Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homeward Bound!

Friday, July 15th

Good morning! No visitors from the raccoon overnight, but it sounds like little Joslyn's grandparents had some excitement on a few different occasions during the night!

I am so thankful that Steve did most of our packing the previous day, because it was going to be a hustle to get everything loaded up and on the road. We normally wouldn't be in rush to get on the road, but we had to be in Muskegon to catch the ferry across Lake Michigan at 4:30pm and it was a good 3 - 3 1/2 hour drive without stops.

While Steve was taking down the tent, Amaya went over to Joslyn's grandparent's campsite and chattered NON-STOP with them. Joslyn's grandpa came over and asked if he could take Amaya and the girls to the camp store. He was very nice, but I'm a little untrusting, and said that I would go with them. Amaya picked up a stuffed Yogi Bear and a few snacks for the road. She told Joslyn all about Candy Bar Bingo and the movies and the pool! Shortly after we returned from the store, Steve was all set and we were ready to go. Surprisingly, Amaya didn't cry when she had to say good-bye - we think she didn't understand that we were going home HOME and not just on another day trip.

Our trip was uneventful, it was just taking us a long time to get to Muskegon. We were a little concerned that we weren't going to make it and our tickets were non-refundable and would have to wait until the next ferry and who knows when that was scheduled! But, at 4:15pm (thanks to Steve and our GPS) we arrived in plenty of time at the Lake Express Muskegon's High Speed Ferry.

We didn't have to wait very long before we boarded - car and all! From Amaya's experience with ferries, she didn't quite understand how our car was going to get on the boat.

We were packed in VERY tight!

After parking the car, we went upstairs to find some seats. We settled in for what we thought was going to be a quick 90 minute ride.

We didn't factor in the time change, so what we thought was going to be a quick ride across the lake, ended up being a 2 1/2 hour ride. Fortunately, they provided headphones for a small fee to watch the movie HOP and there were plenty of snacks for purchase.

Once the movie was done, Steve and I took turns taking Amaya to the upper deck. It was a little windy!

I was in complete awe of how big Lake Michigan is! Last year, we saw the bottom end of the lake while we were in Chicago and to experience the lake from the top end and then ride across it - simply amazing! Here's the front of the boat.

And the back

And finally at 6:15pm... LAND - Milwaukee!

Although the fare to take the ferry was steep, it was still an incredible experience and I'm glad we did it. The ride was very comfortable and with the exception of being on the top deck, you couldn't really tell that we were moving.

We weren't impressed with Milwaukee, in fact, we wanted to get away from town as fast as we could. Just outside of Milwaukee, we stopped at an AppleBee's for dinner.

Once we hit Wisconsin Dell's, we used the restrooms, got Amaya ready for "bed" and hoped that we could stay alert and focused the remainder of the trip. Amaya asked for her light to be turned out shortly thereafter and fell asleep pretty quickly. Steve bought me a cup of coffee on the ferry, so I still had plenty of caffeine in my system to start another book (I only finished 6 books on vacation, so I was a little disappointed - I packed 10!), otherwise I normally would have fallen asleep.

And of course, I had to go to the bathroom just as we crossed into Minnesota. At the time, our government was still shut down and rest areas were CLOSED!

We made it home Saturday morning at 12:30am. As soon as I got Amaya into bed, she woke up and started sobbing. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "I don't want to be home, I want to be camping!"

Steve got our essentials out of the mini-van and shortly after 1am, we CRASHED and our bed never felt better!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Last Day at Jellystone

Thursday, July 14th

Today was our last full day at the campground. Steve was ready to go home... Amaya LOVES camping and thinks this is her new home... and I was ready for another week and then home.

Friday was going to be a very full day of travelling and packing up, so Steve started taking down the screened-in tent and packed everything with the exception of a change of clothes and toiletries. Amaya played in the tent with her cars and stuffed animals while Steve and I started getting things organized.

For lunch, Steve built a beautiful fire and we had grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, and pears. At one of my friend's suggestions, we bought a Coleman sandwich maker to put over the fire. We were a little skeptical at how well it would work, but we had great success! The sandwiches were delicious!

While Steve continued to pack, Amaya and I went to the playground. She's gaining more confidence in introducing herself to kids and it's very sweet to watch her interact with them. A new family moved into the campsite behind us and they had two girls - Joslyn (4 years old) and Kyree (1 1/2 years old). Amaya spotted Joslyn right away and wanted to go play with her and of course, she wanted me to come with (so I could do all the talking for her!) Not this time... I reviewed with Amaya what she could say - tell the girl your name, ask her what her name is, ask her how old she is, does she want to play, is it okay with her parents. After 5 minutes or so, Amaya finally gained up the courage to go talk to her and found out that Joslyn is much more shy than Amaya is! Both of them had stuffed animals and from the little I could tell, they were simply "dancing" their stuffed animals on the picnic table and hadn't said very much to each other. Guess you don't really need a lot of words to make a new friend...

