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!


  1. That T-shirt looks very nice...great job!!
    Thanks for the campground reviews. Not to worry...I think Mike and I get how you do your reviews. Thanks!!

    Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

  2. Exactly what we look for, except add a bookstore to the list and it is the perfect location. Sharon and Allan

  3. One of the things that drew me to your blog (and I think I've read all of your past postings now on both this and the old blog, was your campground reviews because you gave information that I wanted to know and hadn't found on a lot of other reviews, such as price (it's amazing how few campground reviews listed the cost) and knowing there is a NPR station is much appreciated. There isn't one available where I currently live. Keep up the great work -- I enjoy your blog!

  4. Petoskey looks like a great place to visit. We have not spent a great deal of time in that area so this is some place to add to our list. That list is sure growing! Enjoy your weekend.

  5. Hey Laurie,

    The New York Times had a quinoa recipe the other day and I thought of you. Here's a link for it.

  6. Thanks for the pictures of the braiding; I understand now. And I love your campground reviews. I cannot do the hiking you do but we like the types of parks you do so many of yours go on my lists--especially the city parks that are hard to learn about elsewhere.

  7. Laurie, thanks for the braiding photos. I might try to cut a shirt up today just for grins. Your campsite reviews are wonderful, and when I get to hit the road, will be required reading along the way. Quality of life most important!

  8. My family and I camp at Petosky state park every summer and love it. We never get tired of the area or lake. One of our favorite places is Bob-in Again for ice cream. give it a try before you move on you won't be dissopointed.

  9. T-shirt braiding and underwater basket weaving..2 classes I took at college if memory serves...
    I totally think Michigan is THE most beautiful state in our Midwest....We love Lake Michigan...and the lighthouses on Lake Superior are awesome..Lots of shipwrecks in those lakes...I am a total history freak..Great pictures!!

  10. The T-shirt braiding is pretty cool. Nice way to have a little different look, since we virtually live in t-shirts.

    Appreciate what you are saying relative to the campgrounds. We feel the same way. I love reading your reviews since I know they will touch on the important stuff.

    Like to see your comments about Lake Michigan. Having grown up on the Lake and lived there most of my life I just always took it for granted. But I know it is very special and VERY big. Enjoy your time in beautiful Petoskey.