Michigan in July

Here’s what July looks like at 30,000 feet. If any of you Mitteners (is that a good term?) know of special places I should visit please lemme know in the comments!

7/1 to 7/2Fort Custer Recreation Area
7/3 to 7/5Ionia Recreation Area
7/6 to 7/7Muskegon KOA
7/8 to 7/10Hoffmaster State Park
7/11 to 7/12Traverse City State Park (Sleeping Bear Dunes!)
7/1 3to 7/14Orchard Beach State Park
7/15 to 7/17Aloha State Park
7/18 to 7/24Petosky KOA (a day to Mackinac and an overnight to Chicago)
7/25Straits State Park
7/26Tahquamenon Falls State Park
7/28 to 7/29Pictured Rocks KOA
7/30Lake Gogebic State Park
7/31Dunno yet! Will be outbound to Ontario!

Dune Ridge & Devils Kitchen

Acting on Sarah’s suggestion, I headed over to Muskegon State Park to hike the Devils Kitchen trail. I added the Dune Ridge trail on as an extended loop by connecting the two trails via the walkway along the ship channel connecting Muskegon Lake & Lake Michigan (why is “lake” sometimes before and sometimes after the name?). Great Hike! The dunes are awesome. Here’s the trail descriptions from the park map:

Dune Ridge
This trail is for the heartiest of hikers and not recommended for those with heart or respiratory problems. The trail leads you through open and wooded dunes with views of Muskegon Lake, Lake Michigan, interdunal ponds, and the Channel with its lighthouses.

Devils Kitchen
This trail connects Snug Harbor with the Channel Campground boat launch, following the Muskegon Lake shoreline. When the earth and air temperatures are just right, and the right amount of humidity mixes in, a cloud of fog that looks just like smoke is created, hence the name Devil’s Kitchen. Wildflowers,  a dune climb, marshlands, and a view of Muskegon Lake from atop the dune ridge are some of the sights you will see.

The ~2¼ mile hike went by quickly, even with the slow slides up many sand dunes. Had a great time and followed it up with a perch sandwich at Bear Lake Tavern. The weather was perfect, the sights were beautiful. Although kinda short, had a great day in the park.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Beautiful. Rough. Expansive. Sandy. Excellent. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an awe-inspiring piece of land. The dunes are just so massive, creating incredible vistas, sheltering delicate flora, changing over time.  I drove the very pretty Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive with its overlooks of Sleeping Bear, Lake Michigan, and heavy forests and sweeping dunes. Spent about 90 minutes enjoying the 7.4 mile loop road. One of the best roads anywhere.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

 

From there I headed up to Glen Haven Village, which the NPS website describes as a “visit to Glen Haven, the small village on the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a step back to a time when small villages and docks supplied fuel to steamers along the Great Lakes. Glen Haven is the best preserved cord wood station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and perhaps the entire Great Lakes. Glen Haven was a company town and eventually diversified into farming, canning of fruit, and tourism.” Spent some time chatting with Patrick, a college professor during the winter and national park volunteer during the summer. Cool to get a couple background stories on the area.

Next I headed over to Sleeping Bear Point and trekked out on the dunes loop trail, a short but strenuous 2.8 mile trail that traverses several dunes and forested areas. Walking in sand that swallows your ankles is tiring! And since the sand is always moving, at times you follow the trail only by finding the next blue-topped marker post. I was sure to keep at least one post in view all the time. The workout was worth it, as I got to experience great views, ghost forests (part of ongoing environmental changes in the dune landscape), and fields of ferns (and some poison ivy which I was able to avoid). Great hike for an afternoon that was quickly turning late. Enjoy the slideshows!

Sleeping Bear Point

North in the Southern Peninsula

Been bouncing around upstate Michigan, below the Upper Peninsula, for the past week. It’s not real clear to me what to refer to this part of the state as. The Michigan State Parks website calls it Central but seems everyone I talk with says it’s north. Shelly, I know you know!?…

Anyway, once I wore out my welcome in southern Michigan (that designation is clear) I headed north a few hours to Traverse City where the wooded state park is right in town. Cozy, tight sites but very nice. Lots to see in & around Grand Traverse Bay (see the post on Sleeping Bear).

