Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Pinnacle Falls

The first couple of waterfalls that Naomi and I visited in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, were very tourist friendly. Boardwalks and steps led to viewing platforms. There were trashcans strategically placed along the way. Signs clearly marked the paths. There were restrooms (with flushing toilets) and gift shops with ice cream and pasties.

Pinnacle Falls on the Yellow Dog River was not like the first few waterfalls we visited.

On Saturday, Naomi plugged the address into Google maps on her phone, and we set out from Marquette. We followed paved roads into the middle of nowhere, and then turned onto a dirt road that soon turned into a lane, leading into the wilderness.

We bumped along the dirt path, which was wide enough for one vehicle, through woods, and across clearings. Every so often, the lane would intersect with another path and the Google map (despite the fact that we were well beyond cell service) would tell us which way to turn. At one point we followed a snowmobile trail (evidenced by tall poles that marked the trail to make the path visible when it snows). Every so often, the way was marked by a hand-painted sign.

After it seemed like we'd been traveling for many miles (but was only a couple of miles since my vehicle was crawling along), Google announced we had arrived. Clearly, we had not. So we continued down the lane until trees and undergrowth scraped against my vehicle. It turns out that was the narrowest part of the lane, but since I didn't know that and really didn't want to have to back my way out, I managed to turn the vehicle around and I parked in a clearing. From there Naomi and I walked.

A sign pointed to the trail, which Naomi told me was a short hike to the waterfall. A short hike, I learned, is not to be confused with an easy hike.

The trail was well-marked, but it was steep, with tree roots that could reach out and trip you. It wound its way down a gorge. It twisted and turned, and I inched my way down the trail. Several times Naomi was concerned that I was going to give up. "That's the hardest part," she'd tell me.

Finally, the path leveled out and we could hear the river. Though technically easier, the trail wasn't any less intimidating. We threaded our way through undergrowth as tall as my shoulders. We broke out of undergrowth and glimpsed a few rapids. "That better not be the waterfall," we said.

It wasn't. We followed the trail a little further, turned a corner, and saw the falls.

And it was worth it.

The water was clear and pure. Unlike the other waterfalls we had visited, this one appeared untouched by mankind. There were no sounds of traffic, no noisy tourists, no trashcans or fences. It was pristine.

Photo by Naomi

If you make it to the U.P. and are in the mood to visit a waterfall (and don't mind venturing into the middle of the wilderness, and then going a bit further), I recommend visiting Pinnacle Falls (though, I recommend wearing hiking boots and clothing that covers your arms and legs.)

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