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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.

Wordless Wednesday: Miners Castle

Miners Castle

Wordless Wednesday: Trail from Above

Lighthouse Trail from Above

Camping Clear Lake State Park

Runaway Camper at Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park is located on Clear Lake in Atlanta, Michigan. A few years ago, I had seen a picture of someone stand-up paddleboarding on Clear Lake and I just had to get to paddle on that water! As you would expect from the name, Clear Lake has crystal clear water and in some areas, you can see straight to the bottom.

Unlike some of the other lakes we camped on this summer, Clear Lake state park doesn’t have any waterfront sites, but we booked site 124, the site closest to the path to the water. In the heat of the summer, this would probably be a very busy area with people going to and from the beach, but in the middle of September, it was perfect! It was a pretty big site and we were able to sit in our site and look out at the water.

Clear Lake State Park connects to the Atlanta ORV route so it is popular with ORVers. This was one of the reasons we chose to camp here after Labor Day. We figured it would be quieter than in the middle of the summer and while we could hear them a little, it wasn’t a nuisance at all. A park rule does state that ORVs are allowed to be ridden to and from the trail and the campground, but they are not permitted to ride freely around the campground.

Clear Lake State Park is located in Elk Country. Over 1,000 elk live in the northeast section of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The elk herd celebrated its 100th anniversary since being reintroduced to the state in 2018. September and October at dawn and dusk are the prime times to view the elk herd. For more information about viewing the elk, visit the Michigan DNR.

One of the big downsides about this campground is that it is in the middle of nowhere. When you’re camping, this is usually what you are going for, but when you forget something, it can be a real pain. We forgot towels and I was really worried we were going to have to go an hour each way to Grayling to go to Wal-Mart. Luckily, the Dollar General in Atlanta had some cheap towels and we didn’t have to make that trek.

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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Clear Lake Pinterest Graphic Clear Lake Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Clouds over Mackinac

Mackinac Island from the Fort

Mackinac Bridge Walk

Walking the Mackinac Bridge

Every Labor Day, people flock to the Straits area to walk across the Western Hemisphere’s longest suspension bridge. The rest of the year, the only way to get across the bridge is in a car, so the Labor Day Bridge Walk is a big deal. The walk is a Michigan tradition dating back to 1958. Of course, it was canceled in 2020 so I was excited when they announced the walk would happen again in 2021!

The bridge is over 26,000 feet (almost 5 miles) long so it is recommended that people be in fairly good shape to make the trek. In the middle of the bridge, it is about 200 feet above the water, so the walk is not for those afraid of heights either. As this was my first bridge walk, I was surprised to see people of varying abilities making their way across. We also saw a lot of people who have clearly been doing this for years with Bridge Walk patches covering whole backs of some denim jackets.

Traffic is closed on the bridge for safety so walkers have the option to turn around at the halfway point or walk the whole way and find their own way back. In the past, busses have carried people back across the bridge, but due to COVID (and honestly, logistics), that was not an option this year. We chose to use the Mackinac Island ferries to get back to St. Ignace, by way of the island.

Fort Mackinac This was the first time my sister-in-law had been to Mackinac Island so we hit all the highlights. We took a carriage tour and explored the fort. Since we had just walked five-plus miles, we skipped the bike ride. But, we ended our little mini-adventure at our Mackinac favorite, The Pink Pony!

When it comes to Mackinac Island ferries, we have always been loyal to Star Line, but starting the bridge walk in St. Ignace, it would save a lot of steps to use Shepler’s ferry instead. Their Mackinaw City dock is right at the base of the bridge. Walking to Star Line added probably another mile to our walk that day. Did I forget that and already buy our ferry tickets through Star Line for next year during their Black Friday sale? Yes, I did. Maybe I will remember this tip for 2023.

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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Mackinac Bridge Pinterest Graphic

Camping Indian Lake State Park

Campfire at Indian Lake State Park

Indian Lake State Park is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the town of Manistique. The state park is home to two sections separated by the lake. We stayed at the modern campground on the south side of the lake which was originally developed in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration.

There is another campground at Indian Lake and it is one that I can’t find a lot of information about. The south campground is unique in that it is considered semi-modern with vault toilets but the sites have electric service. Unlike the south campground, the west campground is not located on the water. The sites are available first come first serve and are not available to be reserved in advance.

Just like at Interlochen, this was part of my goal for 2021, to camp at less-popular Michigan campgrounds that would allow me to score a waterfront site without booking exactly six months out. We had site 84 which was right on the water and would’ve been perfect for launching the kayak, but it got cold and windy and most of the time we were there, it was not kayaking weather!

