Dates: July 1-4, 2020
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Anya
- 7-1 (Travel Day)
- 7-2 (Pictured Rocks, Sand Point, Miner's Beach)
- 7-3 (Pictured Rocks, Hurricane River Beach, Au Sable Lightstation)
- 7-4 (Bear Ranch, Travel Day)
WEDNESDAY JULY 1
Our goal for today was to make the drive up to the Munising area and our campground. If we arrived around supper time we would have the evening to relax and enjoy. This change a bit with Luke having a driver's ed class til 1pm. We had debated having him skip it but in the end decided to stay. In fact, our whole vacation was actually supposed to be a couple weeks earlier but the coronavirus pandemic changed things. We had reservations at Tahquamenon Falls State Park campground for two weeks prior. We would enjoy a couple nights there and it would coincide with the Two Hearted Trail Run races that weekend. The pandemic cancelled all of it, the races and the camp reservations. The State Park campgrounds would end up opening the Monday after we were supposed to stay. When we change course and decided to go to Munising we opted for a private campground hoping they would be more likely to be open.
I did some reviewing of places in the area around Munising and the Tourist Park Campground looked fantastic. They have sites right along Lake Superior and the prices were very reasonable. We reserved site 12 and quite frankly I was surprised such a potentially beautiful site right along the beach was still available. Time will tell, but we may have lucked out with the pandemic originally scaring some people away.
So we have everything packed and ready to go when Luke's class ended and we were able to hit the road at 1:45pm. We had the rocketbox full of sleeping gear and some duffel bags. This trip would be the maiden voyage for our REI Kingdom 8 tent (at least outside the back yard). We were pretty full in the car between people, camp gear, and food for several days.
We made a gas stop in Flint on the way up and had minimal traffic. We were probably fortunate to be travelling on Wednesday as opposed to Friday when pictures would reveal the Mackinac Bridge all backed up. We did supper at Culver's in Gaylord. We hit the bridge around 7:15pm and were looking at a 9:15pm arrival at the campground. We were hoping to get in before sunset and luckly that wasn't until 9:45pm.
We talked to the people at the campground and let them know of our late arrival and they said they man their office til 10pm so we were good to go. We did arrive just before 9:15p and we got our site. It was a beautiful spot and we arrived at the sky was turning colors. There were 20 or so people from different sites of the campground all along the beach by us taking in the sunset.
We had open views from our site into the bay and a beautiful section of beach near us. The site had just enough good grass to make a nice spot for the tent. The one thing the site was missing was any shade. This would made some evenings difficult when things were still hot and the sun was getting us almost til sundown. We looked around for a possible return trip and which sites would help out with giving some evening shade. We thought some of the sites in the number 70s might accomplish this.
Anya had done great through the whole trip. She managed the drive well only getting a bit fussy towards the end. She was so intrigued once we arrived in scouting things out and taking in all the new stuff. This made her first night in the tent a challenge as well. We all were in the tent just after 11p and we didn't get Anya asleep til after midnight. She just wouldn't settle down and wanted to continue to explore.
THURSDAY JULY 2
We took this first morning of our trip in a very relaxed manner. This was a real devoted effort on my part. I'm usually go-go and trying to fill the day in my style of travel. For this trip I knew that just wasn't going to work. We wanted to do almost everything together as a family and it was evident a correlation would exist between more enjoyment and less hurry.
It was around 10am when we finally got ready to head out of camp. We had had bowls of cereal and milk and snacks for breakfast. We drove through Munising and headed out to Sand Point. It is the nearest portion of the Pictured Rocks lakeshore to town and an easy drive. We drove out to the end of the Point. The building facilities were closed due to the pandemic but the beaches were open. We parked and headed out to check out the beach. The views of Grand Island were fantastic. I hadn't realized Grand Island also had some beautiful cliffs that were visible. The beach area as well as the water had an increasing amount of people also out to enjoy the day. Things never felt crowded though. We could tell this was a popular area for Munising locals and tourists alike.
Leaving the Beach we drove down the road a quarter mile to another parking area. This parking also would serve the beaches but it was situation across the road from the North Country Trail connector. This trailhead also serves the Marsh Trail. It starts with a short hike up a paved trail and then the Marsh Trail is a half mile loop on boardwalks through the marshes. We saw plenty of plant life, birds and a few small critters and amphibians. The Marsh boardwalks end further up the NCT connector trail. You could head east from that junction to gain the NCT proper and head out to Miner's Castle. We went west and over a short hike regained the start of our loop and then the trailhead.
We made the 20 minute or so drive over to the Miner's area next. We parked at the Overlooks and had lunch at the picnic tables. Thankfully they did have the bathrooms and drinking fountains available there for usage. We had sandwiches, fruit, and chips for lunch.
After the hike, I hopped in the car to drive down to the beach area to pick up the others. When I got down to the Miner's Beach parking it was full. I had to wait to find a spot. Popular area with lots of people. Also a major put-in site for the kayak outfitters. I walked down to the beach to get the group and help them back up to the car. there was no cell signal down by the beach so I had to go down there and find them. When we met up they were all ready to leave. so we decided at that point to drive back to Munising and head back to the campground.
