Trifecta Complete

Heading east, we come to the spot on the highway where we have to make a choice – turn south to head across the Mackinaw Bridge, or continue east toward the unknown.  The steering wheel tugs briefly in John’s hands, but he wrestles it away from the southern turn.  We’re still in the UP, baby!

We press on, stopping for supplies.  Exiting the store, I notice clouds building up on the horizon. 20141019_122311 Oh, this can’t be good.  They look like snow clouds to my experienced eyes!

We pause at one of the many roadside parks to get our first good glimpse of Lake Huron – the last of the Great Lakes we’ll see on this trip.  Looks cold – no surprise.20141019_133224Our goal is Detour, the easternmost spot in the UP, unless you count Drummond Island (which I’m not).  We find an excellent campsite in the Detour State Forest Campground, about six miles west of Detour. 20141019_165748 As usual, the campground is deserted.  Clean vault toilets, water pumps, but no trash collection.  The dumpsters have been removed (or, perhaps they were never even there).  We’ve got our own private lake shoreline.  Beautiful.20141019_16113820141019_165529 We even find two big boxes of cut-up wood to augment our dwindling campfire supply.  We relax, get a great fire going, and actually get dinner made before the rain begins.

By noon the following day, things have cleared up to a mere drizzle, so we head off on our bikes to explore Detour.  There’s a beautiful State Harbor,20141020_134927 a view with a shipwreck, 20141020_150913and a very unusual project gone wrong.

While riding along a street with homes that afforded an occasional glimpse of the shoreline, we spot a driveway with an enormous chopped-off freighter backed into it. 20141020_141610 This is actually between two other (normal) homes.  Most curious.  We find out later that the owner purchased this, with the intention of turning it into his home.  After paying $80,000 to have it towed and moored to its site, he began sanding the hull.  That, apparently, is when he ran out of money.  So, there it sits, awaiting for the owner to refresh his cash flow so he can continue working.  I can hardly imagine the horror his neighbors experience every time they drive by.  Yikes!

We stop in to the Detour Village Inn, looking for a munchie and a beer to fortify ourselves for the ride back to camp.  We see a fat ol’ yellow lab sitting outside the bar.  Inside are a young female bartender, one customer, and the elderly owner.  Betty, the lab, is the owner’s dog.  She comes in for a game of fetch – inside the bar.  The bartender is making our french fries, and playing fetch by throwing an old tennis ball across the bar for Betty, taking it from her mouth, and throwing it again!  Pretty gross, actually, but we’re dog folks so we don’t remark on the impropriety of this whole scene.  Betty apparently is an institution in the bar – the owner told me that he thought she was having a stroke a few weeks ago.  Rolling her eyes, and stretching her tongue out in a very awkward way.  Turns out that one of the bar’s breakfast customers had given her a pancake off their plate, and she had maple syrup on her whiskers that she was trying to lick off.  That’s the UP for ya!

On the way back to camp, we cycled through the Detour Botanical Garden, a lovely spot where individuals and groups have staked out small plots and planted them as they wish. 20141020_15072620141020_151008 It was charming.  John fell in love with this new Bell helmet.20141020_150639We’re in no hurry the next morning to leave.  We want to check out the International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, then roll into Wilderness State Park for a few nights.  We cross the Bridge, with me driving.  I’m sweating bullets – the metal grid beneath the tires is swaying the Firetruck/Fireball slightly side to side, and I’m nervous as a cat.  When we finally reach the southern end of the Bridge, my fingers are clenched around the steering wheel in a death grip.  Bridge driving – check!

Not much to see at the Dark Sky Park.  A motor pathway has info on our solar system.20141021_12004020141021_120505 We make a mental note to schedule a return trip with a friend who owns a powerful telescope.  There’s a terrific viewing area out into the darkness of Lake Michigan.

Wilderness State Park, however, was a huge disappointment.  The campground road was so rutted that the Fireball lurched back and forth perilously.  We found the bathrooms locked up for the season, and the water spigots all shut off.  Although we can deal with the closed bathrooms, the lack of fresh water is a big deal for us.  We’re about 300 miles from home.

So, after a quick stop at our favorite Petoskey brewery, we find ourselves home. 20141021_140719 Our neighbors are stunned to see us a week early.  In addition to mowing the grass, they edged the yard!  We may have to leave more often, and put them in charge of the Crankshaw abode.  As I write this, the washing machine is chugging, sunshine is streaming through the window, and the temps are climbing.  Going to be in the 60s this weekend.  Maybe (just maybe), it’s good to be home.

