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A Michigan Mountain Guide

Five high-school friends reconnect during a weekend of lakeshore hiking at Michigan's Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

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    Comfortable, sturdy shoes are a must.
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    "I live on a lake, but this has given me a real appreciation of the wilderness rivers and the power of big lakes like Superior."
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Porcupine Mountains

October 19: A perfect day greets us Sunday morning with parchment color birch trunks glowing in the spotlight of the morning sun, their yellow leaves silhouetted against a cobalt sky.

"I can’t even remember the last time I slept seven hours! " Faith exclaims as we make coffee. But the temptation to lounge longer is overshadowed by the tug of the brilliant day. We soon pile into the van and head for the park’s west end, spotting wild turkeys and bald eagles along the way, and losing count of the white-tailed deer scampering out of our path.

I always feel compelled to "show off" the Upper Peninsula, and the Presque Isle River is an easy place to do it. The tumultuous, tea-color water puts on quite a show in its final, frenetic run to Lake Superior, plummeting over three waterfalls, swirling in potholes and crashing over a riverbed of stacked and shattered shale.

"I can’t believe this, " Nancy keeps saying, incredulous. "This is amazing. Just look at the color of that water! "

We clamber up and down the stairs and paths along the river’s west bank, snapping photos in front of waterfalls and lingering for a long while on the swinging bridge, mesmerized by the rushing whitewater.

The trail ends at a long curve of Lake Superior beach mounded with stones that crunch like marbles under our boots. We’ll part ways by the end of today, but no one seems in a hurry. Faith and Nelly have wandered off on a beach walk. JJ kicks at some driftwood as Nancy and I hunt for agates and pleasing rocks for our gardens.

Bergie simply stares out over Superior. "My husband doesn’t know where I am, my kids don’t know where I am, and my phone battery just died, so I’m good! " she says, only partly joking.

It’s obvious from the look in her eyes that she is savoring some rare personal time. We all are, time to ourselves, and also time to be ourselves, without pretensions, distractions or agendas. And, what better place to do that, and celebrate old friendships, than this land of timeless mountains and centuries-old trees?

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