The Bruce Peninsula

August 13-17, 2019

Peninsulas seems to be a theme for this summer’s travels.  There are quite a few on the Great Lakes and this is our third.  There’s a Canadian national park on this one, and it’s our sightseeing goal for the five night stay.

Fiddlehead Resort Camp

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Fiddlehead was a short walk down to the shore of Lake Huron with a view of the Fishing Islands.  I think we made the trek three times a day just to check out the sights.  Lots of fishing from the pier, dogs fetching sticks and paddleboarders heading out.

Jackson went swimming everyday and seems to have a new lease on life.  We haven’t seen this much energy out of him in a very long time.  His inner water dog is frolicking.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

The Bruce Peninsula National Park has three must-see spots according to the ranger at the Tobermory visitor center – Half-way Log Dump, The Grotto, and Singing Sands at sunset.  She encouraged us to see all three that day since the weather was great and crowds were lighter.  We watched the park movie then took the advice of the ranger and headed straight to Half-way Log Dump.

Since parking is at a premium, you have to wait for someone to come out before you go in if the lot is full.  The ranger said that sometimes people wait for hours to get in.  Our wait was only about 30 minutes.

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This park is unique with White Cedar trees making up most of the woods along the rocky shoreline overlooking Georgian Bay on one side and Lake Huron on the other.  This shot shows off the contrast.  White Cedar blooms and the Half-way Log Dump shoreline view.

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Such delicate “fruit” that resemble tiny rosettes.  These become the cones later in the season.

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Hiking in the stones at Halfway Log Dump.  You really had to watch your step.  Several bloggers refer to it as bouldering and I’d agree at least for some spots.

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The beach with no sand whatsoever.  Pat the leg model sticks a foot in the shot for perspective.  The stones were all smooth, white and looked like bread dough.

More from Log Dump.

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And a few more from the spot that turned out to be our favorite in the national park.

The Grotto

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The Grotto is “the” spot for people visiting the park.  You have to book and pay for a parking spot online in advance to get to it.  It’s a 4-hour time slot to give you time to hike and enjoy the views.  Our slot was 4-8pm and we were hoping the crowds wouldn’t be too bad.  Well, it was swarming with people.  Our first glimpse of all the humanity.

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The Arch on the way to The Grotto and why I don’t like it so crowded.  I waited and waited and still the bikini-clad gal would not move from under the arch.  Random body parts end up in practically all my pictures.

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Here’s the actual Grotto and it is pretty with the emerald water and rough stone entry.  But again, people, people, people.

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Determined to get an un-peopled shot, I waited for a gal to finally quit posing for what seemed like an entire photo shoot on those rocks at the mouth of the stream.

Tobermory

Singing Sands is supposed to be the best sunset spot in the park, but we thought we’d be long gone by sunset and would miss that.  Turns out it was dinnertime after we finished the grotto hike, leaving us hungry and tired.  We opted for dinner in Tobermory, the northernmost city on the peninsula, thus saving the Singing Sands stop for the way home.

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Dinner was right across from the ferry terminal.  We were wondering if we’d be able to see the ferry come in since the terminal building was blocking our view of the water.  Then the Chi-Cheemaun in all its huge colorful glory came gliding up.  It looked like a cruise ship.  But the best part was the front end that opens up like a big mouth to eat all the cars.  You can see it just starting to open.

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I ditched Pat at the table to run over and take pictures of the cars coming off.  Needless to say, I only got a bite of dessert.  Pat told the waitress that I knew the risks.

Singing Sands

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Last stop on our tour of the national park and it turns out to be right at sunset.  Couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried.

This location is on the Lake Huron side of the peninsula and has a boardwalk that takes you over the fen full of pitcher plants and sundews.  Carnivorous plants are so intriguing and this place is loaded with them.

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The distance from the boardwalk made photo-taking difficult.  I tried to capture the pitcher plants, but just couldn’t get anything clear enough.  You’ll have to settle for this artist’s rendering.  And for those of you pondering the word fen, it’s defined as “a low and marshy or frequently flooded area of land”.  Our word for the day.

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The fen

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Day is done, gone the sun.  A parting shot with a sandbar that looked like a beached whale.

