Exploring Michigan

Exploring Michigan

In August 2023 we traveled through Michigan in a caravan with our friend, Bill, and his pup, Zappo. We wanted to make the most of our time and see as many sites as possible. Bill was terrific at helping us plan the route and find activities and attractions to visit throughout the state.

Southern Michigan is very beautiful and green. We find that traveling the back roads offers the most scenic routes. We traveled on some lovely back roads with tree canopies. We just love that type of road. There are a lot of small lakes, trees, and agriculture.

Detroit Area

Even though we didn’t get to visit The Henry Ford on this trip, we did get to see it the previous year. Bill decided to check out the facility while we caught up on our work.

Zappo couldn’t go to the museum, so he stayed in camp with us. He is really terrific at spending time alone in the camper, so it’s not like we had a big job to do.



At the south end of Frankenmuth was our next destination: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. And was it ever! We had watched videos on YouTube about how crowded it can be closer to Christmas. In August it was pretty pleasant.

Bronner’s has a large selection of stockings that they will embroider on the spot, as well as a variety of ornaments that they will also personalize. The wait times weren’t too bad when we were there, but I’ll bet it gets to be a long wait as the holidays approach.

Frankenmuth, Michigan, is a beautiful town with beautiful, old-world architecture. In August, there are flowers blooming everywhere! We enjoyed German fare at The Bavarian Inn.

Leaman’s Green Applebarn

Our Harvest Hosts stay the next night was at Leaman’s Green Applebarn. We shopped in the apple barn store, and we wandered the farm, watching the fainting goats and the chickens. We strolled through the sunflower fields and took loads of photos! In the morning, we got fresh apple cider donuts for breakfast.


So many people had told us that we simply must try a pasty while we were in Michigan. We tried Mr. Foisie’s Pasties in Cadillac, Michigan. It looks like a log cabin outside, but inside is modern and busy! They have three kinds of pasty (beef, chicken, and veggie) and a sweet variety of cookies, pies, and cinnamon twist donuts.

Interlochen State Park

We camped for a few days at Interlochen State Park. It’s quite an extensive park with hundreds of sites. Interlochen was the first state park in Michigan and is squeezed between two lakes.

Traverse City

For lunch in Traverse City, we decided to try the stuffed burgers at Slab Town Burgers. The cheese is stuffed into the center of the burger patty. So, it’s like a volcano of cheese in a burger! Bill said it’s a good thing there is not a franchise near his home; he would want to eat there every day.

We drove up to Old Mission Point to see the Mission Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was a short walk from the parking lot, and steps lead down to the water. I put my feet in the lake. It was cool, but not freezing. There were a couple of kids playing in the water. Kids never seem to feel the chill of water!

Once we were a little bit dry and sand-free (we may never be totally sand-free again!!), we hopped back in the truck and headed to Moomers Homemade Ice Cream, voted “Best in America.” We certainly couldn’t pass it up! The ice cream at Moomers is so very creamy and delicious! Their creamery is right there in Traverse City, and they make more than 150 flavors – with about 20 being available any given day.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore


Our first stop at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was the visitor center, where the ranger was just starting a 20-minute film about the park. Because the day was so gloomy and overcast, the ranger told us that we would have trouble seeing the scenery, and the best way to learn and see some of the views was through the film. We were convinced. Those short films at visitor centers are so informative. It really is worth the time to take a short break and learn about the history and natural resources of the park.

We enjoyed the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Apparently, Mr. Stocking was a lumberman who wanted a way to access the gorgeous views and share them with others, so he built the road. Although, with the misty skies, a lot of the scenic views weren’t very scenic that day.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook is a fun place to visit. There are signs that if you get to the bottom and can’t get back up, you will be charged $3,000 for a rescue. We didn’t take a risk. The reason the dunes are so steep is that they aren’t just hills of sand. The slopes were created long ago by glacial action, and then the sand accumulated against the slopes.

Mackinac Island

We rode the ferry to Mackinac Island. Zappo stayed in camp this day. He wouldn’t have liked the ferry, nor the crowded Mackinac Island streets. After waiting about 20 minutes for the hydro-jet ferry to arrive, we loaded up and were on the island in about 15 minutes.