When I got back to the campground we hit the general store and bought some more ice and firewood for the night. We set about making a fire so we could cook on it for supper. It was $8 for a bundle of wood, but it seemed to be a really good hardwood and a reasonable amount of it. Once we had the fire going we cooked bratwurst and hot dogs on it. I had some trouble keeping the fire going well. I think the wood had a fair amount of moisture in it. After supper we also did some s'mores over the fire.
Throughout the day Anya really enjoyed herself. she loved playing in the sand and she even enjoyed the dirt, whether it was on the trail or back at the campground.with all of her fun she truly needed a bath. we got her all bathed up at the showers with the hope that she might be ready for bed afterwards. She had not napped much during the day. it was probably about 8:30 p.m. when we put her down. she went to sleep reasonably well despite this being earlier than her usual bedtime. however she only slept for about an hour and then she was back up because it was still slightly light outside. Now she was up with us again until almost midnight.
FRIDAY JULY 3
We left Camp mid-morning again trying to take things easy. for today's plan we had settled on driving out to the hurricane River Campground. we had been considering the chapel basin but decided the hiking there was a little more than we wanted to get into. it was roughly an hour drive from the campground out to hurricane River. upon arrival we found the day use area to be a rather beautiful spot.there was a nice picnic area with views of the river and the lake and a lovely bridge for the North Country Trail to pass over the river. We had a picnic lunch and we're fighting off mosquitoes while sitting there in the shade.
After the hike we spent over another hour at the beach relaxing in the shade. The boys had a grand old time playing in theend of the river as it poured into Lake Superior. Anya enjoyed playing in the sand with the Rocks where Sarah and I were sitting in the shade. Everyone agreed this would definitely be a place to return to.
When I finished up there we made the drive back to Munising. once again we had considered driving further east towards the log slide overlook and Sable Falls. But we decided we had had enough and we're ready to drive back. when I reach the edge of town we did decide to add on one more thing to our agenda.we found the visitor center at Munising Falls and decided to take a short hike up to the falls.
For supper we headed into town to try out one of the breweries. ByGeorge brewery looked interesting but we found out they were just a taproom without a full-service meal. we then decided to try East Bay brewery but they were not serving food today. So we finally found Shooters Firehouse Brewpub. They were not serving their full menu but they were serving pizza. This would work. it seems that while things are open up in Munising during the pandemic, they are not up to full capacity on much of anything.
The meal at Shooters was quite nice. They had keweenaw brewing Black widow Maker ale on tap and so I had two glasses of that. The pizzas were cooked on a wood fire oven and where the size of paper plates and served on paper plates. They were good. After a nice meal we headed back to the campground.
I got a nice big fire going tonight and things worked out much better there. I had the fire going so close to midnight trying to burn up all our firewood.we tried out some jiffy Pop popcorn and that worked okay. It is definitely more difficult over a campfire then say on a stove. It would be nice to have some hot pads to hold that short metal handle. We also ate up the rest of our s'mores supplies and began to clean up camp to get ready for our departure in the morning. it was a beautiful evening with temps heading into the upper 50s.
SATURDAY JULY 4
I finally made an earlier morning get-up to go out running and explore a bit. I was up 5:55am and out of the tent to get ready for a trail-run/hike. I had set to drive over to Munising Falls trailhead and try some of the North Country Trail. I didn't bring anything with except for keys and phone so I kept things simple. I started out with a goal of four miles.
After my run I headed back to camp to help out with the teardown of camp. I was back by 7:45a and everyone else started getting up around 8am. That morning things were really foggy and the sun never fully came out. This meant we had a very damp tent that just wouldn't dry up in the time we had. We got everything else packed up and then resided to taking down the tent and lightly setting things in the back end. I didn't want to roll up or compress any part of the tent with it so damp. It was 9:45am by the time we had everything packed and everyone eaten breakfast.
We hit the road and made our way east towards Newberry. We had plans to see the Oswalds Bear Ranch just north of Newberry. It was just over an hour drive over there from Munising. The bear ranch was clearly a mom-and-pop operation, but was in impressive condition. We were not disappointed and things clearly seem to be well taken care of there. The animals were active and appeared to be happy. There were four different enclosures with black bears in them. There was a male enclosure, a female enclosure, and both had nice long trails around them. They were good size enclosures. There is also an enclosure with yearling bears in it and they were quite active and playful with each other. Anya enjoyed watching them and would holler at them to stop fighting with each other. They also had a handful of bear cubs in an enclosure where they were allowing guests to get their picture taken with the cubs. It was hot and sunny and so we tried to stick to the shade where we could. We enjoyed walking around and seeing quite a few different bears. It was $20 a car to get in.
After the bear ranch we drove back into Newberry and looked for lunch. The food options were relatively limited and we ended up finding a McDonald's just south of town. We ate there at an outside table watching the seagulls beg for food in the parking lot. After lunch we began the long drive home.
I don't know if it was my early morning or just the wear and tear of the trip but I was quite tired in driving today. I made it over the Mackinac bridge and then at the first rest area had Sarah start driving. She got us as far as Flint and then we stopped for supper at the Fuddruckers. I then drove us the rest of the way home. We got home just after 8 pm.