Go See Do Photography

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

Category: Camping (Page 1 of 4)

Camping at Cheboygan State Park

The bay from our campsite

Before our tour of Michigan State Parks last summer, I was watching a lot of Trekker’s Michigan State Parks videos on Youtube. When they did their drive through Cheboygan State Park, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! The park is located in Northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Its location, only half an hour from Mackinaw City, making it a good home base for exploring the straits area. The campground is small, only 75 sites, and with only 20 amp service, some might call it outdated, but it is perfect for the kind of camping we do.

Camper under canopyI decided to head to Cheboygan for Memorial Day weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get a waterfront site without much fuss about six months out. For some reason, this campground isn’t as popular as others in the area. Our site (site 27) was wooded on three sides with a path to the lake. Most of the other sites in the park are just as private. This is very unusual for a Michigan State Park campground. Most of them are big open fields. The bathhouse at the campground was small, but with most people relying on the bathrooms in their rigs, there was never a wait for the showers.

Path through the woods

The path to the bay from site 27

It was really nice to be able to put our kayak right in the water at our site and be able to paddle around the bay when the water was calm. We went a little way out and floated over two shipwrecks, the Leviathan and the Genesee Chief (unfortunately, forgot my action camera when we went out the first day and when we went back it was too cloudy to see them so I don’t have any photos). When we got back to camp, I looked these wrecks up and was interested to learn that they were both intentionally sunk in the bay. I did feel better when we returned to the site knowing there were no casualties, but it’s always sad to realize that in the 19th century, the Great Lakes were thought of as garbage dumps.

Besides the Mackinac area, Cheboygan is not a far drive away from the only named waterfall in the lower peninsula, Ocqueoc Falls, The waterfall will be the topic for next week on the blog, so be sure to come back! 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 Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Camping in Holland

Tulip field in front of windmill

Tulips in front of De Zwaan windmill

Tulip Time Festival in Holland is one of the most popular festivals in Michigan. It takes place at the beginning of May and with the cancellation of the festival in 2020, I had a feeling it would be an even bigger deal in 2021. In an attempt to beat the crowds, we decided to go the weekend before the festival began.

We decided this would be a great time to take the camper out for its inaugural trip for the 2021 season so with just a few weeks advance planning, I booked a site at Holland State Park. This park is very popular in the summer and with good reason. It has a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with a view of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse and is relatively close to downtown Holland. The campground is made up of two sections, the most popular section is right on the beach (which was not yet open for the season when we visited) and the more wooded Lake Macatawa unit where we stayed.

Because of its popularity, this campground comes with some very strict rules. I had to sign a paper and hang it in the window of my camper agreeing to the 1pm checkout time. There was a sign in the office saying the visitors are not allowed and campers must keep their ID on them at all times in the campground to prove that you are allowed to be there. No alcohol is allowed in the campground at any time and rangers frequently drove around, looking into campsites to check. I’m sure these rules are necessary for peak season but the fact that the campground was only 25% full at the time made a lot of this seem a little intrusive and over-the-top. If I had a reason to be in the area, I would probably stay here again, but I wouldn’t seek it out when I’m just looking for a place to camp for a weekend.

Mini camper in front of dune

Our Runaway camper at our site at Holland State Park.

As I mentioned at the top, the purpose of this trip was to visit Windmill Island Gardens and see the tulips. It was pretty chilly this weekend and we even saw snow flurries Sunday morning, but most of the tulips were in the early stages of blooming. I always enjoy visiting the garden and photographing the tulips. If you are looking to see the sights in Holland, Holland State Park is a good base for exploration, but be aware that they do have a lot of rules and they do patrol and enforce them.