There are no cars on Mackinac Island. In fact, the island is celebrating 125 years of the automobile ban. All transportation is by bicycle or horse-drawn carriages. There are plenty of options for renting either one. You can even rent a horse and carriage to drive yourself around the island. More commonly though, you can pay for a horse-drawn tour or taxi ride.

Aside from the lack of cars, Mackinac Island is probably most known for the fudge. There are apparently 13 fudge shops on the island. Several companies have a store on each end of Main Street. We found our favorite to be Joann’s Fudge.


The town of Munising was kind of crowded, being one of the last Sundays of summer, and an absolutely gorgeous day. We found parking for the trailers and went to Eh! Burgers. To me that is a funny name. In my mind, I hear it like “meh” – as though it’s really unimpressive. Tony, however, pronounced it like he was from Canada, and it came out a little more like “Hey, Burgers!” Their slogan is “A ‘holy wah’ in every bite.” I Googled to learn that it’s a northern Michigan expression.

Eh! Burgers does have a Superior view. And by that, I mean it was not only lovely, but it was also overlooking Lake Superior. So, we’ve now seen three of the Great Lakes!

We went to Muldoon’s Pasties & Gifts and ordered pasties. There was more potato in this version, compared to the pasties we tried a few days before. Also, the pastry wasn’t quite as flaky or pretty as the first ones. We decided we must prefer Troll pasties over Yooper pasties. The people were really nice, though, and Tony got a picture of the ladies throwing the dough.

Shipwreck Tour

We took a glass-bottom boat shipwreck tour. There are an estimated 550 shipwrecks in Lake Superior, which is just part of more than 6,000 shipwrecks in all the Great Lakes together. The tour was not very crowded, so viewing was really easy when we were at each wreckage site. Other than those times, we sat upstairs and looked at the views, and down through the amazingly clear water to the bottom of the lake. It was interesting to me that there is no sand on the bottom of the lake, and we could see actual bedrock.

Some of the wreckage is as shallow as six feet below the water level. The bottom of the glass-bottom boat is four feet below water level, so when we hovered over the wrecks, we got a really great view.

We saw the wrecks of the Bermuda from 1870, and the Herman Hettler from 1926. The Hettler was blown to smithereens, so it is much more spread out. The Bermuda was intact. I saved a picture from the tour company’s website, showing the scale of the wreck below the glass-bottom boat.


Tom Lakenen started building his junkyard art sculptures from scrap iron to keep himself from going to the taverns, he says. In 2003, he opened his 37-acre property called Lakenenland, free to the public, as a rest spot and outdoor art gallery. It’s a mouthful to say (don’t skip that third syllable!) and an eyeful to see. Lakenen has built over 100 sculptures, ranging from whimsical to political. There is also mining memorabilia. The main Sculpture Trail, which can be driven, is WAY better to experience on foot. In the winter, you can even explore by snowmobile!

Marquette Ore Dock

Marquette Michigan

We went by the Ore Dock in Marquette. How fascinating! A train brings the ore in ore cars and pulls out onto the dock. A boat (shop?) pulls up next to the dock, and the ore is dumped from the hoppers below the ore carts onto the boat.

The surf on Lake Superior was astounding! We had no idea that the lake could provide such huge waves. It was really something to see the waves crashing onto the rocks, and onto the breakwater leading to the lighthouse. It was an odd sensation, to see those giant crashing waves, but not be able to smell or feel any salty air.

Big Spring

Kitch-iti-kipi spring Michigan

We got an early start on our day so we could visit Kitch-iti-kipi spring, also known as “Big Spring,” in Palms Book State Park, before the crowds arrived. Most accounts attribute the name Kitch-iti-kipi to the Ojibwa language, but the translation varies wildly. The way you observe the spring is in a sort of barge, with an observation hold in the center, that is attached to a cable across the surface of the water. Any person can unlock the raft and turn the wheel that pulls the barge along the cable from the dock to the other side of the 300-foot-by-175-foot pond.

Unbelievably, there are fish living in this spring. They are pretty large, and the ranger that helped up with the boat said they were fairly old (for a fish, anyway). You, however, will not be catching those fish as there is no fishing, swimming, or kayaking (or any kind of touching) in the spring.

Fissures in the underlying limestone allow 10,000 gallons PER MINUTE of 45° F, sulfur-rich water to bubble out of the bottom of Kitch-iti-kipi spring, all year long.