Grieg’s Caves

The campground owner told us about the caves in the area.  There are quite a few of them, but the best ones for exploring firsthand are on private land.  Armed with the Grieg’s Caves brochure, we set out to do some scrambling.

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The trail takes you to caves of all shapes and sizes and you can scramble around in them to your heart’s content.

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We scrambled alongside a couple from Toronto.  Mike was in search of the perfect thinking spot.  He was a funny guy, but at least he was smart enough to bring a light for the dark caves.  It was his cell phone, but it was more than we had.

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Then there was the troupe of Boy Scouts of Canada that swarmed us at every cave.  We carefully picked our way in and out while they just flowed over the rocks like ants.  Ah to be young and nimble again.  I’m at the back of the cave looking out.

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And here come the ants!

Pat & Mike scrambling.

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Our fun shots on the trail.

Those caves turned out to be great fun and we enjoyed them as much if not more than our trip to the national park.

The Bruce Peninsula makes the list of places we need to return to for all the stuff we didn’t get to do.  Some other year I want to take a boat ride to Flower Pot Island in the Fathom Five National Marine Park, and take Lucy on that colorful Chi-Cheemaun Ferry to Manitoulin Island.

Next Up:  Two more Ontario stops – one on Lake Huron and one on Lake Ontario.  See you on the way!

Inverhuron Provincial Park

August 9 – 12, 2019

Ahhh, back to some peace and quiet in Ontario again.  We love the provincial parks as much as our stateside state parks.  Well, except for Michigan, but enough of that.  After our last few places, we’re ready for room to roam and we found it.

On The Way

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Time for another border crossing and this time it’s a bit of a wait.  Probably only 30 minutes, but a friend joked that it looked like the entrance to a Disney park.  I have to admit it did, and the people jockeying for position in the lanes were just like that.  We, of course, have to pick a spot and just stay there since Lucy with Bitsy in tow is like turning the Titanic.  The usual questions from the border patrol agent and we’re off in no time.

Inverhuron Provincial Park

It took three electrical cords strung together to reach the power pole at our site.  That’s more than 75 feet!  Good thing Pat made that third one to supplement our stash.  Other than that, no worries at Inverhuron.

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Jackson got to swim in Lake Huron at the boat ramp and love, love, loved it!

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That’s one happy pooch.

On The Lakeshore

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We hiked along the lakeshore and caught a glimpse of the nuclear power plant at the point.

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That spot’s restricted, of course, so the trail turns away from the shoreline when you get too close.  There used to be a “heavy water” plant here which was considered unsafe for camping nearby.  Once that closed in the late 90s, camping was back.  Other than the tall emergency alert sirens in the park, we wouldn’t have known the plant was even there.  The visitor’s center is right up the road, but with Pat’s nuclear power background, he wasn’t interested.  He answered all my non-classified questions, so I didn’t really need to go either.

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After that turn we got into the marshy mushy spots.  Lots of cattails here.  Pat tried to show me how they cracked them open as kids, but they weren’t quite “ripe” yet.

A few more lakeside shots.  I love that the wildflowers last all summer long up here.

And the faves from lakeside strolling with Jackson.  The crashing waves get him all excited and his high pitched woof comes out.

On The River

The River Trail was the next outing, but more walking through sand, so not our favorite.

The trail somewhat follows the Little Sauble River and this bridge takes you over the top.  Doesn’t it look like just the place for trolls?

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We found this Eastern White Cedar along the trail and it’s supposedly the largest one in the park estimated at 400 years old.  I marvel at a living thing that old.

Jackson’s Fan Club

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A group of kids fell in love with Jackson.  That’s Joshua, Ryan, and Mattie vying for his attention.  He’s doing his best to listen to them all at once.

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Joshua just lost his faithful dog a month before, so he really wanted some dog time.  Those kids petted, hugged, walked him and brought him piles of sticks to chew.  The parents kept thanking us for letting them spend time with Jackson, but I think it was a mutual love affair.

