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Ashford Lake Pathw.
Words simply can't come close to describing this highly
recommended 430 plus acre diverse "crown jewel of Lake Superior", a DNR natural
recreation area that includes myriad trails, special sites and destinations. The
trail along the Lake is popular and easy to follow. But inland trails west of
CR550 are often more challenging and directions beyond the DNR map is
recommended. DNR info at
The North Country Trail goes through this area and more information can be found on that page (see menu above).
It was many years ago that we were introduced to Little Presque Isle, an awe inspiring diverse natural area north of Marquette. We don't go up there often but it is always a happy visit and well worth the drive. I always come away with a deep appreciation for all those who had the vision and mind to keep this special section of the world safe from development and open to all who choose to spend some time there. Our hikes are mostly along the North Country Trail through this area but it is such a special spot I decided to give it its own page.
April 6, 2021 -- Little Presque Isle
A coming rainy spell meant (to us) that this was a day to get in one more hike. It was foggy, mid 40's cool, and there was mention of wind and possible and scattered showers but that was minor. We'd go to Marquette and walk the Little Presque Isle trail along the Lake, starting farther north at the parking lot near the Point and the Isle. The last time we were in that area was many years ago, part of a local Sierra Club clean-up session with many of the wonderful people who had been instrumental in saving this special area from development, allowing us and so many others to enjoy its incredible array of wonders, where almost every step is a "wow" moment.
When we got to Marquette we stopped at Jean Kay Pasties to get lunch, going out as usual to local Presque Isle Park to eat. I'm sure I'm not the only one that gets the two names confused, but Little Presque Isle - LPI - is about 5 miles north. We watched rail cars of ore going out on their long, tall dock to await a freighter to take their load. It was really warm in town, 60 degrees, but cooler here with the wind off the water.
As we drove north to LPI the temperature slowly dropped until it was back where we started - mid 40's. I replaced layers I'd taken off in town. We were the only car in the parking lot on this cloudy cool mid-day but soon another car pulled in beside us with three men out for a walk. There would be many more when we returned 5 1/2 hours later. This is a very popular area. Though we were most familiar with the trail along the Lake (it's also part of the North Country Trail so no bikes) this special recreation/natural area is about 430 acres, including Harlow Lake, Wetmore Creek, Hogback Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and numerous trails and special and historical sites. There just anything like it anywhere else.
Definitely different than any of our other hikes, in a big way. This is an incredibly scenic "every step is a photo op" walk. The challenge was to gaze and marvel at the views without stopping every few minutes, while at the same time keeping careful eye on the trail, stepping carefully and deliberately up and down, over and around the abundance of roots and rocks. Cool and foggy near the Lake, warmer inland, we added and removed and added layers as we went. The Isle of Little Presque Isle name disappeared and reappeared in the mist.
The cliffs along the Lake are interspersed with magical small coves of beaches, some accessible, some not. The sound of the waves pounding against shoreline changed as walked along from one to the other. There is no boring spot along this trail.
At the southern end we chose to turn west inland, continuing on up (emphasis on UP) the North Country Trail, instead of going south up the back of Sugarloaf Mountain which we'd done before. To say this is a rocky section doesn't come near to an adequate description. Sugarloaf may get the most attention but it is only one of many and not the highest (I assume Hogback is). But walking around and up the lesser cousins here is amazing enough. With a magical bog on one side and huge rock on the other, this entrance to the inland rock section of the trail was more than a little special.
We don't normally do much rock scrambling so this was certainly a different kind of trail for us. Up a cut between two huge rock (hills? mountains? outcroppings? I don't know the proper term but they were definitely big and hard and high and impressive) we carefully stepped among the old leaves covering a path littered with rocks of multiple sizes. At that point we both (1) appreciated the good grippy soles of our shoes, (2) will be looking for a summer shoe with similar sturdy grip but a smaller footprint, as in no wide sole to catch on nearby rocks. It was definitely up, and it was great fun, this southern edge of the Hogback Mountain area and farther north the Huron Mountain Range.
We came down briefly, literally and mentally, to cross CR550 then back up we went amongst the big rocks. As the trail went by a particularly inviting smooth rounded rock nearby I called for a break, so we veered off to climb up on top of this wonderful rest spot. I wondered how many hundreds (thousands?) of hikers had sat and rested there before us. Removing shoes and sock we gazed at the incredible views and snacked, then stretched out on the amazingly comfortable lounge. The sun came through the haze enough to warm two contented hikers. After a bit, voices brought us back to the day as a group of hikers went by below our rock. As they disappeared we re-organized ourselves, tightening shoelaces for the "back down" trip, and down off our rock we went.
The walk back was as wonderful as the first half, seeing different views, different wonderings. We were in no hurry (these longer days are so nice!) and the entire hike was one of appreciating the moments and the amazing terrain and landscape. We added layers as we came again closer to the wind off the Lake. We met more people, particularly near to the parking lots, as it was now "after work and after school" time. It still wasn't even close to "crowded", just pleasant company. The north section along the LPI Point has its own generous landscape of rock to greet walkers coming and going.
The temperature had dropped a few more degrees and I didn't mind getting into a warm car, heading back into the warmer city to do our shopping at the Marquette Food Coop. Home along the fog-bound Lake we pulled into the turn-off on M28 to eat our dinner along side the sound and hidden view of Lake Superior. The fog lifted as we headed inland and we had a pleasant trip home. We'll be back, not only to explore again LPI but some of the other trails, too. In particular we want to continue on the NCT south and north to see where it goes. There is no lack of hiking to be done here!
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© Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
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