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GREAT FAMILY VACATIONS:
PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS STATE PARK

By: Corie Harkness

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located at the Western corner of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan. It is the largest state park in that state and is a true gem for a great family vacation. Accessible during all seasons of the year, this state park has many things to offer for a family looking for adventure in the great outdoors.

Porcupine Mountains encompass 60,000 acres with native hemlock forests and towering pines and sturdy birches. Its terrain is rugged and wild and it sits at the shore of Lake Superior. Many rivers teeming with various species of trout cut through these forests and waterfalls are a common sight. This state park got its name from the Ojibwa Indians, who named the 'small mountains' so because, with their tall trees, they looked like crouched porcupines.

During the spring and summer months, campers have their choice of two campgrounds, the Union Bay and Presque Isle. The Presque Isle campground is very close to some impressive waterfalls. The Union Bay is the largest campground and is the only one that offers electricity and showers. Some sites sit at the edge of Lake Superior itself and this is the closest campground to the visitor center and a shop where canoes, kayaks, and mountain bikes can be rented. This campground is also the closest to the park's most popular lake, the Lake of the Clouds. This lake is located seven miles to the west of the Union Bay Campground and a short boardwalk can take your family to a beautiful view from the peak of a small mountain. Below you will see the infamous lake, clear as crystal, surrounded by miles and miles of forest, as far as the eye can see. There is actually 90 miles of trail inside this park and 16 rustic cabins that a family can rent. These cabins can be found on certain trails and sleep up to eight people. It is the ideal way to spend quality time with your family with none of the usual distractions. During the summer months, many species of wildlife roam the park. From bear to the elusive wolves to the white-tail deer, your family will definitely see wildlife. If you are a bird enthusiast, eagles and peregrine falcons make their nests here as do hummingbirds, chickadees, finches, and many other types of birds. Your kids will also love picking and eating the great variety of berries found in the forests. Wild blueberries can be found in the higher elevations and raspberries, blackberries, wild strawberries, and thimbleberries can be found everywhere else! Thimbleberries are sweet red berries that are shaped like a thimble. The park also offers many miles of shoreline from Lake Superior where agates and driftwood can be picked up from the beaches.

When autumn comes, the trees offer a colorful show when their leaves change to various hues of reds, oranges, and yellows. From various trails that end at look-outs, the view is breathtaking. The South Boundary Road cuts through the state park and its winding curves offer a great opportunity for gorgeous scenery and wildlife sightings.

20 feet of snow covers the ground during the winter season and the park's ski hill and chalet opens to the public. Four lifts can take downhill skiers and snowboard enthusiasts to hills ranging from beginner to expert and there are also four cross country trails to travel. The A-frame chalet is a great place to sip hot chocolate and get a bite to eat while relaxing next to a welcoming fire. There is also a shop and a first-aid area here. The chalet can also be rented for gatherings. During August, a music festival, offering bluegrass, jazz, and other types of music takes place here and visitors can view and buy local crafts and food. During the winter months, the road leading to the Lake of the Clouds isn't open, but it's a great place to visit in a snowmobile. Snowmobiles can be rented in the neighboring towns.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a great adventure for the entire family. In this modern world, it is a place that takes you back to a simpler time where true nature can be experienced. It is a place that you will want to come back to time and time again.