Thursday, July 29, 2010


Our hike today at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was so beautiful, so perfectly summer-y, that I couldn’t decide which of the many photos I took to include here.  If you would like to view all six, or enlarge them, click on “View Full Album”. 

Summer Flowers in Grand Marais, MI If you look at a map of the U.P. of Michigan, you will see tiny (400 fulltime residents) Grand Marais, Michigan at the very end of Highway 77 on the shore of Lake Superior.  From the turn off of Highway 28 at Seney to the end of the road at Grand Marais is a trip of 25 miles of virtually unpopulated Upper Peninsula wilderness. 

Your reward at the end?  The very tiny and appealing town of Grand Marais: a diner (with ice cream), a brewpub, a hardware store, a grocery/convenience store, a big campground (click here to read our review), a protected harbor, a number of homes, and miles and miles of Lake Superior shore. 

We came here to explore the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, immediately adjacent to this little town.  Usually you can drive through the park from end to end but, this summer, a construction project has closed a portion of the paved road.  To see the big sand dunes, Au Sable Light Station, and “The Graveyard Coast” (named for the many ships that have been wrecked there), you need to enter from the east, the Grand Marais side.

After a 75 mile drive yesterday, we arrived in early afternoon, snagged ourselves a campsite facing Lake Superior, and took off on a tour of the town.  The wind was blowing hard, and big waves were crashing on the sandy beach below the bluff where we are camped.  The harbor was a different story, and the protection it affords made Grand Marais a boomtown during the lumbering years (long since passed).

Waves pounding the beach at Grand Marais Harbor at Grand Marais

Today was a different story: calm, sunny, cool.  We packed a picnic lunch and headed the short distance into the park.  I’ll let the photos (album at the top) speak for themselves, other than to say: It was a perfect summer day for beach walking, light house viewing, and exploring the wreckage of ships long drowned.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Early Morning Soo

The view from our front window early one morning in Sault Ste. Marie.
Two ships passing

Two 1000+ foot freighters pass each other on the St. Mary’s River.

We LOVED our stay in Sault Ste. Marie:  good weather (mostly), good neighbors, good walking, fabulous view, and a great dinner of fresh Lake Superior Whitefish at the Elks Lodge for the traditional Friday night Fish Fry.  Then one of our neighbors clued us in:  for the best Whitefish, visit Brown’s Fish House in Paradise, MI.

It just so happened that our next stop, at Clementz’s Northcountry Campground in Newberry (click here to read our review) was planned around a sightseeing loop that would pass through Paradise.  Mmmmm… our mouths were watering.

Upper Taquamenon Falls Newberry is nothing special, a small town along the main east/west route through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It is a convenient stop, though, for two of the U.P.’s attractions: Tahquamenon (rhymes in phenomenon) Falls (and state park), and Whitefish Point, site of many a shipwreck on Lake Superior, including the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald.

We set off early on Tuesday morning to take in the sights.  First stop: the North Star Bakery, housed in what used to be a small motel, completely off the grid.  Electricity is provided by a generator; all the bread (several different kinds of sourdough) is baked in a wood-fired oven.  With a loaf of rosemary/garlic focaccia (to accompany the Chicken and Wild Rice Soup I had put in the Crockpot before we left) and another of apple/oat bread stashed on the back seat, we continued on to view the falls.

Described as falling 50 feet and stretching 200 feet, you can hear the falls well before you see them (the brown color of the water is comes from the cedar swamps upriver).  We walked the easy paved trail to the viewing platform, then headed a couple miles downriver on the more primitive dirt path.  You can hike 4 miles downstream to the lower falls and – wish we had known this before – can then catch a shuttle back to the upper falls parking lot.  The smart thing:  start at the lower falls, hike 4 miles to the upper falls, grab lunch at the brewery/restaurant at the upper falls parking lot, then take the shuttle back to the lower falls.  Live and learn…

Browns Fish House, Paradise, MI Our lunch stop, though, was pre-determined: Brown’s Fish House.  Not only had it been recommended by our neighbor (“Brown’s in Paradise has the best Whitefish in the U.P.”), but I found it recommended in our Michigan travel guidebook (Backroads and Byways of Michigan) AND on our annotated Hunt’s Guide to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (highly recommend by me).  After our hike at the falls, we were READY for lunch.

