Beer, pizza and spring weather: The salve for a winter that never showed up

Most years, the snowmobiling season in Munising lasts into late April as 300 inches blanket and build a base for the area’s extensive trail network.

As for the 2023-24 winter, it hardly ever started – roughly only 90 inches fell and a sudden slam to rebuild the groomed terrain seems unlikely – and it’s instilled a one-year reset for area leaders and business operators.

“We’re moving on,” said Cori-Ann Cearley, the president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “Nobody’s thinking about winter, and it’s time to embrace everything that we love about spring.”

That’s a good position for Ted Majewski, who owns and operates an outfitting shop that sells and rents cross-country skiing gear while also catering to warmer weather visitors with bike rentals and equipment for paddleboarding, hiking and backpacking.

“We’re making that move (transition from winter to spring and summer) a little earlier than normal because winter has not been great,” Majewski acknowledged, “but we also see it as a chance for people to come see it all spring to life.

“There’s always something to do outside, and you can see it a little earlier than normal.”

With his friend Joe Desjardins, Majewski also co-founded East Channel Brewing, which has become a staple for locals and those visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for outdoor adventure since opening in 2016.

The brewery has built a reputation for solid craft beers and its success spurred a recent expansion to a new production facility that allows it to move from a 3.5-barrel system to a 20-barrel line.

“It’s exciting because it will let us increase our capacity far beyond what we could do right inside the brewery,” Majewski said, noting that they’ve added a canning line and will be able to expand keg distribution to other restaurants. “We’ll be able to keep up with the local demand, and then we’ll be able to try something new, some experimental stuff on the old system.”

East Channel has become an ideal place to relax after a day spent outside, with Majewski observing that the silent sports crowd often pops in for a beer and a pizza from the sister team behind the Cooking Carburys.

The Carburys’ traveling wood-fired oven, located at the brewery for the summer, makes pies that use seasonal produce and creative combinations in addition to the standard offerings. An example includes a Savory Blueberry that has blue cheese, ham, bacon, onion and blueberries blueberry/balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and parmesan. There are also a ginger rhubarb and a chicken cordon bleu that supplement pepperoni, meatlovers and cheese pizzas.

“This is some of the best pizza you’ll find anywhere, bar none,” Cearley says. “They can be pretty unique, but once you try it, you’re hooked. Everything is from scratch, and it’s amazing.”

The earlier than normal spring will give visitors a chance to get into the woods and to the typical hotspots like Miners Castle before the seasonal crowds swell. Generally, many locations in the park are inaccessible by road due to a lack of snowplowing.

“It’s going to be a different time for people to see, and it’s going to be worth it,” Cearley said. “You’ll have more space to stretch out, more space to get that photo or get on a trail without as many people. It’s a great time to discover something new to you.”

Here are three waterfall hikes of varying difficulty that should be checked out in the spring:

Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in the winter.

Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.

More challenging hike:

Chapel Falls: One of the larger straight drops, the 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2-mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found.

“With the rushing water, everyone is still taken back by the stillness,” Cearley said.

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