Halloween Camping – RV Witches & Goblins at Michigan State Parks!

October 2018 – After enjoying several weeks of waterfalls and fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a delightful day on Mackinac Island, we stopped to camp at Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area in the Lower Peninsula. Despite cold rain and drizzle in mid-October, we were shocked to see that the campground was packed to the gills when we arrived on a Sunday morning. It turned out that the State Park campgrounds in Michigan celebrate Halloween each weekend in late September and October, and the festivities were in full swing.

RV halloween camping-min

Ghouls and goblins pose for a selfie in front of their trailer home!

Families were shivering in the rain and huddled around the campfires, but nothing could dampen their spirits as they showed off their wild Halloween campsite decorations.

Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

Grrrrr….Happy Halloween!

Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

Smile for the camera!

After we quickly set up camp, we walked around the campground loops and were floored by how elaborate the campsite decorations were.

Campground Halloween decorations-min

Some folks set up their displays under easy-up shelters!

RV Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

Some were arranged under the fifth wheel overhang too.

Families had gone all out with witches riding broomsticks, ghosts twisting in the wind, pumpkins grinning wickedly and skeletons perched on everything.

Fifth wheel RV Halloween decorations-min

Witches and skeletons hang out on a camper’s fifth wheel.

Motorhome campsite with Halloween decorations-min

A skeleton couple took over the picnic table at this motorhome’s campsite.

The night before we got there, all of the displays had been lit up. There were power cords running every this way and that between the campsites and the displays. But even in the bitter morning air without any glow-in-the-dark spookiness, we still caught Halloween fever as we walked the campground loops and admired the decorations.

RV camper with Halloween pumpkins-min

One RV was sitting in a pumpkin patch.

Pumpkin spilling its guts at Halloween-min

This pumpkin partied too much last night and got sick.

Every Saturday night in September/October at all the Michigan State Park campgrounds — and in many other midwest campgrounds too — the kids get dressed up in Halloween costumes and go from campsite door to campsite door all around the campground trick-or-treating.

Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

An evil looking Mickey Mouse greets trick-or-treaters at the back door of an RV.

Home Sweet Haunted Home RV door-min

What evil lurks inside??

I don’t know who loves it more, the kids or the parents and grandparents. One older fellow told us he went Halloween camping every year for 15 or so years as he raised his kids (the youngest was now 24!), but he still comes out because it is so much fun to see the kids in their costumes and give out candy.

Ghosts pumpkins skeletons camping at an RV campground-min

A ghost’s eyes lit up red as we go by.

Travel trailer RV with Halloween ghost-min


He kinda laughed as he told me that if you time it right, you can hit all six State Park campgrounds in this area from late September through October and experience the fun over and over in different settings!

Popup tent trailer at Halloween-min

Dead babies… is that Alice Cooper‘s popup tent trailer?

Halloween cemetery at an RV campsite-min

A trailer’s front yard turned into a graveyard.

Every campsite had decorations, and some were very complex. Pumpkins and ghosts were popular themes, but it was the carefully laid out headstones in the Halloween graveyards that caught our attention!

Fifth wheel RV campsite with Halloween cemetery-min

Gravestones and skulls, a good Halloween combo!

Graveyard campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

Fresh graves – keep out! Folks who come to this trailer wind up under headstones!

The front end of a travel trailer is an ideal place to set a few ornaments, and sure enough we found skeletons and ghosts and pumpkins aplenty.

Trailer propane bottle with Halloween trick-or-treat decorations-min

The trailer’s hitch and propane tanks make good perches for ghoulish things.

Ghosts and pumpkins with RV at campground on Halloween-min


There were lots of skeletons hanging around too.

Pumpkins and skeletons on a travel trailer RV-min

Skeletons hanging around everywhere!

Campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

A skeleton hangs in a tree.

Other skeletons sat in kayaks and cackled as they paddled and fished alongside their toy hauler.

Skeletons in kayaks Halloween Toy hauler campsite decorations-min

Skeletons laugh ghoulishly as they fish from their kayaks.

Halloween skeleton in kayak at toy hauler RV campsite-min

Catch of the day – a fish skeleton!

One campsite had a big skeleton of an animal standing out in front of a cute retro trailer.

Retro trailer camper and horse skeleton at Halloween-min

What kind of creature is this?

Upon closer inspection we realized it was the skeleton of a horse pulling a carriage. Inside the carriage were the skeletons of a bride and groom.

Campground RV campsite with retro trailer and skeleton horse and buggy-min

A horse skeleton pulling a buggy with a bride and groom skeleton inside.

Another campsite featured a skeleton bride and groom getting married in the grass under a trellis.

Halloween skeleton wedding camping in a travel trailer-min

Newlywed skeletons.

The bodies of a pair of old retired skeletons had given up the ghost. All that remained was their skulls which peered out of the front windshield of a motorhome.

Skulls in motorhome on halloween in a campground-min

Retiree skulls in a motorhome.

As I walked around the campground loop taking photos, Buddy did his usual sniffing and socializing. Suddenly, I felt him stiffen at the end of his leash. I looked down and he was staring at a corpse sticking halfway out of the ground. He crouched really low and gingerly sniffed at the corpse. Suddenly, he jumped back in fright. Then he slowly crept in and got another sniff.

Puppy spooked by scary Halloween monster-min

Buddy jumped when he saw this bloody corpse in the grass.

We had missed the big trick-or-treat night, so we never saw the kids in their costumes. But what a super fun way for families to celebrate Halloween and extend their camping season past the end of summer.

Spooky Halloween decorations at RV campground-min

Witch skeletons hang from a tree.

Lots of families knew each other from previous years and there was a fantastic spirit of celebration everywhere as kids ran between the trailers and parents and grandparents unwound by the campfire.

Spiders ghosts and goblins at RV campground campsite-min

Spiders, ghosts and goblin eyes.

Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area campground is a wonderful place to camp that sits on the shores of a small lake.

Fall leaves at Metamora campground in Michigan-min

Beautiful fall colors across the lake made a great backdrop for the campground festivities.

Happy Halloween!

Spooky Halloween night shadows at the lake-min

Walk softly out there and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

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Christmas Camping with an RV in Arizona

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Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!

October 2018 – After enjoying some wonderful fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we made our way to the town of St. Ignace that peers over the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan’s Lower Peninsua.

Mackinac Bridge at sunset RV trip-min

Mackinac Bridge at sunset.

The Mackinac Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that sits between Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Huron on the other side. On a hunch we headed out at sunset to see if we could get some pics as the sky changed color and the lights on the bridge were lit.

Using slow shutter speeds we captured the traffic crawling across the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge at night Michigan RV trip-min


During our RV travels this year we managed to hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a three week long spate of miserable rainy cold days, and a look at the forecast showed more thunderstorms, rain and cold for the next week. But there was one day that had a mere 20% chance of rain, so we decided to hop on Sheppler’s Ferry and head out to Mackinac Island for a day. (“Mackinac” is pronounced “Mackinaw” by the way).

Sheppler's Ferry arrives Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Sheppler’s Ferry brings tourists to Mackinac Island.

The surf was up and big waves hit the side of the ferry in blasts of spray. The captain took us over to the Mackinac Bridge so we could let Lake Michigan’s waves lap the hull for a moment, and then we headed over to Mackinac Island which sits in Lake Huron.

Sheppler's Ferry under the Mackinac Bridge in a storm-min

Water from the waves rolled off the ferry windows as we slipped under Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac Island Michigan lighthouse-min

The water calmed down a bit when we passed the lighthouse marking the harbor entrance.

As the ferry pulled into the dock at Mackinac Island we got our first glimpse of the pretty buildings by the shore.

First view of Mackinac Island from the Sheppler's Ferry-min

The pretty Victorian buildings of Mackinac Island came into view as we pulled into the harbor.

Mackinac Island is unique because even though the island has lots of paved roads, there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed anywhere. So, as we stepped off the ferry we were greeted by horses and carriages waiting to take passengers to their hotel destinations or on a ride around town.

Grand Hotel chauffeur Mackinac Island Michigan-min

An old time horse and carriage waits to take arriving passengers to the Grand Hotel.

Mackinac Island horse drawn wagon in Michigan-min

Horse drawn buggies were everywhere.

Mark had been to Mackinac Island many times before, but this was my first visit, and the quaint charm of the horses and buggies all around us captivated me. I could barely walk down the street for all the photos I was snapping of the teams of horses carrying tourists here and there.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

These buggy rides are the local taxis!

Quaint horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min


Horse drawn wagon on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min


Returning horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Heading home… Wow!

Even though it was cold and wet and miserable out, the mood on the street was festive and we quickly got into tourist mode.

