We hope everyone had a happy Fourth of July or more appropriately, Independence Day. On the flagpole, you might notice a boxy antenna. That is a WeBoost cellular antenna. I was planning to add a booster of some kind and found myself with almost no signal while camping deep in a National Forest. Lucky for me the local ACE hardware had the WeBoost Home edition on the shelf and I bought it. I believe the WeBoost Mobile comes with a different antenna that I can add later. For now, it worked and I received 20-40% better signal strength allowing me to maintain connectivity.
We departed Kentucky and stopped at an abandoned Air Force Base in Illinois for a night where someone bought the old mobile home park and converted it to RV spots. From there we headed north, but had mechanical problems that caused us to camp at a roadside shop (see separate post on Mechanical Issues). Then we settled into Wisconsin for a week where I could catch up on work.
We took an afternoon and visited Wisconsin Dells, which is a small town that has drawn tourists for more than a century. We walked the main street and browsed the t-shirt, cheese, and fudge shops. Pattie booked us a dinner cruise up the river that was quite nice. Half way into the trip the boat docked and they let us hike though the rocky gorge. We sat with a lovely couple and enjoyed a very pleasant evening with good company.
Finally we made it into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where we intended to explore last summer, but were called away for disaster relief operations. We stopped for four nights at Pioneer Trail Campground in Escanaba, MI and took time to explore the area and look for a place to stay over the Fourth of July weekend. Holidays are always a challenge for us, as we do not make reservations very far in advance because we don’t know where we are going to be. Naturally, all the campgrounds with full hook-ups were reserved. So, we took the Jeep and explored into the Hiawatha National Forest and found some first come first serve spots where we could boondock. We met the nice camp hosts at Colwell Lake Campground who suggested we go ahead and pay for 10 days to get us through the holiday weekend. The rules say you must occupy the site and not leave for more than 24 hours to hold your spot. Here is where carrying a couple old folding chairs in the Jeep to leave until we can get back with The Bus is a good idea.
We set up right on the lake for 10 days of Boondocking with our fresh water tank full and gray/black tanks empty. We explored a few small communities nearby and Pattie tried the UP favorite dish called a Pasty (rhymes with nasty, but it is quite good), which is a meat and veggie pastry similar to an empanada. Our stay went well except for a clogged generator fuel filter (see mechanical issues article) that took us away for a few days to Gladstone Bay Campground in Gladstone, MI on the Little Bay de Noc of Lake Michigan. The WeBoost kept me on-line so I could work. We took a day trip on the 4th to Munising, MI to see the beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with majestic views and pretty waterfalls.
We departed on 5 July and went to Ojibwa Casino in Baraga, MI. Online reviews said they had full hook-ups and a great buffet. It was awful. A water pipe had broken and I failed to check if it worked before we got level and set-up (the lady in the casino didn’t mention it when we checked in either!). We were able to drag their 200 feet of hose across the parking lot and fill our fresh water tank, so it was just an inconvenience. We explored up the Keweenaw Peninsula to visit Copper Harbor. On the way, we passed through Chassell, MI just as their annual strawberry festival kicked-off. We stopped and bought some strawberries, homemade jams and maple syrup. We explored the historic towns of Houghton and Hancock (separated by the Portage Lake canal). On the way back we stopped along the road to watch a beautiful sunset near Mclain State Park.
The next day we explored around the east side of KeweenawBay to the ghost town of Pequaming. (Just north of the pretty town of L'Anse.) This was once a thriving timber harvesting and wood mill community established by Henry Ford to provide wood for his early automobiles. When the post WWII metal cars came on the market, the town could not survive. Now it is seeing a resurgence as a summer vacation place with many beautiful homes.
On Friday and Saturday nights the casino was real busy and the smoke filters pumped the cigarette smoke out where the wind carried it across the parking lot to our campsite. That was enough. We departed early and headed east stopping at Muskallonge Lake State Park near…well, nothing. It was a nice park with electric hook-up and on Saturday we were able to explore further east to White Fish Point. We plugged the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum into the Jeep GPS and head out. Shortly the GPS turned us onto a graded gravel road. I assured Pattie that this was normal to have unpaved roads up here in snow country and I am sure it was a short cut to the highway. Soon the road was soft sand requiring four-wheel drive, but I again assured dear wife that everyone up here as four-wheel drive and the highway would be just ahead. The next turn things got narrow and muddy, then deep water, and finally the road was completely flooded. We doubled back to find the graded road and met a couple on an ATV. He said “What are you doing back here?” I said, “Apparently, I am lowering the resale value of this Grand Cherokee.” He laughed and pulled out some maps to show me how to get back to the graded road and the highway. He asked of we had an “ORV permit.” I said, “This ain’t no ORV, it is a Grand Cherokee.” He said, “Well, if you are going to drive on snowmobile trails you need a permit.” I started to say it was July and there was no snow, but figured we were just having a hard time communicating with his accent and all. The directions took us back to the graded road that did take us right to the highway. I don’t know why the GPS thought those trails were a better route. Use caution if using a GPS for navigation in the UP.
We finally arrived at White Fish Point and enjoyed the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. They told the story of many shipwrecks and had relics from many including the Edmund Fitzgerald. We appreciated the history and courage and ruggedness of the mariners and shore men in that area.
We departed and traveled to Cedarville, MI to spend a week at a resort right on lake Huron. It was a nice campground with full Hook-ups.
One evening we traveled to Tahquamenon River Falls to hike the area and see the second largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The water gets its reddish color from the decaying cedar and spruce trees. It is not harmful to fish or wildlife.
On the weekend, we traveled to Drummond Island and rented an ATV for a few hours to explore the trails and have a picnic.
Afterward, we drove up to Sault Ste. Marie (American side) to see the locks and have dinner. We were able to view a large ship departing up river through the lock. We took time to go through the museum at the Visitor Center which we found very interesting. We found a nice restaurant where Pattie had grilled lemon pepper whitefish and I had it Cajun fried. Whitefish is a native freshwater fish that almost all the eating establishments serve.
On Sunday, we took the bikes down to Mackinac Island and did the 8.2 mile trail around the island to see the sites. We had a nice lunch and bought some fudge before heading home.
With our exploring the Upper Peninsula complete, we began heading south. We had never been to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and wondered what it was like. The geography was much different than expected. It is very flat, lush with trees, lots of water, and a mix of soft sand and rocks. We learned about whitefish, Youppers, Pastys, timber harvesting for early cars, mining for Dolomite, snowmobile trails marked like roads, ATV operations, biting flies, rivers of red water, Great Lakes history, and canal lock operations. Best of all, the high temperatures were in the mid-70s most of the time.
Thanks for keepingupwiththejonesrv!