Friday, July 7, 2017

UP Camping Trip

A few weeks back we went on a big family vacation, camping in the UP.  We didn't log a lot of time in the camper last year so this year I wanted to be sure we had at least one long trip where we got to camp and spend time outside!  Now that the girls are getting older it's getting easier (though, harder to carry them on our backs!).

We left on Friday morning, really really early....think 5:00 am.  Erin came with us too (yea!!) so she spent the night and we stayed up too late hanging out and just enjoying vacation eve.  It's seriously one of the best feelings to know that you've got a ton of fun ahead of you and it's just the very beginning.  Our first stop was Copper Harbor, Michigan, a mere 7 hour drive nearly straight north from our house.  It was a LONG trip but we had lots of new activity books and stickers and of course the novelty of having Auntie in the back seat with the girls helped a ton!  It took us about 9 hours to get there, but we stopped quite a few times, ate breakfast and lunch at sit down restaurants...trying to run some energy out of the girls before getting back in the car seats again.

We stayed in Copper Harbor for three full days and left on Monday morning.  If there is one thing we've learned in our years of camping its that we ALWAYS wish we had more time at each campsite.  Copper Harbor was no different especially since it rained one of the days.  We made due though and spent some time driving around checking out the little towns and found this hole in the wall bowling alley which was SUPER fun for the girls.  We found a record store and we stocked up big time.  At $2 or $3 a pop, you can hardly go wrong, even if you don't love the entire record.

We spent Saturday hiking one of the best hikes we've done in a long time.  It was a 4 mile hike (round trip) and we had waterfalls and beaches all to ourselves.  The beaches in Michigan were all across the board.  We found beaches that were made totally of small/medium sized rocks, sand beaches and even a cool beach that looked like it was made of slate.  On our Saturday hike we found the rock beach and I found the coolest egg like rock there.  I told Abby it was a dinosaur egg and it's still (three weeks later) sitting in a special box in her room wrapped in a blanket waiting to hatch!!  So adorable!!

Sunday was super rainy so on top of exploring and bowling we found a brewery (which we of course all loved) and did some planning for Monday.  Monday morning we ate breakfast and packed up to head to our second stop, Porcupine Mountain State Park.  The Porkies are still in Michigan but about 2 hours closer to our lake house near Hayward (our final destination).  I regret that we didn't get to go explore some of the lighthouses in/near Copper Harbor and there was a cool little historic replica of a town with people in period clothing located right inside the state park we stayed at.  But, there is always the option of going back to explore further.

The Porkies were really cool.  There were miles and miles and miles of hiking trials and tons of backpacking/camping options available there.  I'd guess that there were probably 50 back country cabins or yurts you could hike in to and I'm SURE we'll be back to try that out once the girls are a little older and can at least hike themselves and maybe even help to carry some of their stuff.  We just don't have any way of carrying "stuff" when we've got the girls in for now, we take a little slower pace and cherish the moments and things we CAN do with them at this age.

Our campground at the Porkies was right on lake Michigan.  Our site was a row back but there were sites that edged right up to the lake which was super cool.  We spent lots of time on the slate like beach right there in our "back yard" with the girls.  It was too close and too cool to miss.  The summer solstice happened while we were there and Ryan, Erin and I stayed up to 11:30 waiting for darkness to start setting in.

The Porkies is set up to do lots and lots of long hiking and didn't have a ton of short hike opportunities so we stuck a little closer to the campsite and did a few smaller hikes instead (like to the ice cream store near our campground!).  But, on Tuesday we decided to go on one of the local mine tours.  As the name Copper Harbor suggests there are lots of mines in the UP and it was a little rainy on Tuesday morning so we figured if we might as well hike inside a mine if it wasn't nice enough to be outside hiking.

The mine tour was actually pretty interesting.  We went on the shortest option (around an hour and a half) which was the perfect length for us and about all the girls were interested in doing.  We stuck them in our backpacks, strapped on helmets (with lights) and jumped right in.  We learned a lot and enjoyed it quite a lot.  One of the nicest things was that we had the tour all to ourselves.  Our guide told us that we were right on the front end of their busy season (4th of July through Labor Day) so we got the benefit of pretty warm/nice weather and relatively few people.  It was perfect!

One thing we weren't ready for was the black flies.  I'd never even heard of them, but they were terrible little things.  I can't decide if they are worse than mosquitoes or if it's just that we aren't used to them.  They were little like gnats but their bites were brutal.  The girls (kids and adults) all ended up with bites all along our hair lines.  They bleed pretty bad right after being bitten and then they'd itch for 4 or 5 days later.  Not ideal!  If you plan to camp in the area, a local told us to use Vicks Vapor Rub or eucalyptus to try and repel them.  We didn't get that tip until our last day so we didn't get a chance to try it out for ourselves.  If we ever go back, I'll be prepared!

Wednesday morning we packed up and headed out for our last stop, our lake house near Hayward.  We had such a great time trying out some new places to camp/explore.  I just love spending time with these people and vacation are seriously my favorite part of the year!  I start planning our camping trips for the coming year in December or January so I'm always so excited when the new campgrounds and locations we try turn out better than I could have hoped.  I hope the girls continue to humor us and let us take them all over the country for summers to come!  The older they get, the easier the long car rides, America, here we come!!

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