Tourist at Mackinac Island Michigan fudge shop-min

We quickly got into tourist mode at the fudge shop!

When we poked our heads into an ice cream shop, we noticed that ice cream wasn’t selling quite as well as it does on hot summer days.

Ice cream line begins here fudge shop Mackinac Island Michigan-min

“Line begins here” … no line today!

We walked down the main drag and watched the comings and goings of the community. Mackinac Island has been a tourist destination since the Victorian era, and the behind-the-scenes work of serving tourists hums along smoothly. Peering down a back alley, we saw an open horse drawn wagon that was hauling some cargo. How neat to have a community where goods are carried by horses and wagons!

Working horses and wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A team of horses pulls a wagon of cargo.

Working horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Images like this gave us a glimpse of yesteryear.

If you ride a horse around town you can tie him up at a little post with a horse head on top. Folks with bikes like to lock them to these posts too.

Bike stand like horse head on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A decorative place to tie up your horse or your bike.

Bicycles are the most popular means of individual transportation, and there were cyclists, bicycles for rent and parked bikes absolutely everywhere.

Horse drawn wagons and bicycles on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were as common as horses, even in the cold weather.

Bicycles everywhere Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were parked all over the place.

Bikes on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min


Main Street Mackinac Island Michigan-min

No fear of cars here!

Mackinac Island is a destination for cruise ships too, and we saw one pulled up to the dock.

Cruise ship under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A cruise ship waits at the dock.

We wandered beyond the downtown area and found some gorgeous mansions. Standing in front of one with an ornate roof, we were soon deep in conversation with the gray haired owner of the place. It turned out his dad had picked up the property when it was condemned in the 1960s, and he had spent his childhood summers living in this picturesque house just steps from the beach.

Decorative roof on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We met the man who spent summers in this beautiful house as a kid. Now he operates it as a B&B.

Private residence mansion Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A nice summer cottage!

Elegant house Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Beautiful (with Buddy streaking past)

Bike in the yard Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Tranquility — even on a blustery day.

Some of the homes are perched right on the edge of Lake Huron. Walking a little further on, we found a huge resort that has a slew of Adirondack chairs set out on a lawn facing the lake.

Summer chairs under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A spot to watch the sunset — when there is one!

Mackinac Island State Park Michigan stormy day-min


Mackinac Island must be a true delight in July, but we were getting a big kick out of it on this dreary October day too. The wind was whipping and the waves were pounding.

Storm clouds and waves Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Storm and fury on Lake Huron.

Wandering back into town, we came across Lady Liberty and some pretty churches.

Mackinac Island statue of liberty in Michigan-min


Church at Mackinac Island Michigan-min


But it was the horse drawn wagons and buggies that captured my imagination all day long. How wonderful that there is a place where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed and visitors can experience a vivid immersion in another era.

Fall color and horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We couldn’t stop taking pics of the horse drawn wagons.

Carriage ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min


Mackinac Island would be a fantastic place to spend a few days during the holidays! Even though the ferry ride might be rough, the island has ongoing celebrations throughout the holiday season, and some of the hotels and restaurants remain open.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min


We won’t be there when the snow flies, but we loved our day trip to Mackinac Island in October!

Carriage Ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min


If your RV travels take you to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula), set aside a day to spend on Mackinac Island. No matter what the weather forecast is, it’s a very fun excursion!

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Fall Foliage in Michigan’s U.P. + Lake Superior at Sunset

September 2018 – In mid-September we traveled in our RV to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see the fall colors and to experience the beauty of the shores of Lake Superior. In the small coastal town of Ontonagon we wandered down to the beach just as the sun was setting.


Sunset Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

The sun says goodnight to us across Lake Superior at Ontonagon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

We were both in seventh heaven as we snapped one gorgeous image after another of the sun giving us its final winks before it slipped out of sight below the horizon.

Lake Superior Sunset in Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


The waves rolled in and pounded the shore relentlessly while the clouds moved quickly across the sky. The dark blanket of storm clouds turned a vivid pink for a few minutes as they passed.

Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula Sunset_-min

The clouds turned pink for a moment as they marched across the sky.

These kinds of moments are our favorites in our traveling lives: admiring Nature in all her glory and trying to capture what we see on camera. We each stake out a spot that looks appealing and fire away.

When we were contemplating whether we should introduce a puppy to our crazy lifestyle one of our biggest concerns was what he would do while we were busy taking pics. It turns out that he loves these moments too. He keeps himself busy running between us and sniffing everything there is to sniff around us.

Sunset at Lake Superior Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Buddy loves these sunset outings as much as we do (and he photo bombs a lot of our pics too!).

After the sun disappeared and most of the color had faded a storm appeared on the horizon.

Lake Superior Storm Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Storm clouds gather in the distance and pour rain on Lake Superior.

Until this season I had seen Lake Superior for just a brief visit years ago. I had dipped my toe in the frigid water in early May and said, “Okay, that’s enough. We’re outta here!”

Mark had told me stories over the years of visiting Lake Superior one winter long ago and seeing huge waves standing bolt upright, frozen solid mid-curl. The whole lake had looked like a lemon meringue pie!

Yet so far in our travels along Lake Superior this fall the lake had been as calm as could be, giving us one wonderful beach experience after another as we skirted along the coast in Wisconsin and in Michigan’s U.P.

However, that sensational sunset we had just witnessed in Ontonagon was the last we’d see of the sun for the next three weeks! Lake Superior started to snarl and the whole Upper Peninsula snarled with it, delivering clouds and rain and nasty cold windy temps day after day after day.

Lake Superior waves Ontonagon Beach Michigan-min

Lake Superior waves dwarf a lighthouse in the distance.

Lake Superior was still fabulous, even in its bad mood. We just had to wear a lot more layers of clothing, that’s all!

Lake Superior surf Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

The waves were enormous and neverending.

We traveled up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor where we got a whiff of what a fantastic summer spot this is. There was a haunting beauty in the cold gray autumn air, but what a place this must be in July!

Kayaks at Copper Harbor Michigan-min

Kayaks wait for better weather at Copper Harbor.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse has assisted mariners for over a century.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.

In our mission to see the fall color we had seen lots of hardwood trees starting to change, but hadn’t yet witnessed the peak anywhere. When we first arrived in Michigan we stopped at a visitors center that had a wonderful Fall Color Map on the wall. They didn’t have a printed version so I took a photo to help us with our travel planning as we zig-zagged around the U.P.

Fall foliage color map for Michigan-min

The peak fall colors in Michigan occur from late September to late October depending on where you are.

It was bitterly cold, but we just bundled up and had a ball, even though it drizzled off and on for days, in between vicious downpours that pummeled us and our trailer!

Dressed for cold weather leaf peeping in Michigan UP-min

These were One Dog Nights and we were glad to have him!

In planning which areas to visit in the U.P. we had seen spectacular photos of fall color captured in reflections across small lakes and ponds, so we started heading down small twisting dirt roads to get to a few lakes and were well rewarded for our efforts. The wind didn’t die down for a while, so our earlier pics were simple lakeside shots without reflections.

Fall foliage Worm Lake Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

A brilliant maple tree lights up a dreary morning at Worm Lake.

Fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


We took many walks in the woods where the trees were starting to show off their most vibrant shades.

Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


Autumn leaves Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


Up close it is amazing to see the color patterns on each leaf.

Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Pretty patterns.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


The colors were absolutely yummy. Buddy thought so too!

Fall foliage is yummy to a puppy-min

Buddy samples the fall colors.

Fall color Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


As we walked around we saw other fun woodsy things like bright red berries and pure white fungus.

Fall berries Michigan Upper Peninsula Ottowa National Forest-min

A hint of Christmas to come!

Ferns and mushrooms Michigan Upper Peninsula forest-min

These bright white fungi were shaped like miniature willow trees, each one about an inch tall!

We made our way back to the coast to visit the Miner’s Castle Overlook which is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Lake Superior is shockingly clear in this spot, and if you didn’t know you had to wear a winter jacket to enjoy the view, the turquoise color would make you think the water was as warm as the tropics!

Miner's Castle Pictured Rocks National Park Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Some of the best color we found was in Hiawatha National Forest on the small ponds and lakes scattered in the woods south of Munising.

Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


Fall foliage Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min


At Moccasin Lake and Red Jack Lake we saw some wonderful mirror reflections in the early morning before the wind picked up.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Colorful reflections at Moccasin Lake in Hiawatha National Forest.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Red Jack Lake

One day was particularly cold and when we got to the edge of the lake mist was rising off the glassy surface.

