We just spent two nights dispersed camping in the UP. Our goal was to scope out the scenery and that experience solidified our plan to setup a future trip focusing mostly on the UP. We certainly left confident and looking forward to a longer term boondocking. But for now, we left our Lake Superior camp and started driving east of the coastline in search of civilization.
The original plan is to take us to hit the following points along the coastline of Lake Superior:
- Mouth of Two Hearted River
- Crisp Point Lighthouse
- Whitefish Point Lighthouse
From Whitefish, we will drive south to Tahquamenon Falls and from there drive south more to camp in Carp River national campground bringing us closer to Mackinac Island.
So let the day begin.
Mouth of the Two Hearted River
I don’t know if it is actually the place itself or the one of my favorite beverages that brought me here. A little bit of both. I was hoping to take a picture of me holding my Two Hearted Ale along the river, I was expecting a beer stand in the parking lot . In hindsight, I should have bought them while still in town.
The drive to Two Hearted River brings us on a sandy path with a few deep sections. So what does a guy in the right mind do? At one deep section, I stopped in deep sand. Ipulled the lever to 2WD and hit go. And surely enough, the rear end just dug itself. I switched to 4WD and started going, and i was barely moving. Oh crap, traction control.. turn it off quick!! As soon as i turned it off, the Jeepney started getting momentum. The trick is enough go to keep you moving forward but not too much that you end up digging yourself further.
I made it out off the deep sand slowly and went on my way. It may seem I am playing, well somewhat. But I do want to learn how my rig behaves in the kind of situation. Of course, I do not want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, but just in case, I bring along a shovel and some traction aids. However I’d rather be enjoying the beach instead of working out so enough playing in the deep sand.
The Mouth of Two Hearted River has what appears to be a nice campground. It doesn’t look overcrowded as far as spacing between the sites are plus the location is remote enough that a lot of them look like hardcore campers. It is first-come-first-served so you will need to be here early to grab a spot. Although the surrounding area offers a lot of dispersed camping opportunity. The river is also particularly popular to kayakers and canoers so there are plenty of them in the parking lot.
It’s interesting how the dark ale color of the Two Hearted River meets up with Lake Superior. There’s a stark contrast and you can easily see how the two water is separated, like oil and water.
Moving along, the drive to Crisp Point lighthouse takes us thru the forest area that was burnt down in the Duck Lake Fire of 2012. The trail was pretty tight covered with burnt branches hugging the trail. Trees are starting to grow back though most of the green cover is from the ferns draping over the char coaled forest. Still, the contrast between the blackened remains of trees and the striking green fern paints a really good picture to my eyes.
We got past the burnt area and moved in closer to Crisp Point. It forks off from the main trail and is about a a 6-mile picturesque — and bumpy — drive.
We got there and took some pictures. It’s a sweet place but my kids were not impressed. A month earlier we did a trip north of MN and we brought them to Split Rock Lighthouse so I can’t really fault them to compare. Anyways, we hanged out on the beach, skipped more rocks and had our lunch in the parking lot before we move on to our next spot.
So earlier I mentioned that we plan to hit the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, the lighthouse that is supposed to equal Split Rock Lighthouse as far as my kids eyes go. But another change in the plan, that lighthouse will have to be for next time. For one, the road east of Crisp Point is indeed a 4WD road and we will end up sleeping on the trail if we pushed thru.
I just talked to a couple on a passenger car who tried to follow the GPS and luckily had a chance to turn around. Some of the mud holes can swallow their shiny car. Thankfully, it is not too remote that they’ll spend days stuck on the trail. It’s popular spot for ATVers so some help will be on the way to save you or at least what’s left of you after the mosquitoes are done with you.
Fortunately the Jeepney had no problems tackling the trail. The deepest mudhole was bumper high but we were not remotely close to getting stuck.
The same trail to Whitefish also leads us to Tahquamenon Falls so a little re-route and we are on our way to our next stop.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
So it is a bit of a shock pulling into Tahquamenon Falls (Lower Falls). I guess since it is July 4th and everyone is out enjoying the state park. We pulled in around 4pm so the crowd must have died down already but this is probably the busiest state park I’ve been.
What can I say, I was impressed by this falls so i took all these pictures for you. Our Gooseberry Falls have nothing on this so I am glad we made this stop. The overlook brings you next to it and I’m pretty sure someone wanting a public way to end their life can easily do it there, not that I am giving any ideas here. The upper falls is a 4-mile hike and the kids are ready to go, and boasting that they just did 4 miles in their track and field summer camp. I was like, are you sure you did 4 miles and not a quarter mile?!? They were sure, I was like no way! Not to mention 4 miles goes one way. I guess we could float back thru the falls on the way back and hope for the best. A little bit of creative misdirection and we’re back to the Jeepney and making our way south.
While driving south, we decided we were just going to have dinner at the town at St. Ignace but that will take us past our campsite. It is the town before crossing the Mackinac Bridge, and also one of the ferry docks to the Mackinac Island. However as we get closer, I struggled whether I am going to drive 20 minutes back north to my campsite which I have already reserved for the night. Well once we saw the Mac Bridge, at that point we were thinking, there is no way not gonna cross that bridge tonight. And if we do, I know there is no turning back.
Bye bye campsite, just yet minor plan revision!
So everyone knows the Golden Gate Bridge but how about the Mackinac Bridge. I sure haven’t heard of it until I started looking into my route. Well apparently it goes 5 miles long crossing the Straight of Mackinac. It obviously doesn’t have the fancy color the Golden Gate Bridge has but nonetheless my kids were in awe. It helps that my older one had been studying different types of bridge so this one has to be the biggest one he identified so far.
The bridge brings us to the Lower Peninsula so it is goodbye UP for us. I hear that mosquitoes stay in the UP side so that’s a welcome news for us.
We scanned for cheap hotels in the area, found one with a pool so we had the kids jump in as we get ready for the Mackinac Island for our July 4th. Ahh… It’s nice to have a hot shower at least, I’m good as new.