I learned today that folks who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan refer to those who live in the lower part of the state as “trolls”. My guess is because they live below the bridge? And what a bridge it is! The Mackinac Bridge connects the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan and claims the spot as the third longest suspension bridge in the world. It opened in 1957 over the Straits of Mackinaw where for two decades prior a ferry was the only way across. Today an average of 11,608 vehicles cross the bridge daily on 4 lanes of Interstate 75. On the day we drove across, the road was reduced to a single lane in each direction due to construction. It was probably for the best because since each lane is only 11′ wide and we are about 8.5′ wide, which doesn’t leave much extra space between us and vehicle in the next lane.
Before reaching the bridge we enjoyed a nice 2 hour drive up the west side of Michigan. We stayed off the interstate that runs up the middle of the state, instead choosing to follow a 2 lane highway that stuck close to the shore and passed through quite a few cool towns with picuresque harbors and charming downtowns. We also spotted dozens of roadside farm markets advertising fresh cherries, raspberries, blueberries and of course, homemade pies! This area of Michigan is pretty well known for its cherry production. For miles along the road you can see orchard after orchard full of cherry trees. In fact, Traverse City hosts an annual Cherry Festival that we considered checking out on our way through town. We passed by the festival as we drove through the city, but since we were towing the airstream and parking seemed kind of tight we decided not to stop. Don’t worry though- we got our cherry fix anyway! We stopped at a farm stand that not only had cherries and cherry products, but also other fresh fruits and vegetables along with local meats, breads and cheeses. Pretty cool how many of these places we drove past on our drive. It’s nice to see so many locally grown food options.
We bought cherries, but not a pie because I planned on making my own. I’ve been dreaming of baking a pie on the grill and these cherries helped make that dream come true. It was actually pretty simple. I made 2 small rustic pies that fit perfectly on the griddle and grilled them on low for about 20 minutes. The bottom was a bit darker than I would have liked, but the top crust came out perfect and the cherries were sooo sweet and bursting with goodness. I see more grilled pies in our future for sure.
When we weren’t busy eating pie we enjoyed our stay at Brevort Lake Campground by hiking in the Hiawatha National Forest and chilling at yet another gorgeous beach. Check out these wild blueberries we spotted along the hiking trail.
The campground was located on a small lake a few miles from Lake Michigan. Our site had access to the water which Phineas enjoyed greatly, but us humans preferred the sandy beach and warm clear waters of Lake Michigan only a mile down the road. You can’t tell from this picture, but there’s a 4 lane highway right behind the truck. You can pull off wherever you like and find a path through the dune grass down to the water. We keep marveling at how much free waterfront access there is around here. Michigan is friendly like that. I feel like a broken record saying this, but the beach and the water were simply stunning. Soft sand, clean clear water and a sand bar that kept the water shallow for quite a while. We spent 2 afternoons at the beach playing in the water and reading under the umbrella. Phineas was enjoying himself so much that both days we had to put him in the truck for the last 1/2 hour so he didn’t wear himself out.
Besides the fabulous beaches, the other awesome thing about the U.P. is how many hours of daylight there are. The sun sets at 9:40 and rises at 6:10- that’s a whole lotta daylight!
Our campsite was a nice size and had a pretty view of the lake. It was a primitive state forest campground with no hook ups available, although they did have real restrooms and showers. We’re managing very well with no hookups. For three days we have plenty of fresh water and tank holding capacity. The only issue with running solely on battery power is that for some reason our inverter refuses to power my computer or our smoothie maker (immersion blender). The immersion blender I can live without ,but I’ve been missing the computer. I can use the ipad because it can be charged through the inverter, and Tim has a 12 volt plug for his computer, but I’m spoiled and need my own computer to function. It seems like the best solution is another small computer like Tim’s that can be powered on 12 volt, but until we stay somewhere with a WiFi connection this is how it’s going to be. I’ve been using the ipad for all my internet browsing needs and if we run the generator for an hour it charges my computer long enough for me to import photos and write a blog post.
The closest town to our campground is Saint Ignace, which is about 1/2 hour away. We took drive to the town on Thursday evening hoping to enjoy the 1 mile boardwalk and maybe find some cool shops and a place to eat. It was kind of disappointing. The boardwalk was run down, the shops where deserted and there were only a few place to eat. It seems that the main attraction of Saint Ignace are the ferries that run back and forth from the mainland to Mackinac Island. Everything we heard about the island indicated that it was not much more than a place to shop and view the bridge. We opted not to go. I think its close proximity probably explains why St. Ignace has so few shops and restaurants- they’re all on the island.
We ended up having a surprisingly good meal at a local spot that used to be the club house for the town yacht club before heading back to camp. So far we’re really enjoying the Upper Peninsula and look forward to a few more days in the area before continuing west into Wisconsin.
We thought the same thing about the island, until we visited it. Once we got past the fudge and taffy shops we did a nearly 13 mile hike around the perimeter and through the woods to some fantastic bluffs overlooking the water. We had those trails to ourselves! Thank goodness for all the fudge shops. :D