Autumn Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula_-min

Mist at Moccasin Lake

East Lake fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Mist at East Lake

Another fantastic spot we bumped into that doesn’t get any press and isn’t even labeled on Google Maps is McQuisten Recreation Area just a few miles south of Munising on National Forest Road H-13. A beautiful boardwalk takes you all around a series of small ponds with lookouts positioned every few hundred yards. We loved this little jewel so much we went back three times. Buddy had a blast running on the boardwalk. He sounded like a herd of elephants as he tore around, especially when he met another dog and they tore around together!

Mequisten Recreation Area Munising Michigan Upper Peninsula-min-2

McQuisten Recreation Area has a wonderful boardwalk with benches and overlooks.

We didn’t get the crisp sunny air that we had expected during our Upper Peninsula fall foliage tour, but the autumn colors were everything we had hoped they would be!

Puppy at Red Jack Lake in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula Hiawatha National Forest-min

Buddy framed by autumn leaves at Red Jack Lake.

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Waterfalls in Michigan’s U.P. – Tahquamenon, Bond Falls & Black River Jewels

September 2018 – After taking our RV along the southern shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, we arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place known for spectacular waterfalls.

Happy campers at Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade

Three happy campers at Bond Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

There are so many waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that it is really hard to decide which ones to see. We started with a cluster of small waterfalls that lie along the Black River in the northwest corner of the U.P. next to the shores of Lake Superior.

The five waterfalls — Rainbow, Gorge, Sandstone, Potawatomi and Conglomerate — are all within a few miles of each other and there is a rustic dry camping campground nearby.

The hike to each waterfall is a very short jaunt through the woods, and we headed to Gorge Falls first.

Hike to Gorge Falls at Black River Michigan-min

Buddy waits for the picture taking slow pokes that are hiking behind him on the way to Gorge Falls.


After a brief hike through the woods, we heard the roar of Gorge Falls as we descended the long staircase down to its base. Then we saw a beautiful rush of water falling down the rocks in front of us.

Hike to Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min

Gorgeous Gorge Falls

Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min



Gorge Falls is right next door to Potawatomi Falls, but it was Sandstone Falls just a short ways away that we liked most of this group of waterfalls on the Black River.

Sandstone Falls is special because rather than a vertical hike to the top or bottom of a steep waterfall you can climb all over the wonderful flat and wide rocks to view the multiple smaller cascades from many angles. A hiker we met on the trail told us his kids love to swim at Sandstone Falls.

As soon as we got there and began clambering around on the rocks I was entranced by the millions of white bubbles that were floating downstream.

The bubbles had come from the froth and foam of a bigger waterfall upstream, and they floated at varying speeds down the river. A slow shutter speed showed the magic of this bubbly dance.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

Cool bubble patterns at Sandstone Falls.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

In one part of the falls the bubbles were swirling in a circle like a pin wheel.

A little further downstream a series of cascades flowed between the rocks.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

Sandstone Falls.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

We loved climbing on the flat rocks along these cascades at Sandstone Falls.

Black River Michigan Sandstone Falls-min


After an exhilarating waterfall hike (or two) there’s nothing like a nice cold frosty brew. It didn’t take us long to discover the many flavorful craft beers made in the Upper Peninsula by Upper Hand Brewery. One of our favorites was a pale ale called Yooper which is the local term for people who live in the U.P.

Yooper Beer by Upper Hand Brewery-min

Yooper is a yummy pale ale named for the people who live in the U.P. !


At the mouth of the Black River where it dumps its inky brown tannin-filled water into the blue water of Lake Superior there’s a small marina at Black River Harbor and a cool suspension bridge that crosses the river.

Suspension bridge Black River Harbor Michigan-min

There’s a fun suspension foot bridge over the Black River near the harbor.

The best views of Rainbow Falls are reached by hiking through the woods from the suspension bridge at Black River Harbor. We headed into the woods one morning as mist still hung heavy in the air.

Woods hiking trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

Our trail through the woods on the way to Rainbow Falls.

This trail from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls is part of the 4,600 mile long North Country Trail that stretches through seven northern states from North Dakota to New York. Like the more famous Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, this is a trail that can be hiked in tiny sections — like going from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls as we were doing — or can be through-hiked from one end to the other over the course of many weeks.

We passed a trail box that contained maps and info and a sign-in book for hikers doing big adventurous hikes on this trail. We got a thrill looking into the box and imagining what it takes to do such a hike.

A few years back when we were doing a waterfall hike that crossed the Appalachian Trail, we met a fellow at the intersection of the two trails who was doing a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail. We’d been intrigued to see him carrying a very small pack for his four month adventure and to discover that his hiking boots were still holding up after hiking a third of the Appalachian Trail (700 miles) so far (blog post here).

Trail box North Country Trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

The Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls hiking trail is part of the 4,600 mile North Country Trail.
This weather-proof metal trail box held goodies for through-hikers.

Hiking the North Country Trail sounds very exciting, but we were content with a brief mile and a half hike out to Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Waterfall Black River Michigan-min

Rainbow Falls

As we stood taking photos of the falls a woman appeared across from us on the other side of the cascade at the top of the falls, phone in hand. She took a selfie and then she suddenly jumped from one rock to another over a part of the waterfall.

Holy smokes!

She seemed to think nothing of it, but this is a remote spot and the bottom of the falls was a long way down. We were the only ones in the area, and I doubt she knew we were there because the woods were very thick and we weren’t standing near the edge.

Brave jumper Rainbow Falls Black River Michigan-min

This could have been the last photo of this woman.

Closer to the ground, and much more rooted to it, Mark found a cluster of mushrooms standing between some red leaves that had fallen.

Toadstools and fall leaves Black River Harbor Michigan-min

Mark discovered a cluster of mushrooms on the ground.

Lying on the ground and shooting up at the undersides of the mushroom caps gave a wonderful effect.

Mushrooms in the forest near Black River Michigan-min

Shooting up at the bottoms of the mushroom caps seemed to capture their mushroom essence better than shooting down on them from above.

Even though all these cool woodsy things like waterfalls and mushrooms were just steps from Lake Superior, we hadn’t felt the lake’s presence at all during our stay.

However, a leisurely walk around nearby Black River Harbor took us to a nice sandy beach that was a delightful contrast to the thick woods that had dominated our lives for a few days.

Lake Superior Black River Harbor Recreation Area-min

Once you get clear of the woods, Lake Superior is right there.

The water in Lake Superior was surprisingly warm, and we tossed a stick out a little ways to see if Buddy would swim out to retrieve it. Sure enough, he did a few dog paddle strokes, but rather than swim back to shore he swam over to a nearby log and climbed out of the water as quickly as he could and walked on the log back on it to the sand!

Puppy climbs out of Lake Superior with stick x

Smart pup took a shortcut and climbed up on a log to walk back rather than swim to shore!


The Black River waterfalls are not well known, but Bond Falls, about 75 miles away, is one of the most popular destinations in Michigan’s entire Upper Peninsula. And rightfully so.

Bond Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Bond Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

A walking path and boardwalk takes visitors from the base of the falls up along one side to several smaller cascades. It is these cozier spots that attract photographers, and many a Michigan travel brochure or waterfall field guide sports a cover or centerfold photo from here.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfalls Bond Falls_-min

A smaller cascade above the main waterfall is a beautiful little spot.

Even though Mark and I often take photos standing shoulder to shoulder, our results are usually very different. This time we each instinctively gravitated to different shutter speeds…

Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade-min

I kept the shutter open for 2.5 seconds for a super silky and fluffy look.

Bond Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Mark used a shutter speed of 1/6 second for a more crisp impression of the scene.

We loved Bond Falls and visited several times at different hours of the day. Families with kids and old folks made their way up and down the path alongside the falls all the time, and most had been there before.

One older gal stopped to talk with me and told me she had grown up in the area 65 years ago and that she and her siblings had swum in the calmer parts of Bond Falls as kids. That wouldn’t be allowed today, but her eyes twinkled as she reminisced about being a little girl and calling this place home.

Peace in Bond Falls in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

We met a woman who grew up swimming here above the waterfall at Bond Falls. How wonderful!


One of the most dramatic waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Tahquamenon Falls over in the northeast corner of the peninsula. When we walked out on the path to the falls and got our first glimpse through the autumn leaves, my jaw dropped and I set up to take a shot immediately.

A young couple coming back from the hike down to the falls saw my tripod and camera gear and asked me if this was the best place to photograph the falls.

I laughed and said I had no idea. This was the first I’d seen of them! But it was very beautiful…

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Our first glimpse of Tahquamenon Falls

A little further on there was another view of the waterfall wrapped in fall colors.

Tahquamenon Falls waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Tahquamenon Falls

We followed the path towards the falls and came across a sign that explained what to expect as we descended a long ways down to get a close-up view of Tahquamenon Falls. We had to laugh when we read it!