Then came Young State Park on Lake Charlevoix near Boyne City. Beautiful beaches and views of the lake and I enjoyed walking around “Boink” City as it held the Boyne Thunder poker run. A few miles away the next day I found Burt Lake and it’s awesome, Caribbean-esque beaches. Unreal, warm, clear, golden water that’s waist deep a few hundred yards from shore. Michiganders probably wouldn’t even consider getting in the sludge of Lake Lewisville. These inland lakes up here are really a treasure. I had no idea.

My next stop, this time for a lazy three days was Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake, just down the road from Cheboygan. More warm, clear water. What’s not to love? Except that the third day the air temps dropped a bunch and it was a little cool to be splashing around in the water.

On a day trip to Ocqueoc (Ah-key-awk) Falls and Lake Huron I found the water, let’s call it, less warm. Nevertheless, the big lake is gorgeous and expansive views (if not the water temps) also mimic the Caribbean! Walking on the very cool shipwreck ruins at Forty Mile Point Lighthouse was an unexpected and fun roadside stop.

Enjoyed a great prime rib at Hack-Ma-Tack Inn on my last night in the Cheboygan area. I’m headed back west a few miles to Petoskey Wednesday to hang for a week, visiting Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Mackinac Island and, who knows, maybe a couple breweries along the way. Until then! 🍻

Still North in the Southern Peninsula

From Cheboygan I went back to the west side of the state for a week. Enjoyed meeting up with Brett & Shelley, Fred & Annette, Cal & Beth Thursday thru Sunday for lunches, dinners and beers while they were visiting the Petoskey area. Friday we took the ferry over to Mackinac Island for a quick walk up to the Grand Hotel and along the quaint streets with very cool homes facing the lake. The next day we also got pretty jealous driving by the grand homes on Lakeshore Drive in Harbor Springs. Beautiful properties.

Monday I took the backroads to Wilderness State Park on the northwest corner of Michigan’s southern peninsula. I’d plotted out a 10 mile hike but about 15 minutes in I’d had enough of the biting flies & sucking skeeters to cave. Turned around and tried a drier looking trail but it, too, was insect infested. Since I didn’t have any DEET (wouldn’t have used it anyway) I bailed again and drove over to Lakeshore Road and turned south to Cross Village.

Michigan state highway M119 runs between Harbor Springs and Cross Village and is known as the Tunnel of Trees. I continued south from tiny Cross Village onto the narrow, twisty lane which calls itself a highway. It’s really cool. About 10 feet wide, very curvy and accommodating two-way traffic, the 20 miles between the two towns takes about 40 minutes to cover. It’s a wonderful road with beautiful homes and a few glimpses of the big lake through the forest. Quite a few homes for sale along the way. Hmmmm…

Once the Tunnel dropped me into Harbor Springs I realized the small town offers more than we saw a couple days before when we had lunch at the cool marina. Very quaint downtown and relaxing-looking neighborhoods. Pricy, no doubt.

Back in Petoskey, got cleaned up and headed to the Side Door Saloon for a meatloaf sandwich and a couple Michigan brews. Didn’t get the exercise I was hoping for today but I did get another NatGeo best drives onto the trip resume. Looking forward to heading into the Upper Peninsula Wednesday. Tuesday (today, as I write this) is gonna be a maintenance and provisioning day since the pantry & reefer are bare. I’ll be staying in less populated areas for the next weekish so I’ll need some food onboard. There’s some cool points of interesting coming up so stay tuned!

Gettin’ Tight

Whiling away a few not-much-to-do-or-see kinda days during this holiday week when all the locals have the good campsites near good attractions hoarded for themselves. So I’ve been at Waterloo, west of Ann Arbor, and now am at Fort Custer, near Battle Creek. Headed to Ionia, a bit north of here, Tuesday for a few days before getting back to the shoreline areas Friday. So far these inland campgrounds have been nice enough; props to Michigan for its state parks—they’re very nice & are well maintained. There’s just not much to do around here.

