Michigan Upper Peninsula (Western Section)

Western UP, Mi

  • Mileage: 192;  45 on-road
  • Porcupine Mtns.
  • Remote





One of the first things we are looking at in our Western UP hike is how many on-road miles there are and where those miles are located. About the first 29 miles of the Western UP NCT are all road walking, from the Wisconsin border to the 29th mile, all road. 12 of the last 23 miles are also road; 12 straight road before the last 11. We are going to just cut out as many of the road miles as possible by starting at mile 29, finishing at mile 177, for a total of 148 hiking miles.
















Our plan has evolved into three parts, they are all super exciting

Part 1: The Quartet


Mile 29 Starting Point – Copper Peak Road.  Shauna and Rick have decided to join us for the first 4 or 5 days of our hike.  I say 4 or 5 days because the start day has moved around a bit since the idea first started getting tossed around.  Instead of traveling on Saturday and starting our hike on Sunday, we’re now traveling most of the way on Friday and starting on Saturday. Confidence in our plans built pretty quickly after reservations started getting made.  Locked and loaded.










Having another two people on the hike is great for a lot of reasons.  Shauna and Rick are amazing family that we have done more hikes with than anyone else.  We get each other.  Our adventures are always memorable and rarely appropriate or politically correct. This is our second hiking trip with Shauna this summer alone.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she is preparing herself to do a longer thru-hike with us in the near future (eyebrow raise emoji).  It also doesn’t hurt that Rick is an Army Ranger; he teaches, his presence builds confidence, a loyal friend I can talk to about military experiences or anything else really.

An extra pair of people is also very logistically advantageous in how to get to the trail and how to resupply while on the trail.  We have two cars to work with, which allows us the ability to leave a car at the trailhead where we start and another car at the trailhead where Shauna & Rick want to finish.  With a car at our disposal on the day Shauna & Rick finish their hike, we have the ability to resupply after only 4/5 days.  But wait, there’s more!  They are going to take do a musical car swap on the day they finish and move our vehicle 4 more days down the trail line.  This means that we can do another 4ish day carry of supplies and have the option to run into town for a rest day if we should so choose to do so.


Manistee Fishing Hiking (Completed)

If our last trip has taught me anything, it’s that I need to explore and appreciate Michigan more.  I started finding new local trails last year, it is beautifully humbling to see how many trail options are within a 20 to 30 minutes drive of our home.  That’s Michigan.  It doesn’t even matter where in Michigan home is.


I’m heading back to the Manistee area this weekend for a fishing trip that also has some hiking and camping.  One thing I learned in our 131 mile hike is that bringing a fishing pole doesn’t make sense.  We camped at many excellent looking fishing holes, I just never had the energy to do any fishing after the long day’s hike.  I also realized that if I succeeded in catching a fish, hand sanitizer wouldn’t do much for the smell.  Hiking long days makes me smell bad enough, I don’t need any help smelling worse.

My fishing pole may have gotten sent home on day 3, but my eye for fishing holes stayed with me for the entire hike.  One area I found especially interesting was the 3-4 miles of NCT just north of Walkup Lake Campground.  If you include Walkup & Nichols lake, there are 7 lakes in a 5 mile stretch of trail. 5 of the lakes are mostly secluded. I knew I had to go back.

The plan for this weekend is to head up Manistee way on Saturday morning with Mr. Green.  I’m going to bring the tent and all of my hiking supplies in case we find a good place and want to stay the night.

Of all the lakes, I’m most interested in checking out Condon & Leaf lake.  They both seemed to have decent options for shore fishing, both were peaceful.  My minimal effort internet searches did not help me understand what kind of fish they might have or if the fishing is good.  Adventures are less about the catching and more about the fishing.  Yes, I want to do some catching!

Gear Tests

While on the fishing hiking camping trip, I’ll be testing a few pieces of gear that I’ll hop back on here and evaluate upon my return.  

Sawyer Insect Repellent Lotion: Repellent you rub in rather than spray on that I’ve never used before.

Garmin InReach Mini: GPS tracker we will use on our longer hikes.  This piece of miniaturized technology will allow family and friends to follow us on a map and message us on the trail when cell service isn’t available or if our phones are in airplane mode; highly effective if are entering an area with hazardous weather or fire.  I’m hoping Brianna will log into our personalized site and track me on and off through the day, get a feel for the basics.