94 Steps to the Brink of Tahquamenon Falls-min

If only we always got such a simple warning when we’re about to face disaster!

At The Brink we got a lovely sidelong view of Tahquamenon Falls.

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Tahquamenon Falls at The Brink

We climbed back up the 94 steps from The Brink and headed out on the path to The Gorge. This gave us a wonderful view of the falls from another vantage point.

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfall-min

Tahquamenon Falls as seen from The Gorge.

If you are a fan of waterfalls, as we are, the U.P. is a fantastic place to go waterfall hunting. These were just a few of dozens of waterfalls we could have seen, and I know we missed some beauties that we’ll have to check out another time. But we were delighted by the variety of the falls we saw and the fun hikes and walks we took to get to them.

Fifth wheel RV Black River Harbor Campground Michigan-min

Black River Campground.

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Lake Michigan – Charming coastal towns

Saugatuck Michigan Chain Ferry

Saugatuck Chain Ferry

Saugatuck Michigan Chain Ferry

Hand-cranking the ferry

Saugatuck Michigan shops

Saugatuck Main Street

Saugatuck Michigan shops Saugatuck Michigan shops Mt. Baldhead Saugatuck Michigan

282 steps to the top

Mt. Baldhead Saugatuck Michigan

Looking down at Saugatuck

Grand Haven Michigan

Grand Haven, MI

Grand Haven Michigan Higgins Lake campground Michigan

Higgins Lake

Higgins Lake campground Michigan

Behind the ice cream shop is a secret path...

Higgins Lake campground Michigan

Higgins Lake

Bay Breeze Yacht Charters Travers City Michigan

Bay Breeze Yacht Charters

Bay Breeze Yacht Charters Travers City Michigan

Free sailing!

Chateau Chantal vineyard Traverse City Michigan

Chateau Chantal vineyard

Old Mission Lighthouse Michigan

Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Peninsula Michigan Old Mission Peninsula Michigan boat Pyramid Point Michigan Hike

Pyramid Point Hike

Pyramid Point Michigan Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

Birch tree -- not aspen

Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Michigan

Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Michigan Iris farm Michigan Iris farm Michigan Iris farm Michigan

Saugatuck, Higgins Lake & Traverse City

Early June, 2009 - We left South Haven, Michigan and drove a little

further up the coast to Saugatuck, another utterly charming town along

the the state's southern Lake Michigan coast.  At the far end of town

we discovered the hand-cranked Saugatuck Chain Ferry which takes

passengers across the river.  As we stood at the little ferry dock

marveling at this contraption, a mom, dad and daughter on bikes

appeared on the other side of the river.  They started waving their

hands excitedly, the little girl especially.  Suddenly the two young boys

on the chain ferry leaped into action.

One boy managed the lines while the other manned the hand-cranking

station.  He cranked the lever round and round, and slowly the ferry

began to move along its chain.  The current is quite strong in the

middle of the river, and it made sense to put this hand-powered ferry

on a chain system so it couldn't drift downstream faster than it could be

cranked across.  The family on the other side happily loaded their

bikes onto the ferry and the boys switched roles for the return trip.

The town has a lovely main street

for walking and window shopping.

We found many pretty flower

displays along the storefronts as

we walked.  We wished we had our

bikes so we could venture a little

further from the center of town.

However, being bikeless, at least

this pretty flower basket bike was

nice to photograph.

On the far side of the river, where

the family of bicyclists had flagged

down the ferry, Mount Baldhead

has  282 stairs leading to the top.

Lots of people seem to climb this

staircase as a workout -- at

different paces.  Mark pumped

his way to the top at a steady

trot, while I gave myself a few

breathers near the end.

After admiring the view at the

top, we ran down the sand path

on the other side to Oval Beach

for a quick peak at the lake.

Then we got our heart rates

going again as we staggered up

the sand path to the top.

Sweaty and grinning, I started

down the stairs to the car.  I

hadn't gone 12 stairs when I

met a 79-year-old woman

coming up.  She had stopped to

catch her breath, and as she

wiped her brow she told me she

climbs this stairway once a year.

We got back in the car and started making our way north again.  On a

small road that wound through the backs of some pretty neighborhoods

we saw a commotion ahead of us in someone's front yard.  Kids and

bikes were everywhere and a small pen was set up in the yard.  We got

out of the car to see what the fuss was about and discovered a family

was selling a litter of six adorable Golden Retriever pups.  Hardly any

were in the pen; all were in the arms of the neighborhood kids.  The

momma retriever stood to one side looking very proud and rather

exhausted.  Mark finally got a chance to hold a pup, and he was in

heaven.  If we weren't living a traveling lifestyle, he would have been the

proud owner of a new puppy that day.

A little further up the road we stopped in Grand Haven, another small town that has grown

up along the shores of Lake Michigan.  An ice cream cone and a stroll around town, and

we were happy tourists.

We returned to Detroit for a week or so to catch

up with family again.  Then we got the itch to

see more of Michigan and set out for the

northern reaches of the state.  Our first stop

was Higgins Lake, Mark's family's old stomping

grounds when they camped with a myriad of

cousins and aunts and uncles in large family

caravans years ago.  The little Shasta sister-

trailer we had seen in Elkhart had hosted many

a family campfire at Higgins Lake.

Mark remembered the rangers at

this campground as being quite

cranky, and sure enough they

wouldn't allow us to drive through

the campground to take a look

around unless we paid for a night's stay.  As teens, Mark and his friends

had referred to the ranger there as "Ranger Danger," and had done

dastardly things like played very loud Led Zeppelin from their oversized

car stereo systems, blasting everyone out of the campground.  Now, of

course, whenever rowdy teens disturb our serene camping spots, I have

to remind him that it is simply payback time.

But our mission of the moment

was to get into the Higgins Lake

campground just long enough to get a good nostalgic

look around.  Mark drove past the campground entrance

to the old ice cream stand that he and his cousins had

walked to every day, and sure enough, the little path he

remembered still led into the campground out of sight of

the main entrance.  We snuck down the path and got

our trip down memory lane despite Ranger Danger.

Mark's dad had always rented a big party barge during

their stays on the lake, and as we looked out on all the

happy boaters, the many family slideshows we'd been

watching over the past few weeks suddenly came to life.

Continuing north across the state, we spent some time

in Traverse City.  This charming area was feeling the pinch from the bad

economy and we stayed in a motel that had posted a sign saying: "We're

almost giving rooms away," which they were.  As we drove along the

shorefront of this very pretty town, we heard

advertisements for a boat show.  Who could pass that up?

So off we went to see what a Great Lakes boat show might

be like.

Bay Breeze Yacht Charters was the center of attention.

The business had been recently acquired by Dave and

Kristin who had Michigan roots but had just spent 14 years

in the Caribbean bareboat yacht charter business.  "Your

brain turns to mush after that long in the Caribbean," Dave

said, so they had returned to Michigan to shovel a little

snow and sharpen up a bit.  They were offering free sails

on the bay for the boat show and needed two more people

before they pushed off -- so we hopped on.  What fun to

be out sailing again!  As we hung around on the boat for a

while afterwards, all the thoughts about our sailing

dreams that we'd been

avoiding for the past month

suddenly flooded back.


Early next morning we drove

out along the Mission

Peninsula on beautiful winding

roads past farms and orchards

and vineyards.  Chateau

Chantal is perched high up with

views past their vineyard to

distant farmlands that roll down

to the bay on the horizon.

At the end of the peninsula we walked around the Old Mission

Lighthouse and swished our fingers in the waters of the lake.

It was a glorious morning, and we must have said 50 times to each

other: "this would be a perfect place to ride a bike."  Sure enough,

before long, we came across a group of cyclists out for a morning ride

along those wonderful sweeping roads.  We followed them down a tiny

road that led out to the bay and watched the scenery unfold next to us

as we returned back towards Traverse City.

Every home had a boat dock across the

street, and boats of all shapes and sizes

were ready to take passengers out for a

ride on the lake.

Dave and Kristin of Bay Breeze had

recommended we drive straight west to

the open shore of Lake Michigan and

hike out to Pyramid Point in the Sleeping

Bear Dunes.  The hike took us through

some lush forest.

We noticed birch trees -- not our familiar

aspens -- along the trail.

At the end the

trail opened

up to a commanding view of Lake


The water was clear and turquoise,

shading to a rich blue a little further

out capped off by some low islands in

the distance.

We drove along the rural roads that

looped back towards Traverse City.

Suddenly a colorful palette of flowers

appeared, and we stopped for a closer


It was an iris farm, and the

irises were in stunning bloom.

The farm had planted varieties

in every possible shade and

color combination.

We roamed along the rows of

flowers for an hour, stepping

gingerly between them.