This year I knew there were going to be more people than ever camping and it was going to be challenging to get into the most popular campgrounds in the summer. I decided to book the busiest campgrounds (such as this one and Ludington) in the off-season and then try out some of the more under-the-radar spots when the parks would be the busiest. For the most part, I did make reservations about six months out, and with this methodology, I was able to get some really nice sites. I am excited to share those journeys with 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! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Runaway RangeRunner First Impressions

Runaway Rangerunner

I first heard about Runaway Campers years ago on an episode of the Improve Photography Podcast as an inexpensive place to sleep on a photo trip. I have followed Runaway since then until the time was right to finally buy my own. The stars aligned and in May we put down a deposit on our very own micro camper. We were only able to run away with it for six nights before it got too cold, but I wanted to give you our first impressions of our new RangeRunner.

Camper from the dunes

Runaway calls itself America’s most affordable mini camper. They are built in the U.S. and you can visit the factory in Florida. With its low price point, it doesn’t have many amenities of the bigger, most expensive rigs. You won’t find a bathroom or kitchen inside that little trailer. Runaway currently sells three versions of its camper: the 4×8 CoolCamp, the 6×8 RangeRunner, and the off-road capable Venturist (available in both the 4×8 and 6×8 size). At one time Runaway made a version that you could stand up in called the Rouser and I know people are really hoping to see it come back soon.

Runaway campers pretty much come as an empty box (with an air conditioner) and the owner gets to modify it however they want. Some people just toss an air mattress in it and hit the road while others build cabinets and fold out beds. The camper can be whatever you want it to be.

One thing to note about Runaway Campers is they were made up of wood until the 2020 models. The new models are made out of a composite material that makes them lighter and also makes it so they shouldn’t have water damage, which has been a problem with the older models. You don’t need a big truck to tow a Runaway. We tow ours with a Subaru Outback.

We typically are people who prefer to buy used to save on the depreciation, but with these changes we decided to buy a new one. Due to higher demand and some supply chain issues, the build time on these campers is currently about 12 weeks. That is really nothing compared to some of the bigger camping brands where you may have to wait as long as 18 months for a new rig right now!

Selfie in front of the camper
Setting up camp for the first time at Cumberland Falls.

As tent campers, this little camper is really everything we need right now. If you read this blog regularly, you know that we love to take road trips, but setting up and taking down the tent many times on a trip really starts to get exhausting. With the camper, all we have to do is make sure the doors are locked, hitch up, and move on. The few times we’ve been out in it we noticed that not only is it faster to set up and take down than a tent, but it’s also easier than packing up a lot of the big rigs we see in the campgrounds. We refer to our RangeRunner as our tent on wheels.

Our little camper has also allowed us to camp in conditions that I’m not brave enough to tent camp in. We definitely wouldn’t have gone to D.H. Day with snow on the forecast in the tent, but the Runaway kept us warm and we had some power banks to run a small heater and charge our phones.

I am very excited to Runaway when the weather warms up and the snow melts. We already have four reservations booked for this summer to try out new campgrounds! To learn more about Runaway campers visit Runawaycampers.com.

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

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Off Season Camping: Warren Dunes State Park

Lake Michigan Beach

Warren Dunes State Park is located in Michigan’s southwest corner. Its gorgeous beach (above) and the proximity to Chicago make it one of the most visited parks in the state. Even with 230 campsites, it is hard to get a site here in the summer. I had heard wonderful things about this park so once we had the camper, I was able to find an available site only a few weeks in advance in early fall.

Runaway Camper Our campsite at Warren Dunes

There are two parts to the campground at Warren Dunes, there is a large modern section with electrical hookups and modern restrooms and there is a smaller, rustic section. Even though we were able to get a site only a few weeks out, the modern campground was pretty full and I was surprised at how many tent campers were there with lows in the 40s. The sites were decently spaced apart and one of the things I liked the best was that even the sites in the inside loop had trees separating them. It is very common for Michigan state parks for the campsites in the inside loop to be in a big open field. This added privacy that all the sites had here was a great surprise. The biggest downside of this park is the road noise caused by the proximity to I-94. My site was pretty near the front of the park so it’s possible that it was quieter towards that back of the campground. If we were still tent camping, this would’ve been very annoying. Luckily, our little camper offers a little more of a sound barrier to the outside world than a tent.

