Michigan Upper Peninsula 2013

It's been over a year since my last blog post, so why not start with a travel log of our recent vacation to the U.P.

Having only a few weeks to put together a mini vacation, we looked at some destinations within driving range, not wanting to burn up too much time. Jen wanted to see the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, so we started planning a trip around that destination. As a side note: be careful when choosing a time for your trip to the U.P., you do not want to get to close to the mosquito hatching season, which apparently is when we decided to go. Plan on after July (mental note for future reference). So let's begin...

Wednesday:

I left work, picked up C.S.A. and was packed on the road by 6:00pm. We took S.R. 109 north out of Delta, where it picked up M-50 in Michigan to US-223 in Adrian. Following US-223, eventually turning into US-127, we stopped for dinner at a Bob Evans in Jackson before driving to our destination of Grayling. This is about four hours of driving, five with a stop for dinner. The drive was pleasant enough, being mostly lightly used highways (traffic tends to use US-23 and I-75). We stayed at the Days Inn in Grayling for the night.

Amusing thoughts on the drive: We stopped at a gas station in Grayling to top off the tank and clear the windshield of bugs. When I pulled into the gas station, a few teenage boys pointed and chuckled at the front of my car, as soon as I got out, I saw the reason which was half of Michigan's bug population had been taken out by my front bumper.

Days Inn Grayling: There are quite a few hotels and motels on the main strip in Grayling, the Days Inn chain has always been hit or miss for me, but this was a pretty well kept up establishment with free WiFi and a decent bed. The shower was a little odd (I think the valve could stand to be replaced), but for the money, it was clean and safe and provided a good night sleep. I failed to point out the game room to Jen (hope she doesn't read this).

Thursday:

We were up and on the road by 9:00am. Being on I-75, we headed north and stopped for breakfast at a Bob Evans in Gaylord (seeming now determined to stop at every Bob Evans in Michigan). When we exited the highway, we hit very heavy rain and thunderstorms. We eventually found the restaurant and made it in just as the rain was tapering off. This would be the course of the morning drive, periods of heavy rain as we made our way north. We arrived in Mackinaw, crossed the bridge, and headed on I-75 towards Brimley. Taking S.R. 28 just south of Sault Ste. Marie, we followed West Lakeshore Drive, which hugs Whitefish Bay (as well as several other smaller bays) before connecting with S.R. 123, heading north to Whitefish Point, and the Shipwreck Museum.

West Lakeshore Drive: this drive is listed in a few guides as one of the best scenic routes in Michigan. It adds about 1-2 hours on to the trip, and goes through several small towns and Ojibwe reservations. There are a few scenic turnouts we skipped in order to focus on the destination. There were some nice views of the lake, but much of it was dominated by heavy forest.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum: I was unsure what to expect since I had only seen information on their website, but I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits of not only the shipwrecks, but the lighthouse and the coast guard life saving service exhibit as well. It will cost about $13 per person, and an extra $4 to clime the light tower (about 50-ish steps). Do plan on climbing the light tower if it's a clear day, the views of the peninsula are amazing. The gift shop is well stocked and there is also very nice beach access. We burned about 3 hours at the Museum, but probably cold have been more if we packed a lunch.

Back on the road, we headed south to Paradise were we picked up S.R. 123 heading west. This route took us right by Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and in particular, the upper and lower falls. Being hungry, we skipped past the lower falls turnoff and headed towards the upper falls to a recommended restaurant by the name of Camp 33. Our guide for the light tower climb told us "I'm telling you where to eat, but I am telling you where you should eat". And he was right, this was some of the best fish-n-chips I ever had (beer battered rainbow trout). Getting into the park will cost you if you are not a Michigan resident, about $10 for a day pass, and $30 for a annual pass. After dinner, we walked about 1/2 mile to the upper falls. There are several very nice viewing platforms, but be prepared for stairs and mosquito clouds. We forgot to Deet-Up at the car, so time spent was pretty minimal before we made tracks back to the vehicle. We made a quick back-track back to the lower falls to find even thicker clouds of the state bird. Thoughtfully, the park had a gift shop and indoor ice cream shop at the lower falls which we took advantage of.

Heading west on 123, we connected with S.R. 28 south of Newberry which took us the rest of the way to Munising. This is about a 2 hour solid drive from Whitefish Point to Munising, not factoring in stops at Tahquamenon Falls. We arrived in Munising about 8:00pm and checked into the Beach Inn Motel, just Northeast of Munising on H-58. The motel has all bay facing rooms (it states lake facing, but it is really Municing Bay, sill lovely tough) and is pretty well kept up. I was a little nervous when seeing the images on the website versus what I would actually experience, but it was an accurate representation. We took a second floor room which has a semi private balcony (shared among all the rooms, but only accessible from the second floor rooms). We probably would have made better use of it if the mosquito population was less, but it was a nice enough evening so we opened the windows and worked on a bottle of wine before calling it a night.

more to come...