Other Stuff

I think I got into some poison ivy at this stop.  I’ve never had it before, but it’s all over the place, so a likely candidate for the itchy rash at the back of my ankles.  I was absently rubbing and scratching while we played our cribbage tournament.  Pat says I probably spread it around nicely.  He won the tournament, too.

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We did some dining out in town at Mary Brown’s.  I remember this restaurant chain from the start of the Alaskan highway two years ago.  I recall it was fried chicken that tasted the closest to my mom’s.  It wasn’t quite that good this time around, but we hadn’t had much decent food to speak of for months by that point.  It was much better than our ill-fated dinner at a place I won’t name to be nice.  A buffet of the worst kind.  It was stop-at-McDonald’s-on-the-way-home-so-Pat-can-get-a-cheeseburger bad!

We’re also wondering why the road names all have concession in the name (Concession Road 3, Concession Road 7, you get the idea).  A local tried to explain it to us, but we still don’t get it.

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And that’s it for our first Lake Huron stop in Ontario.

Next up: The Bruce Peninsula.  See you on the way!

Bay City & Lakeport

August 2 – 8, 2019

Our last two Michigan stops are in state parks featuring Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.  We didn’t have a particular agenda and figured we’d just see what was going on when we got to each place.

Bay City State Park

Bay City State Park is stop one and on Saginaw Bay where the thumb connects to the rest of the Michigan mitt.  Another wildly full campground as we’ve come to expect.

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Of course Sunday came and the exodus happened.  They were 10 campers deep at the dump station with an hour plus wait!  But we reap the benefits since we try hard not to leave on Sundays for that reason.  Everyone left our little spur and here we are all alone.  Ahhh peace at last.

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We called this one the butt tree for obvious reasons.  Quite a few of the trees in the area had odd looking burls.

Over the wild weekend, the state park hosted the Waterfowl Festival and I think we’re going to learn all about the birds.  The visitor center did have exhibits about that, but the festival tents were full of bird calls, decoys, and swamp buggies.  It’s about the birds alright, but mostly about hunting them.

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I’m not going duck hunting, but I think I need one of these.  It’ll be hard to tow though.

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Then there’s this duo carving up mushrooms, bears, eagles and pumpkins with their chainsaws.  Fun to watch, but loud.

But the best part was the dog demonstration.  Well-trained dogs are such fun to watch.  Apparently bird dogs are trained to go to their “place” which is on a small platform, much like an end table.  They stay there unless their name is called to retrieve and then they are off like a shot.  The two young black lab beauties are waiting patiently for their turn.  There’s a yellow out in the water and that one’s just a puppy.  The puppy couldn’t find the fake bird thrown into the water, so it brought back a lily pad.

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The park is right on Saginaw Bay (which may or may not be considered Lake Huron?), and home to lots of birds.  A marsh borders the lake making it the perfect layover and nesting ground.  The sunbathers seem to peacefully co-exist with the birds right next to each other.

Frankenmuth

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We got a great recommendation from a friend to visit the little German-themed town of Frankenmuth and eat at Zehnders.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  We enjoyed a fabulous fried chicken dinner with stuffing, cole slaw, potatoes and stollen bread with jam.  I got my two chicken legs just like I like them, plus it was the best cole slaw I’ve ever had.  Stollen bread is a lot like fruit cake, but much lighter.  We ate it all up.  Then we went to the bakery and bought a superb little apple pie and German egg noodles.

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Frankenmuth felt just like a cute Bavarian village.

At Bay City we also fixed the propane side of the water heater, and found a replacement part for the broken sway bar bracket.  There was a particular bump on our drive that we blame for that break.  Truly always something.

Last night – fireflies!  Just magical creatures and I haven’t seen them since we lived in Texas.

Lakeport State Park

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On the way to Lakeport State Park, we passed field after field of gorgeous corn (one of the only crops we can identify).  I finally got to take a picture at our lunch stop.

Lakeport State Park is our last Michigan State Park.  I’d just say for this year, but I suspect forever.  Just too much craziness packed into small spaces for us.  These parks are completely different than state parks in any of the other states we’ve visited.

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Part of the “compound” across from us with their pyre of campfire wood.  Quite a few more campers and vehicles joined the fray and it was only Wednesday!