Valence screw
No wonder the valences worked loose

So I dug out the screwdrivers, wrenches, drill & hardware and got to work tightening all the stuff Indiana and Michigan roads worked loose. I get it: winters are hard on roads but good grief people. It’s no wonder cabinet doors and valences and braces and shower door glides have come undone on your wretched roads; I’ve got a few fillings now rattling around in my mouth too!

Oh yeah, by the way, this insidious heat wave can bust outta here any time! I didn’t come here to enjoy the stupid 90s! 😜

Michigan Breweries — North Southern Peninsula

Michigan packs a lot of breweries into their mitten. Traverse City, on the beautiful West and East Grand Traverse Bays, is home to about a dozen. After a pleasant three hour drive up from Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores through the wooded Manistee National Forest, where the multiple snowmobile trail signs made me wish it was winter, I backed B into a nice site at the state park on East Bay. Then I had to jockey her around to make the power cord reach the common pedestal serving five campsites and ended up with a slideout straddling the campfire ring. I’m ordering a 50′ extension (dang they are pricy!) because the Canadian parcs (their spelling, not mine) warn that their power runs are long too. Anyway… on to the brewery visits! BTW, this is gonna be a lengthy post; as I’ve noted before, Michigan has more than its share of breweries!

First stop: Monkey Fist Brewing Company for a flight of four including an average German Pils, a good pale ale and a couple good IPAs, Peninsula Hopper being my favorite. The still new brewery shares space in a small marketplace and I enjoyed chatting with an old guy (shut it) and watching Croatia and England kick the ball around through indeterminable stoppage & overtime. Soccer is weird. Whatever. Hell, I’m liking saisons & farmhouse ales; might as well add watching soccer to my transformation! 😳

Next I stopped into Mackinaw Brewing Company whose IPA wasn’t anything to write home about. The Walleye sandwich was good. That’s it.

A few blocks away is my latest favorite brewery! Workshop Brewing Company is in the warehouse district and is exactly what we want in a real brewery. No fluff. No BS. Just really good beers and great people. Sitting outside with the breeze off the bay certainly adds to the ambiance. I’ll be back. For this visit’s flight I started with, yeah, the Sickle, a farmhouse. Solid brew. Aaron’s right: I’ve gone over to the dark side. The acclaimed ESB didn’t really blow my skirt up but the IPA was quite fine. Cool place & people.

Thursday for dinner, after an outstanding day at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, I was famished and headed over to The Filling Station Microbrewery for a thin-crust pizza and a couple pints. This popular place is in an old train station where they serve their “ales by the rails“. I had the Walla Walla IPA and the Piper’s Porter, both very good German-style brews in the 7% range.

After hiking in deep sand earlier I was fading kinda fast but headed over to Right Brain Brewing, located on one of the hundred lakes around here. Funky spot where I think we could hang for a day and not run through their beer list. The Looping Owl is an amber ale laid down in Old George Whiskey barrels. The beertender was confused, I guess, because he described it as a porter which when he presented it, it clearly was not. So I tasted it and liked it enough to not have him pour it out. I was in for just one 12 oz. pour anyway and enjoyed it on their patio, then headed back to my home at the park.

On my way from Grand Traverse Bay to Young State Park I passed through Charlevoix which I wanted to visit. Cool looking town but didn’t look like there was any convenient—or inconvenient—place to park my 57′ rig. So I decided to postpone my visit to the brewery there until next week when I can drop down from Petoskey. I continued to the campground and quickly set up (gettin’ pretty damn quick at that!). There’s a brewery in Boyne City, just a couple miles from the park so I headed there.

Michigan Beer Mugs
Michigan Beer Mugs

I knew I’d like Stiggs Brewery & Kitchen when I pulled up and saw the smoker going full on in front. Perfect. My flight of six beers ranged from an amber to a session to a porter to a stout to a strong ale. The beers were good and went down well with the smoked pork nachos. I usually don’t care for the pile style nachos but these were very good. House-pickled jalapeños and house-made BBQ sauce were excellent touches. And their guacamole rivals many. But this post is about breweries…

Stigg’s Avalanche porter went down especially well. Paired well with the smoky, sweet nachos I thought.
Another cool aspect of Stiggs is they host lots of other Michigan beers. So I crafted a second flight of the guest beers, from breweries I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to visit. Melt My Brain, a “gin & tonic beer” from Short’s Brewery was surprisingly refreshing. Tasted like, well, a G&T. I guess not so surprising.

