Warning: Huge Post
Feel free to skim the headings and read what you want. It won't hurt my feelings. :)
As you already know, I ran the Grand Island Trail Marathon this year. When I signed up for the race in late December, I had envisioned taking the family up and making a mini vacation out of it. As fate had it, we did. :P Jennifer and I planned to take the girls camping all week in tents from July 20th - July 27th in Munising, Michigan. This way, we'll camp all week, I'll run my race, then we'll head back home.
Ready, Set, Go
Jennifer and I stayed up pretty late on Friday night and got the van and trailer packed up so we could wake up, feed the farm, then hit the road around 9ish. We woke up damn early and got everybody fed then off we went at exactly 10am. Our first destination was half way up into Michigan for a stay in Houghton Lake. This was a good half way point, but we had a long drive ahead of us. The girls watched DVD's in the back of the van while Jen and I just gabbed about how much fun we were going to have. There were only 2 pitstops on our way up, one was a potty break and the other was a coffee break... maybe it was the other way around, but I digress. The drive up was pretty uneventful for the most part. We decided to stop at Cabela's before we got to Houghton Lake to break up our first part of our trip.
If you go to Michigan, you go to Cabela's; it's that simple. This is quite possibly the best store in the world. Jennifer would spend all of our money here if we had it. We stopped here and ate a quick bite to eat and stretched our legs out for a while. It was raining and there was an outdoor tent sale. I figured that since the girls still had another 3 hours or so in the van, it was only fair that I let them play in the rain. A lot of people watched me let them play in the rain and commented on how great it was that I let them splash in the puddles. Jennifer was (of course) shopping and didn't know I was letting them do it, but it was fun to watch them have so much fun; they loved it! I bought a 32 oz. percolator so that I could still get my coffee fix away from my Bunn. We ate at the cafeteria and I had the Bison Burger. It was "ok", but I didn't see any fireworks from it like I had expected. Anyway, the kids were wet, I was full, Jennifer had shopped, and we had a bit more driving to do... so we left.
Houghton Lake, Michigan
We arrived at our first stop @ a Holiday Inn Express around 8pm and was able to get some family "pool time" before the pool closed. After the pool time fun, I took a quick 3 mile run through the quiet (and very dark) streets of Houghton Lake while the girls watched the Disney channel and ordered pizza. I must say that it was pretty creepy at times because I was in a place I'd never been before on very rural streets. I had nothing more than my headlamp, my reflective clothing, and a water bottle. I found myself on a long stretch of country road with my headlight as the only source of light at times. There were no street lights through some of my run and I felt like I could have been the headlines for a local newspaper a few times. I just focused on the sounds of midnight wildlife and kept happy camping thoughts in my head instead. :) Needless-to-say, it was a good run and it helped me get my legs moving after a long day of driving.
Mackinaw Bridge & St. Ignace
We woke up around 10am and got out of the hotel after a quick continental breakfast. Our next destination was the Mackinaw Bridge. We had heard that it was big bridge and... we heard right. This was an amazing work of art.
We visited a gift shop in Mackinaw City, then crossed the bridge to find a restaurant and eat some lunch. The bridge was 4 miles from end to end and I thought Jennifer was going to crap her pants at one point (she doesn't like heights). We ended up eating at a place called Driftwoods in St. Ignace that over looked the lake. We all fell in love with St. Ignace; Jazzy said "Mommy, this is like a dream, only it's not". :) She nailed it! Jennifer said that she loved this little town and we decided we'd spend some time in this area on our way back down at the end of our vacation.
After our lunch in St. Ignace, we headed over to Munising for our final destination. The drive was really cool. It was just strait-driving through beautiful country side. We followed the shoreline of Lake Michigan for a long time and it really got us in the mood for our week long stay by the water. Campsite here we come!!
