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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: 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

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

I-80 Road Trip

Herbert Hoover's Birthplace

We left for our road trip after work on a Friday and drove down to Ottowa, Illinois. From Ottowa, we continued on I-80 through Iowa to our next stop at Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. Using RoadTrippers, I had planned a few stops along our route to get out and stretch our legs and break up this 7 hour driving day. The first stop was very close to our hotel, Starved Rock State Park. From there we planned to see the world’s largest truck stop at Iowa 80, with a final stop at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

Frenchman's Canyon

Frenchman’s Canyon

Starved Rock State Park is frequently described as the most beautiful State Park in Illinois with 13 miles of trails through 18 canyons. We left our hotel early in the morning and headed to the park and even though it wasn’t that hot when we arrived, I want to say it was in the 70s, there had to be 100% humidity. It was like trying to hike through a swamp. The first place we headed to was the Starved Rock Overlook which is about a half-mile trail from the visitor center. The trail takes you to the top of Starved Rock with a view over the very industrial Illinois River. We decided to explore some of the canyons the park is known for and headed to the Frenchman Canyon. It was much cooler in the canyon but because of the hot and dry conditions, the waterfall was practically nonexistent (left). With much more of the park left for another trip, we headed back to the car and continued our drive to Iowa.

Inside the Trucking Museum

Right around lunchtime, we pulled into Iowa 80, the World’s Largest Truck Stop. I have to say, if it wasn’t for the See America Podcast, I don’t think I would’ve stopped here. I’m not a trucker and I’m not really into tourist traps, so I probably would’ve driven right by this. But, it was a perfect spot for lunch with a full-service restaurant as well as a food court with seven fast-food options. After eating lunch, we decided to check out the free trucking museum. I have to say, it was more interesting than I expected and if you have kids who love trucks, they would probably be able to explore this small museum for hours. It reminded me a lot of a smaller version of the Henry Ford Museum, with historic trucks from around the world, all with different purposes. All in all, I was very glad we stopped here to eat and explore a little bit before continuing our drive westward.

Isis Statue at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Isis statue was a gift to Hoover for his humanitarian efforts to Belgium during World War 1.

After a half an hour drive from the truck stop, we arrived at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. This is a small National Park Service Site honoring the early years of the 31st president. The highlight of the park is the tiny one-room cottage where Hoover was born (top). Nearby, you can explore the blacksmith shop where a ranger was stationed to explain how Jesse Hoover, Herbert’s father, made horseshoes and wagon wheels. Probably one of the most interesting buildings was the friend’s meetinghouse where the Hoovers attended Quaker meetings every week. Also in the park, you can visit Herbert and Lou Hoover’s final resting place. I remember learning about President Hoover in school and not much positive was said about him in our textbooks. It was good to learn a little bit more about the man and to understand where he came from and how his early life shaped the president I read about in school.

After visiting the site, we continued on to Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, just outside Sioux City, Iowa. After spending the night, we took a jaunt into Nebraska before continuing on to Badlands National Park and Custer, South Dakota. Be sure to stop back next week as I continue recounting our western expedition!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. 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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I80 Pinterest Graphic Road Trip Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Duncan Bay

Blue sky over the bay

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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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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Wordless Wednesday: Eagle Falls

Hiking Eagle Falls

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