by the overlook I heard a lot of chirping going on and spied several indigo buntings playing in the brush.

Indigo bunting checking me out.

Indigo bunting checking me out.

Now singing me a song.

Now singing me a song.

Eventually we came out to a major road and headed east. We had to take a bit of a circuitous route back to the road we needed to head home – seriously making a complete circle, or maybe more like a square – but eventually we were on familiar ground once more. As we traveled along Blue Lakes Road I suggested we stop once more to hike the dogs since they had been fairly patient on our two hour detour. Mark parked on a trail that was supposed to lead us back to the Blue Lakes but we never actually found them. Maybe we didn’t go far enough. Milo was wearing out pretty fast and it was raining off and on so we called off our fruitless search for the lakes and turned around. Mark was amused by these signs posted at one point on the trail. We aren’t exactly sure why the DNR is concerned motor vehicles would traverse through this area, as it looks to be pretty much impassible.

Is there danger of someone driving here?

Is there danger of someone driving here?

There were also many signs posted about special fishing regulations at the Blue Lakes, so those things must have been back in that woods somewhere.

Mark was pretty tense by time we got home from all that driving so I left him alone on the porch with his puzzle book while I worked on yesterday’s post. We had made plans with friends of ours who have a cabin in Lewiston to meet for pizza, so we headed over there just after five. I drove this time to give Mark a break.

We enjoyed our pizza, from the “best pizza place in Lewiston” – the Sunrise shop gas station! We also had a nice visit with our friends who have a place on Tee Lake with a really pretty view. It started raining around 8 o’clock and sprinkled off and on as we drove home. By time we got to Voyer Lake Road, we could see lightening and as we pulled into our driveway the sky opened up with a deluge and we got a real summer thunderstorm!
At one point, Mark thought there was a lull in the storm so tried to put the dogs out. He had Milo on the porch when lightning struck just into our woods. Poor Milo scooted right back inside and didn’t want anything to do with going out after that! He spent the rest of the evening cuddled up close to Mom until the storm passed.

Unfortunately, instead of cooling everything off and making it feel refreshing, the storm just made everything feel sticky and humid as we head to bed.

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11 Responses to Lost in Pigeon River Country

  1. First, thanks for the shout out!

    Two, do be too hard on Mark, I’ve been going to the Pigeon River Country for 40 years, and I still get lost. There are no correct maps, and a GPS unit isn’t a lot of help.

    The scenic overlook is on Pickerel Lake Road, just north of Sturgeon Valley Road, before the turn off to Pickerel Lake itself.

    The best place to access the Shingle Mill Pathway is at the Pigeon Bridge campground that’s right on Sturgeon Valley Road. Some of the stores in Vanderbilt sell the best map of the area that there is to be had. Or, stop at the forest headquarters, just south of the campground that you went to.

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  2. Mark did say we weren’t going over there again without a GPS! LOL We did come out on Sturgeon Valley Road, we ended up taking that back to our starting point as it was the most direct way to get back toward M33. I will have to remember about Vanderbilt having a better map of the area. I think I do remember passing a sign for the pathway as we traveled down Sturgeon Valley. It was funny because while we were wandering around we passed the High Country Pathway – which of course we’ve hiked several parts of over Atlanta way.

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    • If you get a GPS unit, make sure that it’s one that can record your track. It comes in handy when you have to get back out of a spot where the roads end, as they frequently do up there. Some of what appear to be through roads on maps are no longer open, some the DNR have closed, some, the beavers have flooded. I looked for this link last night, but couldn’t find it. The link is to the Pigeon River Country Association, and you can order the best map of the area from them. I would highly recommend it, as it covers some of the area that you frequent more often.

      http://www.pigeonriver.org/high-country-pathway.html

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  3. Living the life there! Nice pics!

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    • Thanks! It’s the best place in the world, in my humble opinion! 🙂 What part of Michigan do you hale from? We actually live in southeast Michigan, but have our cabin Up North, which is the home of my heart. ❤

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      • I live in southeast as well, near Port Huron. I always loved northern Michigan as well. I often do little weekend adventures around the tip of the thumb in the summer since it’s really not that far, yet still has a little of the “up north” feel to it 🙂 I’ll try to go up to lake Superior sometime soon and I hope the flies are not too bad when I finally do haha

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      • Funny I have lived in Michigan the majority of my life – except for a stint in the military and moving around a bit after before coming back home – and I’ve never been to the thumb area!! Lake Superior is so awesome. Have a great trip and yes, hopefully the flies won’t be bad — maybe if you go in October! 🙂

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  4. tootlepedal says:

    Exciting times.

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  5. Pingback: Hiking the High Country | 45 Degrees North

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