Our Campsite in Munising, Michigan
We arrived at Wandering Wheels Campground around 6pm. We got the bikes down first so that the girls could get acquainted with the campground while Jen and I setup the sites. Surprisingly, we got everything setup in about 2 hours. We brought a whole bunch of rope and a whole bunch of tarps, so we hooked it up to prepare for rain right away. We setup two tents, a rain proof picnic table, a clothes line, and considered setting up our screen room, but opted against it to conserve space. People at some of the other campsites even commented that we looked like we knew what we were doing. We felt like pro's at that point. :) This is where we will call home for the next 7 days.
The campground was awesome! We had a prime location that was right by the pool and playground. Better yet, we were about 100 yards from the bathrooms and showers. Nobody was on either side of us all week, so we spread our campsite out and used a lot of space just because we could. As soon as we got setup, we all took a big bike ride and hit the gift shop and got some tips on local hiking trails and site-seeing spots. The front desk was extremely friendly and helpful. We were excited to get around and see how beautiful the upper peninsula is in all it's glory (outside of the van). :)
Yoopers for a Week
We got to bed our first night pretty early and woke on Monday morning ready to begin our week of... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! We did find out that Yooper is what you call someone from the upper peninsula. See, the Upper Peninsula is typically called "The U.P." (pronounced yoo-pee). Therefore, "yooper" just rolls off the tongue when referring to someone from the U.P. So, now I now know the meaning behind the Yooper Geek blog. :) Anyway, the only thing we had to do this week was act like yoopers (ie. just chill out).
It was so nice to not have to worry about checking my email, beating deadlines, listening to the phones ringing off the hook, or any of that mundane daily activity crap that consumes so much valuable fun time. Jen didn't have to worry about feeding the animals, doing the dishes, washing clothes, or cleaning after all of us. We just hung out and spent quality time with our girls. We swam, then when that got old, we cooked hotdogs, then we rode bikes, then we went site seeing, then we would swim again... no schedule, just family time. We all just kicked it around the campsite and had a blast. Here is a picture of me doing dishes after a yummy breakfast. Jazzy would find a dirty dish, Lizzie would rinse it, I would wash it, Lizzie would rinse off the soap, then Jazzy would take it back and get another dirty dish. We had a pretty good system and it was fun to just sit around shoot the breeze together.
Coffee Over the Fire
I love my new percolator, don't get me wrong... but it has it's own set of issues. It would take about 30 minutes before the water would start boiling (ie. "percolate"). Then it took about 10 minutes to actually brew the coffee. It was hard to time breakfast against this thing. Most mornings, the eggs and bacon were already cooked and eaten by the time the water would even start to boil. By the time the percolating process was done, the sun was out and beating down on us in all it's "sunny-ness". Of course we would have to then wait even longer to drink it because... well, it was boiling hot.
I also discovered that it's not a good idea to reheat percolated coffee after it's been cold. I tried doing this one evening and almost regurgitated it. It tasted like tar flavored oil spill. While some may thing this is useless information, I wish someone would have told me. If one person takes my advise and opts against reheating percolated coffee, I've done my job. You're welcome!.. and tell you're friends!
Pictured Rocks Tour
Wow! The Pictured Rock Tour deserves it's own blog post. However, for now, I'll summarize it with a picture and a big "WoW!"
If you go to the Michigan's Upper Peninsula, pay the money and go on the Pictured Rock Tour! It was a big highlight of our vacation.
This was a little water fall that was visible right from the road. Alger (pronounced al-jur) is the name of the County that Munising is in. Alger Falls was about 3-4 miles west of the Wandering Wheels Campground. We saw it the first time we headed into Munising and it got us excited to see other falls in the area. There are so many water falls up here in the north side of the UP, and this was our first spotting. :) We would visit other (bigger) falls throughout the week, but this was right next to the road and was pretty cool to say the least. After all, we don't have this type of scenery in central Ohio.
