Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I am going to be frank with you, while these are very popular things I will be listing, I am definitely listing my favorites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While these are things that are popular all around, these are my Top3 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore based on my hiking experiences.

  1. Au Sable Lighthouse
Took this picture on a girls trip in fall 2020

I LOVE lighthouses and this one is gorgeous! You can reach this beauty from the Hurricane River campground along a short 1.5 mile hike. Just make sure to park in a day-use spot and not in a campsite!

This is an amazing landmark, but what makes it so special for me is that I have not seen it on my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trips yet. I have hiked from Hurricane River campground to see it, but since last year we had to start our hike at Chapel Beach parking we missed this beauty (see my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking experience in Part 1 and Part 2). I am so excited that this year we will be starting our trip at Au Sable Visitor center and will be marveling at this light station on day 2!

  1. Chapel Beach
Lake Superior beach
How we were welcomed to Chapel beach

I had never seen true beauty until I had seen the beautiful Chapel beach waters and cliff views. The water is so blue and clear.

We celebrated our first break at Chapel beach and it quickly became our favorite spot after a sweaty hike. If you can only hike one area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make sure it is the Chapel Loop!…just make sure to get to the parking area before 8am to get a good spot! This is a popular loop since the sights and beach are so worth it!

  1. Miner’s Castle

Miner’s Castle is just cool! The Miner’s Castle Rock is awesome and one of the only things on the lakeshore that are accessible from the parking lot. Not to mention there are bathrooms and educational materials for curious families and sea kayakers!

While you will appreciate the majesty of this rock formation, you know I have a selfish and personal reason for liking Miner’s Castle best. It’s the end for me. Minor’s Castle is where we park the car and celebrate completing the trail. While I look forward to being on trail, ending the trail is a great feeling of accomplishment and I love that feeling just as much as the journey to get there!

I hope you enjoyed my Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Let me know which one location you want to visit the most and please check out the links below as I prepare for my second Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trip!

Love,

Sara

Gear Shakedown….#1?

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Last time I spoke to you on the blog I talked about starting to prepare your backpacking trip (see post here) and I talked about the gear I am taking with me for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip. I even talked about some items I may switch around, and if you follow the Sustaining Sara socials (see above), then you already know an item I have been pondering over.

Charlie and I have decided to move away from our hammock shelters and move toward a tent shelter. I have heard from many sources that your tent should be under 3.5 lbs and there are so many tents available in that range. However, I will be the first to say that I do not want to spend that much money and I’d prefer to work with what we have, and what we have is a Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent. In the 2 person model this entire tent system is 7 lbs. and I dare say no one wants to add a 7 lb. shelter to their pack. HOWEVER, Charlie and I can split the weight together AND save money.

Tent in backyard
Our Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent!

Now I went to some Facebook hiking and backpacking groups to see what they thought about this plan and the perspectives were mixed to say the least. One person told me that taking this tent into the back country was “a terrible idea” with no other context. Others said it is a great idea to work with what we have and some agreed but also offered better options. I am happy I got perspectives for people but I have figured that this comes down to three main points in our case:

  1. Availability – we already have this tent. I already set it up once this season to make sure all pieces are accounted for and in good working order!
  2. Cost – there is no extra cost to us to use a tent we already have. We may even use some money we would have used on a new tent on getting better sleeping pads (yes, now I need to add “sleeping pad” to my updated gear list).
  3. Splitting Weight – yes, this tent would be way too heavy for one person to carry. However, since Charlie and I can split the weight together we should be at a reasonable ~3.5 lbs.! There is nothing wrong with that!

So Charlie and I are pretty set on using our heavy tent, no matter what others say. I am very happy that we have this opportunity and can see how our shelter system evolves as we continue our backcountry journeys! Make sure to check out my socials below to see our Pictured Rocks Trip as it rolls out!

Thank you!

Sara

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Hi all! Now that is it May, I need to start preparing for my second trip backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Last year we were able to reserve a few backcountry sites to backpack the lakeshore, but this time around we prepared ahead of time (see Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiking Pictured Rocks) to reserve backcountry permits to make sure we hike from Grand Sable Visitor Center to Minors Castle (almost the whole lakeshore)!  There are a few things I am doing to make sure I am ready for this trip and I had better start now rather than later. Here are my tips to prepare for your backpacking trip!

  1. Get in shape

I was in a lot better shape last year and I was still tired after each day of hiking. This year…I need to start taking on more mileage before I hike 7.3 miles a day for fun. On top of just in general needing to get in shape, taking on so many miles consecutively and so soon can lead to injury if not properly prepared. Everyone is different, do your research and prepare your own body accordingly. I know that for myself, I need to do something to get in shape and prepare my body for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip.

If you are planning a longer hiking trip make sure your body can handle the work-load involved in your scenic hike!

  1. Get your gear together
The fellas use our gear as a bed is we leave it out for them to play with.
The Fellas cuddling with our backpacking gear when it’s not in storage.

If you are just starting out on your first backpacking trip you have A LOT to prepare for. Even if you are a seasoned backpacker you know how much planning it takes to make sure you are ready for comfort in the backcountry. You should do plenty of research on what others take into the backcountry and even think about additional things that would make yourself comfortable and happy! Here are things I take backpacking with me:

If you have your gear organized year round then this is not too much of a problem. Personally I use totes to put all my things in except my sleeping bag which I don’t want to squish. I keep my sleeping bag outside of storage because my dogs love cuddling it. People may use more, less, or liter gear but the above is what I take with me into the backcountry.

