2019 Road Trip – Day 1: Harrison Lake State Park, Presque Isle State Park, Niagara Falls State Park

Our first day on the road took us to three state parks in three different states, ending with a spectacular view of Niagara Falls just before sunset.

It’s that time of year again when we hit the road on a new adventure. This year, we’re road tripping to Massachusetts. We’ll take two days to get there and three days to get back, leaving us with 4 full days in the Boston area.

HARRISON LAKE STATE PARK

We hit the road in Michigan City, IN early this morning, despite a short night sleep and needed a little extra caffeine boost to get us going. If you’ve followed my other road trips, you know that I prefer stretching my legs at points of interest rather than at roadside rest stops. Our first leg stretch of a long travel day was at Harrison Lake State Park, just off the turnpike in Ohio. All state parks in Ohio (and many throughout the US) are free to enter, so they make a great place to get out and take in some natural views while stretching those leg muscles. Harrison Lake SP was a perfect place for just that. We took a little walk, looked at the lake, and got back on the road within 30 minutes.

PRESQUE ISLE STATE PARK

By the time we hit our next leg stretch spot, we were out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania. Presque Isle State Park is it’s own island off the coast of Erie, PA and was an opportunity for us to get up close and personal with Lake Erie. During our 2018 Road Trip, we visited three of the five Great Lakes and we’ll get to the other two on this trip, starting today. Presque Isle SP is also free to enter, but would be quite a lovely place to rent a bike for an afternoon. It was a blustery and chilly day for August, so we drove around the whole park, but didn’t spend a lot of time actually on the beach. Just as well, because we only had 1/2 hour scheduled before we needed to get back on the road in order to stick to our schedule.

img_0815

NIAGARA FALLS STATE PARK

Our final destination of the evening was Niagara Falls State Park in New York. This has been something I’ve always wanted to see, but my fiancé already saw it 20+ years ago, so I didn’t think it would make it on our agenda. Fortunately, it is almost exactly halfway between our home and Boston, so it was a logical place to spend our first night. We decided to make it just an hour visit this trip and come back for a more extended visit on the Canadian side at another time. The Falls are beautiful and we arrived about an hour before sunset, so the sky had that lovely afternoon glow… perfect for pictures! An hour was enough time to visit both falls and take, according to my fiancé, “a million pictures” at each. Make sure to accompany that previous sentence with an overly emphasized eye roll for the proper effect. Obviously we both enjoy different aspects of our journeys together and that is ok.

HARD ROCK CAFE NIAGARA FALLS

My fiancé collects Hard Rock shot glasses, as you mimg_0900ay remember from an earlier post. He already has one from his last visit to Niagara Falls, but we visited the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls anyway because we were starving and he wasn’t in the mood for Indian food, which is in abundance around the Falls.

We finished off the night by finding a cheap Budget Inn outside Buffalo to crash at for the evening. It was cheap, clean and the staff was nice. It wasn’t somewhere I’d make a point to revisit, but it suited it’s purpose and I wouldn’t be sad to find myself spending a night there again on a future road trip.  They also had really strong coffee in the morning, which I greatly appreciate.

 

2018 Road Trip – Day 6: Van Riper State Park

After setting up our tent and the rest of our camp, we headed across the street to another section of the park for a hike and moose hunt.

We left Porcupine Mountain State Park sometime around mid-morning after tearing down the camp. My fiancé’s truck doesn’t have anywhere to charge our electronics, so we stopped inside the park visitor center to charge at a wall outlet while we used the WIFI to get our directions to the next state park. It’s been both refreshing and a little 109aec6c-6209-4dcb-b84f-7ec9cba1163e-1813-0000017958d0268b_filefrustrating to not have any cell service up here in the Upper Peninsula. We are forced to write down the Google Map directions from one park to the next when we have WIFI and then, because many roads up here aren’t marked that clearly, we have to use the truck odometer to keep track of how far we’ve gone since the most recent turn. We did pick up a map, but it is incomplete and an error (even though we could eventually fix it) would take us miles out of our way. Fortunately we haven’t had a problem with our system yet.

Today we continued along the coast of Lake Superior until we came to Van Riper State Park. We checked in and managed to get a nice campsite with an electric hookup… joy! We brought the big surge protector so we could charge everything at once while we have the chance. You ever know what type of camping will be available at these parks if you haven’t made your reservations in advance.

After setting up our tent and the rest of our camp, we headed across the street to another section of the park for a hike and moose hunt. We’ve heard this is moose country, and they are often spotted up here, but we have yet to catch a glimpse of even a small piece of one. Our hike proved fruitless in the Moose department, but it was a lovely setting full of a variety of natural beauty.

After our hike, we spent a bit of time at the park’s beach. I ended up heading back to the tent sooner than my fiancé because I was really looking forward to sitting in the sun and reading my book. It’s a bit of a pain to read by flashlight when bugs are out and about at night and when we’re driving I have to keep a close eye on the odometer, so there’s been little chance to get through my library books. I’m currently enjoying “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah and find myself wanting to get back to the story.

