The Pictured Rocks Expert – An Interview with Bill Thompson

ice climbing at pictured rocks on the dryer hose - upper peninsula

Here’s Bill, climbing “The Dryer Hose” during our ice climbing trip this past winter.

Tips from a Pictured Rocks Veteran

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is without a doubt one of the most scenic shorelines in the entire United States, and probably the world. I’ve driven along both U.S. Highway 1 along the California coast and the Great Ocean Road in Australia and I have to say that Pictured Rocks is right up there with them in terms of scenic beauty.

But thankfully for those who like a little solitude, America’s first National Lakeshore area has no highway skirting the edge of its cliffs. In fact, the only sound you’ll hear as you hike along the North Country Trail is the lull of Lake Superior’s waves crashing into mineral stained sandstone cliffs.

Because there are so many things to do in this area of the Upper Peninsula, I thought I’d try something new and delve into it by first interviewing an expert. Following is an interview with Bill Thompson from Down Wind Sports, who’s been exploring this gorgeous area (in every season) for over a quarter century!

First off, would you please tell me a little about your various experiences with Pictured Rocks?

I have been exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by foot, snowshoe and kayak for the last twenty six years.

Let’s say someone only has two days to spend in Pictured Rocks. They like to do short hikes, check out waterfalls, and see the sights. What things would you recommend they see and do?

If God forbid, I only had two days at Pictured Rocks I think I would choose the Chapel Beach/Mosquito Beach route.  It really gives you the best that Pictured Rocks has to offer….white sand beach, rock formations, waterfalls and a gorgeous sun set.  On my way out I would jump on the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise to get a quick look at the park from the water and to start planning my next trip back!

What campground would you recommend for family camping?

Best bet for family camping has to be Twelve Mile Beach Campground.  Beautiful beach to hang out with the family.

What campground would you recommend for young adults?

Young adults I would steer to Chapel Beach.  Spectacular scenery, a beach to hang out on and it’s a great swimming area as well.

What are one or two cool things about Pictured Rocks that most people miss?

I think most folks forget about the eastern part of the park. Grand Sable dunes and the log slide seem to see less people then the rock formations closer to Munising.

Besides that, do you have any “insider tips” you could share?

I think the best advice I can give is to go during the off seasons.  The park is virtually deserted during early spring and late fall.  One can walk the entire length of the park and not see a soul!  I would also try some alternative activities like sea kayaking or ice climbing.  The park is a world class destination for both of these activities and offers people the chance to see the park like very few can.

What do you do to keep those pesky black flies from ruining your fun?

Black flies?  What black flies?  You know there aren’t black flies when you ice climb!  In the summer if they are out I keep walking (with my trusty head net) or I take to my kayak and hit the water.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would encourage folks to try different things like night hiking, winter camping, or if it’s too crowed hit Grand Island instead!

Thanks to Bill for all the awesome information!

I’ll be exploring (and writing about) Pictured Rocks all summer, so be sure to follow me on Facebook so you can be the first to know when the next Pictured Rocks post hits the blog!

Cheers!

Jesse

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