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How about this camping car we spotted in the park?  An old cop car tricked out with a permanently mounted grill on the back and horns on the front.

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Here’s what the shoreline looks like.  Crystal clear water and the lake bottom is covered with colorful smooth stones.

Roadside Park

Nothing else planned so we drove to the Lake Huron roadside park for a car outing with Jackson.  Thought we’d take in some lake views, but forgot just how far back down the road it was.  24 miles.  As we drove away we realized we had neither phone and no camera.  Pat says we’ll just have the memories in our minds.  It was a memory alright when the car wouldn’t start after our stroll around the boardwalk.  Seems I left the lights on.

We do carry jumper cables, so we just had to ask a friendly stranger for help.  A guy visiting from Florida pulled up his van and gave us the jump start we needed.  I recall a roadside stop recently where we helped someone out, and now it was our turn.

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Anyway, next order of business, drive to Lakeport and get a new battery at AutoZone.  They checked it first to make sure and the reading was “bad battery”.  It certainly was very bad.  The Kibbles & Bits has never left us stranded before and we won’t let that happen again.  At least it was in a place with plenty of retail.

The wild block party on our last night (only Thursday mind you) was rocking late into the night.  We turned on the AC fan to drown it all out.  Buh-bye Michigan State Parks.

 

Next Up: Back to Ontario’s provincial parks.  See you on the way!

 

Tip of the Mitt

July 22 – August 1, 2019

I’m taking creative license with the Tip of the Mitt title since not all these stops are actually in the tip.  Let’s just say they’re all in the mitt.  I love how every time you ask where something is in Michigan they immediately throw up their hand like a mitten and proceed to describe it in relation to the thumb.

Aloha State Park

We weren’t sad to leave Wilderness State Park and had high hopes for our next stop at Aloha State Park.  The hopes were for more elbow room and less campfire smoke.

These people in Michigan go camping with wild abandon.  The state parks are jam-packed with people, toys, kids, dogs, and I swear every vehicle they own.  We even saw inflatable furniture – yes a couch and easy chair.  There were clouds of bugs, too.  Unfortunately the clouds were INside the motor home the first evening when we turned on the outside light and took Jackson in and out.  We must have killed hundreds with their little bug bodies strewn about the table and floor.

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We do have the one large oasis in the entire place.  But the smoke – oy vey!

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And applause for this guy who managed to parallel park a 5th wheel amidst all the chaos.

There was one bright spot, however.  A young girl came around one evening carrying a tray of chocolate chip cookies for sale.  She says she just likes to bake.  Sign us up!  They were good and we hope she comes around again.  (She didn’t.)

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Aloha State Park is on Mullet Lake, and not a very interesting lake at that.  I did manage to make it down to the jetty for a photo.  As for mullet, I thought that was the only fish you ate when I was a kid.

Cheboygan

Honestly I think we ended up picking Aloha State Park for two reasons.  One, we could get a spot there and two, it’s near Cheboygan and I just like to say that word.  Cheboygan, Cheboygan, Cheboygan.

The weather was cruddy, but we decided we really should make the effort to get down to the Cheboygan harbor to lay eyes on Lake Huron – Great Lake #3 in our summer quest.

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We made it just in time before the rain settled in to get a look at the lighthouse and the geese swimming by.

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All is well in the world of the geese until…

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…this swan enters the picture.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bird this wound up.

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He (or perhaps she with a nest somewhere close) chased…

and chased, and chased…

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until every last goose was standing awkwardly on the shore…

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and peace was restored to the kingdom.  We laughed and watched this mad chase for quite a few minutes along with another wide-eyed family.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Our next stop in the mitt was Interlochen State Park because I couldn’t get a spot in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Rec Area.  We’ll just make the drive I said.

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It’s just as well we didn’t camp there.  Lots of sand as you can imagine and we don’t particularly like hiking in sand since we’ve tried it at White Sands and Oregon dunes.  It’s hard, simple as that.   People are warned not to hike down the very steep 450 foot tall dune to the lake shore, but they do it anyway.  See those people practically on hands and knees?  Down is a quick process, but up is 1-2 hours they say.  Take a few steps, slide down a few, take a few more, rest head on the sand to catch your breath.  That’s the painful process we witnessed.

