Great Lakes Road Trip Day 19: hiking the Chapel-Mosquito trail

We’d always planned to do some hiking while we were up here in the Upper Peninsula, and we chose the Chapel-Mosquito Trail.

Hike route

Getting there was an ordeal: first, a drive of about 30 miles, then 5 miles down a dirt-track road which really requires an off-road vehicle (not our Nissan Versa, taxed to its extreme by the potholes and stones as everyone else’s 4x4s whizzed on by). Finally, we reached our starting point. But was it worth while? You be the judge…

It took us five hours in all to cover about 10 miles of the trail. Of course, we had to stop for some photo-opportunities, and occasionally to pick our jaws up off the floor. The dunnies are made for outdoorsy types. Like flies and sloths. But that aside, it’s a walk in the park. Hiawatha National Park, to be precise.


First, there’s a pleasant stroll through densely wooded forest, skirting the Chapel Lake and ending at the Chapel Falls viewpoints. This is relatively easy-going, and for anyone pressed for time, about a 3m round trip, rewarded with these views:

But we ploughed on as the terrain got more rugged, weaving up and down with many tree roots and fallen trunks crossing the path. Nothing treacherous or arduous, but a good workout, making us feel that we’d earned our lunch when we stopped at Chapel Beach.

What can we say? Look at the turquoise water. No crowds, not an ice-cream vendor in sight. And at one corner of the cove, the extraordinary Chapel Rock – given its name in 1840 by the earliest Westerners to survey the southern landscape of Lake Superior.


From here, the hike hugs the coastline, giving ample views of what are known as the Pictured Rocks, sheer sandstone formations that have been layered with different colours as the height of water has changed over time. It reminded us of some of the rock formations in Death Valley, particularly the Artists Palette.



After about four miles, the hike crosses over the Mosquito River and heads inland once again, this time to the Mosquito Falls, by now around 9 miles into our trek, and – we were relieved to know – only another mile or so back to the parking lot.

Wowzers! This was the best day. Loved it – and when the blisters have gone down, we’ll definitely be back for more.

Day 15: Woods Creek and Yosemite

Today has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. We had a fantastic 2 hour gold mining lesson down at a dry creek with Frying Pan Frank, Brent and T.J (and a couple of their dogs).

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We were a bit sceptical at first, we honestly thought that they would chuck a few flakes of gold into the earth so we would come away pleased. But, this was evidently not the case. We worked hard to extract gold, and we learnt so much from these professionals. Frank (known as Frying Pan Frank, because he’s a good chef) has his own claim, and he showed us how to prospect and go through the various stages of cleaning up the soil, sifting through it and then finding the gold. He has his own step by step way of going through the process, and his obvious desire to share his skills makes it easy to learn.

Karen using the dry washer.

We also learnt how to use the dry washer – and this helps to get things done a bit quicker. Brent’s father set up the spot along the creek so that ‘everyone could have their chance at the experience of prospecting and finding gold’, and school kids have enjoyed learning these skills here.

We felt that not only did we have a super, enjoyable morning, but that there was a sense of ‘passing down the skills’ which we really valued.

We would totally recommend the experience, so if you ever come along to Jamestown be sure to look these guys up. If you think $180 is expensive for 2 people, we think the quality of the teaching and the fun that you have really is worth it (in fact, we’d recommend a slightly more expensive three-hour session). Oh, and you never know you might also come away with some gold. Whatever you find is yours to keep. We found a little bit – Frank reckons about $20-30, but I don’t suppose we will be in a hurry to sell it. It’s a great memento of our time here!

So check these guys out here:

and here:

Then it was on to Yosemite…Wow! This park is amazing. The sights are extraordinary and change regularly throughout the park. Most people tend to come in to the park from the West for a day trip to see the stunning waterfalls and perhaps do a spot of hiking. We’ll be doing some of that tomorrow (from the East side, minus the waterfalls – because of the drought), but our purpose today was slightly different: we were driving through the whole park from West to East on Highway 120, a distance of over 50 miles on windy roads getting higher and higher on the Sierra plateau. It’s slow going, but well worth it, and every few miles the scenery completely changes from extensive pine forest around Yosemite Creek to staggering vistas of white rock around Olmsted Point, to verdant stretches of watery flatland like the Tuolomne Meadows. The many lakes in the park are just stunning with their mountainous backdrops: especially Tenaya Lake, which even has a shoreline and a beach. We could have spent days just taking pictures and soaking up the scenery. There are beautiful lakes that you can swim in and hikes all over the place. We can’t wait to come back tomorrow and experience some more, though today’s drive has been a really magical experience, taking in the park as a whole in a snapshot and really opening our eyes to the majesty of its natural beauty.

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We have stopped for the night at Mammoth Lakes Inn, just beyond the park. This is a ski resort from about October until July (we know, a long season). We found the hotel service to be a bit rubbish, so we won’t dwell on that, and why would we when there is so much beauty to experience up the road in Yosemite, and we will continue doing that tomorrow.