Highbanks Trail in Manistee Forest

Brave Abby mentally prepares for the rest of the trip
After barely talking ourselves out of driving to the Upper Peninsula to watch the sunrise after a party last weekend (...responsibility!), Abby and I promised ourselves that we would take this weekend off to go up North. Despite an ominous weather forecast and an enormous amount of work on the horizon (... thesis!), we settled upon driving up near Grayling to do the Highbanks trail for Abby's first overnight trip. We did the typical backpacking juggle ("Hey do you have a sleeping bag?" "Not one that can fit in my backpack" "Yeah we need to fix that"), but somehow pieced together enough gear that we figured we'd likely survive the night.

Abby ponders dropping out of graduate school and becoming a squirrel
Awkward photo taking besties

The Highbanks trail was a perfect first backpacking trail. It's a 6.5 mile out and back along the coast, with water available at the midpoint and several exit points along the way. For the most part, we were totally on our own to gossip and cause trouble, but we also saw people at the Lumberjack momument 3 miles in.

The views you have on this trail are beautiful. Since we did this trip in early May, spring was just starting to hit Northern Michigan. It may have rained all morning before we started the trip, but we took an extended lunch at the Bear's den, where Abby discovered her new FAVORITE food - Rib tips (what do you think Rib tips are? mmmm) However, the weather fortunately cleared up for us to start our backpack. For the most part, you walk along the cliffs and just contemplate how lucky you are to get such a good view of the Au Sable River, but we also got to slide down a sand dune.

Fire Mastress Abby

After this delightful stroll, we got to our campsite around 5:30 PM. We were the only people there and, hey!, didn't need a permit because those are required as of May 15th (beat it by a day!). Abby and I decided that we should try to make a fire because it was cold and a fire sounded like a great idea. We used my jetboil as a flamethrower NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS. My jetboil melted (!!! "But Lo, aren't they designed for fire?" "Apparently not...") and died a valiant death in providing us with a campfire... Anyways, since Abby had all the prior campfire building experience, she was in charge of keeping the fire going and arranging sticks appropriately. I, the ignorant buffoon, provided the manual labor of hunting and retrieving sticks and logs for the fire. Let me tell you, after 2 hours of stick gathering, I was not keen on my intellectually limited role.
Manual Labor, bottom of the pile, Lo
But hey, we got that fire going and had a roaring bonfire to sit around as the sun set and we ate dinner. Unfortunately, the temperature steadily dropped throughout the night, reaching sub 0 C temperatures in the night. Despite Abby as the newbie, I was (once again) the weakest link, wearing all my clothes in my 20 F bag + liner. However, Abby was also willing to get crafty and completely cocoon herself in her bag. I woke up the next morning to a sack that didn't appear to contain a human...  
Perfection, ya? 
NOT KEEN about snow
Abby's in there... somewhere...
After this beautiful and pristine morning that we enjoyed breakfast and breaking down the tent in, mother nature decided to give us SNOW on MAY 15TH in the lower 48 states. Since I had just come back from South African summer, I was NOT amused about the appearance of snow (me: "Nooooooooooooooo I thought I had won!"). The snow provided Abby and I great motivation to hike back quickly though (warm car incentive!). Unfortunately (x2), we sat down in poison ivy during our quick lunch break (really?!). Neither of us seem to be affected by poison ivy (whew!) but it was still disconcerting to look around and have mini-poison ivy plants surrounding you while it is snowing ("AGH").

Let's make a waterfall out of wood! That won't rot!
Overall, we saw some really beautiful sights and had a delightful trip. Abby may have insisted we stop at the Bronner Christmas emporium on the way home (jokes on you Abby it closed just as we got there! WOO!). Abby is excited about more trips, and of all my backpacking trips, this was probably one of the more smooth trips (minus the whole snow and poison ivy thing, oh and my jet boil melting). I would definitely recommend the Highbanks Trail (2.5 hours from Ann Arbor) - Happy Backpacking All!

Melted JetBoil because we used it as a flamethrower... 
Morning view out of the tent :D 

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