These Isle Royale Photos Are Sure to Inspire Your Next U.P. Getaway

Today, Michigan landscape photographer Joshua Nowicki shares some photos from a recent trip to Isle Royale. We’re sure his experience will inspire you to add the Upper Peninsula to your Pure Michigan getaway bucket list! 

Several weeks ago, I was invited to photograph a family wilderness program for the Isle Royale Institute (a partnership between Michigan Technological University and Isle Royale National Park).  It was my first trip to the island, and I was incredibly excited. I was delighted to discover that my expectations for the trip were far exceeded.

Sitting on the bow of the Isle Royale Queen IV and watching Copper Harbor, Michigan disappear into the distance as my cell phone signal faded filled me with joy.  As we moved further out into cool air of Lake Superior, a beautiful white all-encompassing fog surrounded the boat adding to the sense of adventure.  Approaching the island, even before I could see the land, there was a warmth in the breeze and a soft sweetness to the air.  As the island appeared out of the fog, the sky began to clear, and the air warmed.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

After disembarking from the ship, we received a short humorous and very informative introduction to the island from park ranger, Lucas Westcott.  Upon setting foot on land, I was struck by the beauty and wealth of wild flowers; a gorgeous layer of orange, yellow, purple and white blanketed sections of the landscape.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

On my first evening, I went for a walk along the Rock Harbor Trail and saw numerous loons, squirrels, and rabbits.  Additionally, upon turning a corner in the trail, I found myself standing within 30 yards of a cow moose and calf.  At night, I enjoyed listening to the sounds of nature and I could even occasionally hear moose walking through the woods near my tent.  I saw more moose on Isle Royale than I have in all of the trips that I have taken to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

The Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study is followed around the world, and I delighted in a trip to Bangsund Cabin to meet Rolf and Candy Peterson.  Standing in the Museum of Pathology and listening to Rolf discuss the project was a surreal experience I will always treasure.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

A short walk from Bangsund Cabin, leads to the Rock Harbor Lighthouse which is open to the public as a museum.  The tower of the lighthouse also provides visitors with a magnificent view of Rock Harbor and Lake Superior.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

The number of amazing experiences I had are too numerous to write about in one blog post. Some of the additional highlights of my trip were:

Hiking along the Greenstone Ridge and enjoying the fantastic view of the island and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Canada from the steps of Mount Ojibway Tower.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Marveling at the view of the night sky.  I have never seen the Milky Way so clearly and was even fortunate enough to see both the Milky Way and Northern Lights one evening.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Waking early to watch the sunrise over the forest.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photgraphy

Walking through sections of white spruce and balsam forest covered with Old Man’s Beard Lichen.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Having the rare opportunity to watch a group of pelicans fly over the island, finding greenstones along the beach near Rock Harbor Lighthouse (all stones were left at the beach as per park guidelines), sitting and watching hummingbird moths busily flying from flower to flower, watching curious squirrels explore our camp, and meeting park superintendent Phyllis Green and discussing how a trip to Isle Royale is an incredible place for a family adventure…just to name a few!

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

If you love hiking and camping, Isle Royale is an absolute paradise where you can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty and sound of nature.  However, if camping is not for you, you can experience the island from the comfort of the Rock Harbor Lodge.  There are a variety of trails that are easy to access from the lodge or by water taxi.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

Photo courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

I look forward to my next trip to explore more of this beautiful national treasure.

Joshua_NowickiJoshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer specializing in landscape, nature, architecture, and food photography. His photos can be viewed online on Facebook or his website.

Exploring a Shipwreck on a Drummond Island Off-Roading Adventure

Today, guest blogger Christian Anschuetz from Modern Explorers tells the story of how his group of thrill-seeking adventurers came across a shipwreck while on an off-roading adventure on Drummond Island.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

With everything that progress has brought to our modern world, it’s refreshing to know that there are still places on the planet that remain pristine.  Perhaps surprisingly, Michigan brims with more places like this than many expect, and our group of would-be adventurers, true modern explorers, seek and discover these hidden gems.

Our crew of ten men and women has made it their mission to find these often wild and remote places in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.  From the northern shores of the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw, to the great National Huron and Manistee Forests, they have visited ancient copper mines, followed in the footsteps of Au Sable lumbermen, camped in the ruins of abandoned ghost towns, and most recently, visited the historic Drummond Island.

Here’s the story of how we discovered a well-known, but rarely visited shipwreck, on our latest adventure.

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A piece of the Agnes W. Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

A summer squall rages across Lake Huron.  Strong winds whip the air and the surf into a frenzy, punishing all in its path.  Today’s victim would be a sturdy steamer that was once the largest vessel to travel the Great Lakes.  But neither her size nor her steadfast crew could protect her from the wrath of Mother Nature, which forced the Agnes W aground.  It was July 3rd, 1918 when the Agnes W crashed into the rocky shoreline and sank.  Nearly a century later, my team and I find ourselves staring at her well-preserved wreckage as we look to the south from Traverse Point on Drummond Island.

Locating the Agnes W on a map was a simple task, but making our way to the wreckage was another matter altogether.  Drummond Island is a beautiful, rugged place, and the path to the sunken ship was long, narrow, and harrowing.  While the off-road vehicles we took down the trail were up to the task, the drivers were tested after just a mile of navigating the sand, mud and stone.  We shared a deep sense of accomplishment as we exited our vehicles at the shoreline and began the hike toward where the Agnes W broke upon the rocks.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As we walked the last quarter mile to Traverse Point, our curiosity grew with every step: What would we find?  Two hundred yards from our destination our group made its first discovery: a massive beam pierced with wrought iron stakes lay upon the shore.  This large piece of debris had to belong to the Agnes W, so with sharpened eyes we moved forward, finding more and more of the wrecked ship along the way.  By the time we arrived at the tip of Traverse Point, we were surrounded by artifacts.  Less than 40 yards away we could see the well-preserved hulk of the steamer peeking through the surface of the water.  Despite the warm air and bright sun, a cool and eerie feeling descended on our group.