Horseshoe Falls ($15 per family)
This was the first site seeing adventure that we stumbled upon (aside from Alger Falls). We saw signs for this attraction and were pretty excited to see it in person, as it appeared to be pretty big from the various brochures we'd seen. We winded back through some residential area and found the building tucked back into the corner of the woods. We parked the car and walked up to the gift shop since that was the only way to get to the falls. As we walked in the door, we saw a lady standing by the other door (that led to the falls) and next to her was a sign with various dollar amounts. Come to find out, Horseshoe Falls is actually on private property and we had to pay to see the water fall. :( Talk about a disappointment! It was $15 per family to walk through the door and see natures natural beauty. Oh well, we paid it and got some pretty cool pictures of it. Even though it cost money to see, I feel it was (almost) worth it, as these people clearly put a lot of effort into the property to make it an enjoyable hike.
Miners Castle & Miners Falls
This was really cool! We first went to Miners Falls since it was about 2 miles before Minsers Castle. We had heard that this was a nice water fall and had already purchased post cards with pictures of the falls on it; it only seemed fitting that we actually saw it. We parked and wound up walking a little over 1/2 mile before we got to the actual water fall. It was absolutely beautiful! I carried Daizi on my back, so my shoulders were in pretty pad shape by this point. The girls really liked this one though, and so did Jennifer and I.
After we were done at Miners Falls, we drove further up the road to see Miners Castle. We had seen Miners Castle from the Pictured Rocks Tour and (I must say) it's a lot higher up than it looked from the boat. :) Jazzy took a hard fall while she was running along the sidewalk and really banged herself up pretty good. She tripped over her feet and wound up with lots of boo-boos. Once we got her all bandaged up back at the mother ship (ie. the van), we went along with our tour. The sites from way up here were breathtaking. You could see for miles and miles out into Lake Superior. Think of Miners Castle as a big wooden deck way up on a rock; that's basically what it was. We all really enjoyed Miners Castle and Miners Falls. These two attractions were well worth the drive.
This was another beautiful waterfall that we visited. The walk was very short to see the falls and it was a very quick visit. Not a whole lot to say about Munising Falls, other than it enforced how amazing Mother Nature really is.
Trail Running in Munising
After visiting Munising Falls, I took a quick trail run and found myself in the middle of the most beautiful trails known to man. I started from Sandpoint Beach and followed a beaten path to a bridge that wound through a marshy area. About 1/4 mile later, my run opened up to the woods and I found myself running on layers of fallen pine needles and winding through pine trees and lush plants. The weather was a bit warm but breezy since I was just in the woods right off of the lake. About 1.2 miles into my run I came across a water fall that was only accessible on this single beaten path through the woods. Immediately after finding this water fall, I followed the path up a section of wooden steps that took me up and up to the top of the water fall. It was a pretty intense climb up the steps but only because I pushed myself. Once I got to the top, it was worth it, because the breeze picked up and I could feel the winds coming off of Lake Superior from up here. I wish I could have brought my girls up here to see all of this. It really made my day. I continued along the ridge for a while and wanted to keep going, but decided to only go until 1.5 miles and then turn around and head back to the beach (and my girls). This will go down as one of my favorite trail runs of all times.
After Munising Falls, I took my trail run (above) while Jennifer took the girls to Sandpoint Beach. It was basically right down the road from Munising Falls. The girls waded in Lake Superior up to their chest and the water was probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they didn't seem to care. I got in the water with them for a bit, but not for long. I only got in a little past my knees and that was far enough.
Oswalds Bear Ranch
This was cool! On our way from Munising to Neebish Island, we stopped to visit a place where there were a bunch of black bears. The girls loved it, as did Jennifer and I. A couple of bears came within 5 feet from Jennifer as she was taking their pictures. I'll be sure to post the pictures up to my online photo album soon. For now, I only have this picture of a bear that almost took Lizzie's head off. :)
I still have more to tell, but I'm running out of energy. :) I'll post this for now and hope to have more later including our trip to Neebish Island, and our log cabin in St. Ignace.