Unfortunately, it was getting close to dinner and with my camp stove tightly packed away in the mini-van, we decided to go back to the Dixie Saloon in Mackinaw City. Amaya cried and cried and cried when she was told she had to leave her new friend, but decided that she was going to draw her some pictures in the car and give them to her when we returned. (I think she colored 15 different pictures for little Joslyn).

When we returned, Amaya ran over to Joslyn's campsite only to find that her grandparents had also set up camp across the road and Joslyn was over there. Amaya raced over there, gave the pictures to Joslyn and then happily ran back to our campsite. Very sweet!

We were just in time for Candy Bar Bingo and Steve won two candy bars!! Then, we decided to play a little shuffleboard. Amaya had quite a bit of fun but lost interest quickly. She thought it was more fun to play hopscotch on the shuffleboard floor!

After shuffleboard, I got Amaya showered and dressed in pajamas and then headed down to Cindy's Cinema for one last movie. Steve picked up popcorn for me and Superman ice cream for the two of them. Such fun memories!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Biking on the North Central State Trail

Wednesday, July 13th

Today was much, much, much more low key than our past several days. But first on our agenda - laundry! We were so close to making it through our vacation without having to do laundry, but 2 of us ran out of underwear. Fortunately, the campground had several washers and dryers and in less than 90 minutes, we had 3 loads of laundry done. Note to self - next time, just wash what you ran out of! When we got home, EVERYTHING smelled like our campfires, so I had to re-wash it all!

Anyway, today we hit the North Central State Trail for a little more biking. The trail is 62 miles long from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. We planned on picking up the trail in Indian River, but after talking to a lady at the Chamber of Commerce, she suggested driving to Topinabee (5 miles away) and taking the trail there and bike along Mullet Lake.

Once again we were blessed with beautiful weather and beautiful views of the lake.


The trail was all gravel, so it was a little more challenging maneuvering, but after awhile we got the hang of it. We biked all along Mullet Lake to the next town and then headed back. We're unsure of the exact mileage only because the map says we biked 13 miles round trip, but we didn't "feel" like we had biked that long. When Steve drove it out, it was only 6 miles round trip. Who knows?

I could very easily be persuaded to live on a lake. There's just something about that crystal blue water that draws me to it! We saw some pretty amazing lake homes along our ride as well!

Guess we must have worn this little girl out!

After biking, we stopped in Indian River to pick up a few groceries for dinner. I was hoping to do a lot more cooking on vacation than I actually did. It was difficult keeping all of our food cold enough to eat safely (an electric cooler will be in our future soon) and with all of our sight-seeing, we weren't home very often in the evenings. I was disappointed and discouraged at times because I had so many great meals planned, but there's always another time. But, tonight - we had barbecued chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, and smores for dessert. DELISH!

We all got to bed at a reasonable hour - our neighbors have been very, very quiet and for that, we are grateful. However, around 4am, Steve heard some rustling and scratching outside. When he got out his flashlight, there was a RACCOON in our screened in tent (where we had the picnic table set up) trying to get into our Rubbermaid containers with food in them! The raccoon wasn't scared of Steve's flashlight and he finally ran away once Steve had unzipped the zipper to our tent. Good grief! I thought our food would be safe in sealed containers! Guess those little guys have pretty good sniffers! Needless to say, the next middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom was a little scary for me!

Amaya slept through all the commotion and once we got settled down and the 5am woodpecker stopped pecking, we got a few more hours of sleep. This was the coldest night of our vacation - about 48 degrees! Snuggle, snuggle!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Biking Around Mackinac Island

Tuesday, July 12th

By far, biking around Mackinac Island - literally, was my favorite memory of our vaction to Michigan. The scenery - phenomenal, the company - fantastic, the weather - perfect!

Once again, we drove to Mackinaw City and picked up the ferry at Shepler's. Unfortunately, we didn't get a spot on the top, but it was fun to have a different experience sitting on the lower level.

We brought our bikes along and could have brought them on the ferry, but with all the horse droppings and fear of our bikes being stolen, we rented them on the island instead.

Before picking up our bikes, we ate at a restaurant called, Goodfellows. The food was fine (although they didn't have a kids menu) but the waiter was very unfriendly. In fact, there may be something to the saying, "Minnesota Nice" because nobody was overly friendly or welcoming in Michigan (with the exception of our waitress at the Berry Patch in Paradise). Anyway, after lunch and after picking up a quick snack - Amaya got two chocolate covered marshmallows with sprinkles - we rented our bikes.

