Hiawatha National Forest
One of the biggest challenges about visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore so early in the spring is that practically nothing is open. Campgrounds and roads are rendered inaccessible due to the huge amounts of snow.
After winter camping on the first night of our cross country roadtrip, we had planned to camp again near the town of Munising. But we couldn’t camp in any of the locations we had researched in the weeks leading up to our trip. It wasn’t that they were closed, it’s just that we couldn’t get to them down unmaintained, seasonal roads buried under feet of snow.
That difficulty combined with a cold and windy forecast for the coming evening made us very amenable to a suggestion from a very helpful and friendly employee of the National Park Service in Munising: spend the night in a cabin in Hiawatha National Forest.
The cabin he had in mind is called McKeever Cabin and it overlooks McKeever Lake. He gave us the rundown: it had 2 sets of bunk beds, a table with stools, a wood stove, and, best of all, came with firewood provided by the US Forest Service. Awesome! An added bonus was that our America the Beautiful Annual Pass from the National Park Service entitled us to a 50% discount on the per night rate.
In summer, you can drive almost all the way to the cabin. In winter, however, we again found ourselves subject to the seasonality of the area’s roads. We had to hike a little over a mile into the forest along a Forest Service Road. Fortunately the snow was somewhat packed down, so we only sank up to our knees on 15 or 20 occasions!
The cabin itself was, perhaps, a little spartan, but it was luxurious compared to spending the windy, chilly night outdoors in a tent. Once we kindled a fire in the wood-stove, the small, single-room cabin heated up quickly.
Dinner that night consisted of leftover food we had pulled from our freezer before leaving Traverse City. We cooked Lake Michigan whitefish with some lemon and green beans in foil directly on the stove top. It was delicious on its own, but when paired with some 1990 Pol Roger Rosé Champagne it was sublime.
We enjoyed the night in the McKeever Cabin in Hiawatha National Forest so much we decided to stay a second night. And that’s perhaps the one great thing about visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in early spring: it’s so deserted! A few weeks earlier, and our cabin would have been booked by cross country skiers; a few weeks later and it would have been booked by the vanguard of the summer hordes.