On my way to Burt Lake the next day I stopped into the aptly named Burt Lake Brewery. Their brews are … interesting. The business began as Seasons of the North winery; I liked their wines more than their IPA and cider. Very friendly folks.

Same goes for Cheboygan Brewing Company: great people with some interesting beers. They apparently had a big weekend so during my visit Monday I could only taste their strawberry saison, blueberry cream ale, chocolate cherry stout and bourbon barrel scotch ale. They were actually all darn good. I picked up a 4-pack of IPA to go; they’re in the cooler now.

Beards Brewery
Beards Brewery

After I got settled into the Petoskey KOA which, by the way, is perhaps the nicest KOA I’ve stayed in and knocked out four loads of dirty clothes, I visited Beards Brewery downtown for lunch and to taste through their PAs & IPAs. All are good beers, especially All Paid Up, a hoppy black currant black IPA. It was supposed to be a stout but never developed enough gravity so they ended up with “a lucky mistake” in this good beer. I also like Copperstar Galactica, made exclusively with Michigan Copper hops from nearby. I backed up my taster size with another pint of this one. I’ll revisit Beards to rake in their awesome Lake Michigan views and try out their maltier brews.

Lake Charlevoix Brewery
Lake Charlevoix Brewery

The next day I was wandering around Charlevoix and stopped into Bridge Street Taproom for a quick Rayder Pilsner from North Peak Brewing Co in Traverse City before meeting Shelley & Brett and Fred & Annette for lunch at The Landing on Lake Charlevoix. Lunch done, Brett, Fred & I found our ways to Lake Charlevoix Brewing. A flight of four across the style spectrum was good; I just wasn’t all that thirsty.

Friday’s visit to Mackinac Island included a duck into The Draught House where Bells Brewery had taken over the tap wall. I went big: their Cherry Stout, Black Note Stout and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout. It had cooled off and I wasn’t driving so the three big beers worked nicely! I liked them all, pricey though they were!

Petoskey Brewery
Petoskey Brewery

Saturday enjoyed lunch at The Pier on the docks in beautiful Harbor Springs with Shelley & Brett and Shelley’s sister Beth. They were wedding-bound. For me, a rainy Saturday while the last few British Open players finished up called for a visit to nearby Petoskey Brewing. This is a busy brewpub housed in a brewery building from the late 19th century. A very nice patio & beer garden on a different kind of weather day would’ve been great; instead I sat at the inside bar while it dripped outside. The year-round Mind’s EyePA is a runofthemill IPA. But their Hopsessed Double IPA at 119 IBUs and StinkFist Triple IPA at 147 will each tantalize and treat your tongue’s bitter buds. I like them both a lot. My IPA loving roots aren’t gone completely! I finished up with a couple more tasters of Robusta Nut Coconut Chocolate Porter and Morning Fog Mochajava Stout, a couple more four-pointers on Untappd. Petoskey Brewing crafts good stuff. Also cool is they have only a couple staple beers; their other dozen+ brews are limited time pours. I love that in a craft brewery!

Burnt Marshmallow Brewery
Burnt Marshmallow Brewery

A lazy Sunday after Molinari won The Open drew me to a couple outlier breweries cohabiting with wineries. These can be interesting (sometimes at best!) breweries but I was pretty pleased with what I found. Burnt Marshmallow Brewing offered up a fair Pilsner, a very tasty apricot cream ale, a decent session IPA and a hotter-n-hell ghost pepper amber. Pretty place with great views, a curious pig and friendly people.

I followed that up with a visit to nearby Mackinaw Trail Winery/Brewery. Started where I left off at Burnt Marshmallow, with a habanero saison. I liked it (I know, doesn’t make sense to me either). Apparently now I like saisons and pepper beers. Help!

My fiver-flight also included the Red Flannel Saison, a nice follow up to the first beer; a DIPA made with Petoskey hops, also pretty dang good at 99 IBUs; a maple blueberry porter; and finally a coffee stout. I’m glad I swung by this place because their beers were interesting and good. Plus, a pretty lady liked my truck!

