This is Why People Don’t Like Michigan

Back in Michigan, and back in the Eastern Time Zone, we find ourselves nearly drowning, then freezing to death.  Grim weather is sparking discussion of whether we should just point the Fireball toward the Bridge, then home.

We left Wisconsin in the pouring rain, and headed to FW Wells State Park in Michigan.  Two days of rain had left many of the sites there submerged. 20141015_142956 Luckily, the park was deserted, so finding a spot above the waterline wasn’t a problem.  The view would have been great – we were 40′ from Lake Michigan, but gray/rain/wind doesn’t make for many great photos.20141015_144029On to Fayette State Park, a spot we designated as a ‘must’ when planning our trip.  We snagged a campsite elevated from most of the mud, and put up our awnings, hoping for a dryout during our two-day stay.  Again, we had the park to ourselves. 20141017_152949 The last of the yellow maple leaves were falling in earnest, pushed by gusty winds.  A hundred yards away, Big Bay de Noc was roaring – smallish waves very close together smashing on shore.

Fayette was a mining town from 1867 to 1890, when the smelter ran for its last day on December 1.  For the next 50 years, there was a bit of hunting/fishing tourism business, before the State purchased the entire area and designated it a Historical State Park.  What a treasure! 20141017_132702 The entire town is there to wander – the gorgeous house of the mine Superintendent, homes of the foremen, businesses and community buildings, and one reconstructed home of a laborer.  Rather than spit out a history lesson, I’ll just show the photos.

The heart of the operation was the smelter.20141017_121849The smelter was fed by huge kilns which held 35 cords of wood each, producing charcoal to run the blast furnaces.  The wood was loaded into the kiln, set afire, then left to heat for 6-8 days, producing charcoal.  Here’s the outside of a kiln.20141017_122852And the inside….20141017_122926The Superintendent’s home from across Snail Shell Harbor.20141017_123407The town center included a music hall, community buildings, and company stores.20141017_120501As well as an enormous hotel.20141017_113732Here are a few other random shots from the day.20141017_11550820141017_12363420141017_12522420141017_13153520141017_12040920141017_12374820141017_11371720141017_110559Along the Trail to the Park, we found this ancient cedar, which has obviously been the setting for many a photo.20141017_115605We were lucky to get there when we did.  At the Visitor Center, we learned that the Park would close for the season the next day.

Of course, I had to wander down to the St. Peter The Fisherman cemetery.  Set at the end of a muddy trail, it was a serene, if somewhat decrepit resting spot.20141017_15153820141017_151301We left Fayette after five straight days of rain.  Luckily (I guess we have to look at it this way….), when the rain stopped, the wind picked up, and dried out our awnings before we had to pack them up.  But, oh did the wind ever howl!  The temperature as we packed up was in the low 40s.  Winds were 10-20mph, gusting to 30.  Top that off with gray, overcast skies, and you’ve got yourself a day when you really want to just cover up and stay in.

But, no……off we go to Palms Book State Park, home of the Big Spring, Kitch-iti-kipi, a 200 foot wide, 40 feet deep freshwater spring. 20141018_115437 The cool thing here?  You see the spring from a big square barge-like raft with a viewing hole in the middle.  It runs across the spring on a huge cable which is powered by turning a large captain’s wheel.20141018_115605 Out in the middle of the spring, the bright green clear water is teeming with huge trout. 20141018_121138 The circles on the bottom are the spring boiling up through the silt.  It’s eerie.20141018_120636 This would have been the perfect spot for me to shoot a brief video, but leaning over the water with a death grip on my camera, it didn’t seem like such a good idea at the time.  (That’s the bad thing about a cell phone camera – no strap to hook it to your wrist for these situations!).20141018_120524Captain John drives the barge back to the dock.  Interesting group of passengers…20141018_121550There’s nothing else at this State Park to see or do, so we head to nearby Indian Lake State Park to camp for a night.  The wind is howling, and it’s bitterly cold outside.  Once again, we find ourselves a day ahead of the Park closing for the season.  We hope somebody appears at this cool Alta camper, so that we can get a peek inside.  The black parts are all smoked plexiglass, so the entire inside of the camper is a panoramic view.  This would be a gorgeous camper to have in some of the big National Parks in the Southwest.  As it was, these folks just have a view of a gray day through black windows.  20141018_174723 Like idiots, we had planned a Dutch oven dinner, so we sheltered the oven as best we could from the winds blast and cooked dinner.  Great dinner, but a really unpleasant cooking experience.  This morning, it’s 26 degrees outside, as I write this.  But, sunshine….we are encouraged.