Toe Sock Liners: Trying out toe liners in hopes they will reduce the blister counts when on trail.  I won’t be hiking nearly long enough to do a blister test, but I will have a first impression of how they feel.


Condon Lake, MI 06/27/2020

(43.7577266, -85.9003548)

Future Tip: There are only 3 official camping sites at the ‘Condon Lakes West’ USDA campground.  Hike a 1/4 mile around to the other side of the lake and you’ll find a couple of paths leading up to the NCT.  There is a large dispersed camping area that many hikers have used.


My overly optimistic tendencies find me misremembering details, I often think of people and places better than they actually were.  The locations we revisited on this adventure day (Walkup Lake, Condon Lake, and Bowman Lake) were even better than I had hoped for.  

Coming in late on a Saturday morning meant that all of the camping spots were taken at every location we visited. Instead of parking at Walkup Lake and hiking over to the other lakes, we drove another quarter of a mile down the road  and parked at Condon lake. Every Condon Lake area map I’ve come across shows a single line of trail that only stretches across the parking lot side of the lake.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a fishing level trail that loops around the entire lake.  We were able to slowly walk around the lake and cast from many different locations without much risk of falling in the water or getting fishing lines snagged on shrubbery.  Josh caught a few 2-4 lb bass, I was able to snag a couple blue gill and a couple baby bass.




After a couple hours of hiking and fishing around the lake, we decided to move onto Bowman lake.  Bowman lake is easily in Brianna & I’s top 5 favorite places we happened upon during our Manistee hiking trip.  We are planning to go back to camp soon, so I was less interested in camping there last night, more interested in what the campground looks like post-covid lockup.  

Bowman Lake has 4 official USDA campsites, 2 on the nearside of the lake and 2 on the far side.  I clocked the hike in from the parking lot to be about .4 of a mile, probably another .25 if you’re going to the far side spots.  The parking lot has 8-10 parking spots, depending on how much spacing people leave.  

This Saturday afternoon was a busy time at Bowman lake, I snagged the last open parking spot.  Josh and I hadn’t even put our backpacks on before several ladies walked over to warn us that all 4 camping spots had already been taken.  We thanked them and relayed  advice about where else they might be able to camp – Bowman Bridge campground was just down the road and sports 20-24 USDA camping spots.  Probably 3 or 4 other people warned us about all of the sites having filled up before we even reached the lake.

Bowman Lake is a lot like Condon Lake in that Bowman also has a fishing trail looping the entirety of the lake.  Unlike Condon, Bowman has a second trail that is up and away from the lakeshore, much more flat and easy for folks to walk on.

Josh and I each caught a couple small bass.  We saw some larger bass swimming around in the shallows, they just weren’t biting.

Bowman Lake, MI 06/27/2020

(43.8885318, -85.9670290)

Future Tip: There are two trails leading from the parking lot to/from Bowman lake. The NCT option has more bugs, no steep hill.  The non-NCT option has less bugs but does have  a steep decline/incline when walking to/from the lake.

Gear thoughts 

Sawyer Insect Repellent Lotion: Works well, need to apply more often than 8-12 hours if sweating a lot.  Need to research if it’s ok to apply to face, that is the one spot I didn’t apply it to and the one spot bugs were bugging.

Garmin InReach Mini: Battery is dying faster than I would have expected, need to test different tracking interval settings.  Also learned that tracking intervals need to be turned on after every device reboot or no tracking will happen.

Toe Sock Liners: Felt good on the feet, tight on the calves with both socks as knee highs.  Next test will be to use an ankle high toe liners with a knee high darn tough outside layer.


I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with the idea of writing online.  My idealist  desire for wanting to be able to write without holding back anything, say what I really feel.  The truth is that writing online comes with the same rules as speaking.  Freedom of speech is real, and so is accountability. 

My hope with this planning page is that I’ll be able to write with a purpose.  Sharpen the skills of communication while also sharing and documenting the ideas we have for future hiking.  Planning a trip is the best part of any trip.  Anything is possible during planning; options become super finite when boots are on the ground.

If planning for our future trips is anything like our first 131 mile section hike, you will get to see a great plan get created before the hike, and then watch as none of it actually happens while we are on the trail.  The beauty of planning is that it’s important and irrelevant, just like everything else in life.  What’s the point?  You won’t understand until you get there.  Perspective.