Baraga County High Point Trip Report

"Creature of the Night Highpointing 2004"

Date: December 6, 2003
Author: Robert Greene

My directions to the Michigan high point were better than Wisconsin [see trip report]. "Go to L'Anse, take Skanee Road 16 miles to the east, turn south at the Zion Lutheran Church, follow the blue diamond signs to the high point along an improved logging road." By 10pm, I arrived at L'Anse, along the scenic (though dark) shores of Lake Superior. I drove endlessly around town, following the division from 51 north where a large sign proclaimed "this way to L'Anse and Skanee". No Skanee road. I took Broad down to the lake, over and over, checking each road. No luck. Finally, I decided I'd go east a bit and see if I could find Skanee by going north and south. I picked the biggest east/west road (Main Street) and headed off down it, past the town center, past the hospital. I was about to turn off onto a road to look for Skanee, when I saw that the road I was on was Skanee. I guess Main turns into Skanee. Who would have guessed. I was back in business!

The church was easy to find, although a sign in an empty field did prompt me to turn one road too early. (The sign actually said "Zion Lutheran Church, 1.6 miles" but I thought it was the church itself). After finding the right road, I zipped down this snow-covered beast. There was a lot of snow in Michigan, though none recently, so it was all well-packed. Down Roland Road, I went, passing Sawmill Road, and eventually ending up at Ravine Road. My GPS showed the summit was to the west, so I turned left, and immediately found a dead end. Back I went along Ravine Road, which circled around and went basically the way I wanted to go. The snow was getting deeper, and I was wishing I'd gone for that 4x4 option at Hertz. Finally, I pulled into a big clearing, where the "road" (obviously now a logging trail) passed between several large piles of something covered by snow. This was a flat area which had several roads leading away from it, I checked them all, and they all sucked, so I decided my car assist had come to an end. I was about 4 miles southeast of Arvon, and about 1100 vertical feet short.

After carefully selecting a well packed parking spot, I began the car bivvy. I figured around 6am would be a good start, I'd knock off the short hike as the sunrise illuminated it, and call it a day by around 10am. This "11:30pm plan" was doomed to failure. By 2am, the temperature had plunged to near the overnight low of 17F. My car bivvy (without sleeping bag or blankets) was quite cold. I determined that sleep was not an option I'd have. My groggy thought was "I'll just go now, bag this bastard, and get an early start (with heat) on the drive back".

At 2:30 am, I was geared up, ready to go, and started off across the flat area. None of the roads led exactly where I wanted to go, so I decided to shortcut towards it. About 6 feet off the packed area, the snow stopped being consolidated enough to hold my weight and I started stepping through into about a foot of snow. That was pretty fun, but wasn't going to make for a quick trip, and the wind was bitterly brutal on the exposed open area. I went back to a road that went about the way I wanted to go. The full moon was still out, but not brightly enough to illuminate any signs. So much for the blue sign theory.

Eventually the road I was on led off in a "bad" direction (away from the summit); but a smaller trail led exactly the way I wanted to go. I took the smaller trail. It was consolidated as well, but by endless deer tracks rather than tire tracks. Deer trails are good because deer are big like me, so the trail was easy to follow. Deer trails are bad, because they always lead to one thing.

The trail opened up into a huge clearing. It was spectacular, the flat pristine white snow field broken only every now and then by trees. I guess the logging company had deforested this clearing. Probably looked like crap when the snow wasn't covering it, but now, so beautiful. I waltzed on out there, reveling in the ease of walking across this almost perfectly flat area. I thought maybe this was the road, except, it was far too large for just a road.

I was probably 100 feet or so out into the clearing when the loud "crack" happened. Now, I'm from Texas, so I ain't got much good sense. I didn't know what that was. But I didn't have long to wait. Within about 2 seconds, the plate of ice that I was standing on plunged into the huge lake I'd been walking across. Luckily, it was only about 3 feet deep there. I think the deer were probably laughing while I was flailing around to a tree where I managed to pull myself out of the water. That would have been quite fun if the temperature had been 87 instead of 17.

After belly sliding back across the ice to the shore, I briefly considered trying to go on, but common aversion to frostbite won the day. I was 2 miles out, and about 600 vertical feet away, but Arvon would have to wait. I returned to the car without incident, changed socks, considered trying again with new socks, but had to relent when I realized that I probably hadn't found the ONLY lake in the area. After a few more hours of heater-assisted sleep, I made my way back to Chicago by 4pm the next day.