Looking around at the many

hues, I felt like I was in the

middle of a Monet painting.

A second night in the

motel where they were "almost

giving rooms away," and we

were ready to go to further

north in search of more scenic

waterfront villages along

Northern Lake Michigan.


















































































South Haven – Harbor Village

South Haven Michigan

South Haven's beautiful waterfront

South Haven Michigan

South Haven Harbor

Mark gets a quickie haircut

South Haven Michigan

South Haven's riverfront

South Haven Michigan beach

Fun on the beach

South Haven Michigan kayaking

A kayaker tests the waters

South Haven Michigan

Funky raised boardwalk in town

South Haven Michigan lighthouse South Haven Michigan drawbridge

Drawbridge to the inner harbor

Catching ducks - on film

Twilight over South Haven Harbor

Pirate ship ghosts past the lighthouse

South Haven Michigan lighthouse

Lovers watch the sunset

South Haven Michigan car show

Cool cars cruise the beach

South Haven Michigan lighthouse South Haven Michigan lighthouse

Wedding photos

South Haven Michigan lighthouse South Haven Michigan lighthouse South Haven Michigan lighthouse South Haven Michigan car show

I'll take it!

South Haven Michigan car show

Mark would prefer this one

South Haven Michigan car show South Haven Michigan car show

Dad at the wheel -- just this one time.

South Haven Michigan car show

South Haven, Michigan

Early June, 2009 - We left Elkhart, Indiana and started up the west

coast of Michigan.  We were in search of cute little waterfront towns, and

there is an abundance along Lake Michigan, each unique and

welcoming.  The first was South Haven.  The town straddles a small

harbor and a river channel lined with a pretty boardwalk leading down to

a small lighthouse.  We walked through town, admiring the small shops

and catching glimpses of the boats in the harbor.

Mark needed a haircut, so we turned in at the barber pole and he

got a quick clip.  With his new summer do making him feel lighter

and freer, we headed out to stroll along the riverfront.

Boats of all kinds were cruising in and out of the harbor, and as we

approached the pier we found there were two terrific beaches on either

side of the channel entrance.

We kicked our shoes off to feel the Michigan sand squeeze

between our toes, and watched the action on the beach.

Teenagers were strutting their stuff all around us, with babes in

bikinis perfecting their runway walks up and down the pier.

Back in town, we found a fun and funky wooden walkway

that climbed up and down and around the harborfront


There were little

eateries everywhere,

and a drawbridge

leading to the inner


Big boats and small

boats maneuvered around each other,

and a young girl in a dinghy followed a

family of ducks trying to catch them

with her camera.

We found a small motel on the edge of

town, and when we commented on the

charm of this town she said, "Well, you

have to go down to the waterfront at

sunset.  Don't miss it.  The sun sets at

about 9:30, so get there

about an hour before and

you'll have plenty of time."

We've seen such stunning sunsets in the southwest, just

peering out our trailer's windows, that her insistence that

we go back to town and down to the beach for the sunset

that night struck me as kind of amusing.  The sky didn't

look especially promising for any kind of colorful display,

but we followed her advice anyway and returned to town

as the sun was slipping towards the lake.

What a spectacle awaited us.  We began walking towards the pier and

found ourselves surrounded by throngs of people heading down to the

beach to watch the sunset: young couples hand-in-hand; families with

kids romping around in excited circles; old folks with a hand on the

railing.  Everyone in town was making their way to the waterfront.

A restored pirate ship that had been

taking people out on lake rides all day

had one last sunset dinner cruise on

tap, and we watched her stately form

slip past the lighthouse in the dimming


Some people spread out on picnic blankets, and

others just enjoyed the quiet moments as the sun

worked its magic.  Every swing and slide in the

playground was in motion with kids crawling all

over, and behind them the cars cruised up and

down and round and round the streets.

There was a car show scheduled for the next day,

and quite a few antique convertibles

showed up early as their proud owners

cruised the beach the way they did fifty

years ago.

A newlywed couple posed for

wedding shots along the pier

with the lighthouse in the

background, as the sun sank

lower and lower towards the


The ice cream stand was a hub of

activity all evening, and the evidence

was everywhere as nearby folks

wandered slightly off kilter down the

pier, head sideways, tongue licking,

while their eyes stared around their cones at the sinking sun.

Photographers of all ages staked out places on the beach to catch the sun slipping into the

water.  None of us cared about the sand filling our shoes as we stomped through the dunes to

get the best angle.  It was a great evening and a great show.

Once the sun had fallen into the distant waves, everyone on the beach quietly packed it up and

headed home.  As we walked back up towards town, surrounded by smiling people carrying

folded blankets and empty coolers, I felt as though we'd just left an outdoor concert.  Nature's

symphony.  The innkeeper had been right: we didn't want to

miss the sunset that night.

The next day was the car show.  Again, the whole town came

out for the event.  The streets were lined with beautifully

restored cars and admiring fans.  Mark's roots from the motor

city sure showed as we wandered from car to car and he

pointed out the finer points of each engine.  A peak under the

hood and he would suddenly ooh and aah and give me a

history of the engine and tell me which of his friends had

owned such a beautiful marvel of engineering back in the day.

To me they were all just shiny cars from another era, alhough I did like

the sporty little red Corvette convertible.  Mark's taste ran more

towards the muscle cars that just looked like plain old sedans to me.

But then he'd drop to his knees and point out the wrinkle wall tires and

tell of the time his friend put a $10 bill on the dash board and challeged

Mark to catch it as they peeled out.  Plastered to the passenger seat as

the rocket launched, there was no way he could reach that bill when it

flew up in the air.

We got talking with a fellow showing off his dragster.  He used to race it himself, but now it was a

father-son project, with him supplying the bucks and know-how and his son taking the wheel at the


At the end of the day there was a parade

through town and we had a chance to see

each car in all its glory.  Some revved their

engines as they went by, although our

buddy in the dragster got a tow through

town instead.  There were prizes of all

kinds, and almost every car won

something.  We left South Haven in high

spirits and made our way north a few miles

to Saugatuck.














































































Soo Locks – Freighter Elevator

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

The Soo Locks are the four waterways to the left. The

largest lock, the Poe, is second from the left.

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

A small powerboat enters the lock from Lake Superior.

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

The gates close behind the boat so it is now sitting in

a private bathtub.

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

The boat takes a long line from the line handlers so it

can tie up to the side of the lock during its descent.

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

The water has drained out of the lock and the gates

open so the boat can emerge onto Lake Huron.

Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

The 1,000' Walter J. McCarthy appears on Lake Huron

McCarthy aims for the Poe Lock which will raise it 21 feet to the level of

Lake Superior.

This is the biggest sized ship the locks can handle and it takes a

long time to get it situated in the lock.

The gates open for Maritime Trader, a smaller 670'

freighter which has shown up on Lake Superior.

Maritime Trader glides into the lock.

Line handlers appear on deck and on shore.

These guys make it look easy.

A line is walked towards the cleat on shore.

A line handler loops the line over a cleat.

Additional lines are led to other cleats.

Almost ready to close the gates behind the Maritime

Trader, we can see the bow of the Walter J. McCarthy

in the next lock over.

Maritime Trader begins its 21' descent from Lake

Superior to Lake Huron.

Meanwhile, Walter J. McCarthy is being raised 21'

from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.

The bridge towers over the back end of the ship.

The McCarthy rises higher and

higher while the Maritime Trader

sinks lower and lower.

The McCarthy emerges through the doors of the lock

onto Lake Superior

McCarthy steams off into Lake Superior.

Meanwhile, Maritime Trader turns on its engines and

churns the water in its lock as it heads out onto Lake


Maritime Trader heads off on the rest of her

journey on Lake Huron.

The Soo Locks: Lake Superior-Lake Huron, MI

Late June, 2009 - The maritime traditions run deep in the Great Lakes,

and after visiting the Hessel area and its many reminders of the wooden

boats of old, we took a trip to the Soo Locks where modern freighters

transit between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

The Great Lakes offer a relatively easy way to transport goods from one

region to another.  Some 11,000 freighters ply the waters each year,

moving tons of raw materials, mostly iron ore, coal, stone and grain (in

2008 shipping was down 45%).  Lake Superior sits a little higher above

sea level than all the other lakes, and in the early days of the fur

trappers, the only way to get your canoe from Lake Superior to Lake

Huron was to carry it past the rapids of the St. Mary's River.  This

method of "jumping" the river is said to have inspired the French to

name the area "Sault Ste. Marie" ("sault" meaning "jump").  In 1797 the

first lock system was built (on the Canadian side) so that ships could

float between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, and eventually the French

"sault" morphed into "Soo."

