Unfiltered: No. 1

A bit of a warm-up for the series

One of the best things about nature, especially the wilderness found on the rare or remote corners of the map, is its ability to strike awe into those who experience it. When I encounter these wonders on a grand scale, my heart and soul often respond with grand emotions, too.

I love getting out to explore nature so much, this usually means a constant source of inspiration. In dark times like these, the experiences can instead become a steady source of challenges — forcing me to cope and confront a stark reality. And I’ll be the first to admit, I never expected to end up here. My life, as it is now in my late 30s, is not what I imagined for myself.

An eternal optimist, I try to make the best of things. But every pandemic summer has its days. I just took a road trip through three states, masking up in my car “Sunspot,” to trek solo through pristine wilderness destinations. The ultimate goal was to spend a few days in the Porcupine Mountains, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I called this trip the #SunspotFilteredTour, taking every precaution to keep others safe. Now, I’m moved to share the Unfiltered version.

So, it begins.


The first solo hike I took in a remote wilderness location was about 40% successful. Ha! As a woman hiking alone off the grid, I knew I would have to be cautious, and I geared up for this hike with care.

Enchanted by the scenery, I stood in awe of the evergreen trees that rose so high into the sky I couldn’t see the sun. I also felt like I might come undone with a step in the wrong direction.

  • Surrounded by the majesty of the wilderness, I was moved to tears the moment we crossed the walk bridge over the Lake of the Clouds. I cried openly as we walked, marking my wonder aloud even though my dog was the only to hear.
  • For hiking boots, I wore my Bear Paws. So, even when Little Bear pulled me into the mud out of sheer enthusiasm, I got my footing quickly, sporting mud spots on my knees to match!
  • I forgot my mace in the car, though we didn’t see any bears.
  • We made it to our first destination easily, taking in the Lake of the Clouds in one of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen.
  • On a loop measuring 3.5 miles each way, we only made it about halfway to our second destination due to the sharp incline of the hike. We never saw Mirror Lake, though we did find a waterfall leaping through a deep gorge.
  • In the early afternoon, we were already starting our hike too late. It became clear we would need at least two extra hours of daylight to make it to Mirror Lake, the envy of my hiking eye.
  • Hiking solo was blissful, and yet I wanted to move so swiftly through the wilderness, and we were so short on time even with a half a day, I didn’t stop to write in the midst of the storied forest or the reflective lake.
  • The sign for the Presque Isle River greeted us right at the end of a winding road out of the park, so naturally we got out to hike along the waterfalls in twilight. It was here that one steep incline of roots literally knocked us off our feet, even though it was designed to be part of the trail! Little Bear took one look at the ladder of roots and looked back at me, then quickly did a 180, as if to say “No way, José!” I coaxed her back, and we dared to take the plunge. On the way back from that strenuous hike, we walked on the side of the road instead, even as the sun started to go down.
  • We safely got out of the park and made contact with my check-in person, keeping an eye out for our safety on these wild adventures.
  • My heart still broken after leaving the first love of my life, I blasted moody love songs all the way to and from the park, until we could no longer access the 4G network.
  • Then I realized it was too late to try to camp or even find lodging on a very crowded Upper Peninsula summer evening. So we drove all the way to the Mackinac Bridge and crossed it at 3:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, making our way farther south, exhausted and overstimulated.

In a heartbeat, I would absolutely do it again!

Read Unfiltered

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