Our evening ended with another nice dinner of beans, quinoa and veggies, followed by smores, around a glowing campfire.

2018 Road Trip – Day 3: Fayette State Park, Bewabic State Park, Agate Falls, Bond Falls

Today we explored a historic village and played in a waterfall. A wonderful day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

After a lovely, and quiet, night in the field all by ourselves, we started the day touring the historic village at Fayette State Park.

The Johnson Iron Company was based in Fayette on the shore of Lake Michigan from 1867-1891 and the workers and their families created a town surrounding the company buildings, which is now Fayette Historic State Park. Many of the buildings are well restored and many are furnished, allowing visitors to experience another layer of the history of the region. There is a beautiful view from Slag Beach, which used to serve as a dumping ground for the waste (slag) produced by the company in the iron making process.

We only spent a few hours wandering the historic village, but it would have been easy and interesting to spend a whole day there. Unfortunately we had a long drive to get our next overnight camping spot, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and we didn’t have time linger.

Yesterday we found out that only AT&T phones work in the Upper Peninsula and both our phones quickly ran out of roaming minutes. Since we planned to use them for navigation. We headed into a larger nearby town, Esconaba, and had lunch at a place with Wi-Fi so we could write out all the directions. It was an excruciating process, but ultimately very useful. We also bought a pretty detailed road map in case we somehow got off track. As we travelled down the road, we stopped a few times at planned locations along the way to stretch our legs

img_3209

Bewabic State Park wasn’t much more than a lake with a park on one side of it. It was a nice place to get out of the car for a few minutes and stretch our legs, but there really wasn’t much to see.

img_3211

Another roadside stop for leg stretching was Agate Falls State Park. Sometimes what the DNR calls a state park is actually a just a quick roadside scenic site. That’s the case with Agate Falls. Just a quick 5 minute walk from the roadside parking lot and you’re at a lookout over the top of the falls. There weren’t really any good angles to get photos, but the sound of the water was awesome and could be herd right when you got out of the car.

 

Bond Falls Scenic Site was definitely a more substantial area. We spent over an hour traipsing around, up, in and alongside the beautiful falls and a lovely trail that ran next to the river. This was my favorite stop of the day. I absolutely love playing in waterfalls. I also got to play around with the long exposure feature on my iPhone, which is quite satisfying.

We continued driving and were about an hour from Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park when we decided we just didn’t want to drive any more today. We pulled over at a cheap, roadside motel and checked in for the night. We walked across the street and ate a restaurant supper at the only restaurant that was still open in the small “town” after 8pm and then went back to the motel room for hot showers and a good night sleep.

 

2018 Road Trip – Day 2: Petoskey State Park, Mackinac Bridge, Palms Book State Park, Fayette Historic State Park

We left the hotel well rested and continued our trek north. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Petoskey, Michigan.

Petoskey is a very busy town and Petoskey State Park is just outside of town, so it was pretty busy as well. Today was a Friday in July, which probably added to the number of people there. We spent a couple hours searching the beach for the infamous Petoskey Stones.

img_3013

A Petoskey stone is a rock and a fossil, often pebble-shaped, img_3016that is composed of a fossilized rugose coral, Hexagonaria percarinata. The stones were formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones from the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them in the northwestern (and some in the northeastern) portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula.” – Wikipedia

We learned while there that the Petoskey stones are more commonly found in the spring, just after the ice melts. We’ll have to make plans to head back during that time I guess, but we did find a few small ones, pictured above.

After leaving Petoskey, we stopped for some cherries to snack on, since we didn’t plan to have lunch until we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. We img_3032thought about stopping and seeing Mackinac Island, but figured since it was a Friday we would save it for after we finished our tour of the Upper Peninsula. It took us a while to make it across the bridge, due to wind and weekend traffic, but we did eventually get a quick roadside lunch before journeying on.

It was a bit of a haul to make it all the way to our first state park in the upper peninsula. We usually like to stop more frequently to stretch our legs and walk a bit, but the sights at Palms Book State Park were worth a bit of leg cramping. This was one of the most unique things I’ve seen in Michigan. The crystal clear water allowed an amazing view of an underwater spring (Kitchi-Iti-Kipi) and all the nature surrounding it.

There is a glass bottom boat that takes you across the spring so you can get the best views of the crystal clear underwater world. If you’re headed here, plan about 1-1.5 hours, depending on the lines for the boat. We were fortunate to get right on, but there were lines waiting when we got back.

You can’t stay overnight in Palms Book State Park, so we continued on to Fayette Historic State Park for the evening. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at Fayette, all of their campsites were full. This img_3079is the price we pay for spontaneity. Fortunately, we were prepared to camp rustic (no electric, or even toilets nearby) and they let us camp in their auxiliary field for only $15. This field is usually used for larger groups. It didn’t have facilities, but it did have a fire ring and picnic table, so we had all we needed and we drove down to the bath house in the campground to use the toilets. It was actually quite nice because we had the whole field to ourselves. After setting up camp, we had a nice supper and settled in for a rainy night. We saved the historical village part of the park for tomorrow.