All posts by dustin

Kayaking to a Hidden Gem

This post had been a long time coming, but about three months ago back in August we ventured to the city of Port Austin, Michigan to experience kayaking Turnip Rock, one of Michigan’s hidden gems and most interesting destinations.

We got to Port Austin late on a Friday night at Sunset and set up camp at a nearby campground. Our site was right on the water, which sounds pretty picturesque right? Well normally it would be, except it was very windy that night and our tent had no cover from the wind and being right on the water our sight was taking the full brunt of the wind.  With gusts up to roughly 30 mph, we worried that our large eight person tent wouldn’t make. However, the trusty Coleman tent stayed strong and withstood the windy night, the only damage was a slight bend in one of the sections of one tent pole.

Side note here: that tent had been through a lot. It survived two nights of non-stop storms in the Porcupine Mountains, which was later called a storm of the century and the aggressive wind we faced during this trip. If you are looking for a good and reliable, big tent, I would recommend the Coleman MontanaTM 8-Person Tent.

Moving on, that night we headed to a dark sky preserve as the skies darkened and became lit up with stars. We were able to fully make out the spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy that stretches across the sky and can only be seen in skies with little to no light pollution. We were also able to view the Andromeda galaxy, some 2.5 million light years away, with the naked eye and see some faint and distant Northern Lights.

Morning at the campsite

The weather that day was pretty ideal for kayaking. It was warm, sunny, with little wind, unlike the night before, making for calmer waters. The three of us made pretty good timing and we journeyed through the lake staying somewhat near the shoreline and before we knew it Thumbnail Point came into view, and right behind Thumbnail Point is Turnip Rock.

For years I had viewed pictures and heard about this strange geological formation, but to finally paddle up to it was really awesome and you instantly wonder what the first person who came across this sculpture of nature might have thought about it.  Close to the shore, Turnip Rock is a towering funnel shaped structure, and because of wave action, its top half is much wider than its bottom half, resulting in its funnel or turnip shape.  On top of the rock is conifer trees and other various types of vegetation, despite is primary stone composition, adding to its uniqueness.

Turnip Rock is located on complete private property, which is why we had to access it completely by water, and it being privately owned seems to be a good thing for it helps to keep it protected. To add, a concrete collar has also been put around the bottom of the rock at the waterline to prevent further erosion.

We quickly parked our kayaks onto the small sandy section that formed a cave into the cliff-side and took in the wonder of the art that nature put on display for us, carefully taking thousands of years to gently sculpt this geologic formation. 

After swimming around it for a bit and snapping some pictures we decided to make the journey back to the dock.  On our way back we stopped at a small sea cave and while we were in the cave we ran into a snake, which was unexpected.

After taking our time, we made the short journey back to the dock and then headed home.  Kayaking to Turnip Rock may not have been the longest journey or the most difficult, but it still made for quite the adventure.  If you are ever looking for a quick activity to do in Michigan I would definitely recommend making the trip to Turnip rock so you can view this bizarre creation of nature for yourself. There is also a really cool restaurant called Pak’s Backyard, which is nice. Plus, you also get to kayak in one of the Great Lakes. Till next time…

–  Dustin from the Asharu Team

August U.P. Trip Recap

It has been almost a month since we returned home from our small group guided trip to Munising and Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Needless to say the trip was a success an incredible time for everyone.  As planned, we had a nice big picturesque campsite on the beach overlooking Grand Island and a few other smaller islands, that made for a tranquil place to call home for the weekend.


Bobby approaching Tannery Falls with group members Madison and Cam

We reached our campsite, around 12:00 pm on Friday, August 17th, after embarking from Saginaw, Michigan a little after 6:00 am.  After setting up camp we grabbed a quick pasty lunch at Muldoon’s Pasty Shop and then headed off to go and check out some of the waterfalls in the area. The weather during this time was quite perfect with temperatures in the 70’s and partly cloudy.  We visited Wagner Falls, Tannery Falls, Memorial Falls, and Munising Falls in that order taking out time at each waterfall site and exploring their surrounding areas as much as we could and then did some shopping in town.

