So this trip was last September. In the past I’ve made Jeep/camping trips out to Colorado which I've posted those trips here. I wasn’t sure that I was going to post this trip, as it wasn’t much wheeling but more camping, and the trip really evolved as a test run for future trips out west with my new trailer.
Earlier this year I had a trailer built for my Jeep (the build link is in my signature). I’ve always read that short wheel base Jeeps are lousy and unsafe for towing, which can certainly be true, so again this was a test run to see how it did in both dirt, two lane roads and on the highway at 70 mph. My observations about towing the trailer are in the build thread, so I’ll mostly just mention the trip itself below. I do have to say first that having the trailer is great! My previous two week trips out to Colorado were minimalistic camping due to how little fits in the back of a Jeep!
So I planned to camp at several places, see some tourists sites with the wife, and end up on Drummond Island where we rented a cabin. I’ve wanted to see Drummond for several years now since the Ultimate Adventure and ProjectJK have both been there.
Now about the trip…
We left Indiana and drove north through the cornfields and then traveled along the western side of lower Michigan. And, there is always something you just happen to forget when leaving for a trip! Oh yeah, the cast iron frying pan! Fortunately there was a Cabela’s near Grand Rapids that we stopped at.
We then made our way to the campground Lake Michigan at Manistee. This is a very nice federal campground that sits behind a hill along the beach that protects it from wind. Along the top of the hill are some awesome hiking trails through the woods that we used. The sand on the beach was awesome. There were only a few camping trailers and several tents in the campground being that it's off season. The camping spots themselves were very nice, large and well spread out. I'd camp here again. The first night it was very quiet and we heard coyotes at night.
My wife and I always make our traditional mini-pizzas for our first night camping with wine. She makes whole wheat dough that she freezes, and then I cook them in the cast-iron pan with butter on one side, then flip it over like a pancake, top it and cover it. I have to be careful not to burn them as my Coleman grill has two settings: off and high, but it works out well. The pizza and wine were excellent, and the company was even better. Sunsets were also awesome.
One of my recent purchases was an ENO DoubleNest hammock. Wow, talk about comfort! I also included the rain fly tarp, which was nice as we did later run into rain. With a local Michigan brew in hand, I had my best nap in years that afternoon!
One of the cool things about having a trailer was to include a battery box and a power inverter. I have yet to fully realize what that’s for, but… Optima Battery + Power Inverter = Charged iPhones in the woods.
While exploring some Jeep trials I also found some camping spots in the national forest for future trips.
The tourist part of this trip was to spend a day on Mackinaw Island, and of course to see the Bridge. The bridge is very cool.
As far as visiting the island, we like history and so therefore I have to say that the best part of the day was visiting Fort Mackinac. We spent about four hours there. The view and the history was awesome. The buildings are filed with artifacts and a lot to read. We could have spent more time there. The Fort also serves lunch there run by the Grand Hotel. And it was a million dollar view to eat (and drink) by!
After crossing the Mackinac Bridge and arriving in the U.P., we stopped for lunch at a place called the Jolly Inn in Germfask. We arrived just before their Noon "rush" of locals and had an awesome burger called the Jolly burger of course. It’s a must have as it was dripping with cheese sauce. The beer was good too. The Jolly Inn even had a tank parked outside just incase the southern states invade.
We then arrived at the next campground Bay Furnace, with a wooded spot right next to the beach. The campsite was awesome. We generally had overcast skies and some rain (okay a lot of rain one afternoon!). We ate out as much as we did at the campsite. We met some locals and drank some interesting local beer. Good time!
I think the highlight to camping here was getting to go to Grand Island, which is just to the north of where we were camping. Grand Island has an interesting history being that it was privately owned in large part by one man, who originally had a vacation home and some guest cabins there, and as well wanted to preserve the island. Later upon his death I believe in the 1950s, his company removed the larger trees from island, and then around 1990 it was sold and became a National Park. (There are a few privately owned cabins still on the island.)
There is a small passenger boat that runs to the island three times a day. We planned to take the 9 am boat over to the island and do some hiking. The boat ride was only a few minutes long. An older couple went over with us that had their bikes along to bike around the island which is about 23 miles. Okay, that’s on my to do list! Currently they NPS keeps the old dirt roads groomed for bicyclists and hikers, and backpackers as camping is allowed.
Upon arriving on the island we did a lot of walking. And wow, the mosquitos were active, which kept us on the move. But still, the island is beautiful, isolated and about like it’s always been.
We also did some exploring as we made our way east towards Drummond Island. One stop was the upper falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which as I recall, 8360 gallons of water per second flow over the falls.
We did find some dirt trails to drive on. The trailer towed great through them! (This was just a flat area I stopped at for a picture. )
We also saw a ship wreck museum and light houses, and also ate the best fresh white fish ever near the top left corner of the U.P. The locals up there are all very friendly and it’s a neat area of the country. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend a visit.
And finally after about eight days, we arrived at the car ferry to Drummond Island. Cool… the Jeep and trailer were to travel by water! It was rather an efficient process. I drove right on, a guy walked around and collect the fare ("$12 for the Jeep, $2 for the lovely lady next to you, and $11 for your trailer.") The seas were actually rough. The ferry was a rockin’ and I then drove off. Fun! I wanted to get out of the Jeep and take a picture of the Jeep and trailer, however we were tightly packed in with other vehicles.
And the cabin we rented for the following three nights was awesome. It sat on on a private lake that included kayaks.
We went exploring several times. There are a number of ATV trails and Jeep trails on Drummond, however there are also a few different versions of maps! None of the maps seemed consistent or accurately rated the condition of the trails. I did check a number of holes before crossing for water depth and in not having soft bottoms before crossing. The trails were generally tight through the woods and wet to where I thought I was a river boat captain at times.
We didn’t run into any other vehicles when we were on the east side, but we did meet up with different groups of ATV riders. (Two of which asked me for directions as they were lost, so we compared maps and shot the bull.)
We also ran into logging. It was most interesting to drive around on active log roads. What use to be a Jeep trail was cleared wide enough for 18-wheelers, however the tracks of a truck are a lot wider then a Jeep. So my Jeep would ride in one track, and then the other side of my Jeep would ride in the higher center. Not to mention that the roads were not level anyway, and looked like they would seriously be a muddy mess when wet. The roads also had some serious ditches running alongside. I eventually turned off of one when I came to a bulldozer that was repairing the “road” through a low area. This picture was taken where they were stacking wood, and it happened to be a dry area.
I did get lost once. I ended up taking a wrong turn down a trail that "looked familiar" but then they all kind of did. However we hit several holes in a row where the water was as about to the top of my Jeep’s tires and they were spinning as I crossed through them. Ahead on the trail it looked like it was going into lower woods that looked like a mess. With my wife's encouragement, I took her advisement that we turn around. The trail was very tight. Fortunately having a short wheel base was helpful.
The Jeep did awesome! I really had fun on Drummond and I can see the value of doing the Jeep Jamboree there to ride in a group, for both the safety of it as well as just so that someone knows where you're going.
For our final dinner at the cabin, we decided to clean out the cooler. We had one steak, one cooked chicken breast, one sausage and a head of broccoli that I cut up and fried. It made for a most interesting, but memorable last meal.
Oh, and funny thing is that this Michigan IPA (yes with the Wagoneer on the label) has the slight aroma of DEET. How appropriate for the U.P.!
And about the trailer, again the added room it provided was great! I’m thrilled with it as it easily followed along. I'm now thinking about putting a roof top tent on it?