Runaway Camper at Indian Lake State Park

The waterfront sites at Indian Lake were beautiful and for the most part, we enjoyed our time at the campground. My only complaint is that the bathhouses could really use an update. Each bathhouse only had one shower for men and one for women. Granted, it was so cold when we visited it seemed like a lot of people were either showering in their rigs or not showering at all because it didn’t seem to get too backed up. I can just imagine this would be really annoying in the heat of the summer!

Kitch-iti-Kipi RaftIndian Lake is the closest state park campground to Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring located in Palms Book State Park. The spring has gotten very popular in recent years since it has been featured on the Pure Michigan billboards all around the state. We tried to visit on a weekend in 2020 and the line to ride the raft across the spring went all the way to the parking lot. Staying closeby allowed up to visit in the evening before the sunset. We only had to share the raft with a few other people. It was a much better experience!

We also took a day trip out to Fayette Historic State Park. It was only about a 45-minute drive from Indian Lake and it was great to see more of the historic buildings open. After visiting in the summer of 2020, Fayette is becoming one of my favorite Michigan State Parks to visit! It’s just a great place to walk around and explore both the history and beauty of Lake Michigan.

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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Indian Lake Pinterest Graphic

Camping at Interlochen State Park

Sunset Over Duck Lake

In the Summer of 2021, my camping goal was to try less-popular campgrounds in Michigan State Parks that would allow me to get a waterfront site without having to fight for it six months out. This would allow us to launch our kayak right from our campsite! What I didn’t realize when booking this site is that the campground is located on a cliff and it was impossible to launch our kayak from our site. But, it was a great place to watch the sunset over the lake!

Interlochen State Park borders the nearby music camp so peaceful music floats into the campground in the summer. Leaving the park, you are sometimes stopped by a crossing guard helping the students cross the street. The state park is home to two campgrounds: a modern campground on Duck Lake and a rustic campground sits on the shore of Green Lake on the other side of the road. For this trip, we chose the modern option.

We had site 385 and when we arrived I was shocked this was such an easy site to get! It was HUGE! Probably the size of the four sites across the street combined. I think at one point this was a communal area to look out at the water, maybe there were even stairs going down because there was not another site in the campground that was remotely this big. Our little tent and cooking setup maybe took up 10% of the site. If you are thinking about camping at Interlochen, this is the site to get!

One of the best things about Interlochen, and the reason we will probably return next summer, is the proximity to my favorite Michigan town, Traverse City. It’s only a 26 minute drive into Traverse City from here. Yes, there is a campground in Traverse City with a gorgeous beach on Traverse Bay, but it is much more of an urban park. The beach is on the other side of a busy road and the sites are much closer together. I have heard reports that jet engines warming up at the nearby airport wake campers up early. If you want to day trip to Traverse City but still have the quiet, natural campground experience, I recommend Interlochen State Park.

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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Interlochen Pinterest Graphic

Ocqueoc Falls

Ocqueoc Falls

Ocqueoc Falls is the largest and only named waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. When you compare it to some of the grander falls (Tahquamenon, Bond, Munising Falls), Ocqueoc doesn’t really stand out, but at less than an hour’s drive from Mackinaw City or Alpena, it is a fun excursion in the lower peninsula.

One way that Ocqueoc Falls stands out from many other Michigan waterfalls is that you can swim in it. This is a popular northern Michigan swimming hole. Even though it was only 50 degrees out when we visited, a teenager was swimming under the falls. I was glad the long exposure blurred her out or my photos may not have been usable.

With the completion of the bicentennial pathway in 2012, Ocqueoc falls is now accessible to all visitors and is the first universally accessibly waterfall in the United States with a wide path with no stairs from the parking lot to the falls. There is even a tiered transfer station, allowing a person who uses a wheelchair to get in the water. Near the falls is a picnic area with ADA-compliant picnic tables making this one of the most accessible outdoor spaces in the state and possibly the whole country.

Across the street from the falls, there is a rustic state forest service campground with 13 small campsites, an outhouse, and a hand pump for water. Reservations are not accepted, the sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There may not be a lot of amenities, but I’ve heard there is good fishing in the Ocqueoc River which runs through the campground.

Overall, we didn’t spend a lot of time here, but it was a fun stop and would be a great place to explore if someone in your family uses a wheelchair. The campground looks like a nice, quiet place to spend a weekend.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week when I begin the recap of my western National Park adventure! 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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Ocqueoc Pinterest Graphic

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