Michigan U.P. June 2016
Dates: June 26 - July 6, 2016
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia
- 6-26 (Travel Day)
- 6-27 (Wilderness SP, Mackinac)
- 6-28 (Tahquamenon Falls)
- 6-29 (Pictured Rocks)
- 6-30 (Free Day)
- 7-1 (Isle Royale)
- 7-2 (Isle Royale)
- 7-3 (Isle Royale)
- 7-4 (Porcupine Mountains)
- 7-5 (Porcupine Mountains)
- 7-6 (Travel Day)
SUNDAY JUNE 26
We got out of town at just before 2pm. I led worship in the morning at Grace, and then we got home and packed up the car to hit the road. For the boys we grabbed some McDonald's in town to get them lunch. Sarah and I held out til Green Oak Township where we grabbed lunch at Salsarita's, our favorite restaurant. As usual, we both did the nachos. Sarah drove first while I ate in the car, and then we pulled over to swap drivers. We also had ordered a queso and chips to go with it all and Sarah was so kind as to feed me chips while I drove so I could enjoy a few more.
The driving the rest of the way went pretty well. I didn't get as much sleep the night before as I would have liked, couple that with a usually exhausting Sunday morning, and I had a few moments of getting drowsy. We hit two rest areas as we drove north just to get refreshed a bit. I got out and chased the boys aruond in a grassy park at one of them. We would have gotten ice cream at another but the machine only took cash.
We got to Wilderness State Park and their modern campground at around 7:15pm. Mom and Dad as well as Luke were already there with the trailer setup and supper started. Luke had joined them several days prior. We had travelled over to Chicago, Luke and I, for a Cubs game with Dad and Matt H. on Wed. Jun 22 and Luke stayed with them since. They arrived at Wilderness on Saturday evening and so had been there a day already.
We had salmon and lake trout which Papa cooked on the gas grill as well as rice pilaf and corn on the cob. It was a delightful supper. We got a fire going at the camp site while the boys explored a grassy area just to the south of our camp. There was a small playground as well as a large open grassy meadow and horseshoe pits. We tried to use up as much firewood as we could as we had seen signs that said we would not be allowed to bring our firewood into the U.P. We ended up leaving a bit for the next set of campers.
MONDAY JUNE 27
Upon returning from my morning trail run I joined the others for breakfast in the trailer. We had milk and cereal and various small bar snacks. We were working to get out fairly early this morning to catch one of the Mackinac ferries. We decided to ride from St. Ignace and had scouted ahead on the satellite maps to see hwo easy their parking lot was on trucks and trailers. We got into Shepler's in St. Ignace at around 10:15am and were able to ride on their 10:30 ferry. It was cold and windy on the ferry.
Upon arrival on the island we proceeded to the Mackinac Island Bike shop which was the first on the right after exiting Shepler's. They gave us the typical rate of $8/hour prorated. Everyone had a bike but Seth who rode on a tag-a-long attached to my bike. They gave us each a helmet and a bottled water and we were off. We didn't make it to far down the city street until we were already making bathroom stops. The afternoon weather was supposed to threaten with rain but our bike ride got started just fine. We enjoyed the views when we finally passed Mission Point Resort and hit the east side of the island. We stopped off at Arch Rock and climbed the wooden staircase to the top (except for Sarah) to take a few pictures. Our going on the bike path was fairly slow and there was plenty of other bike/people traffic.
Not long before British Landing we found a nice picnic table area off the side of the bike path and stopped there for lunch. We had packed sandwiches and other snacks for lunch today and so remained there to eat. The boys enjoyed walking across the path to the beach area and checking out the many rock cairns along the way. At British Landing we made another quick bathroom stop and then continued our trek around. Weather was still holding. We stopped at Devil's Kitchen to let the boys check out the rock formation there and then made our way back into town. We decided not to bike inland and instead returned the bikes having had them for about 2 1/4 hours.
We hiked up Fort Rd. trying to decide what to do next. We thought about going into Fort Mackinac but then were reminded it was $12/person. We decided to bail on that thought. Around this time it finally started to rain. We hid in the Episcopal church during the 10 minute shower and then came out finding things had stopped. We then divided up, Luke, Dad and I hiked up to Fort Holmes while the others went to the butterfly sanctuary by Mission Point. We hiked up the Garrison Road past Skull Cave to the Henry Trail which we took up to the Fort Holmes Rd. I was surprised to see that they had rebuilt Fort Holmes. Last time I was there it was largely just a dirt mound. It was entirely rebuilt in 2014. We checked that out and then I took them on a hike back down the Fort Holmes Rd to Point Lookout to see Sugar Loaf.