We’re finding that many of the State Forest and National Forest campgrounds are closed for the season.  Our plans had been to skip along the Lake Michigan shoreline, as we did Lake Superior, checking out the changing views, finding a hike or two, then moving on.  Now, we’re uncertain.  We are tugged toward throwing in the towel and heading home, but hesitant to do so.  Hoping that a day or two with decent temperatures and a bit of sunshine will keep us on the road.  We’ll see….


21 thoughts on “This is Why People Don’t Like Michigan

  1. Hi– How fun that I stumbled across your blog (while looking something up about Kitchitikipi on Google) this morning. I live close enough to Indian Lake State Park that my 3 year old can ride his bike there. This was, indeed, a dismal stretch of weather. We are all just grateful that the precipitation has not been accumulating snow, yet. It is the community spirit that keeps people going through this weather and through the long winters. If you find yourself back this direction during the warmer months, I’ll share my favorite thing about Indian Lake SP. At dusk, head down to the far picnic shelter–the big limestone one–and go lay on the paved trail by the lake and look up. It is a bat super-highway. It never ceases to amaze both myself and my kids.


    • Batville sounds cool – I would definitely do that! I walked down that trail yesterday morning, thru the woods along the creek. Although my dog could nimbly hop over most of the mud, I was in up to my ankles in a few spots. Enough with the rain!

      You are lucky to live in such a gorgeous area. We’re from Grand Rapids – nice, but not nearly as pretty as most of the UP.

      We do hope to get back that way again. But, I don’t know if I would be willing to deal with all the summer crowds to see the bats. Guess I’ve got lots of time to think about it.

      Thanks for getting in touch, Jill.


  2. Another fascinating tour, but ewwwww! That weather!! You have my extreme admiration for continuing to camp in it. This southern girl would have thrown in the towel a long time ago!

    And I think I would have preferred canned soup and a sandwich to dutch oven cooking in the cold and wind.

    You really are amazing! :)


    • We think of the good food as our reward for getting thru an unpleasant day. My mom used food/candy as a lot of behavior mod tricks to keep my sisters and me in line, and I guess it’s stuck with me all these years. We really focus on what we’re going to cook each day. Our stove and grill get a good workout.

      Yesterday was sunny. We rejuvenated. Rained all night, and is still sprinkling now. We’re hoping it goes away soon – anxious to explore our new camp.

      Thanks for checking in.


  3. It’s a shame that you’ve had so much rain while on this trip, but you seem to be holding up well and making the most of it. In spite of the weather, you’re seeing some great places. I love Fayette State Park, I was there for the first time last fall, and I want to return as soon as I can.

    I knew that some of the State Parks closed for the winter, along with the National Forest Campgrounds, some of those were closed in September last year, which I couldn’t believe. I thought that the state forest campgrounds were always open to any one brave enough to camp in the winter.


    • I’m not sure if some of the info we found was correct. We’re now camped in a State Forest CG at DeTour. Open, and we’re the only ones here. Maybe they don’t collect fees, but we paid anyway. Some of the info seems conflicting, or just plain hard to get at. Oh well, perhaps we just put too much stock into getting all the info we want immediately from the web. Sometimes you just gotta strike out and find out what’s really out there.

      We had a sunny day today. Good thing, as the rain is beating on rooftop now at 10pm. Tomorrow is another day


  4. I have to say, while I love Michigan and have enjoyed all of my visits there, I do not think I could do the winters there full time. It is just too cold! We had a couple of thunderstorms while we were there earlier this month; mostly it was sunny though, but very cold (compared to home!). We ended up having to buy some gloves, but other than that, we got out and explored anyway! Hope you have enjoyed your trip.


