Saturday, August 10, 2013

 Smitten with the Mitten

More accurately "smitten with what is north of the mitten", but I couldn't think of anything that rhymed with "peninsula".

The state of Michigan became my home a little over 12 years ago. I didn't know much about Michigan except that I loved the boy who brought me here. It was a part of him, therefore it was a part of me. 

In my head, I still thought of Iowa as "home". For years that was so. 

Make no mistake, there is a permanent Iowa shaped brand on my heart. I was born and raised a true Midwestern Iowa girl. 

But my mitten state has truly captured my heart. 

This past Wednesday we arrived home from a nearly 2 week adventure vacation  - all in our state. 

It was beautiful! It was breathtaking. The majority of places we visited were completely new to me and the kids. There is so much history and beauty and intrigue here! We loved it.

{Side note: There are tons of challenges that go along with trying to have a "normal" family vacation (HA! right?!) When your family dynamics are anything but.  I am so grateful for Dave, who truly exemplifies walking in the Spirit and displaying the fruit patience.  As I go on and on about how lovely this trip was for us, I am being honest in expressing that. And, yes - there were tough parts. God's grace was over-flowingly sufficient for all of it.

On Friday, July 26th we left our home and headed to the west coast, Muskegon. Every year Dave's family reunion weekend starts with everyone enjoying one of Michigan's amusement parks, Michigan Adventure. We haven't gone to this part of the family reunion weekend since we have had children - so this "first" for them was exciting to the max.

I didn't take my camera with me that day, due to unpredictable weather. I stole this from my sister-in-law's facebook page, but I don't have any more photos from that part of our trip (much to the boys' dismay…).

We did get rained on, alot, in the later afternoon, BUT - we were in the water park area and in our swimsuits anyway. :) 

We had tons of energy and were gearing up for this trip, which we had been planning for over 3 months! We were getting settled into the whole camping bit, and enjoyed our very first camp ground that night. 

Somebody is ready for ADVENTURE!

Our little 27 ft. "home" for the next 2 weeks.

The next day was our family reunion, Saturday, July 27th. Again, rainy and colder than most years, but nothing we couldn't handle. 

We started the day with a walk around our campground and some horseshoes.

And then hanging out with the fam.

Another steal. Thanks Barbara!

And some time down at the beach. Hello Lake Michigan! 
{Great Lake #1 of the trip.}

Yes, those are sweatshirts. 

Sunday, July 28th - We start moving north.

And my obsession with the 5 mile bridge begins…


It is so pretty, and majestic, and so vast… It kept drawing me and my camera. ;) 

My guy gets me. He kept seeing my eyes wandering to the near south east of our camp site and he would say - "Go! - get your camera, and go back there!" We were staying at Straits State park, and this whole scene ^ was a short walk from our camper. Oh, it was a dream! At one point Dave had taken a walk, and rushed back to let me know that a rainbow was peaking out. 

After we put the boys to bed, Dave and I very carefully, very quietly snuck s'mores fixins' outside. We were all ready for a romantic little campfire rendezvous when we hear, "THAT"S NOT FAIR!" from Jay's bunk bed window…. ;) I love our crazy life.

On Monday, July 29th, we played a bit in Lake Huron (some will call me out and say it was "The Straits" but to me, it was Lake Huron; Great Lake #2 of our trip).

After that we were Super Safe, by wearing helmets while riding bikes, in the park, and got free ice cream coupons because of it! 



And THEN {I know, I'm such a little kid in my excitement. No apologies here. It was rad} we went on a drive and stopped on the side of the road next to Lake Michigan. 

Oh - just THIS. 


When we went back to our camp - we visited The Bridge again… 

This time we brought our new-to-us telescope.

On this evening we had a pretty major Kai melt down. He hadn't been napping and had been going non-stop, so it wasn't unexpected. Still, it was a toughy. 

After the boys were settled in their beds, I left the camper and (wait for it, wait for it….) -  went to go take some pictures of the bridge. ;) 

I promise - this whole story moves north of the bridge very soon. And then we do go back over it later, but I won't drag you through all of this again. You have my word. *wink*

The next morning, Tuesday, July30th  - We left The Straits.

This is part of the process of packing up and leaving. The fold out part is me and Dave's bed. The boys call it the "fun castle". So many things I could say about that, but won't.