Brown is the name of the owner, a fisherman who only opens the restaurant when he has fresh fish to serve.  Modest and unassuming inside and out.  Efficient, attentive service.  Fair prices.  GREAT food.  Our waitress handed us menus and pointed out the Whitefish dinner, “ordered by 99% of my customers”.  Who could say no to that??  Odel ordered the 3 piece dinner, fried; I ordered the 2 piece dinner, broiled.  It was the best fish meal we have had since leaving the Gulf Coast this winter (other than Odel’s delicious grilled salmon and steelhead) and probably was the best Whitefish we will ever eat. 

Broiled Whitefish Dinner Fried Whitefish Dinner

Suitably fortified, we headed on to Whitefish Point, a nub of land sticking out into Lake Superior, crowned by a lighthouse.  The Point is known as “The Graveyard of Ships” – more vessels have been lost here than in any other part of Lake Superior – and the lighthouse is the oldest operating on Lake Superior. 

The beach at Whitefish Point, with a big freighter in the far distance. It is a beautiful spot on a sunny summer day. Ships traversing the locks at Sault Ste. Marie all travel through here, and we saw one of the big freighters round the point heading west (click on the photo to enlarge it).  One of the old Coast Guard buildings is now The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, housing the bell of the most recent ship to succumb to heavy weather on Lake Superior, the Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is a beautiful, wild, sparsely populated part of Michigan.  The towns are small, the roads straight and lined with trees.  The lake is awe-inspiring – the unimaginable size, the fabulous colors.  In summer time, it is green, warm, welcoming.  I can’t even begin to imagine winter!!

Friday, July 23, 2010


Soo Locks Sault Ste. Marie (locally known as “The Soo”) doesn’t have a fraction of the panache of Petoskey, but it does have a feature I find fascinating, the Soo Locks.  At the Sault Ste. Marie Elks Lodge (click here to read our review and see photos of our great site), we are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the action.

This photo (courtesy of the internet) shows the St. Mary’s River, the waterway connecting Lake Huron (downriver, towards the top of the photo) to Lake Superior (upriver, towards the bottom of the photo).  The river marks the boundary between the U.S. (on the right) and Canada (on the left).  Midway in this photo is the International Bridge from one country to the other.

On the U.S. (right) side, above the International Bridge in this photo, you can see the four locks that allow boats and ships of all sizes – from the smallest ski boat to the 1013-foot-6-inch-long Paul R. Tregurtha, largest ship on the Great Lakes - to navigate the 21 foot elevation difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  It is a fascinating process (to me) and, guess what?  It is FREE to the vessels using the locks.

Elks RV parking with tall ship on the river. As I mentioned in my prior blog, we knew that the Tall Ships sailing the Great Lakes this summer would need to pass through the Soo Locks on their way to Duluth, MN from Bay City, MI – and we hoped we’d be able to see them if we snagged one of the four sites at the Elks Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie.  Our plan worked!

From our site at the Elks Lodge, a couple miles down river from downtown Soo and the Locks, we can watch all the action as ships move up and down the river, and some of the Tall Ships were among them (look closely at this photo and you will see one of the ships passing us by on the river).  I’ve spent hours sitting in my lounge chair in front of Scoopy, watching the action.

Big freighter heading upriver. Next in line, and the Soo Locks tour boat

Yesterday, we walked into town to visit the Locks and to eat lunch.  There was a lot of action on the river and we watched the Tall Ship Europa go through Lock #2 while a 700 foot long freighter went through the adjacent lock.  Tall, covered viewing platforms are provided for us tourists to watch the action.

Europa at dock Europa plus one

Tall Ship Europa docked for viewing.

Another Tall Ship arrives, motoring upriver

Freighter enters the lock from the “low” side, then the lock is filled with water.

