Growing up in Indiana, both of us had visited Michigan before this trip. MJ and his family would travel up to Ludington, MI each summer and I’ve been to Holland, MI a time or two. We knew Michigan was going to be a beautiful state to travel through but we didn’t know northern Michigan and the UP were going to totally knock our socks off.
Let’s start with Ludington. Ludington will always have a special place in MJ’s heart. Every summer growing up his entire family would rent a house on the lake. For a whole week, his family would fish for countless hours, eat as much Blue Moon ice cream as humanly possible, and walk the long walk out to the beautiful Ludington Lighthouse.
Like any childhood memory, MJ wanted to recreate it as soon as we arrived in Ludington. On our first day, we ate ice cream and walked to the lighthouse just like he had done many years before. It was perfect for me but I know it meant even more to him. Also, the house that they used to rent every summer is for sale, so if anyone would like to buy it for him he would be forever grateful!
Speaking of Lighthouses…
Throughout our 5 days in Michigan we visited 13 lighthouses, each one different from the last. Some historians say that there have been as many as 247 lighthouses in Michigan but only about 124 remain. It sounds like we might need more time In Michigan…
Camping in the deep wilderness has been our favorite part so far. It felt so easy to escape into the woods no matter where we were. The camping was incredible and the temperatures were perfect for hiking and sleeping “outside”
Here are some photos of our best Michigan campsites:
We use a website called freecampsites.net quite often. Think of it as a Yelp for campsites, users can leave reviews, photos and helpful information for free campgrounds. We have found some of our best campsites using it.
There’s one wildness story we’ll never forget. After being in the van all day we decided to walk around a nearby bird sanctuary. It was late in the day and cloudy with a cold breeze so we knew the conditions weren’t perfect for bird-watching, however, we desperately needed to stretch our legs. About 5 minutes into our two-mile walk around the sanctuary we saw a bear pop it’s head up from a grassy pasture, A BEAR! We couldn’t believe our eyes until it popped up two additional times and we even got a view of it in our bird-watching binoculars!
On the last half of our drive through the UP we started seeing Moose Xing signs so our eyes were constantly searching in hopes of seeing a Moose. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any moose sightings but we are extremely happy we got to see a bear. We can’t wait until we arrive at Yellowstone to be around more wildlife!
The most beautiful place we saw in Michigan was Pictured Rocks. When researching Pictured Rocks most of the tourist information suggests taking the 2 ½ hour boat tour that takes you right along the cliffs. Honestly, spending over $60 on a tour to be packed on a boat with a few hundred people that all want to get the best photo and will push and shove to do so gave me a lot of anxiety. (A new blog coming soon about not being a bad tourist. You know, there’s always that ONE guy.)
In the end, we opted for the hiking route, which for many reasons, was way less touristy. We drove 7 miles down a winding gravel road to arrive at a parking lot that was packed with cars. We decided to hike the entire loop which ending up being around 10 miles. It followed along the cliffs and dipped down onto a beach and back into the woods with creeks and waterfalls. It was beautiful at every turn.
We would highly recommend taking the hiking trail out to Chapel Rock, even if you don’t want to make the complete 10-mile loop. It’s breathtaking and the trail doesn’t have any major inclines, in other words, it’s an easy hike.
Every state usually has some claim of their official food. For us Hoosiers that food is the breaded tenderloin. If you’ve never had one, please don’t go another day without trying it. Planning this trip, we were excited about trying all kinds of foods in each state.
It wasn’t more than three minutes after crossing the Mackinac Bridge until we started seeing signs for “pasties” (pronounced past-ee). It seemed like there were signs every hundred yards desperately trying to lure us in. “What in the hell is a pasty?” was the only thing MJ said for the next twenty miles.
With only 20 miles separating us from Wisconsin state line we finally caved and stopped for a mysterious pasty. A small local grocery provided us with our first Upper Peninsula meat pie and it was fantastic! The dough was warm and buttery and the insides were hot, tender and oh so savory. This must be the perfect comfort food during those long cold winters. It was also quite perfect on this mild summer day. We would be lying if we said we didn’t wish we would have stopped sooner.
We have only outlined a few of our favorite parts of our drive through Michigan, we know there are million great reasons to visit. We hope we can inspire you to roam!
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