We hiked back out to the town and arrived not long after the others had finished at the butterfly sanctuary. We headed into Twist -n- Sprouts for make your own frozen yogurt, and that was quite tasty. After finishing up in there we'd had enough Mackinac Island for the day and caught the 4pm ferry heading off the island. We rode on top on the way back and we were getting frozen in the wind.
Back on the mainland we began our trek north. We soon realized we were all going to want to stop for gas. We were just nto finding anything on GPS as we continued on. We knew we would need a place with Diesel and able for Dad to pull in the RV. Finally we found a place, Mark's Trading Post, that fit the bill and we filled up and got some drinks. It was easy driving up to Tahquamenon Falls from there. We hit a place a few miles west of the park for firewood and then on into the park. There was still a gate attendant who was checking for passports and it must have been 7pm already. We got into camp set things up and then headed over to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub. We got there at 8pm and they stopped serving at 8:30. I tried their Porcupine Pale Ale. Sarah and Dad tried their Raspberry Ale, Dad also tried the Harvest Wheat Ale. No one tried their Black Bear Stout. I had their fish-n-chips special and the fish was spectacular. The breading was a perfect crisp and the fish would melt in your mouth. Dad also tried this. Sarah tried a pasty, which is a U.P. special, and really enjoyed it. We also did onion rings and cheese curds for apps and they were fantastic. Great food there, prices a little high but worth it. We headed back to camp from there and were surprised how cold it was outside. It was probably upper 40s or lower 50s but with the breezes it just chilled you. I bailed on any thought of setting up the tent at this point as it was also getting dark.
TUESDAY JUNE 28
When I returned to camp from my morning trail run I found everyone else still asleep so I had time to hit the showers while the others got going. We had decided this would be a great morning to cook breakfast on the grill. Dad took on the challenge of browning sausages and doing scrambled eggs all on a griddle on the gas grill. This was not without some challenge. He had the griddle upside down and so the eggs were very difficult to contain and it wasn't a nonstick griddle, which made for a mess afterwards. The good news is the food still tasted good.
We ended up working on breakfast and other morning tasks til almost 10:45am when we finally decided to get ready for a good day's hike. We decided to do the River Trail from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls and to do so as a shuttle hike. Dad and I ran our van to the Upper Falls parking lot and dropped it there so the bulk of the group could ride back as necessary.
Dad and I made it back to camp at 6:22pm from completing the River Trail double. The boys went over to the small playground in the campground and made a few new friends running around over there. We were pleased to see how many kids and families there were camping and oh so many riding around on bikes and scooters. Dad got the fire going while I relaxed and read for awhile. Tonight I finally wanted to get into the tent and so I pulled out Dad's Half Dome 4 and got that setup. With the fire going and the hour starting to grow late we decided on a simple free-for-all supper of grilling hot dogs over the fire. Dad and I as well as Mom and Sarah were all able to get dogs in before the boys got back from the playground with hunger. They helped grill some of their own dogs then.
Around 9pm Dad and the boys tried out some fishing at the river which was a short walk away from camp but didn't have much success. Only Jonah decided to join me in the tent overnight, Luke had considered it but bailed at the last minute. It was a cool night with the overnight low in the mid to upper 40s.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 29
First easy morning of the trip, I was up out of the tent just past 8am. Everyone was taking it easy this morning. We weren't sure when we would get a Pictured Rocks cruise for the day and so we took just things as they came. Dad and the boys tried a little fishing first thing in the morning, still with no success. We had a basic breakfast of cereal and snacks in the trailer. It was 11am by the time we got everyone finished up at camp and were on the road heading west.
It was beautiful driving heading west out of Tahquamenon Falls. It was like driving in a tunnel through the trees. Having spent the last two days without any internet or cell signal at the Falls we finally got some signal upon hitting Newberry. Here Dad tried to get us booked on a Pictured Rocks cruise but their lines were busy. As we drove on further he finally got through and booked us on the 5pm Spray Falls Cruise. Everything was falling into place. We decided to head straight to our camp to get set up after arriving in Munising.
