**Guest Blogger Jessica Johns**
What hiking with a 4-year-old is really like:
Being on high alert for danger at all times (Snakes/Cliffs/Poison Ivy/Spiders/Stinging Bugs)
Bribing the child to continue walking with food and/or candy
Playing freeze tag with our imaginary friend (who is very good at freezing Braden)
Playing “I’m thinking of a super hero” for miles
Getting poked or hit with sticks (Seriously, what is it with kids and sticks? Picking them up, throwing them, hitting things with them)
Alternating between telling him to catch up to you or slow down because he is too far behind or ahead
Being prepared every 100 feet or so to stop and give Braden a ticket (like a toll booth) so the dogs and I can continue our journey
**Now back to the normally scheduled blogger**
Luddington Beach State Park
Lake Michigan is incredibly blue. I’ve tried to work on something poetic here, but just trust me — it’s the bluest thing I’ve ever seen.
Once we reached Michigan from Indiana, we camped at the incredibly crowded Luddington Beach State Park. It’s the kind of campground where Michiganders book weeks at a time for summer the minute they start taking reservations. We were lucky to get two nights, booking a few weeks early, even though we did have to stay at different sites within the park both nights.
While at Luddginton we kayaked down the creek into Lake Michigan and kayaked-surfed some of the waves. Braden and I both giggled unashamedly when the waves (1-2 feet high) threw the boat forward. Jess, ever cautious, was keeping an eye on one of the the kayaks inflatable pontoons which was looking less and less inflated. It was losing enough air that they stayed at the beach while I went and drove the car down to pick them and the injured boat back. I’m certain we will never get all of that Lake Michigan sand from the kayak out of the Fit’s trunk. I think we just didn’t seal one of the valves properly when we pumped it up. It was our second time out so hopefully that’s all it is.
At Luddington, I spent $36 to wash almost all of our clothes at a local laundromat. It was $3 per load at both laundromats in town, which hurt because it had only been $1 in Texas and $1.25 in Arkansas.
In summary, the park was a good one but uncomfortably crowded. Oh, and people in Michigan do not wave back at you.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
From Luddington, we’d planned to stay two nights at one of the first come first serve sites at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. They were all full, so we only got a few hours at Sleeping Bear — but it was worth it.
Don’t be fooled that it was “only” a National Lakeshore and not a National Park. The place was one of the most unique landscapes I can possibly imagine. The main features are 400-foot sandy dunes that rise steeply right out of the super blue lake. The signs warned that if you climbed down to the lake, it would take 2.5 hours to climb to the top. Braden racked up another Junior Ranger badge while I worked in the RV in the parking lot (free wifi at the visitor center!) and we did the driving loop in the Honda before heading North. If you get the chance go and be prepared to be stunned.
Wilderness State Park
Once we found Sleeping Bear was full, we started calling other parks and campgrounds. I guess with the short season, Michiganders love to get outside and camp because every nearby site was taken. Finally when I called Wilderness State Park the rangers said someone had had to leave early and vacated a spot for us. We booked and we’re glad the spot opened up. Wilderness is at the “tip of the mitt” for Michigan, looking out at northern Lake Michigan, the Upper Peninsula and nothing else. While there we stopped the Headlands International Dark Sky Park and I got my first photo of the Milky Way. I’ve always wanted to get a good one so that was big for me.
While there we also took Braden (dressed as Robin) to the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. There’s just something about lighthouses that always draws me in. They seem to have the same effect on kitchen towel designers. Braden was a huge hit with the ladies in the gift shop and after we left, he said “I just love ladies.” Watch out for this one.
At the campground, we also took an interpretive class on footprints where the volunteer teacher had a print that looked like Bigfoot’s print.
Unfortunately, I also had some work to do on the RV. The clean water supply line to toilet began leaking and I had to replace the 90 degree elbow in the line. Thanks to Shark Teeth fittings (thanks Uncle Byron!) the repair didn’t take long once I got the faux wood trim work out of the way. Still, it was a couple of hours of my Saturday hunched over the toilet which is never fun for any reason.
The hardware store and most everything else was in Mackinaw near Mackinac Island and the I-75 bridge to the Upper Peninsula. It’s an almost-charming-but-mostly-a-tourist-trap kind of town. It did have a nice little park down on the banks. Best I can tell, the “Mighty Mack” bridge marks the break between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan so we added a new lake to our list.
In all, none of us had ever been to Michigan. The summer weather was great in the mid-high 70s and low 80s. It hit 84 one day and I heard some in the laundromat ask another person how she was handling the heat. I’m happy to see sooo many families out camping at the parks but we found ourselves wishing for school to start back to clean out the campground.
RVers talk about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as if it were the Land of Milk and Honey so we were excited to cross over the bridge and head north!
Jess started reading “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck. So many people had recommended it to us, she’s in it and I’ll probably read it next.
There are a lot of unknowns out here on the road. Not necessarily where to stay and such, but little things like figuring out where things are like the grocery store, barber or laundromat. The first thing Jess does when we get to a campground is study the map.
We eat frozen pizza about every 10 days and we have rediscovered Jello pudding. Pudding — where have you been my whole adult life? So easy and tasty and easy to fit in a small container in a tiny fridge.
Jess has said she thought that there would be more spontaneous roadside stops. There hasn’t been a lot of time for that because we are usually trying to get to the next stop. Also anytime you make a stop it can be scary, not knowing if the RV will fit. She’s also married to an obsessive planner. Maybe I can plan on some unplanned excursions in our route.
Michigan had really good and cheap milk. We go through about two gallons per week.
In Texas and Arkansas, RVers wave at each other when we’re driving down two lane roads. If you wave at a Michigander, whether driving, hiking on a trail or walking by their site, they will probably just avert eye contact. Some may smile or even do a quick head nod. The rare Michigander will respond with a “hello” or “hi,” although those could have been tourists up from Illinois. Under no circumstances will a Michigander wave back. I’m a waver and this troubled me. Mostly, it just made me feel like Gomer from Andy Griffith.