We arrived in Ishpeming, Michigan yesterday for a two-night stay on the U.P. That’s short for Upper Peninsula and the folks who live here proudly refer to themselves as Yoopers. Those unlucky enough to live in the lower part of the state below the Mackinac Bridge are, in good fun, referred to as trolls. Why? Well, because we all know that trolls live “under the bridge.”
With a full day to fill Sunday, we drove east to the town of Marquette, located on the banks of Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes.
Tomorrow we will continue east and set up camp at Straits State Park on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge. I guess we’ll see for ourselves if there are any trolls under that bridge!
It’s been just over four weeks since we hitched up Minnie and towed her east. With no set plan, other than to eventually reach West Virginia for a visit with (son) Chris and Gail, we weren’t sure what route we’d choose.
For some folks, traveling without a set itinerary is the stuff nightmares are made of. Understandable…we’ve had our challenges, for sure. For us, the rewards and discoveries far outweigh the negatives. Yesterday we pulled into this roadside RV park in Wisconsin for two nights, primarily to take advantage of their full hookups and laundry room.
As we turned off the highway, I noticed a sign across the road for Copper Falls State Park. With a day to fill, we packed a lunch, took a chance and discovered (what must be) one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful parks. Created in 1929, many Civilian Conservation Corp buildings remain, adding charm and a sense of history.
After our Nebraska Harvest Host experience, we popped back up into a corner of South Dakota for a night at Wilde Prairie Winery, another Harvest Host site.
The next morning we spent an endless day of driving into Minnesota, in part because I misdirected Reg down a narrow (paved) road with so many potholes and washboards that it took us a good hour complete the 20-mile “detour.” It wasn’t the only wrong turn of the day but I’ve got to say, Reg is getting really good at maneuvering the Minnie in tight spaces!
We arrived at Gull Lake Recreation Area, just outside Brainerd, Minnesota, for a three-night stay. As we settled into our oversized campsite, we silently thanked the Army Corp of Engineers for understanding what makes a great camping experience.
Tomorrow we leave this beautiful part of the country and continue east into Wisconsin, then down a part of the Michigan coast. We have a week of reservations ahead of us with relatively short drives…according to google maps. Google won’t let us down, will it?
Before we left on this trip, we purchased a membership in the Harvest Hosts program. This allows us access to a variety of “hosts” throughout the country who will let us camp, free of charge, overnight on their property. No hookups available, simply a place to spend the night and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Wineries, farms, ranches, breweries and museums are but a few of the options available. Reservations 24 hours in advance are required, and as a courtesy, guest are advised to purchase a bit of what is offered.
We arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado two days ago, eager to discover if the bike trails were as incredible as we’d heard they were. Our Friday outing began in the small community of Laporte, just north of Fort Collins. The Poudre (pronounced poo-der) River Trail would lead us 9 1/2 miles downstream along a beautifully maintained concrete trail, eventually reaching Fort Collins.
Saturday we rode a different segment of the Poudre River Trail, joining it just south of Windsor, Colorado and aiming ourselves toward the town of Greeley, roughly 12 miles away.
This was another easy ride for Reg, but for someone who hasn’t really ridden a bike much in the last 30+ years (like me), things were beginning to feel a little sore. We turned around after about 10 miles, found a spot for a picnic lunch, then returned to our starting point, convinced that the area bike trails are some of the best we’ve ever seen!
As we enjoyed our last views of the gorgeous red cliffs of Capitol Reef National Park, we wondered what our day’s drive would reveal. Our planned route would take us along another lonely road where a sign warned there were no services ahead. While Reg likes this sort of excitement, I am far more nervous about driving off into the great unknown.
Utah’s Bicentennial Highway, otherwise known as Highway 95, was completed in 1976, and stretches between Hanksville (in the north) and Blanding (in the south). We noticed a lot of narrow, unmarked dirt roads that turned left and right off the highway, disappearing in the distance. No doubt a haven for off-roading enthusiasts. Keeping our wheels on the pavement rewarded us with a trip through another stunning red rock canyon.
Continuing south, we arrived at the Hite Overlook in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This is a good place to stretch legs while taking in the panoramic view of Glen Canyon, the Colorado River, Lake Powell and Hite, Utah. The Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963, eventually swallowing the boomtown of Hite as the newly forming Lake Powell increased in size. Unfortunately, the Colorado River Basin has been experiencing drought since 2000, leaving dangerously low water levels, leading scientists to speculate that Lake Powell will never fill again.
Eventually we arrived at our destination, the inconspicuously named town of Blanding, Utah, where we checked into our site at Blue Mountain RV &Trading. Our pleasant spot included a patch of green grass and a strip of concrete to help keep our shoes clean.
The first day doesn’t count. It never feels like an adventure until the scenery opens up with a promise of the unknown ahead. While day 2 wasn’t new ground for us, it’s been six years since we’ve traveled along US Highway 50, otherwise known as “The Loneliest Road in America.” Last time we were driving our Prius and gas consumption was not a huge concern. Only two towns on the stretch between Fallon and Ely in Nevada (our destination) offer gas, and when one is towing a trailer, these things are important to remember. While Reg drove, confident we’d be fine, I appointed myself gas gauge monitor.
The highway follows the old mail carrying Pony Express route between Sacramento, California and St. Louis, Missouri. There are lots of pull offs with historical markers and the Nevada towns of Austin and Eureka still offer glimpses into the old west. We skipped the sightseeing this trip and simply enjoyed the scenery.
We hadn’t planned on spending so much time in Arizona, but after a chance conversation with another couple several days ago, we found ourselves exploring the Chiricahua (Cheer-i-ka-wa) Mountain region of southeastern Arizona. As the U.S. expanded westward, establishing a southern route to San Francisco brought the U.S. Army into direct conflict with the Chiricahua Apaches (including such famous figures as Cochise and Geronimo) who claimed the land as their own. Chiricahua National Monument and Fort Bowie National Historic Site were both well worth a couple extra days in this wind blown part of the state.
Chiricahua National Monument offers early morning rides to the top of Echo Canyon from the Visitor Center. We took full advantage of the opportunity, enjoying a leisurely 4 mile walk back through towering pinnacles that seem to defy gravity.
A short drive up a dirt road led us to the trailhead for the mile and a half hike to the remains of Fort Bowie (Boo-y) where we would learn the history of the 20 year fight for control of Apache Pass. Markers along the trail told the history of the tumultuous times. Both Americans and and Apache are memorialized in the small cemetery.