There is a fantastic visitors center and large viewing area at the Soo

Locks.  As we stood there waiting for some action, suddenly a small

open powerboat with four people in it drove into the lock.

We watched with fascination as the doors slowly closed behind the little

boat and a line handler gave them a line to tie onto their boat.

Slowly the water in this bathtub-like lock began to drain out and the

little boat disapeared from view.  The locks operate entirely on gravity,

as water either pours into the lock from Lake Superior or drains out of

the lock into Lake Huron.  Eventually the gates opened at the other end

of the lock and we caught sight of the little boat motoring onto Lake

Huron.  What a cool excursion for them!  It had taken all of 15 minutes

or so, and we found out later that for recreational boaters transiting the

locks doesn't cost a dime.  Just show up and the magic happens!

We were satisfied to have seen Soo Locks in action, and we were

about to leave when the lady at the visitors center said, "You really

should stick around.  There are going to be two huge freighters in

these locks at the same time in about an hour."  One of the ships

would be the 32-year-old, 1,000 foot freighter Walter J. McCarthy, one

of just forty ships of that size that works the Great Lakes.

Before long, the McCarthy showed up in the distance,

gliding towards us from Lake Huron.  It would be

entering the Poe lock, the largest of the locks and the

second lock out from our viewing area.  It was traveling

from Lake Huron into Lake Superior, so it would be

riding the lock system's "elevator" up 21 feet to the

level of Lake Superior.

It fit very snugly into the lock, and the handlers took an

especially long time getting the ship situated before they

closed the doors behind it.  It looked to me like there was

barely a foot or two to spare between the two ends of the ship

and the doors at either end of the lock.

Meanwhile, the

Maritime Trader,

a smaller ship of

just 594 feet,

showed up in

the distance

coming in the

opposite direction

from Lake Superior.

The gates opened

and the ship slid into


The line handlers on the ship and on

the shore loosely looped the lines

around enormous cleats.  It all

seemed very casual and easy for

them, but the hundred or so people in

the viewing area were all hanging

over the railings, excitedly snapping

photos every few seconds.

Once positioned correctly, the doors

of the locks were closed behind the

Maritime Trader, the water began to

drain out of the lock, and the ship

slowly descended to the level of Lake


Looking across the deck of the

Maritime Trader, we could see more

and more of the McCarthy in the

next lock as water filled that lock

and the ship was raised to the level

of Lake Superior.

Eventually, the water in the lock holding the McCarthy was even with

the water of Lake Superior, the doors of the lock opened, and the

freighter steamed out.

Simultaneously, the Maritime Trader had descended all the way

down, and the doors of its lock opened onto Lake Huron.  The water

in the lock churned behind it as it started its engines and moved out in

the opposite direction onto Lake Huron.

A few days after we left the Soo Locks, construction crews

broke ground on a pair of dams that will hold back the waters of Lake Superior for the next few

years while the two oldest and smallest locks are rebuilt into a single brand new big one.  Only

one of the three currently active locks can handle a 1,000 foot ship (the lock where the McCarthy

had been), so this new lock will allow more of the 1,000 footers to get between the two lakes.

Interestingly, the same thing is happening at the Panama Canal.  Rather than three single lock

systems like the Soo Locks, the Panama

Canal is a huge system of three

channels that moves ships through a

series of 26 locks separated by a lake.

It takes the ships up 13 levels through

the first 13 locks, sends them across the

lake under their own power and then

lowers them 13 levels through 13 more

locks to the ocean on the other side.  In Panama, a new lock system is

being built parallel to the other three to support the mammoth modern

supertankers that ply the world's oceans today.

Our visit to the Soo Locks capped off our time in the Upper Peninsula.  It

was time to make our way south again, this time along Michigan's eastern

coast where we visited some choice shoreside spots along Lake Huron.
















































































North Lake Michigan – Alluring Coastal Towns

Charlevoix, Michigan

Charlevoix, Michigan...

Charlevoix, Michigan

...flowers and charm

Charlevoix, Michigan Harbor

Charlevoix's Harborfront park

Charlevoix, Michigan fountain

Summertime !!

Charlevoix, Michigan painted park bench

Lighthouses on a park bench

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse

Charlevoix Lighthouse

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse

A boat waits for the drawbridge to open.

Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse sailbot

The channel leads from Lake Michigan to Charlevoix


Charlevoix, Michigan lighthouse sailboat and drawbridge

The drawbridge lets sailboats pass through.

Charlevoix, Michigan beach

The town sports a beachside playground.

Lake Michigan's clear water

Lake Michigan's clear water: turquoise and inviting.

Lilacs were in bloom.

Petunia beds escorted us out of town for miles.

Harbor Springs, a sparkling gem on Lake Michigan

Harbor Springs, a sparkling gem on Lake Michigan

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan sailing lessons

Local kids drop their bikes and bags to take sailing lessons.

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan sailing lessons Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan wooden boat

Beautiful wooden boats were everywhere.

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan wooden boat

Harbor Springs' waterfront park

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan

Have a seat and stay a while...

Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan Harbor Springs, Lake Michigan

Large equestrian estates fringe Harbor Springs.

The Tunnel of Trees scenic drive Michigan

The Tunnel of Trees

Macinaw City, Gateway to Macinac Island.

Macinaw City, Gateway to Macinac Island.

Charlevoix, Harbor Springs & The Tunnel of Trees

Mid-June, 2009 - We continued our tour along the beautiful Lake Michigan coast, leaving

Traverse City and making our way to Charlevoix.  I was amazed at how many quaint,

peaceful and picturesque villages perch along these shores.  Charlevoix has a lovely park

along the harbor in the center of town, and it was lined with bright petunias in beds along

the ground and in hanging flower baskets.

A small stretch of grass leads to a small marina,

and we walked along the docks soaking up the sun

and talking to whatever boat owners we could find.

There is an outdoor concert pavilion as well, and we

could imagine many a balmy summer night sitting

there listening to music.

Some kids were making the most of the park's fountains, trying to

stomp out the various spigots of water as they shot up and then

clustering around the big fountain.  I could sympathize with the little girl

on the edge who was freezing.

There is a

sense of

whimsy in this

town, and one

park bench is

adorned with


paintings of




We found the


lighthouse at

the end of a

very long

channel that

leads from the open lake waters to the tiny inner harbor.  It was a perfect

day for strolling along the channel's boardwalk and, as we walked, a few

sailboats made their way in and out of the harbor.

A drawbridge separates the channel from the inner harbor, and when it is

scheduled to open all the sailboats scurry to get through.

At the end of

the channel

there is a town

beach with a

playground.  I

could easily

imagine many

happy summer

days spent


Everywhere we

went I was startled by the clarity of the water.  Lake Michigan's water is

turquoise, much like the Caribbean, and is extremely clear.

Lilacs were in bloom.  They are one of my favorite spring flowers, and

they had already faded down south around Detroit.  We both buried are

noses in their fragrant clusters.

All of these

towns were

places where

we could have

easily stayed

for the

summer, but

we pushed

north on our

tour.  The

charming, whimsical air of Charlevoix stayed with us for a long time.  The

road out of town was lined on both sides with beautiful petunia beds.  It

made for a lovely drive.  After watching this continuous flower bed escort

us for at least three miles, I just shook my head in amazement.  That's a

lot of flowers.  This town is truly loved by its residents.

The next stop was Harbor Springs, a tiny village on the

water's edge.  It is an upscale town that boasts some

beautiful Victorian homes that were meticulously


We arrived just as the

kids were running down

from the yacht club to

prepare their little

sailboats for sailing


The area was lined with bikes and backpacks, and the

kids made quick work of getting the sails up and getting

the boats off the dock.  What a priceless, fun filled

summer lay ahead for those kids.

One thing we had noticed in every harbor in our travels was the large

numbers of wooden boats, all in beautiful condition.  Harbor Springs was

no exception, and this boat really turned our heads.  The woodwork was

pristine, with shiny varnish that was deep and lustrous.

We didn't realize until a few days later that one of the nation's three

major wooden boat schools was just a hundred miles north in the

Upper Peninsula.  No wonder the many gorgeous wooden boats here

in Harbor Springs were so beautifully crafted and maintained.  There

was plenty of skill and knowledge about wooden boats in the area.

Like so many other waterfront villages along this coast, Harbor Springs has a pretty park

overlooking the bay.  Yet again we felt we could stop and spend the rest of the summer right

here in blissful tranquility.

This town is very posh, and not only do

the fortunate residents spend time on

their boats, but they also enjoy

equestrian entertainment, tennis and

other country club pursuits during their

leisure time.

