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

Tag: Great Lakes Great Summer Road Trip

Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Recap

fiery sky sunset

Fiery sunset over Ludington State Park

It is the end of December and I finally reached the end of this trip report from a trip I took almost six months ago. It works out, though because normally at the end of the year, I recap the year and look forward to my travel plans in the future year. First off, I haven’t gotten to all the little camping trips we took after this one so that post would ruin the surprise of what’s to come. And at this point, who knows what 2021 will look like? This is not really a time for a lot of advanced travel planning. I have some ideas and some dreams. Stay tuned to find out where we actually end up!

Anyway, this trip was definitely one of the most last-minute road trips we have ever taken and where we went was largely based on where we could get in. We made it to some bucket list destinations and some of them lived up to what I had imagined them to be and some of them fell a little flat. Let’s recap:

Fayette State Park: underrated Michigan state park with a cool historic (ghost) town to explore. Most years it’s pretty easy to get a site at the campground.

Porcupine Mountains: giant state park that has both mountains and water. If you are not an avid hiker, it’s best to do some serious training to be able to fully appreciate this park.

Door County, Wisconsin: Beautiful Lake Michigan peninsula with a lot of nature and lighthouses to explore. For a Michigander, Old Mission and Leelanau are more impressive and more accessible.

S.S. Badger: Bucket list experience. Pack your patience, especially if you bring a car.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I begin recapping our Labor Day Weekend at Tahquamenon Falls. To read more about this trip, check out my 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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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

Agate Falls

Railroad Bridge over Agate FallsWhen our time at the Porcupine Mountains was ended, we packed up camp and made our way to Wisconsin. On the way, we planned to stop at two Michigan waterfalls, one more well known than the other. Agate Falls is located in a small roadside park near Bruce Crossing in the Western Upper Peninsula.

Agate Falls is a lesser-known Michigan waterfall. Before stopping there, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a picture of this waterfall. From Porcupine Mountains, it is less than an hour’s drive to Agate Falls. Being that we left camp pretty early, we were the only car in the parking lot when we arrived. It is a short, easy walk from the parking area to the viewing platform at the crest of the waterfall.

The top of the waterfall is typically not the best vantage point to get a photo from but at this waterfall, that is where the path ends. If you have time and are up for an adventure, you can scramble down a hill to get to ther base of the falls where you can get the above shot with the abandoned railroad bridge in it. Just remember, it’s much easier to walk down than it is to climb back up.

Apparently, there is also a way to get onto the abandoned railroad bridge to see the falls from up above. Don’t worry it is now a snowmobile trail so it is safe to be up there. I wonder what the falls look like from that vantage point?

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our Great Lakes – Great Summer road trip, check out the 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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Agate Falls Pinterest Graphic

 

Hiking Porcupine Mountains: Summit Peak

View from Summit Peak

The view from the Summit Peak observation tower

The observation tower atop Summit Peak is the highest point in Michigan at close to 2,000 feet above sea level. The hike is less than a mile round trip but with a 223 ft elevation gain, the half a mile hike to the tower is nothing to sneeze at. The hike to the tower is uphill the whole way, and let me tell you, my legs felt it. Luckily, there is a bench at the top to rest before climbing the stairs to the observation tower.

From the top of the tower, you can see the many hills of the Porkies as well as the crystal clear Lake Superior waters. On a clear day, you can see Isle Royale and the Apostle Islands from up there. It really is a beautiful place to stop and take in the magestic beauty that is the Upper Peninsula.

Once you make it to the top of the tower, the hard part is over. You can breathe easy as you hike almost a half-mile back to the parking lot, waving to the out of breath hikers you pass. While one of the shortest hikes in the park, Summit Peak is not for the faint of heart. We passed a few people contemplating whether or not they would be able to make it to the top.

As I mentioned in a previous Porcupine Mountains post, if you are not an avid hiker, you are going to want to train for your trip to The Porkies. The Lake of the Clouds Overlook and the Preque Isle trails are fairly easy, but some pretty intense hiking is required to see the rest of the park. Almost all of the trails in Porcupine Mountains are rated either moderate or difficult, according to All Trails. A backcountry hiking trip is really the best way to fully see the park, but of course, backpacking is not for the faint of heart.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out my 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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Summit Peak Pinterest Graphic

Canyon Falls

Canyon Falls, located near L’Anse is known as “The Grand Canyon of Michigan”. Unlike Laughing Whitefish Falls, we made it to Canyon Falls back in 2016. Driving between Munising and Marquette, Canyon Falls Roadside Park is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. The trail to the falls is pretty flat and easy to walk. Because of how the water cuts through the rock, it can be tricky to photograph the falls. Chris had to sit on the edge of the rock to get this shot. Personally, I stayed a safer distance from the rushing water.

Canyon Falls is a pretty well-known cliff jumping location. At the falls, you can follow an unofficial trail to a deep spot in the river where daredevils and college students alike are known to plunge 30 feet off the side of the cliff. While taking photos of the falls, we heard several parents trying to talk to their teenagers out of jumping. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, more information can be found on The Outbound.

This was one of the spots where we noticed just how many more people were in the Upper Peninsula this summer. When we visited the falls four years ago there were only a few people around. This summer, even though we were visiting on a Monday, the parking lot was packed and families filled the trails. Don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of space to enjoy nature and social distance; I just have a feeling that the Upper Peninsula is no longer a secret.

Thanks for stopping by! You can read more of about our U.P. adventure in the 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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Laughing Whitefish Falls

During our Epic Michigan Road Trip a few years ago, we spent the day driving from Houghton to Munising exploring Northern Michigan’s waterfalls. I had heard about Laughing Whitefish Falls and wanted to check it out. We looked it up on Google Maps and headed out to see it. Google suggested a shortcut so we took it. After driving a little while the road we were driving on turned into a two-track. We figured if it’s on Google its got to be a legitimate road so we continued driving. After bouncing around for a while we came to a creek running across the road. At the time we were driving our Kia Soul which is not much of an off-road vehicle and we didn’t think would be a good idea to drive our car through water, so we turned around and headed back where we came from.

Ever since that day, I have seen pictures of these falls and I put them at the top of my list for things to see on a return trip to the UP. When planning this trip, I saw the drive from Fayette to the Porcupine Mountains as a perfect time to take a detour to Laughing Whitefish Falls. This time, we stuck to the main route and we made it!

Laughing Whitefish Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Michigan and is really impressive to see in person. The trail from the parking area to the falls is about a mile long and ends at a viewing platform at the top of the falls. From there you can take the very large staircase to get you to the bottom of the approximately 100-foot tall waterfall. Make sure you bring water because it is a lot easier to go down all those stairs than it is to go up them!

Laughing Whitefish Falls is located off of M-94 between Munising and Marquette near the town of Chatham. Be sure to follow the signs to the park and not follow GPS guidance unless you are prepared to go off-roading!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our UP adventure, check out the 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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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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