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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.

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.

Camping Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Runaway Camper at Hurricane River Campground

With campgrounds in Michigan taking reservations six months in advance, it is about time to start thinking about where you want to camp next summer. So, I figured now would be the perfect time to recap some of my favorite campgrounds from last summer!

In 2022, the campgrounds at Pictured Rocks National Lakesure were able to be booked in advance for the first time ever. In the past, I never attempted to camp in the park because the stress of first-come, first-serve campgrounds is too much for me. But, about 5 months out, I looked to see what was still available and I grabbed the last open spot for the weekend in question. All of the campgrounds within the National Lakeshore are rustic meaning there is no electric, water, or sewer hookup and there are vault toilets. There is very minimal cell signal at the campground so do not plan to camp here if you need to be connected.

When I booked the site, it was very unclear to me if I was supposed to go somewhere to check in for our campsite or if I was supposed to print the confirmation email. On our second day, a range stopped by and asked for proof of our reservation. Now, as I’m looking at Recreation.gov, it says to print the confirmation page and hang it from the post at the site.

Au Sable Lighthouse

The site we managed to get was in Hurricane River campground which has 21 sites and is the location of the trail to the Au Sable lighthouse. The trail to the lighthouse starts at the campground and is 1.5 miles each way. It is a flat, easy trail and is a good way to get away from the crowds that can be seen in other areas of the park. In the summer, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a view. Check out the National Park Service website for information about times and cost.

2022 was also the first year that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore charged an entrance fee. Personally, I think this was a long time coming. When we visited the Chapel trailhead in 2020 it was an ordeal to get a parking spot. While I’m not expecting this fee to reduce the visitation at the park, at least it will give the park some money to do upkeep and improve the facilities around the park.

Overall, we enjoyed our weekend camping at Pictured Rocks. We had a wonderful time kayaking in Lake Superior (more on that next week). I’m sure we will be back to this beautiful area in the future. If you are looking to camp at Pictured Rocks, the reservations fill up fast so plan to try to get your spot 6 months in advance at Recreation.gov.

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.

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Cold Weather Camping in the Runaway Rangerunner

Runaway camper with attached ARB Room

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

After our Disney trip, we decided to take Runaway out for one last trip before the snow came. Of course, when asked where in Michigan I want to camp, I chose Ludington State Park. Ludington is one of a few campgrounds in the state that stay open through the winter with limited amenities. The bathhouses are closed and there is no running water so winter camping is not for the faint of heart.

When we were planning this trip, Chris told me he has no problem with winter camping, but he has no interest in pulling the camper in the snow. So, of course, we drove through white-out conditions on our way through Muskegon. Luckily we were able to drive slow and conditions improved as we started heading north. I think we will watch the weather forecast more closely before we book our next winter camping trip.

Being that it was supposed to get below freezing, we chose a campground that had electricity. Keeping warm at night would drain our battery in no time and no one wants to sleep with a generator running if it can be avoided. Something else we did is we added the ARB tent room to our Maxi Trac awning. This gave us extra enclosed living space which we heated with an indoor safe Mr. Buddy portable propane heater. That room really stayed very comfortable. The hardest part was getting out to walk to the freezing cold outhouse!

If I were to do this again, I wouldn’t bring the Mr. Buddy if we have electricity at the site. It went through more propane than we expected. Next time, we would probably just bring a bigger space heater that we could plug in and save the propane.

One thing we struggled with this setup is how to cook. We didn’t want to bring the stove into the ARB room because it says right on it not to use it in a tent because of the carbon monoxide risk. But it was rain/snowing at one point and we didn’t want to cook outside. We are seriously considering getting another inexpensive awning for the other side of the camper so we would have a covered cooking area if we are using the ARB room.

Big Sable Lighthouse

Since drove through a blizzard to get to Ludington, of course, we had to hike to the lighthouse. We decided to take the Lighthouse Trail from the campground out to the lighthouse. This is the trail we tried to do in 2020 but realized we didn’t have enough time before we had to check out of the campground. Let me tell you, it is much easier to hike through sand dunes when the ground is frozen. Between the sand and the humidity, this was a rough hike in the summer, but it was a great one to do in the late fall!

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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Cold Weather Camping Pin

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.

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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.

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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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