Monday, August 22, 2011

Best Au Sable River Camping Spots

If you live in Michigan and play in the outdoors, then you've heard of the mighty Au Sable River. 120 miles, from Grayling to Oscoda, this river winds through endless stretches of the Huron National Forest and drops through 6 hydroelectric dams.

Whether you plan to canoe the entire river (as I did) or simply go out for an overnight, you'll love the Huron National Forest camp sites along the Au Sable River. Most of these sites require backcountry camp permits and reservations. If, however, you plan to camp in out-of-the-way spots on the side of the river (non-designated camp sites) then you won't need any reservations or permits.

The best camping areas on the Au Sable are Cook and Foote Dam Ponds. Each of these "ponds" (they're more like lakes especially when you're trying to canoe thru them) has a myriad of potential camp sites. Paddle 20 minutes and you're sure to pass by a camp site with impeccable views over the ponds, a rope swing, and a fire circle. The tall pine forests and sandy soil in the area make a beautiful combination.

If you can only pick on camp site to use, choose a primitive camping site on either Cook or Foote Dam Pond.

Want permits? Contact the Huron Shores Ranger Station: (989) 739-0728.

Did I mention that there's no mosquitoes? I traveled the length of the Au Sable from August 16-20th and got, maybe, five mosquito bites the entire time. Leave the tent and bring a tarp to sleep out under the stars with views over glassy calm waters.

Expect to see lots of Great Blue Herons, turtles, Whitetail Deer, and Bald Eagles.

If you're looking to camp on the Au Sable River, I would highly recommend avoiding the touristy campgrounds and instead, find yourself a little slice of paradise on a sandy island under the stars. No permits, reservations, or fees required.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nature Macro Photography in Mid-Michigan

This is a guest post from Sue St. Charles, a Mid-Michigan photographer. Check out her website or email her.

I have loved nature photography for over 30 years and have found the subjects in mid-Michigan to be endless... Enjoy!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Looking Glass Falls Pisgah National Forest

Well, as it turns out, apparently I didn't save any of my photos from Looking Glass Falls. This single drop 60ft fall is located just outside of Brevard, NC on US 276 in Pisgah National Forest. It's difficult, really, to comprehend the sheer amount of force coming over these falls. Don't get me wrong, I know it's not the largest or tallest waterfall in the world, but it really gives you a beating if you get up close.
The only remaining photo from Looking Glass Falls
Along US 276 coming out of Brevard, you'll pass the Ranger Station. A few more miles along and you'll come to a stretch of windy road (it's all windy) where, on the right hand side, cars are packed in like sardines (not if you get there early enough, though). During the afternoon, the close proximity of Looking Glass Falls to 276 makes is a ripe tourist stop-off. Get there before 11am on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Take the first parking spot you find as you may, like me, find that the spots closer up are all taken. Then you'll be screwed out of a parking spot.

There's probably a set of one hundred stone steps leading down to the falls which can easily be seen from the road. At the bottom you'll find a small stone viewing area from which very few people partake in the views. Instead there's a well worn path off the the left that brings you out directly into the river. And presently, into the spray-zone of the falls. This icy mountain water is refreshing on a hot day as the temperature by the falls is easily 10º-20º cooler than up by the road.

If you decide to rock-hop and/or swim (I suggest you bring a pair of Keens) then head around to your right hand side of the falls. Here you'll find that the water has carved out an infinitely deep plunge pool. There's a couple of good rocks to jump off on this side, straight into the freezing cold plunge pool. Just be careful of the waterfall's undercurrents and be sure to scout for rocks before jumping!

If, instead, you'd like to get out "behind" (you can't really make it all the way behind) the falls then go back up the stone stairs to where the first turn is in the switchback. There's a small trail here that goes off toward the waterfall over lots of strewn boulders and precarious angles on wet mossy stones dozens of feet above the ground. Like me, you probably think this sounds like fun. So pick your way around, over, across, and through these rocks until you're up and around behind the waterfall. You can jump in from here if you have the balls, or just pose for a good picture.

Here's my suggested trip itinerary
Common afternoon view from Black Balsam Knob
Head out from Brevard, NC early in the morning going north on US 276. Hit up Looking Glass Falls before the crowds arrive. From there continue north on 276 deeper into the national forest. You'll hit the Blue Ridge Parkway after another 20 minutes or so. Head west on the parkway from here. After another twenty minutes and scenic overlooks of Cold Mountain and Looking Glass Rock as well as passing the Mountains to Sea Trail you'll arrive at the Graveyard Fields trailhead and parking. Here you can check out the Lower Falls (yep, that's their name). There's a great plunge pool for swimming here, too. You can jump right off the falls if you climb the face, there's a good 6 foot drop. Then you can opt to either head up the MTS Trail to Skinny Dip Falls. Or go up Black Balsam Knob Road to Black Balsam Knob for an afternoon picnic and relaxation with beautiful views in 360º at over 6000ft.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Adventure Blog Redesign

Screenshot of the redesigned home page.
The (tentative) backpacking meal planner section.
That's right... The Adventure Lifestyle Blog is undergoing a massive overhaul. It won't be up in the next few days, but look for it in the coming weeks. We're talking about a much more professionally designed main site where you can learn how to get started backpacking from the ground up. Social networking integration is going to be a focus on the new ALB, as well. You'll be able to comment and link to Facebook with a simple click. Want a sneak preview?