Raised 21 feet, the freighter leaves the lock heading upriver.

Freighter low in the lock. Freighter leaving the locks.

In the Visitor’s Center, we learned that the largest ship to travel the Great Lakes, the Paul R. Tregurtha, was awaiting entry to the locks.  Just one of the four locks can accommodate this huge ship, and we felt lucky to have the chance to watch.  But it was lunch time, and we were hungry!   We could see the Tregurtha just downriver, but when a crane and barge entered the one lock large enough for the huge freighter, we knew we had a little time.  We went across the street to a small cafe and were lucky enough to snag a window seat.  Look what we saw from our window while eating:

View from cafe 1 View from Cafe 2

The Kroonborg begins to exit Lock #1

Yes, the lock is right next to the road!

After lunch, we got back to the locks in time to watch the Tregurtha pass through, completely filling the lock from one end to the other.  Quite a sight!

Glancing out our big front window towards Canada as I write this on a cool, foggy morning, boats pass by continuously: tour boats, freighters, tugs, barges, recreational fishing boats.  Odel is on the golf course, I have a cup of tea by my side, music on the radio… what could be better?  I know this stop will go into my memory banks as one of the highlights of this summer, and probably of our travels.  Once again, I feel sooooooo lucky!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



Odel high above Lake Michigan

Before we left Petoskey on Monday, we took one last, long walk on the paved bike trail along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The temperature was around 72 degrees.

Then we took off for the Upper Peninsula.

Odel on the Lake Michigan overlook along the bike trail.

Mackinac Bridge, heading to the UP

It was a beautiful day for travel – sunny, calm, the temperature hovering around 75 degrees.

On the Mackinac suspension bridge, heading north.

I got a big kick out of the GPS as we crossed the Mackinac Bridge – nothing but blue water, Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Huron to the East.
GPS across the bridge

We ended our day at Loon’s Point RV Park and Campground (click here to read our review) in Cedarville, MI.  Lots of blue water (Lake Huron), green grass, green trees, and quiet – and not a mosquito to be found.  Is this paradise??

The boat dock at Loon’s Point Campground.

Early morning at Loon's Point

We are staying at Loon’s Point just long enough to clean Scoopy and do our laundry (we didn’t have a sewer hookup at our last stop).  On Wednesday, we’ll head to Sault Ste Marie, the site of the huge locks that allow the giant Great Lakes freighters to move from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.  If we’re lucky, we might be able to see the Tall Ships, traveling from Bay City, Michigan (on Lake Huron) to Duluth, Minnesota (on Lake Superior) during the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge 2010 event.

Near Drummond Island One more photo…

We took a drive to the eastern end of the U.P. today, to the village of De Tour, on the De Tour Passage of the St. Mary’s River, the route to and from the locks at Sault Ste Marie.  I took this photo looking towards the De Tour Passage, across to Canada. 

The essence of summertime.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Mention to someone that you live fulltime in an RV and you can count on the standard set of questions:  Do you like it?  (Yes, that is usually the first question!)  How do you get your mail?  Do you own a home somewhere?  Do you have a home base?  And…

Does it cost less to live fulltime in an RV instead of a house?  Or its variant: How much does it cost?

Tunnel to Bayfront parkWhatever you can afford.  :)

I don’t know what the minimum is, though I know that many fulltime adventures are financed by social security.  For us, our annual “cost of living” is probably very close to what it would be if we lived in a house – groceries, insurance, health care, maintenance, repairs, utilities (instead, we pay site rental and purchase fuel).  We drink the same amount of wine, Odel continues to play golf, I buy books.

What we spend on “disposable income” is the BIG difference.  What do I mean by that?  Anything that takes up space and can’t be consumed.  Furniture.  Art.  Stuff to fill walls and shelves.  Kitchen gadgets and appliances.  Clothing (though we replace t-shirts, our standard uniform, at a fast clip).   Not to mention yard care and ornamentation.