We passed some beautiful country

estates on the way out of town.  In many

ways it felt like we had just spent a few

hours observing a way of life that may

be fast disappearing in this oh-so-busy

workaday world of ours.  It felt like a

gentleman's town from

another era, especially with

so many stunning wooden

boats dating back to the mid


Route 119 leading out of

town is one of Michigan's

scenic byways called the

Tunnel of Trees.  For an

hour we drove along

through this winding,

green one-lane tunnel,

weaving our way under a

thick green canopy of

leaves.  Occasionally there were glimpses of the lake on our left or of small log cabins tucked

back into the woods on our right, but for the most part it was a curvy, narrow road, encased in

tree limbs.

At first the trees

were all deciduous,

but as we drove we

came across a few

clusters of skinny

pines.  Some historic plaques explained a little about the

area.  One spot, Devil's Elbow, had been a spring in a

ravine where the Indians believed local spirits made their

presence known in the wee hours of the night.  Another,

L'Arbre Croche, was the name the French gave to this

whole Tunnel of Trees region, so named because of a

huge crooked tree that towered above everything.

We emerged into daylight and made our way towards Macinaw City, the northernmost point of Michigan's mittened southern

peninsula.  It is the "Gateway to Macinac Island," the famed island where only foot and bicycle traffic are allowed.  However, we

took the other road and headed over the Macinaw Bridge to Michigan's Upper Peninsula instead.














































































Upper Peninsula (MI) – Cute Towns & Fine Craftsmanship

Macinaw Bridge Michigan Macinaw Bridge Michigan

Macinaw Bridge

Upper Peninsula St. Ignace Michigan Lighthouse

View from our motel room.

Upper Peninsula St. Ignace Michigan Lighthouse

St. Ignace Lighthouse at dusk.

Upper Peninsula St. Ignace Michigan Upper Peninsula St. Ignace Michigan boardwalk Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula

Welcome to Hessel

Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula

An urban bookstore in the

most remote setting.

Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula

100 year old lilac bush in all its glory.

Woodland jewels: lillies-of-the-valley.

Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula

Hessel is a quiet village.

Hessel Michigan Upper Peninsula

Lazy afternoons watching the small bay over a beer.

Wooden boat show Wooden boat show

A 1942 Chris Craft perfectly restored.

Wooden boat show Great Lakes Boat Building School

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Great Lakes Boat Building School

All students build a flat-bottomed skiff.

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Planks waiting to become boats.

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Yet another coat of varnish dries...

Great Lakes Boat Building School

A 32' footer is prepped for

shipment to Harbor Springs


Pasties -- meat-and-veggie pies I first

tasted in Australia

Snowmobile sign

Snowmobiles are the best

vehicle come winter.

UP farm

Sprawling farms grace the landscape.

sandhill cranes

Two sandhill cranes poke along

down a dirt road.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior's forbidding shoreline.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior Ice-water.   How did those girls

manage to go in all the way?

Upper Peninsula - St. Ignace & Hessel

Mid-June, 2009 - We left the cute, warm, Northern Lake Michigan coastal towns and ventured over the Macinaw Bridge to the

rather forbidding Upper Peninsula.  The bridge is a magnificent structure, and as we crossed it Mark told me a little about this other

side of Michigan.  The "Yoopers," inhabitants of the UP, are a breed apart.  They can withstand truly frigid winters and take great

pride in being from a vast land that shares little with the urban jungle of Detroit or the gentrified small towns of the warmer regions

to the south.  There is a ruggedness here, an almost frontier quality, that increases dramatically the further you get from the

Macinaw Bridge.

We didn't get too far.  The

small town of St. Ignace

beckoned to us just after we

crossed the bridge.

Bypassing the very elegant

waterfront Best Western that

advertised, "We aren't

expensive, we just look that

way," we stayed instead at a

small inn overlooking the

lighthouse.  Several motels

were closed permanently, and

those that were open had few


We were the only visitors at our motel for the night, and we had our pick

of any room we wanted.  Given that opportunity, I wanted to make sure

our picture window framed the lighthouse just right.  Mark and the inn

keeper shared some sidelong glances and rolled eyes as I vacillated

between two rooms, popping in and out of each one several times.  "You

should see her pick out a table at a restaurant..." Mark sighed with a


Later on he agreed

it was worth it:  as

the sun set and the

lighthouse slowly

winked at us

during the evening,

we both grabbed

our cameras.

St. Ignace has

a long wooden

boardwalk that

meanders along the edge of the harbor.  We walked along it the next

morning and found a swan and its babies paddling in the water.

A seagull surveyed the scene and eyed me up for breadcrumbs.  I

threw out a few and within seconds I was surrounded by the whole

flock and engaged in a wild game of catch.  I would throw pieces of

bread as high in the air as I could, and the gulls would swoop by and

effortlessly catch the bread in mid-air in an amazing aerobatic


Back in Traverse City, along the

northern part of Lake Michigan, we

had met Liz Fels who was staging an

exhibit of her photography.  She was

from the tiny town of Hessel in the

UP, and she recommended that we

stop by her bookstore/gallery when

we got up that way.  Hessel's

welcome sign made the town seem

like a happening place, but when we

got there we found a lovely, sleepy

little hamlet that boasts just a handful

of shops and an eatery or two.

It wasn't hard to find "The Village

Idiom," Liz's bookstore/gallery, and

what a find it was.  For any

enthusiastic reader spending time in

the raw lands of the UP, this store,

brimming with used books, is a rare jewel.

Not only is there space to unwind your mind inside with shelves of

unusual titles and a gallery of pretty photographs, but there is space

outside to take your new read, relax, and check it out under the sun.

When I commented on how beautiful all the lilacs were around town, she

took me to her back yard where there is a 100 year old lilac tree.  It was

immense and it was in full bloom.

I had a field day with flowers in this town.  A few doors down from the

bookstore I found a huge patch of lilies-of-the-valley.

You don't spot these forest gems too often, and Mark and I

both laid down to get a whiff of their heady scent.  A group of

cyclists going by stopped and gathered around us to see why

we were sprawled out on the sidewalk.  Ah, they nodded to

each other knowingly.  Lillies-of-the-valley... Of course!

Further down towards the harbor I found more flowers planted

along a whimsical, nautical fence.

The pace in this village is slooow, and

the air has a sense of contentment

and remoteness.

Visitors come here to let the cares of

the world slip away, and there is no

tourist hype or brochures of

prospective activities.

Long, quiet happy hours spent

overlooking the tiny bay and watching

the rare person working on their boat

is about as busy as it gets.

Hessel is the home

of a big antique

wooden boat show,

and we found a few

down in the

boatyard.  Too

bad we wouldn't

be here in

August to see

the event.

A fellow at the


proudly showed

us Shotsie, a

1942 Chris Craft that looks like it just came out of the showroom.  The

rich varnish, immaculate engine and new-looking controls inspired

images of young people of another era enjoying an afternoon on the


We strolled around the water's edge and admired several beautiful old boats.  I can remember

boats like these (not quite as pristine!) from when I was a very little girl on the beach in New

England, and Mark remembers aunts and uncles taking him for rides in boats like these on Lake

St. Clair.

A little further north of Hessel, in Cedarville, we found the heart of this wooden boat culture:  The

Great Lakes Boat Building School.  Set in a huge barnlike building, the doors were thrown wide

to let in the sun and spring air, and we peeked inside.

Offering an intensive two-year

program, students attend all-day

classes five days a week (with

summers off).  They range from

young people looking for career skills

to retirees looking for personal

fulfillment.  The $10,000/year tuition

puts you in a class with just a handful

of other students, mastering this craft

under the attentive tutelage of highly

qualified instructors.

In Year 1, all of the students build

the same boat, a flat bottom

double-ended skiff, which the

school then sells when it is

completed.  Selling these exquisitely crafted boats

supplements the school's income and helps keep the

tuition from being even higher.

There were boats in several stages of completion, and

outside was a gorgeous 32' boat that had taken two

different student classes two years to build.

The first class had laid the planks and shaped the hull,

and the second class had done the finishing work.

Now it was on a trailer, ready to go to Harbor Springs, home of the

lucky folks who had commissioned the school to build it.

Stopping for a snack, we discovered a local delicacy in the UP is

"pasties."  I hadn't seen these meat-pie treats since I was in

Australia in the early 1990's.  Down Under they call these yummy

personal-sized flakey crust encased meat and veggie pies "pahs-

ties."   Here in the UP they were called "pass-ties" but they were the

same delicious mini-meals that were probably brought to both

regions by Cornish immigrants many years ago.

We drove straight north across the UP, making a bee-line for Lake Superior.  The

temperature had dropped as soon as we crossed the bridge into the UP, and there were

snowmobile signs everywhere.  We even saw someone wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with an

image of a snowmobile and the words:  "Summer Sucks."  This was Cold Country!  Brrr.