We then headed back to our campsite just before it started raining around 5:3  0pm.  Itwas also then that Landon, the third member of the Asharu team, met up with us after spending the day mountain biking in Marquette. around 6:00 pm we headed to grab dinner at a local burger spot called “Eh Burger!” which is a pretty tasty place with a cool atmosphere and friendly employees.

After dinner we headed back to the campsite sight to take cover in our tents and wait out the rain and at around 9:00 pm the rain finally let up and the skies began to change to a rough partly cloudy, with more clouds than sky. With the help of some lighter fluid, we manged to get a small fire going that night to hang out around till we decided to climb back into out sleeping bags to rest for the night.


In order to beat the crowds we headed out about an hour earlier than we initially planned. So at 8:30 am we headed out for Marquette.  We stopped for breakfast at Huron Mountain Bakery before going to our first excursion of the day, which was to hike to the top of Hogback.  The weather was perfect with almost no clouds in the sky and temperatures in the low 70s.  Everyone in the group made the strenuous hike and climb to the top of Hogback to experience the 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

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After the seemingly long hike down Hogback and back to our cars, we headed to Black Rock on Presque Isle to do some cliff jumping off of a 15-20 foot cliff face into the cool, turquoise  waters of Lake Superior.  This was a really good time for the group as everyone worked up the courage to make the jump into the water from the top of the cliff multiple times.  Asharu team member Bobby put his skill on display performing back-flips into the water multiple times as he jumped off of the cliff.

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Bobby pulling off a back flip


We grabbed lunch in Marquette and then made the 45 minute drive back to our campsite.  With no other plans on the agenda for Saturday, we took the rest of the day to enjoy the campsite.  At one point we ended up playing wiffle ball with a tennis ball that Bobby had brought and a piece of drift wood that washed up on shore, using the lake as our field.  Around 6:30 pm we headed in to town to grab dinner, from each persons place of choice and eat together at Binsfeild Bayshore Park, which overlooks the pier and Lake Superior. Then after a quick stop at the grocery store to grab some supplies, we headed back to our campsite to have a fire and nature put on quite the show in the sky in the form of a stellar sunset, unleashing a calm array of color into the world. We enjoyed the fire and the feeling of being on a beach under the stars late into the night before heading into the tents.


Today was the day to head home and after we packed up the campsite, we headed out at about 9:00 am for our final adventure before we began the journey home.  We reached Miner’s Beach around 10:30 am and immediately began to head to the somewhat hidden water caves underneath Miner’s Castle.  After walking along the beach and the cliff as much as we could we jumped in to the cold water and swam the rest of the way to the caves and the caves are a sight that never seems to get old.  They are magical really and the clear, blue water flows into them.  You can view the different layers of rock along the cave walls and as you explore them you suddenly feel like you are no longer on Earth, for the surrounding landscape is truly surreal.  We manged to make it to all the caves, each varying in size and depth and we also swam through the cave that carves its way completely through the cliff.  Swimming from opening to opening of this cave.  When we decided to embark on the long swim back you really start to reflect on the wonder you find when one journeys to these caves carefully sculpted by nature.

When we made it back to the beach we packed up our things and headed out, stopping at Miner’s Falls before beginning the trip home.  It was truly a successful trip to this part of the Upper Peninsula and I think will go down as one of our favorites.  The feeling is a good one, when we get back home from leading a group and they tell us how much fun the had on the expedition and that they want to camp more in the future.  Being able to share the places one Loves exploring with others and watching how it makes them come alive is pretty spectacular.  Until next time…

        – Team Asharu

Trail Review: Hogback Mountain – Marquette, MI

Nestled in the wilderness of Marquette, Michigan, lies an ancient and relatively giant rocky peak called Hogback and it offers those who make it to the top an unparalleled view of the surrounding area. It is often viewed as the older cousin to the more popular Sugarloaf Mountain. You may ask yourself, why is Sugarloaf more popular? Well, mainly because Sugarloaf is more hiker friendly with staircases and a wide, clearly marked trail. Also with Sugarloaf, getting to the summit is much more manageable.