One of the main reasons we chose Warren Dunes for this trip, besides the fact that I’ve wanted to check it off my list of Michigan State Parks =, is the proximity to many wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the wineries in the area, except to say that we loved everything we had at Hickory Creek and the restaurant at Tabor Hill is a great spot nearby for lunch. Tabor Hill also has some hiking trails through their vineyards that are fun to check out! If you are looking for quality wine in the southwesternmost part of Michigan, those were two of our favorites!

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

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D.H. Day Campground in the Off Season

Empire Bluff Overlook

Back in 2019, we managed to score a campsite at one of Michigan’s most popular campgrounds right when they were first available to be booked in advance. Of course, I’m referring to D.H. Day Campground and when we first set up camp, we understood the hype around the campground. First of all, it is located in the amazingly beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Second, the campsites are big and private and the campground is quiet. Third, it is located in a great spot to explore all the fun things on Leelanau.

Camper from the dunes

View of our mini camper from the dunes

With campgrounds being closed longer than normal due to COVID, we didn’t attempt to get a prime summer reservation in 2020. Instead, we waited until late in the season when the campground goes back to sites being available on a first come first serve basis. This was Halloween weekend and I was nervous the campground was going to be busy and we were going to have a hard time getting a spot. Well, snow was on the forecast, and being a rustic park there is no electric service to heat up your campers in the freezing temperatures. When we pulled in there were maybe only three or four other sites that were occupied.

We did what any D.H. Day loving camper would do in that situation and we took one of the coveted and near impossible to reserve in the summer waterfront sites. It was very cold and the wind was strong so it was hard to enjoy the beach, but on the other side of the dune, it was a wonderful campsite. We discovered that many sites in this section involve some dune climbing to reach so there are only a few that are accessible to RVs or trailers. Those sites would be AMAZING for tents, though.

If you have been struggling to get a site at D.H. Day, try going offseason. It will be even quieter than in the summer and you may even be able to score a waterfront site. If you go in the fall you’ll also be treated to a show of fall colors on Leelanau. You’ll just need to bring extra blankets and maybe some hand warmers to keep warm.

While in Sleeping Bear Dunes we had to hike the Empire Bluff Trail (top). The last time we had been to the park, we tried the Alligator Hill trail and it did not live up to Empire Buff. I have heard really good things about the Pyramid Point trail and we will have to try it next time but I just needed another chance to soak in that Empire Bluff view before I try another trail that may or may not be better.

To try your hand a reserving a site at this very popular campground, visit Recreation.gov. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Hiking Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls Kentucky

After booking our campsite for Cumberland Falls, I discovered an Only in Your State article describing Eagle Falls as the best waterfall in Kentucky. So, after our first night in our new camper, we put on our hiking clothes and hit the trail.

The trail to the falls is a mile and a half round trip moderate hike. The trail from the parking area to where you cross Eagle Creek basically has you climb up and down a substantial hill. Once you get to the highest elevation on the trail, there’s a marker for an overlook in .1 miles to the top of the hill. Don’t be tricked by this, there is nothing up there except some old playground equipment. There is no view to be seen from there. Save yourselves the steps when you get a stunning view of Cumberland Falls from the main trail.

Once you cross the river, there is some rock scrambling following paint on boulders. It can be tricky to get your footing, but by the time you get to the falls, it is totally worth it. We got there early and it was after labor day so we were able to sit on the rocks and just watch the falls for a bit with the place completely to ourselves. It was nice way to relax before climbing back to the parking area. Somehow, the trail felt easier on the way back to the car. Maybe Eagle Falls refreshed me.

