Posts Tagged With: Michigan

Crossing Ontario, Canada

An early sunrise greeted us as we showered and pulled up to head into Canada.  Crossing over the bridge at Sault Saint Marie (oh and it’s Soo, not salt), we looked down on the locks, the rapids and the power canals.  And then we were at the border crossing, handing over our passports. A few questions about where we were headed, firearms and did we have alcohol (yes, just two bottles) and we were waved through.  Wow a lot easier than we thought. Shoulda bought that Kentucky Bourbon after all.

The day was a long drive across the upper shore of Lake Huron and the North Channel, but the scenery was spectacular.  There is so much water: ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, bogs all of which look like they would be perfect for wildlife, especially moose.  We even saw several moose crossing signs, but alas no moose. Plenty of beaver lodges though. We are also seeing the first signs of fall color among the spruces, firs, aspens and birch.  Just some pops of color among the dark evergreens and white trunks.

The first part of the drive had small towns and farmland.  We saw some more sandhill cranes in the cornfields and plenty of geese.  One flock might have had some snow geese mixed in. In some of the farming areas we saw horse and buggy warning signs and we weren’t sure why until we passed a horse and carriage trotting along the wide shoulder.  Neither of us knew if there were Quakers or Mennonites locally, but it seems so. As we got closer to our destination, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, the terrain was more rocky, with outcrops along the road covered in reindeer moss and spruce.  Canadians must love stacking rocks, as there were many rock cairns (or totems or hoodoos) on the outcroppings. Some were rather artistic creations, one even had a yellow cape.

The campground was a very nice wooded spot, but the entrance road was way too bumpy – we were pitching left and right and up and down and… well everything seemed to be rattling.  Our site was just across from a stream that ran from a nice lake to the Matawa River, with a nice overlook down 50 feet or so to the water. Once settled in and after a walk with Kodi to find bear or moose (no luck) we sat with our drinks at a table on the edge of the stream.  As we reviewed the day’s travel, we watched several mergansers swimming along. It was really cool.

 

Of course it rained again overnight and the fabric footstools we left outside to dry (from our plumbing adventure) got soaked once again.  But since it was a pull-through site we didn’t have to disconnect the car and it was easy to leave in the moring for our final leg to Ottawa.  The road we travel goes along the Mattawa River, the northern border of Ontario. Lots of water again, ponds, lakes, the river, bogs, several beaver lodges, but no wildlife.  It was an easier day of driving and we got to Wesley Clover Campground, just outside Ottawa and right off the interstate just after noon. Disconnected the car and set up in camp. 

One fun thing in camp are these oversized picnic tables with carved animals on the ends.  It seems that Kodi was quite taken with one.

Jackie discovered (somewhere along the trip in Ohio) that Bernat yarn had come out with special color blends for Christmas, but would only be available in Wal-Marts in Canada.  Well isn’t that lucky for us? So a mission, once we got into Canada, was to find a Wal-Mart and get that yarn. Of course no stores until Ottawa, so once here we hopped in the car to get to a Wal-Mart close by.  Alas, all out. Ah well, guess we will do the brew tour instead.

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Three breweries within 4 miles (er kilometers), so we sampled a little at each.  Covered Bridge brewing had a nice raspberry wheat; Big Rig was a very cool set-up and pretty big, with a delicious pumpkin porter, grapefruit shandy and a porter Jackie liked.  Last stop was Small Pony Barrelworks. All they brewed was barrel-aged sours, so Jackie was kinda out of luck, but I loved it. Sampled all sorts of blueberry, raspberry, sour cherry, elderberry, hibiscus sours, each with a different color and flavor.  What fun. 

Back in camp now, after grilling a nice dinner of boneless chops and brussel sprouts.  Our footstools finally dried so I put them away – which was a good thing because it is now raining once again as I write this blog.  Ah well, at least it really hasn’t rained in the afternoons when we arrive at destinations. Tomorrow is a full day in Ottawa seeing the city and then we pick up and head east just a bit to stay outside Montreal.  Looking forward to a nice Saturday in Ottawa.  

Check back as we post more pictures and stories of our trek to Maine.  Thanks for following along so far.

Doug

 

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Sleeping Bear to Soo Locks

Sleeping Bear Dunes is pretty amazing. Once we made camp in a nicely wooded spot (meaning acorns hit the roof regularly), we had time to unhitch the car and drive to spots along Lake Michigan (this was a back-in site anyway).  The first stop was the Dune Climb.  From the parking lot it didn’t look too bad, just a big pile of sand in front of us, so up we went. Yep, just like walking in soft sand at the beach, except not carrying the chairs, umbrella, towels, etc.  Well, puff puff, maybe a steep beach. Ok then, we made it to the crest … oh but not really. It flattened out a bit and we reached the one mile marker. But it continued onward and upward. We asked another couple coming back down if the next crest gave you a view of Lake Michigan, and they said “no, just the next hill.”  Ok, that was enough. Back down we went. Good thing, cause my toes were cramping in my shoes from all the added sand. It was very fine and had this nasty habit of filling your shoes and socks.