This is foremost in my mind today, the day after Art in the Park in upscale Petoskey, MI.  What an event!  Gorgeous, beautiful, fabulous: paintings, photographs, weavings, silk scarves, garden art, turned wood, basketry, ceramics, jewelry.  I perused each and every booth and came away with… nothing.   What did Odel buy?  A hot dog (Habitat for Humanity fundraising booth).

I like supporting the work of artists.  In our prior life, I could have spent a couple hundred dollars on some of the many beautiful objects offered.  Now, what little space we have for art is already occupied, and furniture is out of the question.  I don’t need another wooden spoon, even beautifully handmade of exotic woods, and have no room for a colorful, whimsical ceramic teapot with matching cups (can’t even buy another mug until one I already own breaks).   I DO often purchase earrings, but not this time. 

No doubt about it, life costs less in 300 square feet!

Friday, July 16, 2010


First, in answer to the questions/comments about t-shirt braiding, I present photo exhibits One and Two.  Click either photo for an enlarged view.  And, no, I can’t explain in words how to do it!

Tee shirt with braided hem trim.

Close up of the hem braiding.

Braided t-shirt Braided detail.

We drove from Hillman to Petoskey yesterday, and settled into Magnus Park (click here to read our review), a small, city-owned campground on the shore of Lake Michigan.  We visited Petoskey (and Magnus Park) during our first year of travel (2003) and returned this year because of our fond memories of that visit.

Petoskey is just as appealing as we remembered.  Located in a gorgeous part of the state (known as “northwestern lower Michigan”), this small town has done a wonderful job of developing their portion of the Lake Michigan shoreline.  From Magnus Park, we walk through an appealing residential area (homes along the lakeshore) to the bike trail, past the marina, through beautiful Bayfront Park, up a flight of stairs and through the pedestrian/bike tunnel under busy US 31, popping out right into downtown Petoskey. 

Walking along the bike trail past the marina.

Looking over Bayfront Park to Lake Michigan.

Along the bike trail Bayfront Park

I can’t imagine ever tiring of that walk!  But, if we did… we can pick up the bike trail in the other direction and walk through sun and shade along a bluff above the lakeshore.  A few stairways lead down the bluff to the beach, or we can rest on a bench or picnic table along the trail, looking out on a lake that seems as big as the ocean.  Fantastic.

Petoskey Flowers Petoskey street

Flowers liven a sidewalk in Petoskey.

Well maintained buildings downtown.

Over two years ago, in March of 2008, I began a blog of campground reviews, We Called It Home.  I’d been keeping detailed descriptions of the campgrounds we visited and realized that a blog would be a great way to save those reviews, with photos, in case my computer crashed (I wasn’t very diligent with computer backups at the time).  Since it seemed like other travelers might be interested in the information, I made the blog public, along with an explanation of what we look for in a campground. 

The reviews are personal and opinionated.  Many of the things vacationers or families might like in a campground are completely unimportant to us (swimming pools, playgrounds, organized activities).   Since we are “at home” in a campground, we like space, solid voltage, Verizon service or good WiFi… and I LOVE to find a local NPR station.  We like open sky, views, low lighting, and quiet.

Campsites at Thunder Bay ResortBack-to-back visits to Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman (click here to read our review) and Magnus Park in Petoskey made very clear to me the importance of location – the proximity to amenities we enjoy – in our opinion of a campground.  It doesn’t end at the campground’s perimeter.

The campground at Thunder Bay Resort is superior to Magnus Park in every way.  Thunder Bay’s sites are paved, landscaped, and meticulously maintained.  Fifty amps of unwavering electricity, cable TV, and WiFi included in the rate.  Each site has not a picnic table, but a “patio” table and chairs (with backs), something you might like to have in your backyard or on a deck at home.  Recycling was made easy at a central recycling station.  A community firepit and all the wood you wanted to burn was available, along with horseshoe pits and a comfortable bird blind.

