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Travel in North Central USA

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2 Frazzled

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Travel in North Central USA
« on: February 18, 2018, 11:09:03 am »
We couldn't get Chloe for as long as we wanted last year so we had to cut that summer trip short. Things we talked about and planned got dropped so she is thinking that might make a nice trip also if the Canada loop doesn't work out.

Last summer we were able to swing up the eastern side of Michigan into the UP, go halfway across so we could hit Pictured Rocks NP, then backtrack over the Mackinac Bridge and down to hit Sleeping Bear Dunes NP before crossing back into Ohio. Anything west of Munising MI in the UP was dropped due to time constraints and we were unable to hit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which we hope to hit someday.

So, if anyone has advice, suggestions and such for the Western half of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, please share. Our original plan was to travel up through Michigan, cross all the way over the UP into Wisconsin following the lake shore around to Isle Royale NP then swinging over to Voyageurs NP (we like to hit all the National Parks that we can). We would then swing down through Minnesota, Wisconsin and on around to circle back to Maryland. I believe there are some dinosaur/ice age fossil places over there that we'd like to find also.

John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
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Tall Guy

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2018, 09:11:33 am »
I love answering "travel guide" type questions!  If you missed Seeney Wildlife Refuge on your last trip it would be a great place to check out on your way to Munising.  They have a very interesting visitor center and a really cool drive through the Refuge taking you among the various nesting pools, you may even see an Osprey or an Eagle.  West of Munising the Keewanau Peninsula is both a very pretty drive and an interesting one, look up Keewanau National Historic Park which is all about when "King Copper" ruled the area.  Porcupine Mountains State Park is another must see place with it's miles of hiking trails and beautiful views.  A little further west is the Black River Scenic Drive (north out of Bessemer) which follows the Black River all the way to a National Forest campground and picnic area on Lake Superior.  There are five (I think) parking areas with short trails leading to waterfalls, very pretty area.  The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin is another worthwhile stop as are all of the many Minnesota State Parks along what's known as "The Arrowhead".  This is a scenic drive along Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border.  Voyageurs National Park is mostly a water park, canoeing and kayaking are big up there.  There are a couple of mainland camping areas and visitor centers there as well as some concession operated boat tours but the bulk of the park is back country.  Ely Minnesota is the home of the International Wolf Center, if Chloe likes wildlife do not miss this place.  They have a lot of hands on exhibits (ever tried to howl like a wolf, it's fun) plus they have a resident wolf pack which can be observed through a series of large windows, if you're lucky your visit will be on feeding day.  Road kill deer are the wolves' staple food.

About Isle Royale, you can only access it via boat or seaplane.  From Copper Harbor it's a three hour ride one way or from Houghton it's a six hour ride one way. It's mostly a backpacker's paradise.  Rock Harbor on the east end of the island does have some non-backpacker amenities but they are very pricey.  When my wife and I have been there we've rented a housekeeping cottage so we can cook all of our own meals eliminating one major expense making it somewhat doable.  Windigo on the west end of the Isle is for day use or back country use only as there are limited services there.  It's about a two hour boat ride from Grand Portage, Minnesota.  I just looked, Windigo does have two one room cabins but you have to bring everything with you for sleeping and eating.

Hope this helps!
Gary

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CKK

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2018, 06:01:22 pm »
I'm sure you're familiar, but any visit to northern Michigan should include Macinaw Island.... no vehicles are allowed but a day spent biking or walking or on a carriage ride there is fabulous.

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2018, 10:08:37 am »
CKK, we did hit Macinac Island last summer but might do it again if our route goes that way. We would have bikes along this time and could do the independent exploring we missed last time. And we would restock our fudge supply.  (yahoo)

Tall Guy, thanks for the tips. I'll be checking into all of them. We are all nature and animal lovers so the Wolf Center sounds perfect. I may even be able to get Chloe into their July summer camp. She'd love it! She's a bit of a star with friends now. They are jealous. When asked where she was on back to school night last August, she replied "probably feeding fruit loops to baby bears". Next year she can tell them she was studying wolves! Beats the heck out of laying on a couch playing with their phones.
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2018, 02:46:27 pm »
2 Frazzled,    if you didn't check out  Tahquamenon Falls or the Shipwreck museum on Whitefish Point,  a few miles north of Tahquamenon,  that would be worth  doing.

Also,  the Lake Superior beach along the Porcupine Mountains area  is easily reached and full of the prettiest stones you could imagine for Chloe to collect.