The spring water was so, so, so clear. The 40-foot depth looks like it is just below the surface, yet the erosion in the limestone floor is quite obvious. The locations where water is forcing through are obvious as they are really cloudy with mud, but it doesn’t travel far so the clarity of the rest of the pool is not affected.

Keweenaw Peninsula

exploring Michigan- Tourist Trap

The next day took us north and west. We stopped for lunch at Jasper Ridge Brewery in Ishpeming on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw Peninsula is rich with rugged terrain, winding rivers, and unique geology.

“Please stop,” I cried. How could I resist? Da Yoopers Tourist Trap has a terrific rock shop, plus a big gift shop with lots of fun things and Upper Peninsula souvenirs. But around back is where the fun begins.

Similar to Lakenenland, Da Yoopers has a yard full of crazy art. We had fun checking out the art and taking silly photos, and we bought a couple of souvenirs.

We drove the length of Keweenaw Peninsula, and we saw the town of Copper Harbor at the very tip. On our way to the end of the peninsula, we turned off Highway 41 and opted for the coastal route of Highway 26. We stopped in Eagle Harbor. Bill had heard of a place to buy jam made by local Poorrock Abbey monks from the Holy Protection Monastery. The Jampot Bakery is a popular stop, and we had to get there early or they may be sold out. We purchased jams and baked goods. So yummy!

Geology, but not by me

Alexis Dahl’s video about Keweenaw Peninsula is totally worth a watch. Spoiler: it’s a huge lava flow super-rich in copper. Go watch it; I’ll wait…

Fantastic, right? Alexis makes learning so interesting! We saw that ridge, and I thought the same thing Alexis did: it’s like a dragon’s backbone. We drove along the ridge on Brockway Mountain Drive, a kind of rough road with beautiful views, and dozens of mountain-bike riders. We saw a lot of trails for walking, bicycles, and snowmobiles. The Brockway Mountain Lookout offers a stunning view of Copper Harbor and Lake Superior.

Fort Wilkins

A few miles past the town of Copper Harbor, the highway ends at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. We wandered around the fort for a good while. I love historic sites that set up old homes to show how people lived in them. For some reason, I particularly love kitchen setups. There was a lot of information about the laundry women at the fort as well.

Underground Mining Tour

We visited the Quincy Mine near Hancock. It’s always 45 degrees in the shaft, so we went later in the day when we were warm and wanted the coolness.

The underground tour is more than a mile, according to my Apple Watch. The route was originally where the mining operations were seeking a new deposit. We saw an original tunnel, and I’m really glad that Michigan Tech has since enlarged the tunnel, so it was much more spacious. In fact, they used to have labs and classrooms down there!

The tunnel is always 43° F inside, year-round. I found it fascinating that from Level 7 (where we toured) down to Level 9, the temperature increases to over 90° F! The Level 8 temperature was a perfect 70°, and I wondered if I could request to work at that level. LOL

The copper in Keweenaw Peninsula is pure, not bound with sulfur. Therefore, the processing is much simpler and doesn’t require chemical separation. From the 1840s until 1968, mining operations processed pure copper on the peninsula.

The guide showed us where the 1.1-billion-year basalt that formed when the continental rift closed and cooled quickly, leaving gaps and spaces that were later mineralized. A younger basalt layer that cooled slowly and is smooth and homogeneous is what the main shaft was cut through.

A Good Visit

We feel that we made the most of the time we had exploring Michigan. Tony’s favorite part was the shipwreck tour, and Peggy’s was Kitch-iti-kipi spring. August was a good time to visit to escape the heat of the lower states. There were a few more dreary days than we expected, but again we were escaping the heat, so I feel it was a good trade-off. If I feel we missed anything, it would be more of the central and western portion of the lower state, and the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula. I think that’s the sign of a good visit: we had a wonderful time and saw a lot of great sites, and we want to return for more.

Peggy and Tony Barthel are RV industry veterans who travel part-time in a Rockwood MiniLite 2205S travel trailer, looking for fun and unique destinations as well as tips, tricks, and discounts to turn the American RV adventure into StressLess Camping. You can catch them Thursday mornings on their podcast, or any time at www.stresslesscamping.com

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