Yet… unless you are a golfer, there is not much to do in the immediate vicinity.  Walk or ride a bike to Hillman, a small town with no particular attractions for tourists.  No nearby lake, no great views, and the nearest major grocery stores are 20 miles away.  The campground is highly rated by other campers on, but we would not return unless it was directly on our route.   I rated it “Neutral” – we won’t go out of our way to return, but we wouldn’t avoid it, either. 

Magnus Park in Petoskey, MIContrast that with Magnus Park in Petoskey, which I rated as “recommended”.  Sites are sloped or lumpy, the roads are in need of (re)paving, the noise from the hospital’s climate control on the bluff above the campground is unceasing, the smell from the sewage treatment plant on the far end of the campground is beyond unappealing when the wind blows the wrong way.  No cable TV, no WiFi. 

Yet… our satellite TV antenna picked up a signal, and we have a great local NPR station.  Electric voltage is solid, though it is only 30 amps.  Our site is spacious.  Strong Verizon for our phones and aircard. 

Best of all: location!  Petoskey is so lovely, and we’re camped right on the shore of Lake Michigan, with beautifully developed parks and paths in both directions.  Views galore.  Good restaurants within walking distance.  A grocery store under 2 miles away.  Walk to the Friday farmer’s market.  Tomorrow we’ll stroll back to town for the annual “Art in the Park” festival.

Scene from the Farmer's Market. This is our second trip to Michigan, and our second stay at Magnus Park in Petoskey.  In spite of the campground’s (considerable) drawbacks, we will return, and we recommend it to others.

So, if you read our campground reviews, be warned: we’re not objective, and our likes/dislikes don’t stop at the perimeter of the campground.  Context is everything, and our last two stops have made that crystal clear to me!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


On the shore of Lake Huron Three nights at Thunder Bay Resort (click here to read our review) went by in the blink of an eye, a happy mix of socializing and relaxation. 

The RV park here is small, just 23 sites.  Six of the sites are occupied by workampers, and we were already briefly acquainted with two of the workamping couples, Howard and Linda, and Rob and Ronni.  Odel enjoyed 2 rounds of (very reasonably priced) golf with Howard, Rob and Ted (another workamper); I volunteered to spend a shift helping Ronni weed and deadhead flower gardens on the golf course – her workamping job, my pleasure. 

I spent a relaxing afternoon with Linda learning to braid a t-shirt and visiting the bird blind the workampers have just completed.  I traded books with Joyce, the other “student” of t-shirt braiding, and I spent HOURS sitting in the shade of our awning, reading (currently, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver).  Today, we took a leisurely drive to the nearest large town, Alpena, 20 miles away on Lake Huron, then up the coast to the Presque Isle Lighthouse park to enjoy a picnic and hike.

Social, relaxing, fun… just as you might picture the best of summer days.

Alpena's city marina Odel on sinking ship

The city marina in Alpena, MI

 Odel clowning at the Maritime Museum

Monday, July 12, 2010


All of today’s photos are scenes from our explorations around Traverse City.  Hover your cursor on any photo to see the caption.

Our view at lunch in Fishtown.Leaving the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds, after 11 days exploring northwestern “lower” Michigan, we said goodbye to friends (and Boomers) Priscilla and Bill Scott (AZ), and to the friendly hosts, Henry and Kaye (LA).  Boomers Edmund and Margie Strickler (TX) spent two nights there earlier in our stay and we enjoyed reconnecting with them.

At our next stop, Thunder Bay Resort in Hillman, on the other side of the state, we’ll reconnect (briefly) with Linda and Howard (, a couple we first met in Quartzsite, AZ… and I think a Boomer couple is at the resort, too.  More visiting!

Why do I mention all this?  A recent post on “A Camp Host Housewife’s Meanderings” got me thinking about loneliness and friendships on the road.  Levonne was feeling the blues over the 4th of July, away from family and friends as she and her husband are hosting at a campground in Morro Bay, CA.