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2018, 09:01:12 pm »
Tall Guy's suggestions are excellent. Copper Falls State Park located southeast of Ashland , Wisconsin is a very nice , small, scenic park with secluded rv sites and a beautiful hiking trail along the  river.
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2018, 08:06:47 pm »
We followed the shore of lake Huron then crossed over to Petoskey and up along Lake Michigan, crossed over the Mac. Then went to Soo St. Marie.
The Tunnel of trees is a scenic road above Petoskey it is a tight road for the 2350. If you have anything longer I would not recommend that section of road.
In Cross Lake Village I would recommend stopping at Legs Inn they have authentic Polish food. And brew there own beer. Now to the U.P. The locks in Soo St. Marie are worth while seeing. Its even better if you catch a freighter going thru one of the locks. Plus they have there fair share of fudge stores across the street.
There are many Light house along the shore of Superior. A lot of them you can drive to some are in remote areas. Copper Mines where a big part of the U.P.
 Some of the memorable place I remember Start in Grand Maris There is a nice sandy beach with a board walk. The Town operates a RV and campground I Think it a first come first serve. You pull in and drive around find a spot you like and then go to the office to pay for the site. If no ones there you leave the money in a envelope and drop it in a slot. You do have to climb down a flight of stairs to get to the beach. There is a Agate Museum near by but was closed when we where there.
Head west and just before Marquette stop and see the Lakenland Sculpture Museum. Its a drive thru park with all sorts of sculptures made from scrap iron. It was free when we where there. Just a little farther west. Is kind of a unique RV park. The name is Gitche Gumee RV park. And the owner is very friendly and the sites are spread out in a wooded area. The lake is just across the road. In the city of Marquette check out the old iron ore dock.
In Ishpeming, Cliffs shaft mine Museum has a tour of the buildings and part of the mine shaft.
In Houghton, on the campus of Michigan Technological university. Seaman mineral museum has a large display of gems, minerals, and local copper. It would take a couple of hours to see all the exhibits. Cross the bridge into Hancock you will find the Quincy mine. They have a very good tour. You ride a cog railway down a steep hill then you are taken into the mine by a tractor pulled wagon. Once back on top you can see some of the equipment they used back when the mine operated. I was in awe of the size and engineering of the hoist system. It operated on steam power.
Head farther north into the Keweennaw peninsula. Before Copper Harbor, Delaware copper mine has self guided tour. On this one it would help to bring a good strong flash light. Because the lighting was not the greatest. Copper Harbor has a state campsite but we left early because it was very noisy with all the kids there. There is a esker in Copper Harbor that is a nice drive and scenic. And the only place that you can get cell coverage.
We found a nice quiet campground (at first) just west of Eagle River off of the 5 mile point Rd. Called Sunset Bay RV park. My wife like the beach for all the rocks. And that what this trip was for. She collects rocks for her jewelry making. I said this was a quiet campground, till a storm blows in. Then the lake becomes very angry. My wife grew up near Boston and she never seen waves on the ocean that we did that one night. She did not sleep very well thinking we would end up with all the ship wreaks. The next day all the rocks on the beach were gone. Wash back into the lake.
In Greenland Mi. Adventure mining co. Has 4 different tours you can take, One of them has you repelling down a shaft to a lower level.
As said before the Porcupine Mountains and Apostle islands are scenic stops.
We stayed a lot of state campsites. So we purchased a park passport which gives you free admission to state parks and a discount for state campgrounds.  I don't know if a young person would enjoy any of these places. But I enjoyed learning how people lived and worked in the past two centuries. 

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2018, 05:34:47 am »
Great info Joe R. Thank you! Chloe does like learning new things, and history... and rocks (she gets it from me - John's auto-response is "no rocks, we aren't carrying your rocks"). We tend to read everything in the visitor centers. If it says most people spend 1-2 hours, we budget 4-6.

As a side note, we had a neighbor that started putting rocks in her garden that she collected here and there. Her son started it by engraving a rock from his area with type and location found and giving it to her to remind her of her visits. She placed them engraved side down so it wasn't obvious but she could lift and read them if needed - and take them with her when she moved. A sharpie would probably do the trick too.

We hope to hit the west half of the U.P. So we will be using this info. Thanks again!
John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2018, 09:49:03 am »
Just an FYI for anyone thinking of traveling through Minnesota. Their state park campgrounds have gone to all reservations - no sites held back for walk ins. John and I usually do the laid-back travel and "move when we feel like it" routine but we knew we were hitting some heavily visited areas this summer so we booked campgrounds for most of our trip. Boy was that a royal pain! We will be gone 7 weeks and most stops are 2-3 nights. You would think reserving things 4-5 months in advance would be sufficient for state parks but it is not so. Many campgrounds are already booked with only a few electric sites left (John wants to stay on the grid as much as possible this go around). Some campgrounds have NO sites open, electric or primitive. Several of our two night stops will require us to move campsites for the second nite as they had no sites open for two consecutive nights. We hit this in Michigan and Minnesota. There are first come first served, primitive sites in National and State Forests all over those areas but John doesn't want to go hunting after a long day of driving so we locked in our campsites. One Michigan campground had sites open that I quickly booked but it is because they have dismantled the bathhouse. They'll have porta-johns and no showers. They emailed us and gave us a chance to cancel and said they would reduce our fees to reflect the primitive campground price. Since there is "no room at the inn" in the local area, we are sticking with the reserved site.