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That rescue fee is not in the budget, plus I’m not into exercise just for the punishment of it.

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You can tell who’s going down and who’s coming up.  People had their camp chairs out watching the spectacle from the top of the dune.

A few more views from the day.  We did hike a short way up to see the islands in the distance.  Legend has it that a momma bear and her cubs were swimming to the mainland, but momma made it ahead of the cubs and fell asleep on shore awaiting their arrival.  They drowned and never made it.  The two islands just off the coast are the cubs and one of the big dunes is momma.  Thus Sleeping Bear Dunes.

It’s cherry season up here so we stopped at a roadside stand on the way back from the dunes for fresh cherries and apple jam made from their honey crisp apples.  I just love fresh cherries and these were perfect.

Interlochen

We heard an ad on the radio for the World Youth Symphony performance while we were in Aloha and I got online and bought myself a ticket.  I adore classical musical, but Pat not so much.  I’ll just dress myself up and go enjoy it.

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Interlochen Center for the Arts is a world renowned boarding high school and there are students here from all over the world.  A nice young girl hoping to be a professional opera singer directed me to the auditorium.

It was a phenomenal performance of some intense music by Wagner and half the kids performing didn’t look old enough to drive.  Some of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra members played alongside the students.  And the bonus?  This place is literally across the street from the state park with a paved trail leading right over.

On The Way

We had less than 100 miles to go to get to the next stop, so we took our time and pulled over for lunch at the Benzonia Roadside Park.  A half hour lunch led to a long walk for Jackson and a round of cribbage to pass the time so we wouldn’t get to the campground too early.  We finally decide it’s time to move on and Pat goes out to throw the lunch trash away.  He doesn’t come right back and when I look out, I see him laying on the ground in the parking lot looking under a car with two ladies looking on.  That can’t be good.

I go out and meet Joanne and Sylvia, two sisters on a day trip who’ve had the good fortune to break down right as they drove into the rest area.  (Well, better fortune than being on the side of the road somewhere.)  They were a bit flustered by the whole thing so Pat helped diagnose the issue and recommended a tow.  We didn’t feel right leaving them all alone there, so we waited until they got the tow truck scheduled and made sure they had a ride home.  That 30 minute lunch turned into almost 3 hours, but we did our good deed for the day and still made it to our destination by 4pm.  That’s why we like short travel days since you just never know what might happen.

Pentwater, Michigan

Hill & Hollow Campground in Pentwater, Michigan was our next destination.  We had a great spot tucked back in the trees with full hook-ups for a change.

They have an entertainment center on site and one day we drove go-karts, played mini-golf and went to the arcade.  My method for winning at go-karts is to floor it from the get go and don’t let up on the accelerator until they make you stop.  I won.  Of course Pat lost his hat twice and I ran over it once.  Pat won at mini-golf, but I take issue with that since he took advantage of the maximum stroke rule.  In the arcade I was lucky with free pinball games and picked the highest suitcase on the Deal or No Deal game.  We got free ice cream out of that deal.

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We also struck up a conversation with a local in the marina laundromat.  Her boyfriend grows 5 acres of corn and sells it exclusively at a roadside stand.  The harvest is late this year, so we’re leaving before the stand is up and running.  I’m sad about that since they pick for an hour each evening and that stocks the stand for the next day.  I do enjoy fresh grilled corn on the cob.  I particularly appreciate it since we all gave it up for the years that Ethan was in braces.  The sacrifices we parents make!

She also mentioned that when she grew up, convenience stores were called party stores.  That explains it.  We saw stores with that description and were baffled.  We’re thinking balloons, decorations, gifts bags, and confused by the signs out front that said drinks, snacks and bait.  Different kind of party….

And that’s it for Pentwater and our last stop on Lake Michigan.  I confess we didn’t actually go “see” the lake, but we did enjoy ourselves.

Next up:  Bay City and another Michigan state park.  See you on the way!

 

 

Mackinac Island

July 18 – 21, 2019

Ethan has a friend who used to head up to Michigan every Labor Day to do the Mackinac Bridge walk.  Cameron and everyone else who’s been there gets this look in their eyes when they talk about it.  We’re going to see what that faraway adoration is all about.