  1. Upgrade gear as needed

While I am loving my gear, there are a few things that we are upgrading/ changing based on different desires or needs:

  • Charlie is looking at getting a tent instead of bringing out his hammock setup again. He just decided that the hammock surrounded by the bug net and tarp was too constricting and did not provide enough privacy.
  • I am looking at changing or nixing my pillow. With my hammock I just don’t need it and I just wake up cuddling it like a teddy bear anyway.

Changing up your gear list is up to you and your preferences, don’t let anyone tell you different!

  1. Shakedown Hike

Now you have your gear together. You’re packed up and eager. Now it is time for a practice run. 

Hike with your bag. Overnight with your supplies. Is your bag too heavy for you? Did you pack some unnecessary items? Forget something you really need? Figure this out now and get rid of anything you don’t need. This is also a great way to practice wearing your backpack and make sure it is the right one for you! See Rachel’s How Not to Pack for A Pictured Rock Hiking Trip to really understand the importance of packing.

  1. Prepare a main point of contact 

I have said this before and I will say it again; make sure someone knows where you are and your itinerary! When Charlie and I leave for any type of trip we need to get a dog sitter and that is normally a family member. When we leave for a trip we know we may have limited cell service we make sure that this family member is prepared with our itinerary with notes on when we will be able to contact them and what to do if we do not contact them. A satellite phone would also help in these situation and hopefully by the time we do this trip we will have a Garmin InReach or InReach Mini. STILL, these phones are not always 100 percent reliable and your point of contact should be told that!

These tips for preparing for your backpacking trip are only the things primarily on my mind right now. Make sure to always do your own research and to make sure you are comfortable with your plans and your gear before isolating yourself in the backcountry. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have so much fun!

Once on trail I will make sure to share as many photos and tips as possible! I will let you know how the trip went right here on the blog and don’t forget to read my first experience hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Part 1 and Part 2. And follow my adventures on Instagram!

Love,

Sara

Sara’s Top 5 Summer 2021 Plans

Every month I write in my bullet journal three things I want to do that month. Some of these things are stuff that has to be done, but more often than not some of these things are left incomplete. However, there are a few things that I will definitely make sure to do this summer! Here we go, my top 5 Summer 2021 Plans!

  1. Kayaking

Last Summer Charlie and I were set on getting kayaks. However, I did not want to do much research OR buy a roof rack, so we did what any lazy person would do. We bought inflatable kayaks. We got a Intex Challenger K1 and a Intex Challenger K2. We got a single person and a two person so that we could take one out together or both kayaks and a friend or Jupiter in his little life jacket (at the time there was no Bingo in the picture).

Charlie has been looking at where we can kayak this year and it seems like there will be plenty of opportunities between the many lakes and rivers in Michigan’s Thumb. Last summer we only used the kayaks on a calm lake (Crego Park), but we will see if the inflatable kayaks will work on other bodies of water. So we will definitely be kayaking this summer!

  1. Gardening
Tomato and Squash Garden at the Lansing House.
Our old, crowded tomato and squash garden.

Our previous living situation was mine and Charlie’s first house we ever rented together, meaning this was our first yard we could start a vegetable garden in! We attempted to grow several vegetables, but the two that lasted (and THRIVED) were beef steak tomatoes and butternut squash. With these two vegetables we were able to prepare and store enough to have them through winter and it was awesome! We had the last of the tomato soup last week even!

Needless to say with only two types of plants fruiting last year out of a whole garden, we have done a little research and will be improving our garden this year. PLUS we have more room this year! I cannot wait to share our new garden with you!

  1. Up North Michigan/Upper Peninsula Vacation
Lake Superior at Au Sable Lighthouse
The rolling waves of Lake Superior (my favorite Great Lake) at Au Sable Light House

After spending so much time Up North last year between hiking and sight-seeing, I cannot wait to cross Mackinac Bridge again (is a Mac Pass in my future!?). I just want to have a beer at Ore Dock Brewery in Marquette, cliff jump at Black Rock, and finally explore Sault Ste Marie! We have plenty planned for this summer, as you will see on numbers 4 and 5!

  1. North Country Trail 100 Challenge

Have you heard about the North Country Trail Challenge? The North Country Trail actually goes across Picture Rocks National Lakshore and once finished will be the longest scenic trail from Vermont to Oregon (the current west terminus is North Dakota)! The North Country Trail 100 Challenge has been going since 2016 and challenges hikers to do 100 miles of the North Country Trail Challenge. After completion you get a cool patch! Check out the North Country Trail website for more information!

You can do multiple sections of the trail to reach your 100 miles or the same sections over and over! I will definitely be getting 35 miles done at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore this summer!

  1. Backpack Picture Rocks National Lakeshore (AGAIN!)
Picture Rocks Nation Lakeshore Chapel Beach
The turquoise water we say backpacking Picture RocKs National Lakeshore near Chapel Beach.

That’s right, 35 miles in 4-5 days on Picture Rocks National Lakeshore! Charlie and I will be doing this hike again and actually we plan to do it every year for as long as we can. This year we are making sure we do the whole lakeshore, but in the future we will be trying to do it faster and faster! It is just a beautiful and rewarding hike, I cannot wait to do it again.

And I cannot wait to tell y’all about our experiences again!

Thank you for checking in on my plans for Summer 2021. Please let me know of any cool plans you have for this summer in the comments! Thank you!

Love,

Sara