Also both Michigan and Minnesota require an annual park entry pass so you pay that on top of the campground fees. The do have daily passes if you are only staying in that state a few nights but any more than that and you are better off with the annual pass. Now we're trying to figure out what to do with the Michigan pass as it states we have to permanently affix it to our windshield. Hopefully sticking it up there with a piece of clear tape will get us through the week then I can take it off. I don't need a Michigan pass after that.
John, Holly, and sometimes Chloe.
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Two Hams in a Can

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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2018, 09:56:06 am »
Sorry to hear it 2 Frazzled.  When we were full timing, we discovered that many State and National Park sites were reserved with a minimum deposit as soon as reservations were available-maybe a year ahead.  Then, the crumb bums would change their plans; wouldn't show up, choosing to lose their relatively small deposit but not cancelling; thus depriving others of a campsite.  It takes all kinds. . . . . pyho    :)(:
« Last Edit: March 29, 2018, 10:06:07 am by Two Hams in a Can »
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2018, 03:47:35 pm »
We too find it getting harder & harder to "wing" our trips without reservations as is our practice.  For Irene and me, the joy of care-free RVing gets lost when we have to adhere to a schedule of back-to-back-to-back reservations.  Somehow we manage, but I wonder how much longer we can continue RVing this way.  The national parks are over-crowded, and so are their campgrounds.

I loose interest when trying to reserve seasons ahead of time within a 2 hour window before all sites for the year are gone.  We tried it once which had disappointing results, but maybe one day it will be the only way.  To-date, when feeling lucky we show up unexpected, ask if a site is available via a cancellation, and hope for the best.  We often turn around, follow the ranger's advise and head to secondary camp grounds and nearby national forest & BLM campgrounds, hence we boon dock a lot.  There are rarely hook-ups on reserved sites anyway.  For us, it is more about the location.

Reservations make a lot more sense when staying in one place for an extended period.  Not staying a few nights in many different places as we generally do.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2018, 08:15:27 pm by ron.dittmer »
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2018, 04:35:08 pm »
I would have to agree. Reservations have become a must, but yet a total pain! If we're going to one of our local haunts that we're familiar with it's not an issue. Select the site we're familiar with and/or know from past experience. No big deal. If I travel 600 or more miles and have selected a site, find that's it's next to the dumpster, on a 30 degree slope or is in some God forsaken swamp, or such thing, that looked great on the inter net, I get upset.
The only time we make reservations is once or maybe twice at the most on a trip. Generally the reservation is made at our destination spot with the dates as our central theme and we free lance it from there. Still selecting in the dark as to the actual site in unfamiliar territory it can be a crap shoot.
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2018, 06:02:25 pm »
We've had overall pretty good luck with Corps of Engineers campgrounds.  They also honor the "Geezer" Pass.  Many are fhu, but a lot are w/e only with a dump station.  Usually lots of space between sites in a bucolic setting.  :)(:
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2018, 06:20:24 am »
We loved Georgia's state park system. You book a " type of site." Example "Red: 40' back- in with electric." You check in with the ranger, get your red card, drive the campground, find a red post with a site you like, clip your card on and settle in. If you got in late and got a not-so-great site, you can move as soon as another red site opens. Smile and wave while the people pull out, clip your card on the post and move over. The beauty of this system is you can keep extending and stay in your site as long as the park has at least one unbooked red site. All the parks we hit held a few of each color for walk-ins so we could extend up to the two weeks allowed in one park. Sooo much easier.

We wandered on the west coast and usually found a site somewhere without pre-booking. We hope it will be that way still when we head back that way this fall.
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Re: Travel in North Central USA
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2018, 12:18:40 pm »
The necessity of reservation combined with people who abuse the system has become a real problem in national park and Colorado State Parks. We have found that just rechecking the appropriate on-line reservation site daily, spaces do open as people cancel/change reservations. As we travel, we also just check early in the day at the location for spaces opened up due to no shows or early departure.

We stayed in several Canadian provincial parks last year. They are trying to get a handle on the problem with penalties around holidays. One we stayed in used a system similar to the Georgia State Park system described above.

Certainly does destroy that wander lust that drew so many of us to the RVing lifestyle.