The trail to Hogback is more of a back country trail that has narrow sections, trails that twist through the forests and intersect other back country trails, rocky and swampy areas, and an almost vertical rock face section that requires you to use hands and feet to scale. The last half-mile is definitely the section of the trail that tests hikers the most and is the most strenuous, but the view is so rewarding.

The Hike

Distance: 2.8 miles (entirety)
Elevation Gain: ~ 540 feet
Route Type: Out & Back
Scenery: Forest
Difficulty: Moderate
Payoff: One heck of a view

To get to the trailhead for Hogback head about five miles north of Marquette on County Road 550. First you will notice the clearly marked parking area for Sugarloaf on the right side of the road, then about a half mile later there will be a small dirt parking area on the left side of the road. Once you pass Sugarloaf pay close attention to the left side of the road for the parking area is easy to miss.

After parking and getting all squared away for the trek, head to the left of the parking area and follow the path that leads to the start of the trail or take a peek at the sign of all of the back country trails in the area in the parking space to find your way. Once you begin it is very important that you follow the blue markings on trees to ensure you are on the right path. As I mentioned earlier, other trails intersect this one and it is pretty easy to make a wrong turn if you are not paying attention.

While it may be only a little over a mile one way, this trail takes you through all sorts of terrain and scenery. You will walk on rocky patches, uphill sections, near vertical sections, swampier terrain, through sections of conifers and past large rocks and cliff faces. This hike really does give you a little bit of everything, which is one of the aspects that makes it unique and adventurous.

The last section of the hike, and you will know it when you get there for things will start to go uphill, is definitely the toughest part. Aside from a relatively large and steep uphill section of dirt trails with patches laced with tree roots, you will reach a section that is nearly vertical. Luckily this section has a very rough natural stair like pattern to it so you won’t be scaling a wall, but there is a very good chance you will have to use all fours while you make your way up this section. Hang in there though, because a view full of beauty is right around the corner. As you climb your way up the slope of Hogback you will catch glimpses of the view to come, eventually you will reach one final steep section that is a somewhat smooth rock face to find you way up. Make sure your footing is good and you use your hands and feet. You got this!

The Reward

When you make it through the steep climb you will reach the top of the rock outcrop and have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, from which you can see for miles. In the south you will notice the city of Marquette and the famous Superior Dome as well as the shoreline of Lake Superior. During a clear day to the east it is possible to sometimes view Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore some 40 miles away. In the west you have miles of tranquil forest and the beginning of the Huron Mountains. Finally in the north and east, an unrivaled view of the wonder of Lake Superior, along with the multiple islands near the shoreline such as Little Presque Isle. You can also notice the smaller and more popular Sugarloaf peak, but when you notice it you will be glad you went with Hogback. Don’t’ be afraid to climb both though, for Sugarloaf puts you closer to Lake Superior.

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Take your time at the top, snap pictures, take in the wonder, and enjoy the feeling of being on top of the world. It is one of those views that can make you feel invincible for a little bit. This is a very rewarding hike and we find it to be poetic in the sense that you have to work to experience the view, you have to earn the view, connecting you more with nature. The view is like a treasure that requires a little bit of extra work to get to, and a treasure that needs to be protected.

When to hike this bad boy

The best time to hike Hogback is definitely in the fall right when the leaves begin to change colors, creating a view of pure magic as an array of colors are put on display for you. Almost like nature is the artist and the trees are its canvas. You will also have cooler weather as well during this time, which beats hiking in the heat of the summer.

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That being said, this hike is also great in the summer months as well, primarily August and September when the bugs aren’t as bad. We would recommend avoiding this hike in the spring and winter months for the melting snow in the spring and snow and ice in the winter would make the last section of this hike (covered earlier) pretty difficult and dangerous. Happy exploring!

– The Asharu Team