Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Panorama

Wordless Wednesday: Skagway Pano

Skagway Panorama

Drive-it-Yourself Carriage on Mackinac Island

Drive it Yourself Mackinac Carriage

After walking the 5-mile span of the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, we got to sit down and relax on the ferry to Mackinac Island. This has become a family tradition for us, walking the bridge and visiting the island on Labor Day, with a stop at the Mackinaw Bakery in between. Not only is it a way for us to get from the opposite end of the bridge that we started on without having to turn around in the middle, but it also allows us to avoid the traffic that builds up while the bridge is closed for the annual walk. Even though it’s a holiday, the island is not too busy since most visitors start heading home on Labor Day.

Once we got off the ferry, we headed for Jack’s Livery Stables which advertises Drive it Yourself Carriages. My brother and sister-in-law are both into horses so we let them drive. Before we could get behind the horses, we picked out a route based on the amount of time we had (and how much we wanted to spend), and then they got a short lesson in driving. Before doing it, I assumed this was one of those things where the horses have a specific route they walk and you are just kind of along for the ride, but that really wasn’t the case. Our horse used to be the left horse on a team and he kept pulling to the left and when we corrected him, he went too far to the right! There were a few moments I thought we might go off the road.

This was a fun experience and one you can’t have very many places, but I would not recommend it to a first-time visitor. The traditional, large-group carriage tour gives you a lot more information about the history of the island and a better lay of the land. If you like horses, have been to the island before, and you’re looking for a way to see it differently, this is a fun way to do it and it is less work than riding a bike (you’ll notice that in our two years of walking the bridge, we haven’t decided to rent bikes after). If you are interested in trying it yourself, check out Jack’s Livery Stable!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Block in the Locks

Joseph L. Block Freighter

Soo Locks Boat Tour

G3 Marquis Freighter

Back in 2016, we did a Soo Locks Boat Tour as part of our Epic Michigan Road Trip. While staying in St. Ignace at Straits State Park over Labor Day, we decided to take my brother and sister-in-law to the Soo since neither of them had been. It is a 45-minute drive from St. Ignace to  Sault Ste. Marie and is an easy day trip.

We started at the Locks viewing area where we called the hotline and found out that a freighter, G3 Marquis (above), would be coming through soon. After watching the ship lower to meet the water level of Lake Huron, we decided that our family needed to experience the Locks firsthand, so we booked a Soo Locks Boat tour.

We drove through downtown Sault Ste. Marie and headed to Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours near the historic St. Mary Falls Power Plant and the Museum Ship Valley Camp. Back in 2016, we did the tour with Original Soo Locks Boat Tours, which is located a little farther out of town, and we were under the impression this was one company with two docks, but after some internet sleuthing we learned that they have always been separate companies but they used to share docks and operated as a single company outwardly. But, in 2022 The Original Soo Locks Boat Tours was bought by the company that also runs the S.S. Badger Carferry and now the two tour companies run completely separate businesses.

Taking the Soo Locks down to Lake Huron level

Taking the Soo Locks down to Lake Huron level

The Soo Locks are an engineering marvel! The locks allow ships to bypass the dangerous St. Mary’s rapids by adjusting the water level for the 21-foot difference between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The locks are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are free for use by commercial or personal watercraft. There are two functioning locks on the U.S. side with a third lock under construction and slated for completion in 2030. It is estimated that 10,000 ships go through the locks each year, but many newer ships no longer fit in the smaller MacArthur Lock, so Great Lakes marine traffic should speed up when the new lock opens. There is one lock on the Canadian side that is not large enough for commercial freighters and is only used for pleasure craft. Our tour did not go through it last summer because of Canada’s strict COVID regulations. Hopefully, the tours will be able to use it again next summer because it was fun to go back through a different lock.

If you are spending any time in the Eastern UP, definitely make the drive to Sault Ste. Marie. Call the Soo Locks Hotline ((906) 632-3366) to make sure you time your visit with an incoming freighter. If you have the time, a boat tour is definitely worth it to get to experience the changing water levels for yourself. There are currently two options, Famous Soo Locks Tours and Original Soo Locks Tours, they do the same route. I would pick based on the time that works best for you.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord Cruising

Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

Takeaways from my first Travel Show

Chicago Skyline

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This past weekend we took a last-minute trip to Chicago for their annual Travel and Adventure show. When I saw that Samantha Brown was speaking, I knew I had to go. Without much notice, we bought train tickets and reserved a hotel for the following weekend.

Samantha Brown at the Travel and Adventure Show

Samantha Brown at the Travel and Adventure Show

The Travel and Adventure Show features a few big-name speakers including the aforementioned Samantha Brown along with Brian Kelly (The Points Guy), Pauline Frommer, and Peter Greenberg of CBS News. At the Savvy Travel Theater, experts shared their tips and tricks to get the most out of travel and the Destination Theater highlighted trips that could be booked through the featured exhibitors. Hundreds of exhibitors shared information about destinations and allowed you to book your next trip right then and there.

While I enjoyed browsing the exhibits, some of the intense sales pitches were offputting. I much preferred the booths from locations that just shared their love of their town and encouraged you to visit over the travel agencies and timeshare salespeople who needed you to commit to booking a trip right then and there.