We were staying in the Hiawatha National Forest at their Bay Furnace campground. We got in about 2pm. It was typical primitive National Forest campground. It was our only stay that had pit toilets only. It also had no hook-ups whatsoever, and the nearest water spigot was about 150 feet down the road. We may as well have been tent camping. We did almost decided to drive down the road to a local RV park but decided to stay as our site was also the most beautiful of all we had stayed at. It was a beautiful pine forest area with small ground vegetation leaving more open expansive views.
We found a nice trail heading from our campsite down to the bay (Lake Superior) where the boys ended up spending an hour plus down there collecting rocks and wading into the water. We also had nice views of Grand Island. They stayed down there til about 3:45pm when it began to be time to head into Munising. Dad headed in first with the truck to grab some supplies. We followed at about 4:15pm to get into Munising for our cruise.
We returned to Munising just after 7p from the cruise. They suckered everyone into coming in their gift shop by announcing that one person won a picture book of the Pictured Rocks, but you had to come in to see if you won. Well we didn't win, but we also survived the boys trying to talk us into buying things.
We headed back to camp afterwards. Mom and Dad grabbed a few more groceries on the way while the rest of us headed back so I could get a fire started. We did pizza sandwiches over the camp fire tonight which is always a favorite when outside. Jonah and Luke both joined me outside in the tent tonight. I made a mistake as we were falling asleep by leaving the tent door partly open. Luke and I began to find a few mosquitos and daddy-long leg spiders in the tent when we finally found out the error.
THURSDAY JUNE 30
Today was our true leisure day. In our original thoughts we had considered doing something on Grand Island since we were staying there in Munising. After last night's cruise along Pictured Rocks we had a new thought of heading to the Miner's Beach area to either do some hiking or let the boys play along the beach. We took our time in camp this morning working to dry things out from being at the beach and from the overnight condensation. As time ran on to about 10 and then 11am it was decided things were running too late to do Miner's Beach and still get camp packed up by 2pm. With our newfound camp time Dad and the boys hit the beach to wade while I got a run in along the beach and through the campground.
It was about 1:30p by the time we got things packed up at camp and we still hadn't done lunch. We hit the road with plans to find something in Marquette. We checked ahead for a fast food place with or near a big parking lot and found a Taco Bell off on the west side that we were all able to stop at. After Taco Bell we set out looking for a place for Dad to stop with the trailer to get a propane tank filled but never really found a place that would work. We kept on the road and finished up the 3 hour drive to Houghton.
In Houghton, not long after crossing the bridge I got separated from Dad at a stop light. I quick pulled up directions on my phone and found M203 and followed it along the river to McLain State Park. Mom and Dad must have missed this turn and ended up heading further north to Calumet and hit M203 there back to McLain. We went and found our site at McLain, #94, and were concerned about its small size. As Mom and Dad arrived there and began the check-in process we gave them the head's up so they could see if another site was available. They did for that night, but not for the next 3, not if we wanted to avoid moving sites. So we were stuck with it. When Dad got the trailer to the site it took us some time, but we managed to get it backed in to the site with not much room to spare. We had enough room to set out the rug by the trailer but not the screen house over the picnic table.
It was somewhat cool and windy at McLain this night. We did take time to walk down to the coast to look for a sunset but too much in the way of clouds tonight. We also spent a good amount of time getting backpacks ready for our Isle Royale trip in the morning. It is quite the challenge trying to pack up not only for yourself but for 3 others (that are kids no less). We sought a reasonable bed time of about 11pm as we would have an early morning to get to Copper Harbor.
FRIDAY JULY 1
We were up at 5:45am to get ready for the drive up the Keweenaw to Copper Harbor. We left camp at 6:20am with a light snack breakfast packed for in the car as well as a lunch and snacks to eat on the ferry. It was a beautiful drive just following a single highway north heading through one small town after another until Copper Harbor. We hit Copper Harbor at 7:18am. In Copper Harbor we didn't readily know where to find the Queen Royale parking, we had assumed we would see signage but did not. We followed 41 east out of town until it all but dead ended and we finally realized we were on the wrong path. Luckily we had gotten into Copper Harbor early enough we still were pressed too badly for time for the ferry. We got back into town and realize our error. We found 5th Street and took that down to Brockway to the parking. There was an attendant there with the names of everyone on the ferry that morning and they were directing folks into the grassy lot. Our vehicle was only a daytrip vehicle since Mom and Sarah were coming back and so they left us near the front of the lot. We got all of our stuff out of the car and up to the loading area. They wanted us there by 7:30am and we just made it. About 20 minutes til departure they had everyone with backpacks and luggage to bring them forward as their staff was loading them onto the top of the boat. Then about 10 minutes til everyone was allowed to board. They allowed to large parties to board first into some seating that accomodated slightly larger groups. The rest then boarded. They had seat pods of 4 with a table that lined each side of the boat and then pods of 6 seats with tables along the middle. We got a pod of 6 seats for our group. With small boys we were able to fit our seven in.
