Great Lakes Tour Part 4: The Last Leg

We enjoyed our stay at Mackinac Island.  I am guessing we will be back even just for a day trip since it is quite a relaxing place.  So relaxing that we are making a slow exit (that seems like the theme of this tour!)

But for now we picked up the Jeepney and fortunately did not find our clothes scattered all over the parking lot.  I think the fact that the Jeepney is covered by mud is an effective deterrent.  The plan for the day is to make our way to Sleeping Bear National Park and then drive further south to find a dispersed camp site close to Nordhouse Dunes by the Manistee National Forest.

 

Sleeping Bear National Park

It is hard to go wrong if you go to a place named the “Most Beautiful Place in America”.  I don’t know how they voted for it or if there were any Russian meddling but it is what is.  We plotted our way to Sleeping Bear hoping for the fastest route.  We grabbed lunch at tasty lunch at McDonald’s to eat while on the road.

We went thru Traverse City which looks like the happening town.  Beaches, restaurants, boats, and hotels everywhere.  I didn’t expect all that, but anyways, we’ve had enough share of our crowd so we pushed thru.  Plus there isn’t any parking available.

We made it to Sleeping Bear and the first order of business is to stop by D.H. Day Campground to see if I can grab a spot (first-come-first-serve) for the night.  Well it was filling up quick but thankfully I was able to grab a spot.  This works out nice since we really want to spend more time in Sleeping Bear.  We marked our site and proceeded to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Something about sand dunes attract me.  I was probably a nomad in my previous life. I’ve gone to Colorado twice and both times we made sure to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park where my wife and I did our first 4-wheeling and remote camping.  Here we are at the base of the dune, and from a distance the people walking the dune looked like ants.  Shortly, we are now part of that colony.

After a hike in the dunes, we headed over to the beach to relax.  We made our way back to camp to have our dinner and get some rest.  The campground was full but it was pretty quiet so it was a very pleasant night for us.

The next day, we started making our way south with the hopes of stopping by Ludington State Park before finally heading south to Warren Dunes State Park.  On the way we decided to check out the dispersed campsite that we were originally planning for the previous night.  It turned out that the trail is a an “established” dispersed sites, there were a lot of turn outs and most of them are actually pretty nice.  We decided to stop for lunch.

We ended up enjoying the spot too much so it’s time to leave this spot.  We decided to skip Ludington State Park and just go straight for Warren Dunes.  We should get there with enough time to enjoy the beach.

Campsite 22

So we arrived at Warren Dunes and proceeded to campsite check-in.  One thing for sure is that these guys are very serious about letting you know that there is No Alcohol allowed — to the point that is hilarious.

We followed the ranger’s directions to site #22.  We found ourselves in the “Modern Campground” which I can only describe as a campground from hell.  It was like a shanty town, it was crowded, and you have zero privacy, it was like a scene from _name your zombie movie here_.   This was the worst camp site EVER!!!

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I pulled my phone and looked back online to make sure that I have the right campground since I recall I did not reserve a spot in the “Modern Campground”.  Big sigh of relief, I actually reserved a semi-modern spot.  We got out of the area quick and made our way to semi-modern.  It was good enough to spend the night over and not worry about zombies.

 

The afternoon was really hot and it was a great time to get in the water so we headed for the beach.

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We got hit by storm overnight, in fact there was a bit of campground flooding so RTT FTW!  We packed up immediately the next morning as the clouds are really starting to get really ominous.  We met the rest of the heavy rain on the freeway, and we sure took advantage of the free car wash.

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Chicago

We arrived at Chicago around noon and we asked the boys to decide what we are going to do in Chicago.  They chose the Shedd Aquarium — great choice and we ended up pretty much spending the rest of the afternoon in there.  Well that was tiring.

 

We decided that we are driving straight home.  It is going to be a 6-hr drive so this should be pretty easy.  And to be honest, the Warren Dunes camp experience pretty much killed our enthusiasm to camp for another night!

All in all, it was a great way to close out our tour with something fun and interesting for my two boys.  A few days later after we got home, I asked them what are their best memories of our tour and this is what they have to say.