We stopped in St. Ignace for fudge. Because that's what you do. And if you don't, you should.

Our next stop: Tahquamenon Falls. 

As we leave St Ignace, and the bridge gets further and further away, so does my cell signal. I feel like we are stepping back into time as the miles pass. No more McDonald's, Walmart, interstate, or internet. 

I brought my own internet with me. We have a hot spot, so if you bring your wi-fi with you, you have internet, right??

I only twitched for a short time. Like, a few hours. Then I was fine, and ready to embrace the purity of nature at its finest 

After we got settled in the lower falls campground, we went to see the campground namesake,

The Lower Falls.

We also did some exploring around our campsite,

-and of course enjoyed one of our many campfires.

Wednesday, July 31st - Wilderness adventure day!

Dave remembers this place from when he was 8. He's been wanting to come back ever since, so he was a bundle of excitement, ready for adventure. 

I was trying not to let my nervousness show. 

Our road became narrow. 
                             And then gravel,
                                                    barely a two lane, 
                                                                      definitely a one lane, 
and then a kind of path. Kind of.

See, I'm not nervous. At all.

 See our lovely "road"? yeah, me neither.

But there was this dude, giddy with excitement, right next to me, letting me know that everything was going to be just fine. :)

And then, just like he said - there was the hidden lake. 

We fished, we had our picnic lunch, and we adventured some more. He was true to his word; everything was, indeed, fine. 

That afternoon the heavens opened and we got a pretty magnificent storm. It kindly waited until we were out of the lake and onto passable roads. Whew! ;)

After winding back out of the woods, we drove to what appeared to be a once private lake house property, now become public.

We got the wheelchair out, went through a gate, a bridge, a path, tall grass, sand, more tall grass, sand, -  and then we finally came to a clearing and got our first glimpse of Lake Superior, Great Lake # 3 of our trip. 

The worlds largest fresh water lake, by surface area.

Storm clouds were gathering, and the waves were kind of angry looking. Angry in an awesome way.  Mysterious and absolutely mesmerizing. 

I was drawn to it even more than I was drawn to the bridge y'all.  :) 

The shore was covered in smooth stones with the most interesting patterns and colors on them. K adored throwing stones into the lake. It didn't take long for the storm clouds to produce what their looks promised. We got back to the truck just in time. It was a truly torrential downpour. It made our first glimpse of the Big Lake that much more exciting and memorable.

This was K's turn to melt down. Apparently he was drawn to the Big Lake too…. When it was time to leave, he made his displeasure unmistakable.

We went to White Fish Point after that and walked around with the umbrella a little bit, but the storm didn't seem to be losing steam at all, so we eventually went back to camp.

Thursday, August 1st. -I absolutely had to do laundry. No question. So, we do some investigating. Our campground is near Paradise. Surely Paradise would have a Laundromat. 


So, off I go on a 22 mile trek, to do my laundry. 

Oh UP - for your small faults, you totally make up for it in your adventure and beauty.

Hello Newberry. 
The big town.
Or, as I fondly refer to you, "Mayberry". 
I am ever so thankful for you. Yes, I am the tourist taking photos in the laundry.
 Nice to meet you. 

It was like walking into a picture of the 1970's. Sweet. The lady running the laundromat was the sweetest little grandma type, and was full of smiles and all the history I wanted to know. I loved it!

While in Newberry, I also fueled up at Pickelman's Petro. Yes, I did.

That afternoon, donning clean clothes, we drove 4 miles and hiked a bit to see The Upper Falls.


Like, really wow. 

You could hear it way before you could see it. It was thunderous.

We came back to camp for some cobbler over the fire. YUM!

Friday, August 2nd - 

More rain. The boys were distraught. I was enjoying some down time. Our camper really is comfy, and we had been constantly going - so I didn't think the rain was half as bad as they were making it out to be. 

It cleared up a little bit in the afternoon, but it never really warmed up. During our entire trip, I don't think it got much warmer than mid seventies. But, against my internal thermometer, I put my bathing suit on along with the boys, and walked down to the cold Tahquamenon river….

I never, ever, ever would have gotten into that river, had it not been for my dear husband. Even just at ankle deep - it was painful! And he was out there all, "Oh, come on! I see it in your eyes, you want to swim in the Tahqamenon River. It's on your bucket list. You'll always feel bad if you don't do it."

