Jonny and I live in the southeast section of Michigan — driving distance to Detroit, Port Huron, 7+ malls, multiple beaches, 10+ supermarkets, and approximately 8,000 fast food establishments. We’re used to accessing everything (except for healthcare, immigration information, and Raising Cane’s) with relative ease. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is over 300 miles north, across a 5-mile bridge, and lacking easy access to everything. It’s beautiful, it’s bizarre, and it’s the closest to being Bear Grylls I’ve ever felt.
For my 25th birthday, I decided to take us camping in the U.P. for a change of pace, some quality time, and new sights. Though I was born and raised in Michigan, I’d never been to the U.P. Jonny, who has only lived in the States for 10 months, obviously hadn’t been either. (I should also point out here that Jonny does not like camping.)
Day One, Thursday, 13 July 2017: Woke up at 5:30 am. Threatened to leave without Jonny if he didn’t get up. Ultimately left (with Jonny) at 7 am, got myself my free birthday drink from Starbucks, and we hit the road. It chucked it down the entire drive, only breaking up occasionally to hint at lighter clouds; the sun didn’t come out until the second day.
Fortunately, the weather cleared up a bit by the time we made it to our first campsite. We stayed at the Lower Falls Campground (Portage) in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We checked in, drove to our site, and started to set up our brand new tent. The ground was damp, the trees were dripping leftover rain, and it was around 60°F (15°C). Jonny was cranky*, putting a damper on my birthday mood. I tried to remain upbeat and optimistic, but it got pretty difficult once the hunger set in and we realized we would have to find food. The nearest town (and, therefore, the nearest food) was 11 miles away.
The town had two shops. I hesitate to call them grocery stores or supermarkets, as they were basically convenience stores. One had two gas pumps. They were right across the street from each other. The town had one tiny pizza place hidden behind another building, a boarded-up coffee house, a Zephyr gas station, a craft shop, an ice cream shop, one hotel behind the one gastropub, and a couple of rundown motels at the town’s edge. The town was called Paradise.
We ended up at the gastropub, The Inn, which looked like an ancient saloon (wooden handrail thing for tying up your horse and all). And I can’t put this any other way: I had the best cheeseburger I have ever had in my entire life. The Inn boasted homemade everything: beef, sourdough buns, ketchup, fries. And it was all incredible. I would happily drive the 5+ hours just to have a burger and fries there again. (Forever angry at myself for taking 0 pictures of my food.)
After dinner (again: incredible), Jonny and I went back to our campsite, played some card games, and then went to bed. It had taken us most of the day to get to the campground, an hour (maybe less) to set up our tent and stuff, and then we hunted for food before turning in. I rang in the beginning of my 25th year by going to bed like the old lady I am.
*Jonny was cranky because we had to set up the tent at our Portage campsite, and then move it the next day to the Hemlock campsite less than a mile away. Because I’d waited until June to book the campsite and there had only been one left for our first night, and our next two nights had to be picked “first come, first served” based on the campground’s policies. It was a headache, but not a big deal. Paired with the rain and the cold, though, Jonny’s first day and night of camping were pretty much ruined.
This is a text-heavy post, but the next three parts (two more days + lessons learned) will have a bunch of photos to make things more interesting. 😉 Had to set the scene, though, you know?
In the next installment of Adventures in the U.P.:
- The sun comes out.
- I fall on my ass.
- We spend $20 on a 4-mile van ride.
Have you been to Michigan? More specifically, have you been to the U.P.? I’m always curious about what people think of Michigan, so let me know! 🙂 Also, where have you eaten the best burger? (This includes veggie burgers! I’m a fan.)