    • When you live in Michigan, or any northern state, you have to embrace winter. Find something you really enjoy doing, and DO IT. Spring doesn’t come any sooner to those who stay inside and bemoan the loss of summer. If you live in a four season state, you really have to enjoy each season, or it’s just misery.

      That said, it’s sometimes hard to endure day after day of camping in the rain.

      Other than that, I’m happy to be a Michigander!


  5. Those blanketed tourists looked like me, if I were there in that cold – or I would have my snowmobile suit on. But I thought you liked it cold.. LOL. Those scenes look shivery, but that’s Michigan. Today we finally have sun, and I plan to ride to see the beautiful foliage with the sun on it before it’s all gone. Should be just about at the peak. After rain on Monday and Tuesday, the sun and warmer temps are supposed to return for a couple weeks. Sure hope so. The contrast between the mine superintendent’s home and worker’s home was stark. The haves and the have nots. I hope they preserve that village for the future.


    • Evert to me we see someone really bundled up, your name comes up. ;-). You are the Poster Girl for Sucking Up to Winter. (and I say that in the most admiring of voices).

      I DO like the cold. It’s the wet that is grinding me down. Damp towels on cold days….think about it!

      Fayette is well preserved. The State has done a terrific job in preserving this town, and making it a place to experience and learn about this era in our history.

      See you soon.


  6. Warm-natured Bob will absolutely shudder when he reads your most recent post!! What stamina you two have!! Thanks for sharing photos of many of the places we visited this past summer. I think I knew why people leave Michigan and head south to live, and your photo journal just emphasizes it for me. We’ll welcome you to NC any time! Hope the weather holds out for you to enjoy a few more camping days. We’re actually heading down the SC & GA coast next week on the Coastal Caravan.


    • Wish we were Coastal Caravanning about now. Say hi to all the Caravanners from the Crankshaws.

      Happy to provide a bit of deja vu for you and Bob. I’m slightly embarrassed to know that you covered the same ground in three weeks that it has taken us seven to cover (so far). I honestly can’t think of how we could have done it in less. Getting lazy in my old age, I think.

      Winter is fun. You just have to find something you like to do, and just do it.

      Have a great time in SC.


  7. I bet your sinus is open and clear…remembering those crisp cool hikes. Beautiful pics….I was taking each one in. Evergreen has a whole new line of trailers with a full view similar to that. Laughing about those blanket travelers. Hope the sun is shining….and a couple more stops for me to drool all over.


    • Sun shone today, and lifted our spirits. Raining again now, but I no longer care. That’s good, right?

      There’s lots to drool over here in Michigan. Hope you make it back this way next year, Carla. We’ve had a great trip.


  8. Before we had our first TT (Columbia) Yoly and I traveled in our Ram and slept very comfortably in the back, which we had converted for this purpose. When weather was particularily nasty, we had no qualms about simply checking into a modest hotel for that night. Our trip to the UP of Michigan in May, 2013 was so miserable because of the cold and rain that we were forced to spend a fortune in hotels. It was the $192 a night for a Holiday Inn in Traverse City that finally convinced us that a travel trailer was in our future. The rest, as they say, is history :-)

    If you want to see a bit of the Alto’s interior, we spent time with a friendly neighbor with one in Maine. Watch till the end where Ronald and Silvie collapse the top and pull out of the campground …

    This link should work properly now :-)


    • DARN !!! It did it again !! No matter what URL I post, the blog just randomly picks one from the channel. I’m so sorry I did it again … I thought for sure I had figured this out. The video with the Alto was from Camden Hills State Park if you still want to see it. I promise NEVER to do this again !! This video is the most recent one and still no clue why it shows here, the link I posted was definitely the Camden Hills SP URL.


    • I refuse to give into bad weather while camping. Not saying that I won’t just huddle inside, but I have yet to surrender to a hotel, no matter how smart of a decision that might be. This might not be my best quality. ;-)

      But, if that’s what brought you and Yoly to your current camping state, can that be a bad thing?

      We didn’t get a chance to talk with the Alto guy. Will check out your video when we get some free Wi-Fi.

      Thanks, Neil.


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