We got on the road around 11:15 AM, about an hour later than we’d planned, which is fairly typical. Our goal for the day is to get to the other side of the Mackinac Bridge and camp before dark. Google thinks that 259-mile drive should take 3 hours and 47 minutes, but Google doesn’t haul a travel trailer. We stopped at Jersey Giant to pick up subs for dinner, which will save us time finding or cooking dinner, and make clean up a snap. We also stopped in Harrison for gas, mainly because we’re familiar with the exit and the gas station and that’s important when pulling a trailer. No real adventures along the way. We did see lots of antique tractors being towed south across the bridge and learned they do an antique tractor drive across the bridge every year around Labor Day.
We had a reservation for the night at Straits State Park, site #81. It’s not on the water but across the drive from it, and we can see Lake Huron through the trees. The site’s long enough that we were able to leave the trailer hitched for a quick getaway. Of course that meant we had to walk to fetch firewood and carry it back by hand. Wood was $4 per bundle and toting it back was our workout for the day. We guessed right on needing two bundles for the night. We walked down to the water for a view of the bridge and possibly Mackinac Island. Later I got to see the bridge lit up at night for the first time.
A seagull stopped by the campsite and took a couple of worms. Looked like the neighbors threw it a hot dog too. We had no idea a seagull would go after a hot dog. Our evening entertainment was beer by the fire, as usual when we camp. We ate our sandwiches for dinner and slept well, despite late arrivals with a spotlight setting up their tent and talkative kids. It was chilly but we didn’t get the heater out.
Day 1: Arriving at Porcupine Mountains State Park
Our first full day on the road started at 9:00 AM. Today we’ll drive 316 miles to Porcupine Mountains State Park. We bought gas and coffee in St Ignace. There was a detour around the Cut River bridge on US2 and lots of construction around Marquette, but an otherwise uneventful drive. We did get to experience the truck assisting with downhill braking. We stopped a couple of times to top up gas since the UP (aka Michigan’s upper peninsula) is not a hotbed of civilization.
We’ve been tracking Hurricane Irma, since it’s set to hit Florida and it looks like Steve’s brother Tim might be in its path. Gas was $2.79, which is up because of Hurricane Harvey in Texas a couple of weeks ago.
We had lunch at the Hilltop Restaurant in L’Anse. The Hilltop is a traditional stop between home and deer camp near Rockland, famous for its giant cinnamon rolls. The guys go to deer camp, us women get cinnamon rolls! Steve got a black and blue burger; I had ultimate grilled cheese: grilled Texas toast with two kinds of cheese, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, and onions. I liked all the ingredients but liked the pork separate from the cheese. We passed on dessert. Bread pudding sounded good, but we had no room. We bought two cinnamon rolls to take with us, one for breakfasts and one for desserts.
We arrived at our campsite with plenty of daylight to set up. We have a lovely site right on the lake. Firewood was $5/bundle or 3/$14. We got six. Really windy; we hope the wind goes down so we can have a fire. (It did!) Drank beer by the fire, then ate steaks and coleslaw we brought with us, and cinnamon roll for dessert. It’s cold enough that we plugged the heater in while I read to warm things up, then turned it off when I went to sleep. (We have a furnace in the trailer but use an electric heater instead.) There have been lots of dogs at both parks.
Day 2: Lake of the Clouds and the Union Mine Trail
We had coffee and cinnamon roll for breakfast. We realized we forgot creamer, so I had black coffee. Then we headed over to the visitor center to get trail information. There weren’t many bugs around –only saw a couple of mosquitoes — so we went with shorts and took long sleeves. We thought coming at this time of year that we would miss most of the mosquitoes and black flies. So far, so good. We came back to camp and dressed for hiking and made lunches to take with us: sandwiches and breakfast bars.
Our first stop was the Lake of the Clouds overlook. The Escarpment Trail starts there. We took that trail for about 1.8 miles. It was pretty easy and offered nice views of Lake of the Clouds. (You can get nice views of the lake from the overlook. You don’t need to go on the hike.)
We then went back to the visitor center for lunch so we could use the wifi to check on Hurricane Irma, which is heading for Steve’s brother. There’s no wifi at the campground and not much of a cell signal either, so if you want to keep in touch with the outside world you need to head to the visitor center. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view.