He was out just far enough that if I went to him, I would be in over my head. So, I did. :) And didn't regret it.

That evening Dave and Jay went on a 4 mile hike, and I took the other three to the playground.

 You gotta watch out for that K boy…

And then I got brave and took them on a little hike. :)

 That dude in the middle is such a trouble maker, do NOT let that uber cuteness deceive…

 Hmmm… pine needles. They feel different than my beads.

Saturday, August 3rd -

I got up early, while the boys were still asleep, and drove the four miles back to the Upper Falls.

I was the only one there. This place is usually busting with people, so it was an amazing experience. So quiet, and then so loud.

I got lots of exercise that morning… That's 116 steps right there.

Playing with different exposures for different effects ^

I could feel the mist in my face, and smell the fresh air. This early morning walk had many sweet God moments for me. He made this. No man could ever do such a thing. 

I said good bye to the big falls, and we got ready to leave Tahquamenon.

The boys took one more walk with me.

Our next stop was Brimley State park. It wasn't a long drive to get there, but Mali was so tired that he literally fell asleep while coloring. ;)

At Brimley, Lake Superior was literally right outside of our camper. 

Be still my heart.

So of course, we had to get into the lake. Our boys are part fish, I swear. They do not care what the air temperature is, they do not care what the water temperature is - all they care about it getting into whatever body of water is in front of them

 Look at that lady on the beach in her jeans and sweater!

Swimming with ships is always fun!

We went for a family bike ride at twilight.

 It's so breathtaking!

The nights we spent at Brimley, I fell asleep to the sound of these mighty waves crashing against the shore. I think heaven might sound a little bit like that.

Sunday, August 4th - 

We visited Sualt St. Marie. What an amazing city, so rich with history! This was one of my favorite day trips. (Did I say that already, about a different day? I can't remember if I did) :) 

We went on the Soo locks boat tour, and hung out with big ships.

What a neat experience, to go through the locks and see how everything works, from the inside.

 The international bridge

And we entered into Canadian waters.

After our boat tour, we went into a museum that told all about the locks, and then watched another boat go through them.

While in Sault, we entered civilization again, picked up a few groceries at Walmart, and had our first, and impressively only, fast food meal. -And I maybe checked my email at McDonald's.

That night we…..

                    played in Lake Superior,
                                                  and I actually got in this time.

Dave has mad pyramid building skills.

I kept slipping away to The Lake with my camera, just like I had previously gone to The Bridge. :)

Monday, August 5th -

We left the U.P.

*Notice* - leaving out bridge pictures on the way home - :)

We camped at Wilson State Park in Harrison on our way home. I tried desperately not to put my nose in the air at "Bud Lake",  I couldn't help but compare a bit….

We still had a great time. The fishing here surprisingly rendered more results than our U.P fishing efforts.

Kai caught his very first fish, which was, of course, monumental! 

Tuesday, August 6th -

I played in Bud Lake with the boys a little bit

- But mostly just cuddled on the beach with my towel and hot coffee.

Notice in just about every beach picture, Dave is digging and building. :) Every single member of this family is a kid at heart. I love this man.

 He made this ^

I just made this ^

And this

We canoed to a little island after that and had a picnic lunch.

More fishing resumed in the evening. 

Dave finally got his big fish.

And we wound down with some s'mores. Nothing like a little sugar  to wind down for the night.

This trip - the timing, the way it all came together, God's way of providing for every single aspect, was a gift. A huge unforgettable gift to us. And we are thankful.

Oh look! The bridge. Snuck that one in there…


Anonymous said...

"Uncle Al" says you should send some of the pictures to "Pure Michigan". They might pay you for them. It made me want to go on vacation! Love you all.

Andrea said...

What an AMAZING holiday!! (My comment could be entirely in all-caps and exclamation marks...) Your photos of the bridge are breathtaking, I can understand the obsession ;) You can just see the relaxation and fun shining through in every picture! What beautiful memories you will have of this time!

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Thank you for taking us with you on that wondrous vacay. Nowhere compares to Michigan, I remember visiting my mom's bestie in the Soo one summer in the mid 60s. You have brought back many memories for me and made a zillion for your family. Love it all esp the Bridge pics.