Category Archives: Michigan To-Do List

Playing Catch Up: U.P. Camping Near Fiborn Quarry

Okay, before this season ends and the timing of this recap becomes wholly inappropriate, it’s high time I play catch up on our camping trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula earlier this Fall.

Camping was something I immensely enjoyed doing down in Georgia. My primitive North Georgia camping inclinations transitioned into more comfort-oriented outings once we had Jackson, but we still made it a point to go at least once a year. I cannot tell you how much I miss camping on Jekyll Island.

We had every intention of getting back on track with our camping excursions after moving to Michigan, but instead we found ourselves busy moving, settling in, adjusting to our new climate, then moving and settling in again.

Life finally regained it’s rhythm after we closed on our house this past Summer (did I forget to mention that here?) and we were stoked when our friends, Marty and Terri, invited us to join them for some camping in the UP the last weekend in September. Finally back on track!

Camping the UP
Our journey carried us to a remote spot near Trout Lake, just north of Epoufette Bay. It was there that we (us Cliftons, our hosts – the Rytkonens, and about 10 of their extended family members and friends) settled in for a few lazy days alone with nature (us) and some hunting (them). πŸ˜‰

This was my first time over-nighting it in a pop-up camper rather than a little ole’ tent, and I have to say – after seeing the bear that some fellow woods-goers passed by with (shot, as I’m sure you can imagine) – I was happy to have the extra elevation. I know, I know. Those bears could care less about me, and I realize I was in 10-man-deep-and-well-ammuntioned good company, but still – a girl’s imagination can get a little carried away in the woods.

(I don’t have a photo of said bear, but Jax was awe-struck by it. Okay, I was, too.)

Most of our camping time was spent relaxing, taking in the scenery, and spending time with our elated little ones (Jackson and Parker, who towers over Jackson despite his being a year younger. It’s good to have friends, right?) πŸ™‚

While the big guys enjoyed quad rides exploring the land, our little guys enjoyed cruising toy trucks down two-tracks, playing with the pups, blowing bubbles and catching falling leaves (Terri’s inventive distraction for kids who swear they couldn’t possibly finish a walk).

Fiborn Quarry
On day two of our three-day weekend, we trekked over to the near-by Fiborn Quarry ruins. The former limestone quarry, which supplied Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, from 1905 to 1936, is now part of the Fiborn Karst Preserve. Remnants of the railroad house and ore-care loader still linger on the expansive, dug-out landscape.

The Preserve also houses a series of caves, most notably the Hendrie River Water Cave, Michigan’s longest known cave (about 1,500 feet). We didn’t venture into any of these, on account of 1) having kids in tow, 2) my serious claustrophobia, and 3) the bats that reside within.

The quarry was genuinely unlike anything I’ve seen before and being there felt like stepping back in time. Terri’s mom and I (the resident photography-lovers) reveled in our photo opp and the streams that disappeared underground around it. I honestly can’t wait to go back for more photos.

(You can check out some great additional shots of the ruins that I found online here.)

The Little Things
The weekend’s weather was quintessential for camping. Our days were bright and sunny, and the nights were chilly, already living up to the new Autumn season in a way that Georgia ‘seasons’ never synced up.

We otherwise spent our evenings around a well-maintained campfire (thanks, guys!) sipping beers and swapping stories. While the UP may well be the South of the North in many ways, beer proclivities vary greatly between the regions. Some gentle ribbing from our cohorts for my campsite beer selection of PBR quickly reminded me that, even in the UP, Michigan is still the Midwestern craft beer mecca. Next time, I’ll bring the good stuff …along with my PBR. πŸ˜‰

Scenic detours on the way home: the Mackinac Bridge & Deadmans Hill overlooks…

We can’t thank the Rytkonens and their people enough for helping us finally scratch our camping itch. We’ll definitely be back, provided they’ll have us. We also have our sights set on a few new campgrounds for 2014, including Twelvemile Beach along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Bay View near Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay.

Do you have any other must-see Michigan campground recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

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Light Falls on Sleeping Bear Dunes

Last Sunday we joined friends for a walk up the tail end of the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive that runs through Sleeping Bear Dunes. Given that the Drive is now closed to anything but foot-traffic for the season, we had the place almost entirely to ourselves, give or take one or two other wandering couples and a few rebellious bikers (of the intimidating, but friendly Sons-of-Anarchy variety – not bicyclists; regrettably, Jax Teller was not among them). πŸ˜‰

We’d all made the same trip together for the first time roughly four years prior, in late October of 2009 (when Jackson was just five months old), taking in the surreal splendor of Sleeping Bear (a first for us Cliftons) in rather unsavory weather. The wind and rain of that trip meant we had the park to ourselves then, too, but last Sunday’s “just us” excursion offered up a dramatically different atmosphere.

Don’t misunderstand – the Dunes are a sight to behold under any conditions, even dark skies and sleet. On this November day, however, we were blessed with some of the most beautiful Fall skies and gorgeous lighting I’ve ever stood under.

Our backwards hike up the Scenic Drive meant we hit the North Bar Lake Overlook first, where we basked in the warm, bright sun that we’d only gotten glimpses of through the tall trees that had lined our path up to that point.

Our next stop was the iconic Lake Michigan Overlook that offers a perspective of the Great Lake from the massive dunes poised approximately 450 feet above the shoreline. An international favorite that, this day, was just ours. πŸ™‚

On our way to the overlook’s back deck, the lighting got really pretty…

Now that the sun is setting “earlier” (thanks a lot, Daylight Savings Time), we had to truck it on our walk back to our vehicles before the sun disappeared and the temperature dropped. It took quite a bit of self-control for Heather and I – being the photo… “fanatics” (not the word my brain wants to type here) that we are – to refrain from another round of photos on the return trip. (For a fun experiment in (mostly) varying perspectives, you can see her take on the day’s hike here.)

We finished the “day” with quick pics of the sunset on our way back to TC…

…then it was home for Raiders of the Lost Ark. πŸ™‚

All around, some of my favorite ways to spend a day!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Buckley_High_ Rollaway_Horizon

In an effort to make good on my recent failed attempt to visit the High Roll-Away Scenic Overlook in Buckley, MI (thanks to the similarly-named High-Bank Rollaway further South on the Manistee River), I re-attempted my venture early this past Wednesday. I ended up with the place entirely to myself and this handful of pictures – appropriate for this week’s Horizon photo theme.

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