A Couple, Dog and Eco-Friendly RV Touring the Great Lakes Shoreline

Today, guest blogger Mike Wendland from Roadtreking.com shares his RV journey across Michigan’s endless coastline. 

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Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Blue Water Bridge

When Michigan says it’s the Great Lakes State, it isn’t kidding. All you have to do is start driving the shoreline of the Great Lakes to see that Michigan is the heart and soul of the area.

With the exception only of Lake Ontario, Michigan is encircled by the other four. And when you look at the shoreline, Michigan’s 2,147 miles of mainland shoreline dwarfs the other seven states surrounding the five lakes. Plus, Michigan has another 905 miles of island shoreline. That puts the total at more than 3,000 miles. Next closest is Wisconsin with 802.

With my wife, Jennifer, and our Norwegian Elkhound, Tai, I’m now deep into the Verizon Great Lakes Roadtreking Tour, which will eventually be a 3,500 mile trip along the U.S. shoreline of the Great Lakes. I’ll be documenting the interesting people and places we encounter. We’re driving an eco-friendly Roadtrek E-Trek motorhome, which is 24 feet long and boasts solar power that runs the appliances.

We started under cloudy skies last week in upstate New York and made our way around Ontario, picking up Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, following through Ohio and ending our first leg at the mouth of Lake Erie, where the Detroit River flows into it at the Lake Erie Metropark in Gibraltar Township.

Now we’re on to Lake Huron, starting at Port Huron and making our way up the “Sunrise Side” to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge and over to the eastern UP.

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland - Port Huron

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Port Huron

I love Port Huron. Parked right under the Blue Water Bridge, which leads to the Ontario, Canada city of Sarnia, I marveled at the swift-moving St. Clair River flowing out of Lake Huron.

The river is one of the busiest water routes in the Great Lakes, connecting Lake Huron just north of the Blue Water Bridge to Lake St. Clair, a couple dozen miles downstream. Port Huron’s Riverfront is a mecca for big boat watchers. From Lake St. Clair, the big freighters and ocean going vessels make their way into the Detroit River, which in turn connects to Lake Erie.

But it is also a great fishing river. The fish of choice is walleye, and the river serves as a travel corridor for walleye moving between Lake Erie and their spawning grounds in Saginaw Bay, 100 miles up Lake Huron.

Fish biologists believe walleye treat the whole Lake Huron/Erie waters as one system. Walleye can cruise from one body of water to another in days. The St. Clair River is deep and cold, which also helps in holding walleye.

In all, Port Huron has 17 waterfront areas containing 102 acres and 3.5 miles of water frontage. This includes two public beaches and six parks with picnic facilities. The city has nine scenic turnout sites containing more than 250 parking spaces.

If you can’t get in, make your way north following the signs to Lighthouse Park, right at the mouth of the river. This park has 900 feet of waterfront and beach, and the water is clean for good swimming. But be warned, if you venture out very far, the current is swift, as the river starts flowing right from there.

While at Lighthouse Park, walk a few hundred yards south and tour the historic Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. In 1814, military Fort Gratiot was established to guard the juncture of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River. With a surge of vessel traffic on Lake Huron in the early 1800s, the need for a light station to guide vessels into the river became very important.

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland - Blue Water Bridge

Photo courtesy of Mike Wendland – Blue Water Bridge

For food, the outdoor patio of Freighter’s Restaurant offers up great river and bridge views. It’s part of the Doubletree Inn Hotel complex and is right in the heart of the riverfront action, a few hundred yards south of the bridge.

One more attraction: The Thomas Edison Depot Museum is down there, too. The famed inventor lived in Port Huron and worked on a railroad car for his first job from 1859-1863. The museum includes a restored baggage car resting on a short spur of railroad track and has some exhibits about Edison and his early beginnings.

You can easily spend three or four hours in Port Huron. After lunch and looking around, I found the day half over and hundreds more miles for us to cover. So off we set along M-25 up toward the Michigan thumb, hugging the shoreline all the way.

My Great Lakes shoreline tour will continue throughout the next month. Check out the first video of our visits to Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Send me your tips on what we should stop and see! I’m reachable at mike@roadtreking.com, on Twitter at @roadtreking, and I’ll be tweeting with the #VZGreatLakes, #vzwmidwest and #roadtreking hashtags.

Have you ever taken a long Michigan road trip? Tell us about it. 

MikeWendlend

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who travels North America in a Type B motorhome and blogs at Roadtreking.com. Currently on the road for the Verizon Wireless Midwest Area Great Lakes Tour in a Roadtrek E-Trek motorhome, Mike is driving much of the U.S. shorelines that touch the five Great Lakes. 