A garden of glass flowers in Sutton's Bay.Odel and I first traveled in Michigan in summer of 2003, 3 months after we left Sacramento, California.  We knew NO ONE, anywhere we went.  A long stay in one place for us was 3 days; we often stayed just one.  All the new sights kept us from being lonely, but after several months on the road, we began to realize that we needed a way to make friends – friends who shared our lifestyle and interests, friends we might meet again someday.

Fast forward to 2010.  Not more than a couple of weeks have gone by without visiting with friends or family during our travels across the country this year.  Lonely?  Never!  How’d that happen?

We joined the Escapees RV Club before we began fulltiming, and in 2003 we joined the Boomers, a group of Escapees who “share a youthful mindset”, who travel frequently, hike, bike, and gather regularly for “Boomerangs”, planned or spontaneous rallies. 

Lake Michigan waters along the Leelanau PeninsulaNew Year’s Eve of 2003 found us in the desert outside Yuma, warmly welcomed by dozens of Boomers, all new-to-us faces.  We continued to meet with Boomers whenever we could, attended a couple of Escapee “Escapades” (big rallies), and connected with other campers in campgrounds we visited.   Not too many years later, our challenge was not finding friends along the road, but making certain we carved out enough “alone” time.  :)

It is easy to find friendly folks in campgrounds everywhere, but I think Levonne was missing the deep friendship that comes with not just shared interests, but shared memories.  Whether moving to a new town or moving around the country, it takes time to find your new friends and build those new memories: the hike over the Continental Divide when the skies opened; learning to construct an earthen oven out of “found” materials, and enjoying the pizza later; New Year’s Eve fireworks in the desert; climbing the big sand dunes in Colorado, and screaming as we rode a “sand buggy” over the dunes in Oregon; burgers on the grill after a winter hike in sunny Arizona; walking the sugar sand beaches of Florida; talking and laughing late into a cold winter night during a reunion of friends in Bisbee.

Lake Michigan Overlook at Sleeping Bear Dunes National LakeshoreIt look a little effort to find our new circle of friends - but mostly it took time.  For me, each year of fulltiming is better than the last: we understand our motorhome better, we understand our own needs better, and we’ve made many lasting friendships that deepen over time and shared experiences (helped along by technology that allows us to keep in touch with far-flung friends). 

Now, seven years and almost 100,000 miles later, we have many more friends than we did in our working lives, and we’re grateful we can live a lifestyle that brings us into contact with so many great people doing so many interesting things.  I love how our “neighborhood” has grown!

A funny postscript:  I wrote this as we traveled from Traverse City to Hillman.  When we arrived and began setting up in our new site, the neighbors introduced themselves – and they are fulltimers, from Sacramento, CA, our prior hometown.  Such a small world, really!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Bisbee Panorama Anyone who has read this blog for long knows how much we love Bisbee, Arizona, a tiny town in southern Arizona.  We go for the galleries, the views, the hiking, the birding… and to visit my sister Sydney and brother-in-law Frank.  Sydney is a painter; Frank is a photographer.  There is a lot of creative energy in Bisbee, and we feel renewed after spending time there.

When we first visited them, we spent a few days dry camping in their driveway in our 38’ motorhome.  On subsequent visits, wanting to stay in the area longer, we alternated between the RV park at Turquoise Valley Golf Course (great rates, and a beautiful course) and Queen Mine RV Park, perched on the side of the old copper pit mine within an easy walk of downtown. 

View out the living room window. We’ve used Bisbee as a base to explore all of Cochise County:  Chiricahua National Monument, Kartchner Caverns State Park, hiking and bird watching in Ramsey Canyon, Tombstone, Cochise Stronghold, Ft. Huachuca, viewing the Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw.

Too bad for us – Sydney and Frank are selling their home, with its beautiful sweeping view down the hill towards San Jose peak (in Mexico).   It’s on the southern flank of the Mule Mountains, about 10 minutes from historic downtown Bisbee, 10 minutes from Turquoise Valley Golf Course (and RV park), and 30 minutes from the nearest large town, Sierra Vista.

