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Published: June 16th 2018
Tourist Park Campground, Munising, Michigan
We made it to our fourth, and last, Great Lake. (We aren’t going to see Lake Ontario on this trip.) We spent some time on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Then we kind of drove around the edge of Lake Erie when we drove west from Cleveland and up into Michigan. After that we spent another week on the northeastern side of Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Yesterday we drove a little less than 300 miles up to what they call the Upper Peninsula - the part of Michigan that kind of looks like an accent mark above the glove. We first drove west to Traverse City and did some shopping. We were told that we were definitely going to need heavy duty bug repellants in this part of the world and that Menard’s, a big store sort of like Lowe’s, would have everything we might need. We found the store, parked the rig, and sure enough, they had a twelve-foot section of shelves covered with various bug devices, sprays, lotions, and netting. I really didn’t know they made all that stuff. Sort of bewildered
by the choices, a local guy told us that he has great luck with something called Thermacell. So on his advice we bought the device and some butane cylinders with pads that somehow keep the bugs away around a 12 foot radius. It wasn’t cheap, but it gets rave reviews. Hopefully it is worth the money.
Back on the road, we headed north on US 31, a green-dot route that skirts the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, going through all the local towns. It is a really pleasant drive. Joan found us a place to eat in one of those towns, Petoskey, called Palette Bistro. I had the paella, Joan had something called a hamburger bowl - they were both terrific and Joan wrote up a 5-star review in Trip Advisor. The only problem was parking for the big rig. I was lucky enough to find two metered parking spaces a couple blocks from the restaurant that I could just pull into. We put money into both of the meters, to keep from getting a ticket, and it apparently worked. But I’m not sure what people do with trailers or big motor homes in the high season when its
more crowded. If you can swing it, somehow, stop for a meal here. It will be worth it.
Eventually US 31 funnels you into Interstate 75 and the Mackinac Bridge. This bridge was an amazing engineering feat in its day, opening up this part of Michigan to tourism which has become probably the most important industry here. Before then, the only way into that part of Michigan was to go all the way around Lake Michigan and up through Wisconsin, a trip of several hundred miles, or pay for expensive ferries. It is a toll bridge, though, and because my super light trailer has two axles, I still had to pay $8 to cross the bridge. That’s unfair, given the trailer weight, but no-one is going to take the time to complain, so we just pay it.
Once across the bridge, we went west on US route 2, north on Michigan 77, across the peninsula, and west again on Michigan 28. All of which is a green dot route. Occasionally, views of Lake Michigan would poke through the trees on our left. But once we started west on 28, the views were on the right and were of
Lake Superior - the largest of the Great Lakes.
We were rather late getting into our campground, but it is a very stunning surprise. Although it is a local operation, run by the city of Munising, this campground is located right on the shores of the lake. I’m typing this looking northwest out over Lake Superior. It will be a delightful stay. The sunset last night was fabulous - equal to what we see in New Mexico. I’ve included several pictures of it as it developed. We took those pictures just maybe 100 feet from our campsite, right on the beach - life is tough sometimes.
A short note on ecology: Once we got to Traverse City, we entered a major new eco-region. This area is called the Northern Forests and you can tell the differences easily. The trees change from a mix of predominantly hardwood types to almost entirely evergreen trees. These are mostly spruce and fir trees with a scattering of pines. In addition to a more hostile climate- cold and snow - the major reason for the change is the geological history with glaciers. The glaciers were so intense that a lot of the sedimentary
rocks were simply scraped away and pushed south, exposing more bedrock than occurs in most places on the continent. Although covered with rolling hills, the soil is very poor here, supporting only the hardiest and least demanding trees, like spruce and fir. Agriculture is almost non-existent in this region. But forestry and mining were historically very important. This is a part of the world neither Joan nor I have seen before and it is beautiful. Most of the rest of this trip will be in The North Country.
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