Next we decided to do the Union Mine interpretive trail, which turned out to be a mile and a half rather than the advertised mile. So we did about 5.1 miles of hiking today. There’s a surprising lack of birds or wildlife in general. We’ve seen a couple of chipmunks and a squirrel but that’s about it.
Back in camp, we phoned Henry’s Inn in Rockland. It’s a small local bar that has GREAT buffets. (I’ve had their Sunday breakfast buffet and will match it against any buffet anywhere. And I’ve been to Vegas.) They didn’t have any buffet on tonight so we’re staying in camp and skipping the half-hour drive. We got the awning out and the strap broke, so it’s a good thing I brought the sewing kit. We washed dishes and tidied up a bit. We’re now drinking beer by the lake. Oh, and killing flies, because all the flies we thought would be on the trail were here in camp waiting for us.
We tried Founder’s Sumatra Coffee Brown. Another Founder’s favorite to add to our list. Then cheeseburgers for dinner, with slaw and cinnamon roll. We had to slice up chunk cheese because we forgot the sliced cheese. The wind kicked up in the middle of the night so we got out and took down the awning. Our trailer is old and some parts are fragile.
Day 3: Presque Isle River and Summit Peak
We had a good sunrise this morning. A big red ball that changed to a slightly smaller orange ball. It’s windy this morning, more so up above than down here by the lake. We had coffee and cinnamon roll again for breakfast. Then we packed lunches and hit the road for the Presque Isle river area to do the loop hike there. We stopped by the visitors’ center to check on Irma and email.
On the way back we stopped at Summit Peak, where we had lunch. It’s a nice overview, but of the three scenic areas — Lake of the Clouds, Presque Isle, Summit Peak — this is probably the least interesting. Then back to the visitors’ center for another check-in. By the way, Porcupine Mountains State Park is a large park, more reminiscent of a national park than the average Michigan state park. It pays to plan your stops so you don’t spend all your time driving.
We then drove into Ontonogan for gas and groceries. Since we’re not going to Henry’s for dinner we bought more burger. Also sliced cheese, creamer, Listerine, and another flyswatter. Now back at the lake drinking beer. Nothing on the calendar for tomorrow!
We had giant BBQ chicken breasts for dinner, with the last of the slaw and breakfast bars for dessert. We’re out of cinnamon rolls! We also got the cassette player in the trailer to work. (As I said, our trailer is old!) We’ve been fortunate with the weather so far, knock on wood. A few sprinkles this morning. It’s been mid-to-upper 60s during the day and 50s at night. Today it hit 77.
Day 4: No Agenda!
Nothing on the agenda today. We build days like this into our travel plans to help compensate for bad weather, illness, or other things that might mess up plans. Especially when camping, when we spend so much time outdoors. Steve was up early taking sunrise pictures. Princess doesn’t like sunrises but is happy to look at the photos later. We had oatmeal for breakfast, along with coffee with cream! We dawdled a bit then went to the visitors’ center for our daily wifi dose. Steve’s brother is okay, though without power and cell service. Their yard is flooded, but it does that when they get lots of rain. We drove over the beach and waded around. The water was cold, as expected. We picked up some rocks and stocked up on firewood. Then back to camp for sandwiches, Ruffles, and an apple for lunch. Then showers. Steve’s back is messed up. It may have happened while dancing around in the shower with flipflops. (We have a shower in the trailer but haven’t used it other than once to verify that it works. We use the campground showers.) I have a scratch on my leg. Not sure when it happened.
Another gorgeous day. The lake is flat and calm, though covered with flying ants! We did a little preparation for departure tomorrow, such as taking down the awning and putting the grill table away, so we can get an early, easier start.
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We camped at Union Bay because it was a modern campground with electric hookups, flush toilets, and showers. We had a lakeside site (#18). We loved being right on the lake though it was bare dirt and a bit muddy. Sites in the upper area were more traditional flat and grassy sites.
The nearest town of any size is Ontonagon (16 miles) and there is no place to eat nearby. Bring groceries!
The only option out here in the wilderness is to bring your own wheels. And fill up the tank when you can. Gas stations are few and far between.