The boat left pretty much on time and we made the slow but beautiful journey out of Copper Harbor. The captain was great in talking to everyone and explaining things as we went. He also explained all the factors that went into whether we would arrive early or late on Isle Royale. Folks were able to walk up the starboard side of the boat to get to the bow and watch as we went. There was also an outdoor area on the stern of the boat where folks could stand. It was still fairly cold in Copper Harbor and so most folks remainded inside. During the ferry ride out we would make occasional trips out to the bow to take in the views and to see if Isle Royale was in sight yet. It was cold and windy out there so the stays were short. Inside we spent time reading, chatting, looking at maps and occasionally grabbing a snack. The Queen Royale IV did have a small snack bar with candy, chips, and basic drinks. There was also a bathroom on board. With about 45 minutes to go we downed the lunch we brought so that we would be ready to roll upon arriving on the island.
SATURDAY JULY 2
SUNDAY JULY 3
Our ride back from Isle Royale on the Queen Royale IV went much quicker than expected. On the ferry ride there the boys had their tablets along to entertain and help pass the time. On the way back we had no such thing. To help with this eventuality I brougth a little pocket dice game along called Cinq-O and introduced the boys to that and that really got them going for almost an hour. Good fun. Then we continued a game they had started during our evenings at camp on the island called the Skittles game. Its a simple game in which one blindly pulls a Skittle (candy) out of a bag and then tries to figure out what flavor it is. At first you would think this to be simple and easy, but I was surprised when I got my first two wrong. Some flavors like the green apple did stand out better than others, but it was actually an interesting science lesson in how much our eyes affect our perceptions of taste.
No matter where we were at in Lake Superior on the return voyage, we could see both the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale. As we approached Copper Harbor I must confess I can see why people believe it to be such a beautiful place. I quickly grew jealous of the casual kayakers enjoying the calm waters (and views) of the harbor as we approached. As we neared the dock there were several people at various establishments who had come out to give greetings to the returning ship. It illustrated the small tight-knit community that Copper Harbor is.
Mom and Sarah were waiting for us at the docks and greeted with hugs and smiles as we got off the ship and awaited our bags to be unloaded. We swapped stories of our fun over the last couple of days and then headed to the van. The drive back went quickly. Back at our camp we proceeded on with supper and the cooking of pizza sandwiches over the fire again. This began to make for a late supper, so much so that we were still cooking as the sunset approached around 9:30p. I took a 20 minute break from supper to go grab some great sunset photos. I spent the rest of the evening sorting through backpacking gear to get it out of the way for the rest of the trip. Much after dark, probably nearing 11p I made the long walk down to the showers building for a nice warm cleansing shower. It was a beautiful evening there, so much warmer and less windy than our first night at McLain.
MONDAY JULY 4
We spent the morning getting camp packed up and doing some basic breakfast in the trailer. It was another pretty morning in the U.P. with modest temps and hardly a cloud in the sky. We figured on trying to get a single hike in today in the Porcupines so we didn't need to have a major hurry. This left us getting out of McLain at about 11am with a fairly easy drive to Ontanagon ahead.
We headed back into Houghton and across the bridge and then followed M26 out of town. As we were leaving Hancock we stopped for gas the Murphy's USA and I grabbed a drink for the drive. It was a smooth drive to Ontanagon and then on to the Porcupines Wilderness State Park. We opted to hit the visitor's center first to check things out. It was a great Center with a wonderful relief map to check out the various hiking trails and even a decent gift shop. I found a good pint glass to add to our collection while I got the boys personalize mini pocketknives. They were also running a historical video on the Porcupines which we decided to stay in there and watch. It pointed out that the Porcupine Mountains get their name because early native Americans beleived the hills to look like hunched porcupines in their shape.