Gear Up for Camping Season in Michigan With These Helpful Tips

Summer camping season is just around the corner! Today, guest blogger Rick Kessler of Gr8LakesCamper give us some tips for preparing for your next Pure Michigan camping trip

CampingThis is my favorite time of the year.  With warmer temperatures teasing us that spring is right around the corner, it can only mean one thing: winter is on its way out (knock on wood).  When this happens, my dreams of a summer full of camping can really start to take shape.

For me, camping is as much a part of summer as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie – more specifically, Detroit Tigers, hot dogs cooked over the campfire followed by hobo pies cooked to delicious gooey goodness over the same campfire.

Admittedly, I’m biased, but there’s no better state for camping than Michigan. With more than a thousand public and private campgrounds statewide, Michigan offers something for every type of camper – along rivers, lakes, sand dunes and beaches, overlooking the Great Lakes and in state parks and national forests.

So how do you gear up for camping in Michigan? Here are my suggestions:

Wake Up from Winter!

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.43.50 PMYour tent, RV and gear have been in storage all winter; now’s the time to inspect it, clean it and get it ready for another season of camping.

For tent campers, if you put everything away last fall properly – i.e. not damp – then all you’ll need to do is inspect everything to make sure it’s good to go. For tents, look for tears, rips or holes. Same thing with backpacks and sleeping bags.

For RVers, which I am, de-winterizing the camper is chore I do with a smile on my face. A weekend spent flushing the antifreeze, inspecting for damage and cleaning the RV inside and out only means camping is next on the To-Do list.

Regardless whether you’re a tent camper or an RVer, if there’s any sign or smell of mildew, you must address it. Find the source, determine the extent and clean or replace as necessary.

Plan your Summer!

With the tent, RV and equipment all set, all that’s left is to plan your trip!

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 12.45.55 PMFor us, where we go depends on what we want to do. If we’re just looking to get away from it all, Michigan has no shortage of private and State Park campgrounds more than capable of letting us disconnect from society and reconnect with each other. But if our trip is more about the destination than the campground, again we’re always able to find a campground close to where want to be.

For private campgrounds, visit the websites for Michigan Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (www.michcampgrounds.com) and the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicle and Campgrounds. Both have an extensive listing of campgrounds, including amenities, pricing and other information.

One change for 2014 is the Michigan DNR’s new online State Park campground reservation system. It’s much easier to use, and there’s a photo of each campsite. You’re going to love it!

Have you been camping in Michigan? Tell us about your trip. 

Rick KesslerRick Kessler is the author of the Gr8LakesCamper blog, which celebrates the world of RV camping in the Great Lakes region. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the Gr8LakesCamper blog.

Discovering ‘Pure Michigan’ on North Manitou Island

Sometimes spending a few days with nature, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, is the perfect way to de-stress and unwind. Today, guest blogger 16-yr old Catherine Lilek tell us how she did just that on a memorable summer trip to North Manitou Island. 

I believe that this summer I found Michigan at it’s finest at North Manitou Island – an uninhabited island, still classified as “wilderness.” North Manitou Island is on Lake Michigan, off the shore of Leland, with an hour long ferry ride out to the Island.

Once you get to the island, there is a small village where you get off of the ferry. It has a water spigot, picnic tables, a few designated camp sites, and the ranger station. The rest of the island is just pure forests and beaches.

The hiking is not terribly difficult, although some areas on the island are harder than others. Hiking on the trails simply has a way of making all your stress and worries melt away. As you observe unique trees, wildlife, and wonderful glimpses of the lake, you may even get to come up quite close to some white tailed deer, as I was lucky enough to experience.

The beaches on the island are perfect. Normally, a trip to the beach may be crowded and loud and full of other people. Here on the North Manitou Island, you will find yourself alone. There is something peaceful and calming in that. Sitting on the big open beach, grilling burgers for dinner or watching the sunset are truly some of life’s most simple and wonderful things.

I won’t embellish and say that it’s a luxury trip. There bathrooms and showers are not plentiful and you may need to filter your own drinking water, but it is simply Pure Michigan at it’s finest. It’s relaxing; a chance to escape from technology and busy everyday life. You learn to be self reliant and as I found, you learn you are stronger and tougher than you thought. You learn willpower. You see nature in a simple, undisturbed setting. You learn to view the world in a completely different way. You find joy in laying in your tent at night and instead of falling asleep to the sound of cars going by, you fall asleep to the chorus of crickets. You wake up to the sounds of birds singing.

I would strongly recommend taking a trip to North Manitou Island. Make sure to bring plenty of bug spray, sunscreen, and of course trail mix!  You can hike and camp all around the island, or stay in the main village. No matter how you experience North Manitou, you will still find yourself amidst the solitude and beauty of this island and truly experience Pure Michigan for yourself. If you do go, be sure to get up early enough to watch the sunrise one morning. Take your sleeping bag down to the beach and enjoy it. It’s an experience you will not soon forget.

Catherine Lilek is a 16-year old student, runner and an avid writer with a true love for the outdoors.