This is a very popular trail so going early or during the week would allow you to beat the crowds. Going off-season doesn’t hurt either. In the heat of the summer, people flock here to cool off in the pool under the waterfall. It was not warm enough for that when we visited but I can imagine it gets busy in Kentucky heat.

Overall, if you are in the area and have the time and ability for this hike I definitely recommend it. Sitting by the base of a waterfall without another soul around is a very special experience!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Camping at Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls KentuckyWay back in May we ordered a mini camper. Because of supply chain issues and high demand thanks to COVID, it took about twelve weeks for it to be ready. Both our summer road trip and our Labor Day Weekend getaway were planned with the camper in mind. Good thing we’re seasoned tent campers since our camper wasn’t ready until mid-September. I will post more about our toy in a few weeks!

There are no dealers in Michigan that sell this camper so we decided to take a road trip down to a dealer in Tennessee to pick it up. On the way back, we camped at Cumberland Falls State Park near Corbin, Kentucky. The campground at Cumberland Falls is very small. The campground only has 50 sites all together. The sites with electricity are very small and very close together. The maximum length for a rig on the site we were on is only 23 feet so that rules out most campers. The site was the perfect size for our tiny camper for one night on our way home, but I don’t know that it’s a place I would be able to camp at for longer than a weekend. What is great about this campground is how convenient it is to the falls. It is less than a mile from the campground to the parking area. If you are not the camping type, the park is also home to a modern lodge with a restaurant.

The 69 foot tall Cumberland Falls is known as the Niagara of the South. The falls can be viewed from many platforms accessible from the parking. The platforms each give you a different perspective to see the rushing water. Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where a moonbow is regularly visible. Similar to a rainbow, a moonbow forms around the time of a full moon over the mist of the rushing water from the falls. Visit the Cumberland Falls website for dates where the moonbow is visible at the park. Overall, I highly recommend a stop at this beautiful natural gem in southern Kentucky!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Peninsula State Park

Boat on Green Bay Sunset

Sunset from Peninsula State Park

Door County, Wisconsin has been on my list of places to visit since I first discovered it when I was in college. I quickly realized that from Michigan, its not the easiest place to get to and it got pushed to the back burner. But, this summer when we were planning to visit the far western end of the U.P., it finally made sense to visit Wisconsin’s peninsula in Lake Michigan.

The Door Peninsula is the easternmost part of Wisconsin and separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. This is a very popular vacation destination for people from the Chicago area as well as other parts of Wisconsin. This area is home to several lighthouses, several historic sights, and plenty of freshwater for water sports.

When planning to camp in Door County, there are five state parks to choose from:  Newport State Park, Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, Whitefish Dunes State Park, and Rock Island State Park. Rock Island State Park was closed this year due to high water levels. We were late to the game planning this trip and there was one spot open at Peninsula State Park so that made the decision pretty easy.

Sunset over Green Bay

Peninsula State Park, located north of Fish Creek, is the most popular park in the Wisconsin State Park system. This is a huge park with over 460 campsites, a golf course, beach, lighthouse, and miles of trails to explore. This is a popular sunset viewing location. I loved watched the go down each night over Green Bay. I felt like the two nights we had to explore here where nowhere near enough.

The rustic campsites in the Tennison Bay campground were some of the nicest we have seen. The sites were wooded and very private and for the most part it was a quiet and calm campground. Even though 2020 was a big camping summer and the campground was full, it felt like we were the only people there.

The way the Wisconsin State Park service handled COVID left something to be desired. A few days before we arrived we received an email saying the bathrooms may or may not be open; showers may or may not be available. And the kicker, we had to buy an annual state park pass even though we were only going to be there two days (day passes are not sold this year). We were already several days into our trip at this point and considered completely changing our plans because of this. We are tent campers, we need bathrooms and I have no interest in carrying around a portable toilet. Luckily, when we got to the park, the bathrooms were open and clean, but there was not a single ranger to be found. So, I’m really glad I bought that annual pass that no one even looked at.

