Pure Michigan

Michigan is cold. It’s cold for about five months of the year, it’s cold at night and in the morning for longer than that, and it gets cold snaps in May, like it has for the last three days. Michigan is also one of the most beautiful states you’ll ever visit.

Mackinaw Bridge, the “Mighty Mac”

“Pure Michigan” is one of the slogans for this nature-lover’s paradise, where four distinct seasons allow for everything from river tubing – affectionately called “rump bumping” – to skiing, snow shoeing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling. The state is crisscrossed by hiking trails through landscapes as varied as pine forests, sand dunes, and urban centers.

And it’s those heady, scented pine forests that take Susan straight back to her childhood (Michigan is her home state) and feel exotic to Simon, who marvels in the natural diversity of this massive country. When we hit the pine tree-lined stretches of Highway 127 and Interstate 75, the REAL adventure we’ve embarked upon began.

Michigan has fabulous rest stops all the way up to the Bridge, this one with a hike to a scenic overlook.

Yes, we’ve had some setbacks and hurdles along the way, and we’ve booked a mobile RV repair service for a week from now (showers and shampoos with boiled water are our new friend!). With help on the way, eventually, we spent yesterday and today exploring Mackinaw City at the upper tip of the “Mitten” (referring to Michigan’s hand shape) and St. Ignace, just across the mighty Mackinaw Bridge.

We had planned to “boondock” for a day or two, finding parking places without any hookups, according to our whim, but a serious cold snap with threats of temperatures that could reach freezing forced us into a campground with 50amp power so we could run our heater and keep the plumbing from freezing.

With that in mind, we found the beautiful Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground and a cozy spot with pine trees on three sides, just a short stroll from Lake Michigan.

Our home for two nights.

The downside was, it’s midge season. Those pesky, swarming, non-biting, gawd-awful bugs that absolutely invade every breath of air, especially along the shoreline. That cold snap and its gusty wind became our bug-busting friends, keeping these demons of the breezes to a low roar.

Those things that look like helicopters are midges. They’re tiny, but they’re hellish in swarms!

Mackinaw City is touristy, but in a charming, midwestern way. Lots of little gift shops, fudge shops, and, in the past, mom-and-pop places serving up the area’s iconic pasties (pastry-enclosed individual meat and potato pies the miner’s took with them into the mines for meals). But we’d have to go into St. Ignace to find those delicious treats – a must-do on Susan’s long must-do list – as only one pasty shop remains in Mackinaw City, and it was closed.

We spent yesterday watching the ferries go back and forth to Mackinaw Island (a place we know well, and decided not to visit this trip), taking a stroll along the main drag, and walking along a rocky beach with a view of the bridge.

This is actually looking back at the lower peninsula from St. Ignace, but it’s better than our rocky beach pics.

Today we crossed the bridge in our car, Nippy, with Susan doing a serious butt-clench the whole way, thinking about the comment our friend made (Hi, Janet!) about how the bridge was recently hit by a crane.

The butt-clench gets tighter when you have to drive over those grates.

Once safely on land again, we headed to Lehto’s Pasties to pick up lunch (beef, potato, and rutabaga ((swede in the UK)) for purist Susan, chicken and vegetables for sacrilegious Simon), then headed to the waterside for a view of Mackinaw Island and the ferries. A&W Root Beer and Michigan’s own Vernor’s Ginger Ale were our drinks of choice, and it was a truly picture-perfect experience. Just what we’d been hoping for.

After lunch we poodled around, looking for roadside stops where we could walk down to the water. At every turn, we found more and more gorgeous vistas. If not for the winters, we could move here.

Beauty, everywhere.

The toilet seal was still leaking when we got back to Fati, and there’s no hot water unless we boil it, but we do love this life when we’re out exploring, and Michigan’s natural and human-made wonders lifted our spirits immensely.

Next…Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!