There was a large selection of bikes to choose from and we had quite a bit of help. I LOVED the comfort seat on my bike and may need to invest in one soon! Here is a picture of Amaya strapped in and anxious to go!

We biked on M-185 - Mackinac's Island only highway - a little over 8 miles. Basically, a two lane paved road which made for relatively easy biking. Here are a few pictures of the sights as we headed out of downtown Mackinac.

What we enjoyed most about the ride, was that on our right-hand side was glorious views of Lake Huron along the coast of the island and on our left-hand side were views of the wooded State Park.

It was a little difficult manuevering around so many people on bikes and trying to avoid horse droppings, but we quickly adjusted.

We got another view of Arch Rock which we saw on our carriage tour just a few days earlier.

Here's a picture of Sugar Loaf, which we hadn't seen before.

We took several stops along the way because it was so beautiful!

Steve and me

Amaya getting her feet wet!

Another view of Mackinac Bridge - waaay off in the distance.

The trip around the island took us about 90 minutes including several stops. The only two things we didn't really get a chance to see was the Little Stone Church and the Grand Hotel. We had passed by them both on the carriage ride, but I didn't get any pictures. Since everything is within walking distance on the island and the weather was nice, we were able to get a few pictures.

The Little Stone Church

The Grand Hotel - this is as close as we could get without paying 10 dollars to be on the property.

After the Grand Hotel, we headed back to Main Street to get some ice cream at Ryba's Fudge Shop. Amaya fell in love with Superman ice cream!

It was time to go back to the campground and say good-bye to the island. Our ferry ride home was a little exciting. About 7-8 minutes away from our stop in Mackinaw City, we stopped in the middle of the lake. Everyone on the ferry stood up to see what was going on and there was a windsurfer sitting on his board! The ferry stopped to see if he needed any help considering he was in the middle of a popular ferry route and so far away from shore! We said he was just fine - maybe a little crazy - but fine!

Once we got back to the campground, Steve started another amazing fire and we roasted marshmallows.

Amaya loved watching the fire!

The Jellystone store carried JUMBO marshmallows and we picked up a bag.

After a few jumbo marshmallows, all the sugar started going to Amaya's head and she got a little crazy!

A fun end to the fun day!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tahquamenon Falls

Monday, July 11th

On today's agenda - hiking at Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula. We had a great night and were excited for another fun day. Unfortunately, we had another 2 - 2 1/2 hour drive to get to our destination. For the first time, we experienced a heavy downpour of rain while on vacation. I'm relieved that we were in the car and not out hiking!

We were waaaay out in the boone docks and we were a little concerned about finding something to eat for lunch. As we neared the falls, Steve plugged in "food" into the GPS and there weren't any hits. We plugged away hoping that our GPS was wrong and that we could find something. Just as we entered this cute little town of Paradise, we saw the Berry Patch Restaurant and Bakery - whew! It reminded us a little like Grandma's Kitchen here in Rochester. The food was delicious and for dessert, I had the most amazing pie - Fruit of the Forest Pie. It was a combination of Michigan's cherries, blackberries, and blueberries in a light flaky crust - AMAZING, the best pie I've ever had!

About 10 minutes later, we entered the Tahquamenon State Park. There are two different waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River - the Upper and Lower falls both located near Lake Superior. At the Upper Falls, there was a privately owned restaurant and two story gift shop that our GPS didn't pick up - guess we didn't really need to worry about finding a place to eat.

We were expecting to hike to the falls, but the paths were paved and to get down to the falls and get a better view, there are a series of stairs.

Here's our first glimpse of the Upper Falls

The water is notably brown in color due to tannic acid.

To get a closer view of the falls, we took 91 stairs down.

Simply majestic!

Steve and Amaya

The Tahquamenon River after the falls.

We climbed back up the stairs and "hiked" back to the gorge and took another 121 stairs down for another view of the falls.

We thought perhaps the downpour of rain would have cooled things down a bit, but it was very hot and very muggy. So, instead of actually hiking the four miles to the Lower Falls, we hopped in our car and drove to the Lower Falls Trailhead.

Steve really enjoyed the Lower Falls because the 8-10 minute trail led us close enough to the falls where we got sprayed on. There were people in kayaks and boats catching beautiful views!

This picture is taken on a small bridge overlooking the Lower Falls where we got a little wet.

After the falls, we headed back to the campground. Since the falls were in the Upper Peninsula, we crossed over the Mackinac Bridge. We decided to eat supper in St. Ignace before going over the bridge to Mackinaw City. We ate at the Mackinac Grille overlooking the water.

Amaya patiently waiting for our food.

After dinner, we walked along the boardwalk.

Close up of the lighthouse

I absolutely love all the water!

Just before crossing over the bridge from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City, we stopped to get a couple pictures of the bridge.

It still amazes me how big the bridge is!


Another awesome and exhausting day.