Lost in the Forest

Looking for Tioga Falls

One day I was in Upper Michigan (the UP) looking for waterfalls. One waterfall I had not yet found in the area of Baraga was Tioga Falls. According to the Michigan Waterfall book it was not likely I would be able to find these falls: "We would not recommend attempting to reach this falls unless conditions are dry. On three separate occasions we tried to drive the trail road to the falls, but each time the road was impassable...."

I usually did not attempt trail roads in bad condition, because I did not have a four wheel drive vehicle. I did go down some such roads while waterfalling with my son when we took his pick up and he was driving, but I was more cautious on my own. So I decided not to try to find Tioga Falls this trip.

However, when I was having lunch in a restaurant in Baraga the placemats had maps with attractions in the area. According to that map (which I realize was not necessarily drawn to scale) it appeared that Tioga Falls was just about 1/2 mile up the Tioga River from the roadside park. I decided to skip the trail road and try to find the falls by walking up the river. I figured it was worth a try.

Following the River to the Falls

So I went to the roadside park along M-28/US-41 a few miles west of Nestoria, checked out the Unnamed Falls at the park, and left my car there. I crossed the highway and headed up the river along the right riverbank. As I walked my feet were beginning to get wet because the ground was very boggy, so I moved a little ways away from the river (which was actually more like a creek). But I could still see and hear the river.

The ground kept getting wetter, so I moved still farther away from the river. I had a pretty good sense for distance, and figured I had gone well beyond 1/2 mile, and still I found no waterfall. I kept going further, getting my feet muddier and muddier, and still no waterfall.

No Falls - and No River

After I had gone well over a mile, probably closer to 2 miles, I decided to give up and head back to the car. Because the ground was very soft and my feet were about as muddy as I wanted them to get, I moved even farther from the river. In a few places I came to an area of very wet ground on which I couldn't walk, so I had to go up around some trees to get through. This happened several times, each time causing me to move to higher ground so I could get through. Finally I realized I could neither see nor hear the river. However, I knew it was just to the right of me, and I kept a clump of trees in sight which I was sure were at the place where the river met the highway.

No Highway and No River

Imagine my surprise when I finally reached that clump of trees, and there was neither a river nor a highway! I was a little concerned, but I kept going in the same general direction, figuring I would soon reach either the river or the highway. After some time went by and I still came to neither, my concern began to grow, and I realized I might be really lost. I knew people got lost in the forest for days. I also knew it was late afternoon and would soon be getting dark. I also knew I had a really terrible sense of direction and could easily be going in circles or have back tracked and be heading deeper into the forest.

A few times I thought I heard the sound of traffic ahead, but after awhile I realized that was the sound of the wind blowing through the top of the pine trees. I then took note of the direction of the sun so I wouldn't get turned around any more than I already was, and I kept walking in what still seemed to be the right direction.

A Dirt Road - the Highway at Last

Finally I came to a dirt road. I figured I was safe at last, because if there was a road it would eventually lead to something. I started down the road to the right, but something told me to go the other direction, so I headed down the road to the left. I went along the road for what seemed to be about 1/2 mile when I finally I came to the highway. Boy, was I glad to see that highway!

I looked both directions down the highway for the roadside park where my car was parked, and far off in the distance to the right I could see it! So I headed up the highway and walked about another mile to where my car was, got in my car, and just sat for a few minutes, relieved that I was not going to be lost in the forest all night. I was a mess, with shoes and socks soaked and muddy.

I had a reservation to stay that night in a bed and breakfast, and I thought I could never walk into there with those muddy feet (most of the bed and breakfasts I had stayed at in the UP were very neat homes from the turn of the century, filled with antiques.) So before I went there, I stopped at a department store and bought some new socks, which I put on to buy some new tennis shoes. The guy who was selling me the shoes looked at me kind of strangely, probably wondering how I got such muddy feet, but I didn't say anything.

I got to the bed and breakfast a little later than I had wanted to, but I made it, and I felt good that I didn't track a bunch of mud into it!

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  Page last updated 28 Dec 2000.
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