My last night in Petoskey I returned to Beards for their recommended Cuban sandwich and to try their maltier brews. The sandwich fell short: nothing special at all. The porter and couple stouts were good beers. I had to laugh though, when the bartender said he was waiting for the temps outside to drop before opening the roll up windows to the patio. It was 74 degrees outside 😝. Knowing I wouldn’t last until their sunset trivia at 9pm, I walked back to my truck several blocks away. A block from my truck I found the Noggin Room, a typical downstairs, low ceiling, dark yet inviting northern pub in the landmark Perry Hotel. Definitely worth stopping in for a Moscow Mule. Gotta love these iconic pubs!

Wednesday as I headed off the Mitten into real northern Michigan I stopped into Biere De Mac Brew Works for lunch. This is a cool, low key place with a wide selection on their tap wall. I liked Jacobs Farmhouse Ale and really like the Blueberry Wheat. I’m hopeless apparently. The cheesesteak sandwich, served on naan bread, was by far the best I’ve ever had. I paired it with a De-Bliss-Cious pale ale and Horse Latitudes IPA, all flight size pours, all quite good. Dessert was a 49 Fathoms stout, named for the depth of the Mackinaw Straits. I almost bypassed this brewery gem and am so glad I didn’t. It’s my latest favorite brewery!

And, with that, my tour of breweries in Michigan’s north southern peninsula wraps up. Over Big Mac bridge spanning the Straits and onto the Upper Peninsula now, where my first stop will likely be the brewpub at Tahquamenon Falls. More on that in the next Michigan breweries post. Cheers, friends!

The U. P.

Pretty incredible U.P. here! Driving across the high & long Mackinaw Straits suspension bridge, I finally moved out of Michigan’s S.P. (or is it L.P.?) and continued northbound through forests toward Tahquamenon Falls. I impressed the campsite neighbors with my trailer backing maneuvers getting the trailer onto an un-level pretty tight, overall crappy site.

Decided to check out Lower Falls since the mile long trail left right from my site. I see what the fuss is all about. The Lower Falls are quite pretty, despite lotsa people wading and whoknowswhating in them. They say the water is stained by the tannins in the forest…

The less-than-strenuous hike rewarded me with a trip to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery. More on that in my U.P. Breweries post tomorrow (don’t let the suspension keep you awake!).

Upper Falls the next morning were also worth the visit. Bigger and more impressive, I guess, than the Lower Falls, they’re probably the attraction but I think I liked Lower Falls a little bit more. Also checked out the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. It was okay, unfortunately didn’t blow my skirt up. Worth the visit but pretty low-key.

Departed the Falls Friday and headed southwest to Fayette, a small historically restored town at the tip of a peninsula on the Lake Michigan side of Upper Land. Fayette was a key producer of pig iron back in the day. I had another tight space at Fayette Historic State Park and intruded on the neighbor to the back of me with a little bumper overhang into their lower elevation site. I think as long as I had my wheels chocked he was cool with it.

Fayette, being good for a day, I trekked back north to the Superior shore and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Much of the cross-peninsula drive was on Forest Service Highway 13.  I’m sure it makes a very nice snowmobile trail come winter!

Pictured Rocks is an expansive park that highlights the 100′ to 200′ cliffs along the shoreline. They’re pretty from above, but are stunning from a cruise boat as sunset approaches. Touristy cruise trip worth the $40 for sure. Good timing on that cruise too, as I was joining a 24-hour fast at 121CC and wasn’t eating until Sunday morning. So the tour took my mind off grilling wings.

Sunday was a blow-off day; just didn’t do much. Had a mediocre fish sandwich at Duck Pond Eatery & Beer Garden; enjoyed a couple ales there; then found a brewery in town to close out the afternoon. Monday I slept in (worn out from all the relaxing Sunday) then drove a few hours west to Lake Gogebic and my campsite on the water—my last night in the beautiful, fun state  of Michigan. I spent 31 nights in Michigan and could’ve gone another round. It’s a pretty state, summers are awesome!, towns are cool, people are great. Time to move on to eastern Canada!