15 thoughts on “Trifecta Complete

  1. On one of our Fall U.P. / Northern MI trips we stayed at Wilderness and the campground roads weren’t any better. Because it was late in the season we had a nice lakeside site and I believe the restrooms were still open. Not sure why the roads are always in disrepair. State Parks aren’t usually our thing, but sometimes due to location you have to do one once in a while.

    I think the national forest CGs are cutting back on services. We stayed at Golden Lake near Iron River this past summer and there were no trash receptacles.


    • We like State Parks in the ‘off’ season, but I’d never camp there when it’s peak camping season. We did get caught up in that at Union Bay Camppground in the Porkies, and it was not fun. The lousy campground road would keep me from going back to Wilderness again (at least with our camper). It really was TERRIBLE!

      I guess there are cutbacks everywhere. The last State Forest CG we stayed at in Detour had no trash bins, either. Maybe a shorter camping season is one way of making do with smaller budgets.

      What is your favorite spot to camp in the North? It sounds like you spend a fair amount of time up there.

      Thanks for checking in, Marsha.

      On Sat, Oct 25, 2014 at 6:56 AM, campshaws wrote:



    • Thanks, Sharon. We loved having so much time to travel a relatively short distance. We are much happier when we are camped somewhere, than when we are rolling down the road. This was nearly perfect.

      So much to do before we are ready to hit the road again. Time will fly.

      Hope you are packing your bags for your road trip already, too!

      On Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:03 PM, campshaws wrote:



  2. Well, you had a few minutes without rain on this trip. ;)

    I wonder if the park managers are trying to play it safe and close early this fall. I know that Hartwick Pines and several other State Parks had the water and sewer lines freeze and break last winter, and it was costing a fortune to have them repaired. Even with the extra money from the recreational passport, it’s not as if the park system is flush with cash for repairs.

    The photos from around Detour were great, I’ve spent very little time there, so most of the sights were new to me, other than the freighter being converted to a home.

    I’m going to brag a little, the International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County was created with the help of the Little Traverse Conservancy, which I’m a member of. If you like the Straits area, you may want to consider joining as well. They’re preserving a lot of land in the area, and most of the preserves are open to hiking, and a few to mountain biking. Here’s a link in case you’re interested.


    • We wondered about the early park closures as well. If more of them had the old-fashioned pump type of water service, perhaps that wouldn’t have been so much of a problem. But, it sure does seem early to be shutting down. An unpleasant surprise.

      Thanks for the link to the Little Traverse Conservancy. I wasn’t aware that they had such extensive holdings (if that’s the correct word). Love the maps that were on their website – I’ve got them all squirreled away for future reference.

      Too bad we couldn’t get a view from the water of the freighter house – that must be quite a sight! I still can’t fathom what his neighbors must think.

      Thanks for checking in, Jerry. Once I get my arms around all my house/yard work, I’m hoping you’ll take me on another photo stroll…


      • The LTC is different from any other of the land conservancies that I’ve been a member of or checked out. The LTC actually encourages people to visit their holdings and make it easy to do so.

        Also, I’m looking forward to another nature stroll, it was different but nice to have some one along for a change.


  3. As always, love reading of your adventures, misadventures and beer tasting opportunities. How many detours did it take to get to Detour? And when did you know it was the right detour. LOL


    • When the Detour becomes ‘Da Tour’, you know you’re in the right spot. We had a great time – hope we can meet you on the road in that area, sometime.

      Stay warm.

      On Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 7:31 PM, campshaws wrote:



  4. Wow! What a post! Like Jennifer said, the Bell Helmet is awesome! It looks like it could give him a crick in his neck, though. It has been so much fun traveling along with you guys vicariously. Hope you’ll take us along again soon! In the mean time, stay warm up there in frigid Michigan!


  5. Glad you’re home safe. The UP seems to have a cultural ethos similar to the culture of the people on the Nat GEO Wild and Animal Planet shows that go off the grid in Maine and Alaska – independent, off the cuff, resourceful, anti-establishmentarian, and just unique. Love a botanical garden that depends on the whims of the people and a guy who wants to live in a re-habbed freighter. You have found such beauty, creativity, and independence on your trip. John, the bell helmet becomes you. LOL


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