Okay, so I’m not sure “The Mitt” is the technical term for the lower part of Michigan. But it’s what I always think of and how I recognized the shape of the state when I was a kid. After leaving our glorious beachside camping we headed south over the expansive Mackinac Bridge and into lower Michigan.
We didn’t skirt the lake this time and instead took the fastest, most direct route to Petoskey. We spent a few nights at Magnus Park, a city campground right on the lake. The campground offered a free trolley ride into the town and so the girls and I hopped on and took a little ride. The trolley reminded them of the one on Daniel Tiger. We ate pie and wandered the downtown area, which was full of restaurants and shops in quaint historic buildings. We didn’t do any shopping but enjoyed wandering.
I’m almost certain the pie was their favorite part of the day. It was pretty delicious.
Petoskey is known for Petoskey Stones, which are fossilized rugose coral, and is found in abundance in this area of the lake. One day the weather was really dreary and drizzly. Normally, we would be disheartened at the cruddy weather but it was perfect for rock hunting! When the rocks are dry they look like normal gray rocks. But once they are wet you can spot them and distinguish against the other rocks. I guess it’s the norm to hunt for them with a spray bottle or bucket of water. But mother nature did the work for us. We headed to the lake where we spent most of the time by ourselves looking and finding. The water was crystal clear and cold but that didn’t deter the kids from splashing around and finding fossils from another era and lifetime.
One reason we hadn’t driven the whole lakeshore to arrive in Petoskey was due to a road that wouldn’t have been accessible in the RV. M-119, the Tunnel of Trees road. It was spectacular and windy and would never have worked with our large rig and height clearance. But it made for a wonderful day drive. There were random giant houses nestled within the forest, peekaboos of the lake far below, lots of motorcycles and bicyclists and sometimes, just us and trees galore!
See a quick video HERE
Next we arrived near Traverse City and stayed on one of the nearby peninsulas at Leelanau Sands Casino. They offered free camping as well as electric hookups for a minimal fee. We opted for the hookups this time. They also had a free dump station, water fill and a gas station with diesel. This was our home base for our visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes.
As we were driving to the National Lakeshore, we stumbled upon the Port Oneida Fair. It only happens once a year in the Rural Historic District. It was one of those things where we happened to be at the right place at the right time and were pleasantly surprised by this impromptu stop. We toured the farmsteads of the late 1800s and early 1900s. We saw arts, heard live music and played games from the era.
We watched a lumberjack competition which was fascinating. We all really enjoyed that one! The kids also “received” wounds and care from the Civil War nurses in the injured campsite. All of the kids were getting them on their arms or legs. But Violet requested hers on her head. And then she wore it around for a good portion of the day, making people do double takes as to why our child had a bleeding wound and bandage on her noggin.
We enjoyed homemade ice cream and then headed out to our original destination. We made a pit stop in the town of Empire to grab some food. We ran into another family from Facebook that we follow that fulltime travels in their RV as well. Small world. We finally arrived at the dunes and stopped at the visitor center and got our normal things when we are at a National Park: stamp for the NPS passport book, Junior Ranger books, postcard or sticker. There were some pullouts along the scenic drive where we gazed around but the most impressive part of the place by far, was the Lake Michigan Overlook. The path from the parking lot leads you to a wooden plank path through the trees and then open up to sand. Lots of sand. And talk about vertigo! It looks as though you could take a step off the dunes and go plummeting down, down below into the lake. It was very steep as we were perched 450ft above the lake. Photos don’t even do it justice. If you look very closely, you’ll see teeny, tiny people climbing back up the dunes, to give you some perspective. We didn’t go down as we may still be there today 🙂 But we climbed up and down the smaller dunes behind us and enjoyed the 360 views from up there.
We had plans of visiting more of the lakeshore further south of here. However, due to us extending in other places, we opted to end our Circle Tour early. We headed south to northern Indiana to visit family. We needed to get the RV into the shop for body work from when we had an incident and Jeff had an upcoming show to prepare for. Perhaps another year we will finish where we left off.