Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Mainlining Coffee? Then Early Season Camping in the UP May Not be Your Cup of Tea

©Bert Gildart: Though the most direct return route from New Jersey and back to our home in Bigfork, Montana would have been I-80/90, bitter experience has taught us that if we want to emerge with the synapses of our nerves still connecting, we’re better off trying to avoid anything that passes near or through Chicago. A better route we concluded, with some advice from other Airstream owners, might be to head north out of Toledo and then pick up Highway 2 where it begins (or ends) at Mackinaw City. (Also see our post on Mackinac Island.)


Camping upper Michigan's Milakoka Lake State Forest Campground early in the season has advangates--and disadvantages

Highway 2 is indeed a wonderful route and it eventually ends in Washington State. Traveling west, the highway’s inception has much appeal, in part because of the now-famous Mackinac Bridge. Prior to access by bridge, access to Upper Michigan was by ferry. But the massive $99,800,000 bridge changed that, and between 1957 and 1998 the five-mile-long corridor was the world’s longest suspension bridge.

Today, the bridge is easily crossed; still it seemed to us that it formed some sort of buffer between the more populated portions of our nation and a much more rural segment of America. For us, that’s a glorious benefit, but if you’re not somewhat prepared, it can also have its drawbacks.

On the positive side was the fact that when we pulled into Milakoka Lake State Forest Campground, about 100 miles along Highway 2 from our Mackinac Bridge crossing, we had absolutely no other campers with whom to contend. The lake was beautiful, and there were no voices to break the wilderness sound of loons. Adding to the pristine setting was the moon, which glistened off the lake.


The downside, however, is that campgrounds in upper Michigan’s offer no early-season amenities. We’re self contained, limited only by our water usage, but after several days of showering, washing dishes, drinking 10 gallons of coffee… the 30-gallon water tank in our Airstream was nearing depletion.

“Do we need to stop at a commercial campground?” queried Janie as we departed a relatively large settlement.

“Let’s drive on,” I suggested. “Surely we’ll find something.”


Old Mackinaw Point Lighthouse is backdropped by Mackinac Bridge, which forms somewhat of a buffer between the nation's more populated urban areas.

But an hour later all other commercial campgrounds were closed. Nevertheless, we remained optimistic certain that with Lake Superior visible just to the north and with us constantly crossing many bogs (most likely filled with goose poop) we’d find something in one of the many forest service campgrounds, which we continued to see.

But my predictions were wrong, and so we began trying other possibilities. First, we tried a forest service visitor center, but they had no outdoor outlets. Filling station attendants said we’d be well advised not to use their water. In desperation I asked owners of a small café but they flatly refused us (wish I could remember their name, so I could suggest you NOT eat there!).

We traveled on-finally stopping at yet another forest service visitor center. I must have appeared anxious, for a most gracious lady just departing after a long day’s work took pity and invited us to fill up at her home. “Sure, I have an outdoor spigot, and you can fill your gallon jug there.”

Lesson? If you don’t mind placing yourself at the mercy of others, there really are no downsides to traveling “the UP” (as it is fondly referred to) in early, early May. Certainly, it’s better than the alternative of returning to Montana via Chicago. In fact, rather than face that alternative, I do believe I’d try and break my habit that requires massive infusions of coffee before I’m ready to greet the day.




*Arrowleaf Balsam Root, one of Montana’s Spring Sentinels


One Response to “Mainlining Coffee? Then Early Season Camping in the UP May Not be Your Cup of Tea”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Next time I see you I’ll be sure to have an extra gallon of water to pass along. :)

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