Sydney and Frank upgraded much of the house since they moved in several years ago, added a front deck and planted beautiful, drought tolerant gardens.  Deer and javelina are frequent visitors.  I know that many of you readers are selling your OWN homes to begin your fulltiming life… but if you or anyone you know is interested in a home (or home base) in Bisbee, click here for photos and more information.   We will sure miss the great views, great company, and great meals when they move on!  But maybe we could come and visit you?  :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010


A boat canal in Traverse city A few weeks ago, I commented that we were doing too much, too fast, that I wanted to slow down.  When we arrived in Traverse City and checked into the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds Campground (read our review here), we decided this would be the place.  You can’t beat the price ($125/week), we have an entire row to ourselves (most of the time), and we have easy access to all there is to do in the area.  We’ll be here until Monday.

Yesterday we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, on the “west coast” of Michigan.  After a stop at the Visitor Center so I could stamp my National Parks Passport and pick up a park map, we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, stopping here and there for a short stroll to take in the scenery. 

One of the most popular stops is the Lake Michigan Overlook.  Here a short, sandy, trail, high above Lake Michigan, leads to a STEEP bluff.  A sign cautions hikers who decide to descend the 450 foot bluff to the lakeshore that the return hike is “Extremely Exhausting”.  We opted for the wooden deck instead.  It was a warm, humid, sunny day, and the return climb - in deep, loose, hot sand - looked like pure hell!

Those tiny, ant-like figures are the people who chose to descend – and climb – the bluff. (Click to enlarge the photo.) This is the viewing deck, our choice.  I took the left photo while standing on this deck, looking off to the left.
Toiling up the hill, 450 from bottom to top. Lake Michigan Overlook

For our own hike, we chose the Pyramid Point trail, suggested by our friend Priscilla Scott.  It’s not on the scenic loop, so was much less crowded than other trails in the park.  In less than a mile of walking (including a sandy incline, blessedly short) through forested dunes, we came to an equally beautiful vista of Lake Michigan.  So inspired were we that we decided to continue hiking, completing the entire loop, just under 3 miles.  Oops!

Pyramid Point overlook, around 500 feet above Lake Michigan. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!  After backtracking from the beautiful overlook to the trail junction that leads to the meadow, then loops back to the parking lot, we headed into deep woods – and down, down, down hill.  Since we had climbed quite a slope to reach to the overlook, we didn’t think much about our descent – except that we began to notice a few mosquitoes. 

The understory became more lush as we continued to descend; we obviously were heading down a watershed towards a creek.  The humidity increased.  The mosquitoes swarmed.

Guess where our mosquito repellent was?  Yes, in the car.  And the car seemed far, far, away.  Should we turn back, scooting up the hill as fast as we could?  Keep going, hoping things would improve?  We kept moving, double-time, waving our hands around our heads and swatting at our legs and shoulders as we tried to decide. 

This is what Odel looks like to a mosquito.And then we met our saviors, a young couple heading towards us.  They immediately told us not to go on unless we had bug spray.  When we said we didn’t, they whipped out a huge spray bottle and handed it over.  As we coated each other liberally, they advised against visiting the meadow unless we love mosquitoes.  A shortcut back to the parking lot was just around the next bend, and we made tracks the half mile back to the safety of the car.  Hike over.

To console ourselves, we punched “Moomer’s” into the GPS, heading to Moomer’s Ice Cream.  Chosen as the national winner of the “Best Scoops” contest by Good Morning, America in May of 2008, Moomer’s got our attention when we shared a scoop of double chocolate cherry ice cream on an earlier outing. 

This time, we went straight to the source, the little Moomer’s Ice Cream stand on the dairy farm owned by the Plummer family, on the outskirts of Traverse City.  Even on a weekday afternoon, the place was packed with a line out the door.  No problem: we needed the time for decision making. 

I chose a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip, and Odel went all out (he had been most traumatized by the mosquitoes), ordering a Tin Roof Sundae with one scoop of double chocolate cherry and one of vanilla.  (I snagged the photo from the Moomer’s website since I neglected to take one of my own.)  I’ll tell ya’, it fixed us right up.  :)