We were told that the three main sites to see in the park are the Summit Peak Scenic Area, Lake of the Clouds Overlook and the Presque Isles Scenic Area. For today's hike we decided on the Summit Peak area which would prove an easy one for the boys who were still mostly "hiked out" from Isle Royale. We headed on over to the Union Bay campground and worked on getting our site set up. Where at McLain they had paved drives which were great for the trailer at Union Bay it was all grass. It also didn't help the grass was a bit uneven and rutted up from someone being there when the ground was soft and muddy. Nonetheless we got the trailer setup pretty well and even setup the screen house for bug free eating. No mosquitos for the most part in the campground but plenty ordinary house flies to be a nuisance.
We got together another basic sandwich and snacks lunch at about 2:30p or so. You can see that all of our schedule was shifted about 2-3 hours later than normal for pretty much the entire trip. After lunch we got packs ready for the afternoon hike. Dad and I loaded up a little more with a plan to hike from Summit Peak all the way through the heart of the Porkies to the Lake of the Clouds overlook.
After getting picked up at the Lake of the Clouds overlook we headed on back to camp. There we got a nice fire setup and I also put up the tent again for one more night. We did brat burgers and hamburgers on the grill for supper along with green beans and tator tots, it was a nice filling meal. With that nice fire we also did s'mores for dessert. Jonah and I alone slept in the tent and it was a gorgeous night out there.
TUESDAY JULY 5
I was up early in the tent today and it wasn't just for running. There were plenty of wind gusts going on early morning rustling through the tent and though we were in no real danger it had me stirred up plenty that sleep eluded me. Nonetheless, I had running plans anyways. I wanted to drive on over to the Government Peak TH and try the Overlook Trail today. It was a rare day where I actually drove to my starting point, but I didn't want to waste time or miles on a road this morning.
Upon getting back to camp I joined the others in having breakfast in the trailer. I also proceed to get the tent packed up right away as it was nice and dry and with our departure early the next morning I had no plans to sleep in the tent tonight. That early plan would actually work out really well as we would get a big storm this night.
We had plans for the Escarpment Trail today but Sarah and Seth wouldn't be joining us. Seth was mentally all hiked out from the Isle Royale trip and Sarah was still nursing a sprained ankle from taking a bad step out of the trailer while we were at McLain. We headed over to the Escarpment Trail just before 11am.
On our way back from the hiking we stopped at the little camp store on the highway near the entrance to Union Bay for ice cream and drinks. As usual, while the boys got ice cream, I grabbed a Mountain Dew. We made it back to the trailer, had lunch and then began an afternoon and evening of getting things packed up. I worked first to get our car cleaned up and sorted out to be packed for the long drive home. This involved getting all of the hiking and backpacking gear stored away and out of the way.
In the evening we had a nice fire going and put all the remaining wood on. We had leftovers for supper which including grilling a few more hot dogs over the fire and reheating other items which were still left in the frig. We knew a big thunderstorm was coming as did most of the rest of the campground. It was interesting to see everyone in the various sites and how they were getting their things packed up. It was a rare night I felt for the tenters. Around 10pm the sprinkles started. Dad and I stayed outside long as we could with a nice roaring fire and conveniently had a tree which shielded us nicely from the initial rains. Eventually we bailed to head inside and get some sleep for the long drive ahead tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY JULY 6
We were up at 7am today to get left quick as we could. It was 8:07a when we finally pulled out of Union Bay. Mom and Dad were close to ready as well but they stayed behind a little after we left getting the trailer ready. On the way home we stopped in L'Anse for gas and a drink. I tried there for the first time a can of Mountain Dew Black Label. It was described as having a dark berry flavor and it was decent.
We stopped in Munising at the Pictured Rocks visitor center to get the Passport stamps which we had forgotten the other day. I was also able to pick up stamps for Hiawatha Natioanl Forest and for the North Country National Scenic Trail. We then hit Hardee's in Munising and ate in the car as we drove on. It was 2:10p when we got off the Mackinac Bridge. We really enjoyed the drive east on highway 2 and the new views we got of Lake Michigan as we headed into St. Ignace.
Once back in the Lower Peninsula we drove through a rain storm for awhile north of Gaylord. We stopped in Gaylord just after 3p for Taco Bell freezes and ice cream at McDonald's. It was 6:10p when we hit Green Oak Township where Sarah, Seth and I had more Salsarita's. Luke and Jonah held out til we made it to Dundee where we got them Taco Bell. It was 7:48p when we finally got home. The long day's drive went surprisingly quick and I did all the driving and felt pretty good the whole way. Amazing what a good night's sleep will do.