Individually and collectively, we wondered about the fate of the crew that night.  What was their experience of the violent collision between ship and land?  How many perished, how many survived?  Some answers to our questions reside in the history books.  Many others have been lost to time.  What the wreckage made clear, however, was that even this great ship was no match for the giant rocks that are the foundation of Drummond Island.  After discussing the little-known history of the Agnes W, we took our last photos and began the hike back to our vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

Photo courtesy of Modern Explorers

As with most things on Drummond Island the adventure isn’t complete until you are safely back to your starting point.  This time we tackled the trail off the beach knowing that the surviving crew of the Agnes W likely forged a similar path as they left that shore cold, wet and scared.  Our team departed under far better circumstances, and with a sense of satisfaction that we had found what we were looking for.

During the following days we navigated even rougher terrain as our team explored and discovered towering cliffs, amazing rock formations, old ruins and intriguing Chippewa sites the locals call “places of power”.  For Drummond is a big island with an even larger history.  A land that calls out to would-be adventurers to rediscover her secrets.  A worthy destination for all, and one that deserves the title Pure Michigan.

Have you had the opportunity to explore Drummond Island? Tell us about your experience! 

Check out the Modern Explorers in action and see the wreck of the Agnes W for yourself in the video below.

Christian ModExpChristian Anschuetz embraces the duality of modern life, and freely moves from being a technologist at work, and an avid outdoorsman and adventurer for play.  As an IT executive and entrepreneur, he happily takes the lead of the Modern Explorers crew.  As a former Marine, the path he leads the team is often fraught with obstacles, dirt, and adventure. You can reach Christian at christian@modern-explorers.com. To learn more about the Modern Explorers follow them on Facebook or check out their YouTube Channel.


Eight Reasons to Get Out and Explore Michigan’s Waterfalls this Summer

Today, Michigan-based photographer John McCormick shares some visually compelling reasons to get out and explore Michigan’s many rushing waterfalls this summer.

If you’re looking for things to do in Michigan this summer, try exploring some beautiful waterfalls. This will be a great year for it! The heavy snow and below average temperatures this past winter have resulted in fast flowing rivers and raging waterfalls all across Upper Michigan this spring. My wife and I and our three boys have been exploring and photographing these gems for over 30 years and the ones mentioned here are a few of our favorites.

Some of the waterfalls are easy to find and easy to access, while others require a little more effort.  The most popular waterfall to see is Tahquamenon, and it is also one of the easiest to access. There are two drops – the upper and lower. The upper falls are more than 200 feet across and plunge approximately 48 feet. Both of these waterfalls are within the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and this area has some of the best camping in Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Tahquamenon Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One of the more remote waterfalls to see is Spray Falls in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This one is about a three mile round trip hike, starting from the trail-head at Little Beaver Lake campground. It is rated a moderate hike. Spray Falls plunges 70ft over the Pictured Rocks cliff edge directly into Lake Superior. This stretch of hiking trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Michigan. See our Pictured Rocks gallery.

Spray Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Spray Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Another easy to access waterfall ‘and fun to photograph’, is Wagner Falls, just South of Munising, Michigan. It’s a beautiful scenic spot, and just a short walk through the woods. If you visit this one in the springtime, you will see Marsh Marigolds blooming along the edges of the creek just below the falls. It makes for a pretty picture! As a side trip while in the area, head over to Miners Beach just West of Munising and see the little but very picturesque, Elliot Falls, aka Miners Beach Falls.

Wagner Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Wagner Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Elliot Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Moving on from Wagner falls on M94 heading South and West you will find the little town of Chatham, MI,  which is about 25 miles from Munising. Near Chatham, is Rock River Falls. This waterfall is hidden in the Rock River Wilderness Area. Getting to it involves driving on some old logging roads and then hiking a mile or so through the forest on some ‘not so well marked’ trails, but if you are looking for a back-country waterfall adventure, this one is for you. Also, Just a few miles West of Chatham, is Laughing Whitefish Falls. It’s another easily accessible waterfall and a beautiful area of the Rock River Wilderness.

Rock River Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Rock River Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Laughing Whitefish Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

Farther West in Upper Michigan near Paulding, Michigan, is Bond Falls. This one has it all. Easy to access, wheelchair accessible, and one of the most spectacular to see. Don’t forget to get some ice cream at the Paulding General Store, or maybe look for the “Paulding Lights”. People have reported seeing these mysterious lights for 40 years.

Bond Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Bond Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

One more waterfall I will mention, that gets little attention, is Ocqueoc Falls near Onaway, Michigan. This is the only recognized waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. You can hike the Ocqueoc Falls Pathway that starts here and runs along the river. Also at the falls area there is a picnic area with tables and grills. This area is also wheelchair accessible.

Oqeuoc Falls - Michigan Nut Photography

Oqeuoc Falls – Michigan Nut Photography

I could go on and list many, many more waterfalls to see. I do highly recommend visiting my Michigan waterfalls gallery to see over a hundred photos my favorite shots taken over many years of travels.

John McCormickJohn McCormick is a lifelong Michigan resident and has been interested in Michigan Nature Photography for over 30 years. Michigan is a beautiful place to live and photographing that beauty is his absolute passion. Check out more from John on his Michigan Nut Photography Facebook page or on his website.