Virtual OmniBUS Tour! Reconnect with your soul in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Beaver Basin bridge, Michigan. Courtesy NPS.

Shh. Did you hear that? That’s the sound of a loon. He must be up ahead of us. Walk very gently and we might catch a glimpse. Keep your eyes on the open water and we might see some otters, too. They’re all over Michigan’s lakes. Don’t forget to take the lens cap off your cameras come on.

Haunting beauty of Beaver Basin has drawn Midwesterners for decades

By Eric Hansen

Take a moment to visit one of the most soulful spots in Michigan’s fabled Upper Peninsula with me, a remote chunk of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore known as Beaver Basin.

There, silence stretches to the far off horizon and 10,000 acres of quiet woodlands nestle 765-acre Beaver Lake. That body of water is a mesmerizing gem, a giant reflecting pool of shifting panes of light sprinkled with bald eagles and common loons. Savvy travelers who have broad opportunities elsewhere, the eagles and loons opt to linger here each year.

Loon calls echo over the water at twilight. Summertime is memorable in these parts, and the evening soundtrack a delight, but it is hardly the only magical season at Beaver Lake.

I sleep there several nights a year, often gliding in on backcountry skis early each spring when the deep lake effect snow pack morphs into a silky firm base known as corn snow.

Cathedral groves of hemlock elders frame rivulets of gurgling snowmelt, woodpeckers flash by in the open, older forest and a sense of timeless well-being seems to grow with every stride as I ski down the snowed in road that leads toward Beaver Lake.

My first stop is one of the lake’s inlets, where a creek’s current creates open water — and a favored spot for the resident river otters to sunbathe on the edge of the lake ice. After a leisurely sojourn with them, and the March sun, I move on.

Nearby, Lake Superior and aptly named 12 Mile Beach beckon. The view from the shoreline bluff is magnificent — pack ice sparkles in the spring sunlight, decorating an inland sea so huge that it is a full one tenth of our planet’s freshwater. The shoreline, roadless here for 20-some magnificent miles, would satisfy any vision quest.

To my west, the long line of sea cliffs known as Pictured Rocks, immortalized in Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, rise. A seemingly endless beach leads east. All around me is peace and quiet so deep that I was startled by the approach of a private aircraft on the third morning of one of my trips.

Eventually, I head my skis inland and pass 7 Mile Creek, a pristine stream visited by rare Coaster Brook Trout. Past the creek, I shuffle up the bluff that cups Beaver Basin, and ski through the gently rolling forest above. Hours later, I reach my truck.

My visits to Beaver Basin are a bit of a personal pilgrimage for me but they are hardly anything new in this region. Ernest Hemingway and generations of Midwesterners have found their way north to the Upper Peninsula, drawn by the rejuvenating powers of this place.

Recently, as I drive away from the Beaver Basin trailhead I find myself wondering how many more years the ambience of this place will last.

Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan. Photo by Brenda St Martin, Courtesy NPS.Passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management bill will give Beaver Basin the protection of federally designated wilderness — and a real chance future generations will also enjoy the quiet charms of this place. The Beaver Basin provisions of the bill reflect patient discussions, negotiations and compromises among local stakeholders. They’ve done their part. Now it is Congress’ turn to recognize the common sense goodness of this bill and get it passed.

Beaver Basin bridge, Michigan. Courtesy NPS.
Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan. Photo by Brenda St. Martin, Courtesy NPS.

Eric Hansen, the author of Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — A Guide to the Greatest Hiking Adventures in the U.P. is an outdoor writer, conservation campaigner, public speaker, adventurer and pulpit guest. Widely traveled, he’s a veteran of 28 treks to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, successful ascents of most of the high peaks in Glacier National Park, and a mellow and memorable telemark-style ski descent of Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert.

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