On The Way

On the way we see a sign for a scenic overlook and rest stop.  We need a lunch break, and hoping there really is a view.

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There actually is a view at the top of a tower and I think we’re getting a sneak peek of St. Ignace.

 And there are lilies growing wild just off the trail.

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Here’s my very favorite.  I just love black-eyed Susans and daisies.

After killing a sufficient amount of time so we don’t get to the state park too early, we’re off to drive across that Mackinac Bridge.

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I call this windshield shot ‘Driving over Mackinac Bridge Behind Semi in Rain’.

Wilderness State Park

Our final destination is Wilderness State Park just outside of Mackinaw City.  Awful road to the get there and crammed with people.  I guess the camping season is short up here so everyone is getting their time in while they can.

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The park boasts 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, so it’s not a bad spot.  The kids loved this beach.  Sadly, no dogs allowed so we didn’t get to spend any time on it.

Mackinac Island

My one thing for this location was to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island.

There’s that pretty Mackinac Bridge again with one of the ferries that shoot water out the back like a giant jet ski.  We didn’t take that one, but ours was just as fast.

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The place definitely gets points for being picturesque.

On this island, everything with wheels is either people-powered or horse-driven.  Building supplies, tour trams, hay wagons, everything had horses doing the work.  They even had a street cleaning machine pulled by, you guessed it, horses.  Good thing since all that horse traffic does muck up the streets.

We opted for people-power and I’m glad,  It was a hot day and I’m not sure I could have ridden behind those big draft horses smelling the smells all day if you know what I mean.

Just because there aren’t vehicles doesn’t mean there isn’t a parking issue.  We had to find the right bike rack with space available to “park” for lunch.  No parking in the employee spot!  We liked the baskets on the front and especially were grateful for the fenders with all that horse action on the roads.

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We rode the eight mile loop around the entire island and it was stunning.

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With a little effort, you can climb the stairs up to The Arch.  I was especially pleased with these boaters who so graciously anchored their boat in the perfect spot for archway photos.

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The water was crystal clear and the colors were like the Caribbean.  I just didn’t expect that.

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We stopped to read the placards along the way and were particularly taken with this one.  A path marked by leftover Christmas trees to the mainland sounds great.  The “bitter cold … in January” does not.

After the biking concluded, we opted to stroll around and visit the shops.

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How’s this for a storybook wedding?  We initially spotted the happy couple taking a photo together in the street.  I hope she picked a clean spot with that lovely white wedding dress in mind.  I’m not exaggerating about all that horse manure in the road.

We were told about the fudge on the island.  Pat discovered his love for fudge in Alaska and since then keeps an eye out for the fresh stuff.  We watched through the window as the cook cut up that entire tray of fudge.  I think we ended up with chocolate, turtle and walnut flavors.

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Finally it’s time to return on the fast ferry past the lighthouses.

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My parting shot.

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And this time I’m on the right side of the boat for my bridge shot.  Thank you sailboat for coming along at just the right moment.

Mackinaw, Mackinac & Wienerlicious

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So we’re looking for a grocery store and figure out that it’s right across the street from Wienerlicious.  We saw this place on our way to lunch (NOT at Wienerlicious) and I knew I had to have a photo.  Isn’t that the biggest hotdog you’ve ever seen?  Apparently it captivates others, too, since a couple was standing outside the market when we arrived trying to decide what toppings were on that giant hotdog.  They thought cheese sauce, but Pat says relish.  It is kinda greenish, so I’m going relish, too.  And just so you know, I have to be around a campfire or at an outdoor event to eat a hotdog.  It’s just not my idea of restaurant fare.

Just in case you think I can’t spell, here’s the lowdown on Mackinaw vs. Mackinac.

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Thank you to the Tip of Da Mitt laundromat for that educational sign.

And there you have it for Mackinac Island and our bike adventure.  We really understand now why people come up here for the summer.  The weather is spectacular and I’m still reaching for a light jacket in the evenings.

Next Up:  More of the Michigan mitten.  See you on the way!