  1. Dispersed Campsites on the Beach
  2. Shedd Aquarium
  3. Mackinac Island

It felt great that we were able to have a good variety for the whole family to enjoy.  We will be planning to be back for sure, although this time we will likely spend more time in the UP and the Pictured Rocks.

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Till Next Time!

 

 

 

 

Tour of the Great Lakes Part 3: July 4th at the Mackinac Island

Here’s the third installment of the Great Lakes Tour, and to spice it up, a youtube link covering the areas we covered here and Part 2

 

A drastic shift from our remote/dispersed camping, we are visiting the Mackinac Island and play a tourist.  Or what I would call a tad bit expensive shower.

Free hotel breakfast, at least we didn’t have to cook.  We checked out from the Hotel at Mackinaw City and proceeded to the Star Line Mackinac Ferry to catch our boat to the island.  But first we need to park the Jeepney in their fenced parking lot.  We don’t really have any expensive items to be worried about.  The boxes contain clothes and extra camping gear, the cheap gas can I got from Costco, and my Trasharoo .  But it costs me $5 to keep it safe so why not?  It would suck to find my underwear scattered on the open parking lot so…

Riding ferry boats is always a treat for me, this is no different.  I remember my first ferry boat going into the Madelaine Island where we brought with us our truck and canoe.  That was fun, and cold!  Today, the July 4th, is going to be a nice warm day.  Still crossing the Mackinac Straight is a bit chilly but refreshing nonetheless.

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I’ll take that boat please
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You’re greeted by this structure entering the Mackinac Island

We got off the boat and started walking towards the hotel.  I reserved a room at the Mission Hotel a few months back.  It’s about a 12-min walk from the dock.  As some of you may know, Mackinac Island only allows travel by foot, bikes, and horses.  The streets are already starting to get busy with the bike traffic, and the horse carriages.

 

 

 

We didn’t have any plans so we just did what we saw what most people are doing, ride the bikes.  We rented bikes for all of us and followed the traffic.  I just know it goes around the island so I doubt we will get lost.  We made a few stops to let the boys rest and check out the views.  But otherwise it was a pretty easy ride for all of us.  By the time we’re done we rode about 9-miles, not too bad.

 

I can’t help but be amazed by the clear water.  Well I found out that it wasn’t like this before, but no thanks to the invasive species (illegal aliens), they did a great job filtering the lake that led to this crystal clear waters.

We grabbed tickets to Fort Mackinac.  My boys love museums and historic sites!  They saw a rifle firing demonstration and a cannon firing as well.  I enjoyed them as well but I let them tour the Fort themselves while I catch up to my social network, haha.  They ended up spending quite a bit of time exploring the area so it was well worth it.

 

We stopped by the town for an ice cream, and did a little more riding.  Then the kids hit the pool before we went for dinner at the Italian Restaurant in the hotel.  I had me a good chunk of Osso Bucco — not the best I’ve had but I always get one when it is on the menu!

 

We decided to watch the fireworks at the lawn of the hotel.  We grabbed a spot along the shores to possibly get a good view of the fireworks.  Well I guess I was expecting a good show but the fireworks display was a little disappointing.  I think they still light the fireworks manually.  The cool thing is we can see all the other fireworks from the mainland from the distance.  It looks like Mackinaw City really brings it.  Anyways, it was getting late and it has been a very active day for us so we retired early for the day.

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where’s everyone?!
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I wish

The next day I found myself the only one wanting to take the 12-min walk back to the dock.  So we decided to take the Horse Carriage taxi.  I am no horse aficionado but these horses are huge!  Now i see how you can get killed when you get run over by horses (I play Battlefield in XBox and it is fun running over people).  The taxi driver was a young guy who was pretty well knowledgeable about the horses breed, even the names of the horses in the island.  He gave everyone not just a taxi ride but a tour guide and answered everyone’s questions in a fun attitude.  We made sure we gave him a considerable tip, since folks like him are really the ones that make a trip pleasant and memorable.

We rode our ferry boat the last time ready to get going to our next adventure.

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See you Mackinac Island

For Part 4, we will be visiting the coastline of Lake Michigan and then end our trip in Chicago (for the ultimate jungle experience!)