I like to think of myself as a savvy traveler who knows how to find deals, but I really did walk away from the show with some new tricks. Probably my favorite presenter (besides Samantha Brown, of course) was Russell Hannon the author of Stop Dreaming Start Traveling. He shared 99 tips to save money while traveling, some of which I was familiar with and I have shared with you, but many of them were new to me. For example, I had no idea you could get money back by buying Groupons through Rakuten. You can read many of his tips for yourself at BreaktheTravelBarrier.com.

One thing all of the experts at the show seemed to agree on was to use search engines to find the best price for a flight but to purchase airfare direct from the airline. With all the flight disruptions lately, you don’t want to have to go through an intermediary (like Expedia or a cruise line) if you need to get rebooked. Samantha Brown took it a step further and suggested that for each flight you take, you should have two backups so if the one you are booked on is canceled, you can call the airline and say “My name is Jane Doe and I was booked on flight 123 which was canceled can you rebook me on flight 147?” instead of having to wait in line to talk to customer service with everyone else.

They also all suggested downloading the airline’s app. While this lets you skip the desk if you don’t have to check luggage, it also gives you up-to-date information if your gate changes or if your flight is delayed (this was not our experience on Frontier, but more on that later).

For international travel, I learned that there is now a Mobile Passport app that allows you to use a much shorter line at customs if you fill out your information on your phone when you land. While this is available at most airports, I was disappointed to learn that the Detroit airport has not yet implemented it.

If you are like me and love getting new ideas from other people who love to travel, definitely check out the Travel and Adventure Show. There are several more around the country over the next few months. The speakers vary at each show. Samantha Brown will be at the New York Show. Rick Steves is coming to Los Angeles. Dates, locations, and pricing can be found at TravelShows.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord Black and White

Camping Straits State Park

Mackinac Bridge

For the Labor Day long weekend, we headed to one of our favorite campgrounds in Michigan, Straits State Park near St. Ignace. I got lucky and managed to score two waterfront sites for the holiday weekend since we had some family that was camping with us. Straits was the perfect home base since we were planning on walking the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. The campground is right next to the base of the bridge and even has a trail to the bridge walk for campers. From Straits, we also took day trips to Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island (more on those trips in upcoming weeks).

Mackinac Bridge at night from our campsite

The view of the bridge from our campsite

The first time we camped at Straits one of our neighbors walked up to us and told us that he thought we had one of the best views in all of Michigan State Parks and he is not wrong. Being able to see the Mackinac Bridge from the campfire at night is pretty special. The waterfront sites don’t have electricity, so in the past, it has limited them to just tents and popups, but with solar and battery technology, bigger rigs are utilizing them now, which makes them harder to get. It also makes the view from sites farther back in the campground not as good. I booked exactly 6 months in advance (on Fat Tuesday, to be exact) and I wasn’t able to get two sites next to each other, but the sites weren’t too far apart.

Even though it was a holiday weekend and the campground was full, it was a quiet, calm camping experience. We had the last site on the end which is actually very close to where the Bridge Walk starts in St. Ignace. We could hear the announcer and even the Lt. Governor giving his speech before the walk began as we were getting ready at our campsite. We had such a good time, we plan to do it again this year. I have my countdown going for when to book this year’s campsites. Maybe this year we will figure out a shortcut to get from the campground to the base of the bridge for the bridge walk!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Del Morro Lighthouse

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

Camping at Traverse City State Park

Campsite at Traverse City State Park

With our love of Traverse City, it is surprising it took us this long to camp at Traverse City State Park. The previous summer we had camped nearby at Interlochen State Park, about 15 miles from Traverse City, but this year we decided to try out the park in the heart of the city.

Traverse City State Park is located just east of Traverse City in East Bay Township, across the street from all the bayside hotels. There is a pedestrian bridge that connects that campground to the beach on Grand Traverse Bay. This is a modern campground with several bathhouses and electric service at each site, some of which have 50 amps. For being a city park, the campsites are good sized but are lacking in privacy.

The campground is very close to Cherry Capital Airport so there is a lot of air traffic and early morning you can hear the jets warming their engines. It is also on a busy street with road noise pretty much 24 hours a day and it was near impossible to turn left out of the campground to head into Traverse City. I wouldn’t recommend this campground for tent campers unless you are a very heavy sleeper.

Old Mission Lighthouse

The Old Mission Lighthouse is a 30-minute drive from the campground

The best part of camping at Traverse City State Park is the location. It is about a ten-minute drive to all of the shops and dining in downtown Traverse City or ten minutes to the wineries on Old Mission. As mentioned above, the campground is just on the other side of Munson from the beachfront hotels, which can run over $300 per night in the summer. A campsite in the state park is only $45 for a summer weekend night, granted you have to bring your bed with you, but it is quite a savings to be in the middle of the action.

If you are looking for a campground close to Traverse City with beach access, look no further than Traverse City State Park. If you are looking for a quiet, private, nature-centered camping experience not too far from the city, I would recommend Interlochen State Park instead.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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