Overall, I would return to Peninsula State Park. There is still a lot of that park left to be explored. I just wish they I didn’t have to buy an expensive, out of state, annual park pass that I used for two days.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out our Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Peninsula State Park Pinterest Graphic

Fayette Historic State Park

Old Fayette Hotel

Fayette Historic State Park has been on my radar for a while. Located on the Garden Peninsula, between Manistique and Escanaba on the northern shores of Lake Michigan, Fayette is an out of the way, under the radar, Michigan state park.

From 1867-1891, the town of Fayette was home to a bustling iron smelting operation. Big Bay de Noc has a naturally deep harbor making Fayette the perfect place for iron smelting. During its heyday, nearly 500 people called Fayette home. When all the lumber in the area was used up, the Jackson Iron Company shut its doors and the workers were forced to look for employment elsewhere.

Nowadays, visitors can tour the historic buildings and compare the living conditions of the laborers versus the superintendent. Check out the hotel with a door on the second floor that went to a two-story outhouse. Have lunch at one of the picnic tables in the old furnace complex.

Townsite from the Overlook Trail

Fayette also has a modern campground. We were in a site in the outside loop which was good sized and we discovered had a path out to the lake. The water level is high this year so there wasn’t much of a beach, but it was a beautiful place to take sunset photos. As I mentioned above, this park is off the beaten path, and in normal years, its pretty easy to get a site most weekends. Of course, it was full when we were there. The park is also home to 5 miles of hiking trails with beautiful views from the limestone cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan.

If you like history and beautiful Great Lakes waterfront, definitely add Fayette Historic State Park to your list. Be aware, the Garden Peninsula is mostly a farming community so there is not much else around except a couple of restaurants and a gas station. If you were looking for a hotel to stay at near Fayette, I would recommend staying in Manistique and driving down for the day.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Exploring the Southern U.P.

Wawtam Lighthouse

On the first night of our road trip, we stayed at one of our favorite Michigan campgrounds, Straits State Park. As mentioned in my Best Places to Tent Camp in Michigan, we absolutely love the waterfront, bridge view sites at Straits. On this trip I realized that those sites are no longer reserved just for tents. Those sites are hard to get so I wasn’t so much upset that we weren’t on the water, but now with bigger rigs camping there, sites a row or two back can no longer see the bridge. It also felt incredibly crowded. I’m going to have to go back and edit my Michigan Tent Camping article. I’m not so sure that I would recommend this campground if you can’t get one of those coveted bridge view sites.

Anyway, after packing up camp, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our next campsite at Fayette Historic State Park. Luckily, there is a lot to do between St. Ignace and the Garden Peninsula. Just north of the Mackinac Bridge, downtown St. Ignace has a very similar feel to Mackinaw City, but with yooper charm and a whole lot fewer people. There is a boardwalk to explore that leads to the St. Ignace’s Wawatam Lighthouse (top). Fun fact, this lighthouse was originally built for the Michigan Welcome Center in Port Huron and was moved to St. Ignace and illuminated in 2006. Its probably the least historic of all of Michigan’s lighthouses.

Kitch-iti-Kipi, The Big Spring

We stopped for pasties at our favorite pasty shop, Lehto’s and headed for Manistique. One of the places that really stood out to us on our last UP adventure was Kitch-it-Kipi, or the Big Spring. We headed there first and were shocked to see how busy it was. The parking lot was packed and the line for the raft went all the way to the parking lot. I don’t know if this is just because people are opting for outdoor vacations this summer or because we visited on a Saturday, but needless to say we did not wait in that line. Masks are required to ride the raft and there is a ranger monitoring social distancing (although it still looked pretty tight on there) and turning the wheel to maneuver the raft. If you have had dreams to pilot the raft at Kitch-iti-Kipi, I would check back in 2021.

Be sure to check back next week as I share about our experience in Michigan’s Garden Peninsula at Fayette Historic State Park. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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