There are endless paths through the woods where you can snowmobile in the winter, and lots of

wide open farmland as well.

Mark spotted two large

Sandhill cranes strolling down

the road.  As with so much of

the wildlife we see, we tried to

get them to stop and pose so

we could get a clear photo,

but they had other ideas.

We had seen two of the Great

Lakes so far:  Lake Michigan

and Lake Erie, and I wanted

to dip a finger in Lake

Superior.  We drove straight

to the first coastal opening we

could find and ran down to the beach.  A family was

coming up the trail from the beach, the kids shivering in

wet bathing suits with beach towels wrapped around them.

One little girl told us excitedly (through chattering blue lips), "I went in four times!"  She was very

proud of her feat, and once I put a finger in I could see why.  It was like putting your hand in the

water that collects around the ice in a cooler.  My hand turned red and ached instantly.

I am sure the Lake Superior coast is stunning, but that little bit was enough for me.  We turned

south and headed back to our cozy hotel overlooking the lighthouse in St. Ignace, planning our

next outing to the Soo Locks.

































































































Lake St. Clair, Michigan – Quick Trip Abroad

Big Boy in Detroit Michigan

Big Boys are everywhere...

Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit Michigan

...Coney Island Hot Dogs are too

Despite the depressing news on TV, Spring had sprung on Belle Isle in downtown Detroit

Harsen's Island ferry Detroit Michigan

Harsen's Island Ferry holds 9 or so cars

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan - swan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

B&B in San Souci

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

Riverside Grocery

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

Storefront in San Souci

Smoke stacks on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River

Pretty homes along the river too...

Port Huron Michigan

Pt. Huron, Michigan (US) - Sarnia, Ontario (Canada)


Mark buys us a basket of Bridge Fries - tasty!

Lake Erie coast of Canada

Classic red barns dot the landscape

Farm stand Lake Erie coast of Canada

Roadside farm stand on Lake Erie

Farm stand Lake Erie coast of Canada

Score!  Baked goods galore and veggie garden

treasures too.

Gobi fish trapping on Lake Erie

Trapping invasive Gobi fish for experimentation at the


Lake Erie shore Canada

Lake Erie

Lake Erie harborfront Canada

Lake Erie harborfront

Windsor Canada

Returning to Detroit via Windsor

Lake St. Clair, Michigan

Late May, 2009 - We arrived from the Burbank, California airport to a wonderful, warm family

reception in Detroit, Michigan.  Mark hadn't lived there in 30 years, and since then had made

only short visits, so we had many great get-togethers ahead of us.  In between, we wanted to

squeeze in some sight-seeing, as I had never seen much of Michigan, and Mark's motorcycle

trips around the state were back in the days when he had long hair, short shorts, and Rock

hadn't yet been labeled "Classic."

We arrived in Detroit at an especially dark hour in the city's

history.  Chrysler was in bankruptcy, GM was headed that

way soon, and most people we visited were out of work.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera as we toured some of the

amazing mansions that were built by the auto industry's

icons in the days when their profits flowed like wine.  The

sultans of that industry lived better than kings.  The opulence was breathtaking.  I could only

wonder what the factory workers thought in the early 1900's as they saw these castle-like

estates going up.  No wonder the unions became so strong: the profits were staggering and

the leaders weren't into sharing.

The auto industry was a cash cow that kept giving and giving and giving, for decades.  Eventually everyone had a piece of the pie,

and as the news anchors droned on about the industry's current woes, like the retirees losing their vision and dental benefits

(gasp!), we heard a few back stories about Generous Motors that flushed out the details.  From more than one person we learned

how folks on the line used to punch in at work, head to the bar for the day, and then punch out.  Or punch in, find a quiet spot to

sleep through their shift, and then punch out.  The party lasted for almost a century.  I couldn't help but wonder: how would the

founders of those companies feel if they saw their city today?  Where would their industry be now if those early leaders had instilled

a culture of productivity, cooperation and true generosity instead of one based on greed?

The story of Detroit's malaise filled the airwaves each night.  A mansion

that had sold in recent years for $15 million got auctioned off during our

visit for less than $5 million.  Half of the gorgeous estates we drove past

along the Grosse Pointe waterfront were for sale.  The once

unstoppable flow of profits had dried up.

Eager for some

pretty scenery, we

drove a circle loop

around Lake St.

Clair, the Detroit area

lake that sits between

Lake Huron to the

north and Lake Erie

to the south, dividing

its shores between

the US and Canada.

Harsen's Island was

our first stop, and we drove onto the ferry for the 10 minute ride to the

island.  Harsen's island is very rural at one end, with graceful homes

spread out along the lake.

At the other end, the village of San

Souci beckons visitors with charming

victorian B&B's, cute shops and a laid

back air.

We stopped at the Riverside Grocery

for lunch, watching some kids rolling by

on their bikes and a pair of young

lovers sitting side

by side gazing at

the boats in the

water.  This

seemed a perfect

place for languid

summer afternoons.

A little further up the coast we

walked around Marine City and

watched another ferry boat carrying

people across the river to and from

Canada.  We heard later that this is

the best place to cross the border,

as the lines are short.  Along the

river, both the Canadian side and US side have stretches

of gracious homes mixed with stretches of heavy


After spending some time on both sides of this river, it

seemed that there is a strong unity that bonds the people of this region, regardless of the

presence of an international border between them.  We saw homes flying both countries' flags

off their porches, and we saw posters with both flags crossed and the words: "United we

stand."  So it was odd, and sad, to see several US border patrol cars sitting on the US side

facing Canada.  We are accustomed to seeing them in southern California and Arizona, but

here they seemed out of


Up in Port Huron we took

the bridge across to

Canada's small city of

Sarnia, Ontario.  The

lady at the visitors center

suggested we get some

Bridge Fries from one of

the vendors under the

bridge.  Served Canadian

style with vinegar, we found

her recommendation was

right on.  Yum!

Heading down the Canadian side of the St.

Clair River we felt ourselves relaxing.  The

homes are nicely spread out.  We stopped

at Bogey's Inn near the village of Sombra

for the night and ended up in their largest

suite for their regular motel room rate.  "Last

year at this time I was booked solid," the

proprietor said with frustration.  The night

we stayed we were the only tourists there.

We veered away from Lake St. Clair the next morning to catch a glimpse of Lake Erie.  The fertile

farmlands stretched for miles with classic red barns and homesteads dotting the green vistas.

Suddenly the beautiful shores of Lake Erie opened up before us.  The lake was turquoise and clear,

and the homes were perched high above the lake with rolling grass lawns stretching down to the water.

We stopped at a farm stand, thinking we'd grab some apples to snack on.  As

we approached, the luscious aroma of baked goodies wafted through the

door.  We stepped inside and were suddenly surrounded by pies, buns,

breads, cookies and the like -- along with fresh picked healthy veggies.  At

the sight of those pies Mark was in heaven.  "Wow!  I'm going to get one of

everything," he joked with the lady at the counter as his eyes darted from

table to table.  I wandered around looking for the one perfect snack, admiring

the rows of maple syrups and jams while I mulled over getting a muffin or a

scone or a mini sweet loaf.  When I walked over to the register with my lone

apple bran muffin, there was Mark with "one of everything" -- and two of

several things -- laid out across the counter in front of him.  He grinned at me

sheepishly and shrugged.  How often do you find a gold mine like this?

We piled our boatload of baked goods into the car and had a small

feast of pies and cookies while overlooking the lake's crystal waters

across the street.  There was an opening that led to the water, and we

wandered down to dip our toes in the lake.  Some University students

were trapping Gobi fish, an invasive non-native fish that they want to

remove from the lake.  They were

taking the Gobies back to the lab to

try to find some natural deterrent to

limit the spread of this unwanted

fish.  Unfortunately, though, the

Gobi's were proving especially

tricky to trap.

We stopped in a small harbor town

to stretch our legs, and continued

our slow journey back towards Windsor, Ontario and the

Detroit River.  Faced with another border crossing back to

Detroit, and not sure exactly what the rules were regarding

baked goods crossing the border, we stopped and gobbled

down as many of our remaining pies and pastries as we

could.  The strawberry-rhubarb pie was out of this world, and

we each slyly unbuttoned the top button on our pants to

make room for more.  But even stuffed to the gills, we still

had some pastries and pies to go.  We just had to risk losing

our booty the border.  Of course, in the end, although every

car in line at the border had its spare tire removed and

inspected, causing an hours-long traffic jam at the tunnel, no

one asked if we were bringing in any contraband pies.

After a few more days of family gatherings, we headed out

on a slightly longer sojourn into Ohio and Indiana.