Great Lakes Tour 2020

I have so much to write about. Some sad, some happy, some probably a bit boring. But before I get into all that I want to report on our trip to the Great Lakes this summer. 


We had planned to drive, camp, and see our friends on the Upper Peninsula, and I was hopeful that we would still be able to do those things even when the COVID-19 numbers started picking up again. We had originally planned to leave Aug 4, spend the night in Ann Arbor, go to Sleeping Bear Dunes and spend 3 nights camping with our friends, go to their place for four nights, and then go camping in Canada for four nights. Many parts of that plan fell apart, beginning with our inability to get our passports back in time. It didn’t matter because Canada was closed to us, anyway. Then the campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes flooded and our reservation was cancelled. Everything was up in the air!

We decided since we had been waiting to do the 4-H County Fair and that was cancelled, we could leave for our trip a few days earlier. We left on a Friday, headed to Kelly’s Island State Park on Lake Erie, in Ohio. We made the 4:00 ferry-yay! and set up camp. It rained quite a bit on Saturday, and we got excited thinking that our friends might be able to say hi to us, since they were driving by, but the rain made it seem like a less fun proposition. We checked out the Glacial Grooves and drove around the island. We read Harry Potter in the rain shelter and Seamus and Gilbert did the Clover Come Together for 4-H in the car. They won a game, and Gilbert won one of the raffle prizes. He always wins raffle prizes! 

Look out world. Harlan’s thinking about driving!

That afternoon, we rented a golf cart and drove it all over the island! That was a hoot. The boys were so excited. Ever since they saw the golf carts all over the place, they wanted to rent one. Saturday night, I made a grievous error and left a box of bags of chips in the rain shelter tent. It didn’t even occur to me that there was “food” in there. And we woke to some crazy, bold raccoons in our shelter at 3:00 in the morning. Eeeek! I did not make any further mistakes in that regard.

Sunday was a little rainy, but we found some patches of nice weather to get out and about. We recorded a video in the driving wind, watched the ferry for awhile, and generally messed around our campsite. 

Monday was gorgeous. We took the kayaks out on Lake Erie, found a private sandy beach, and the kids swam and played for hours while I took a conference call for a meeting that involved a rather large restructure of my work. Then, Patrick took them out to practice capsizing drills in the kayaks. That was pretty funny, and the water was cold! We ended up getting everything put away and going to a great outdoor restaurant called West Bay on the island. The server said that this year she’s living on the island and they’re busier than they’ve ever been! 

Our own private beach.

Tuesday we packed up early since we had a long drive, and we got in line for the second ferry off the island. It was interesting to drive up through Michigan. We did stop in Ann Arbor to shop at Trader Joe’s and replenish our food supplies. We ended up rebooking our camping in the Sleeping Bear Dunes region at Interlochen State Park. We were on the side with the rustic sites, and it was so peaceful and gorgeous. Our friends were camping at the site next to us, the kids played Magic for hours, and we cooked, watched the sunset, played with dog, and enjoyed three nights of dry, beautiful camping. 

Campfire brothers.

Wednesday, we headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes to do the very famous Dune Hike. Harlan made it about halfway, where we could catch a nice vista of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands, and he and I headed back. The rest went on, and on, and on. They made it to the lake and had a little swim before trekking back over the dunes and enjoying a picnic lunch.

Look at these dunes!

Thursday, we went to the place where the Platte River empties into Lake Michigan. The river water was warm and shallow, but with a strong current. The lake water was freezing! It was really fun to walk out into the lake and pinpoint the different places where the temperature changed. The six boys worked hard at building a “swimming pool” and dredged channels along the little sand bar. Our friends are Seamus’s best friend, his little brother, and their mom and dad, who teach politics at the university and work as a Coast Guard officer, respectively. We asked a lot of questions about shipping procedures on the Great Lakes and learned so much. 

Lake Michigan looks like the ocean!

On Friday, we had to pack up camp and drive to the Upper Peninsula. We took the “scenic route” through Traverse City and Petoskey, but we didn’t find any stones. We ended up ordering a pizza, finding the bay side park in Petoskey and watching a Babe Ruth baseball game and boat traffic from the grassy knoll. There were boats out on the water, and it was pretty close to being in heaven. I was constantly amazed by how shimmery and Caribbean blue-green the water was on the Great Lakes. We crossed over the bridge between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and I almost didn’t manage it with the heights and low barriers and then the metal grates! I would not want to cross that in a snow storm…

Our friends have a lovely house, with a great patio and garden were so kind to have us. The older boys spent the nights in the house with their friends, and Patrick and I slept in the yard in a tent with the little guys. We played games and had great food and conversation, and it was what summer is at its best.  

On Saturday, we drove to Tahquamenon Falls State Park to hike. It was pretty, but it started raining on us so we abandoned our quest to drive to Whitefish Point, and turned around, hoping to beat the rain and see the Point Iroquois lighthouse. That lighthouse marks the furthest west the Iroquois traveled in their territory dispute with the Chippewa. Interesting history all over. 

Sunday, the weather was nice, so just our family drove to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to kayak among the pictured rocks. So beautiful! We were exhausted afterward, though! We all took a nice, freezing cold, dunk in Lake Superior. 

Pictured Rocks in a kayak.

Monday was our day to check out the Soo Locks. We watched several freighters go in and out of the locks, along with some tug boats and tour boats. We visited a little park and watched the ferry take people to Sugar Island. We had a relaxing day and prepared to depart on Tuesday.

A tug going through the locks.

Tuesday, we drove down the other side of Michigan, along Lake Huron. To be honest, we were all a bit tired, sad to leave (Harlan was especially despondent–Seamus was sad, but trying not to show it, and one of our friends’ kids were sitting in the house too sad to say goodbye), and camped and lake-d out. 

It was a terrific night of camping, though! We had a great site and walked over to Lake Huron, dipped our toes, and went to bed. The next morning, Patrick and I got up at first light and went to catch the sunrise over the lake. So incredible! 

Gilbert spent the night in a hammock!

We ended up getting a quick hotel night in Pittsburg. We got a pizza and it was good, but the room was hot (AC broken) and we were cranky and ready to be home. When we got home, Porter was so happy to play with his toys. The others enjoyed reading, sleeping in a bed, and being home for 36 hours! 

There you have it. You can see that I’ve run out of steam. More tomorrow, if I can.


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