 

Back in the car we drove on another scenic drive that had some overlooks of the dunes area and then we found the best overlook for the lake.  Lots of sand and a pretty steep slope down to the shoreline. You got a great view of the lake and dune from the overlook, but some folks insist on sliding down the sand and then trekking back up the steep slope, despite warning signs.  It would have been nicer if it was not overcast and windy, but it was still a wild view.

Overnight it rained again and in the morning we drove around the corner to hitch up the car in the picnic area along the Platte River.  Once connected, we walked to the river’s edge to watch some morning canoeists heading downstream. The water was clear enough to watch some of the salmon heading upstream to spawn.  How cool.

The drive east took us through Traverse City (darn, too early to sample breweries) along the lake.  One block back from the waterfront is a river that runs through town like a canal, filled with powerboats and waterfront homes.  That seemed really cool for the summer. We headed northeast toward 1-75, across farmland, and I asked Jackie to scout out a place for lunch.  She found Petoskey Brewing along our route. They had ample parking for the motorhome, so naturally that meant we were in for lunch and a flight.  What a great choice it turned out to be! Jackie ordered a Reuben sandwich and I chose a black and blue bacon burger, both with beer batter fries. Totally delicious food.  And our flights (one each this time) were some of the best beers so far. Two favorites for me were Beach Slapped (pineapple, coconut blonde ale – awesome flavor) and grapefruit shandy.  Jackie thought the brown ale was the best. Good pit stop.

 

As we continued north, the day changed from drizzle to sunny/partly cloudy, but the temperature dropped into the mid 50’s.  What a nice change. Pretty soon we could see the Mackinaw Bridge ahead of us and we were driving up and over the connection between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  Cross winds were strong, so we kept it at 25 mph.

Crossing into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the rain started up again. However the scenery of farmland, barns, wineries and orchards continued until we reached Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks.  Our campground was just along the waterway, where we could watch the tankers moving to and from the locks. Actually, the waterway is a rapids downhill between Lake Superior and Lake Huron with several locks for boat traffic. A large canal runs through town and joins Lake Huron through a hydroelectric power plant.  

Since there were supposed to be two breweries in town and we didn’t want to disconnect the car, I decided to walk the 2 miles or so to town after dinner to check them out.  It was a straight shot to downtown that crossed over the canal at the power plant, but otherwise a pretty grassy wharf area. Kinda chilly, so I had a jacket over my hoodie and long pants on.  First stop was Soo Brewing – located in a storefront, tanks and all. They only had three beers on tap, so I had their summer wheat. Not bad, but not a particularly “mature” brew. Next stop was Lockside Brewing and Winery, which was really more restaurant and bar, with only 2 beers on tap and no brewing tanks that I could see.  Their Goldilocks blonde was a clever name, but nothing special. Time to head back to camp.

About the time I reached the halfway point over the canal I noticed a large cat running across the road in the streetlight.  Out for a prowl no doubt and headed for the grassy areas. Further along, I looked left to see the same animal running my direction under the lights.  That was no cat – it was a fox. Around the next building I hustled to catch up, then waited, but it started to drizzle. As I turned away, I saw the fox headed back, bushy tail straight out and trotting along.  What a cool sight. Ah, but the drizzle became real rain and I had to trot my way back to camp before I got soaked. But it was worth it.

In the morning we plan to head out early, what with the crossing into Canada and a long stretch of driving ahead of us.  Still a bit leery of what the crossing will be like, but we have all the paperwork and not much alcohol to declare. Next stop, Canada.

Thanks for following us on our journey to the fall colors of New England.

Doug

 

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Moving along in Michigan

Fort Custer State Rec Area

With a nod to Jimmy Buffet, our changes in lattitude have changed our attitude for sure.  It dropped the temperature considerably – we left the low 90s and are now in the upper 60’s.  We will take that for sure.  We are about to head out, continuing our trip north to Michigan.

But I need to share another “oops” moment.  In Wapakoneta we actually did not have rain overnight, but Jackie woke me in the middle of the night saying she heard water running.  Under the kitchen sink water was spraying all over — I hopped out the door, squish, and ran around to shut off the the water supply.  Well it seems we must have had a pressure burst overnight, which dislodged the plug under the sink water filter, so water was streaming out of the bottom storage bin, which fortunately had only the outside chairs and tables.  But it was a pretty good puddle and some mopping up to do under the sink.  Never a dull moment.

On the road in the morning, again with drizzle and clouds, headed up and across Indiana, bypassing Fort Wayne and into Michigan.  We made it to Kalamazoo area rather early in the afternoon and set up at Fort Custer State Recreation Area. It was a really nice site in a pretty empty campground.  We had filled our water tank in Wapakoneta, since this was electric only. Since the weather cleared, we took Kodi for a walk around the trails and nearby lake. We were surprised to see trumpeter swans in the lake, feeding among the pond grasses.  Kinda cool. The fields were filled with purple asters and milkweed stems that were releasing their silky seeds. Not much fall color yet, but we are hopeful.

Of course the highlight of this stop was going to be a visit to Bell’s brewery – in this case their Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo.  But before we got as far as Bell’s we found Arcadia Ale Brewing and pulled in to see what they had on tap. What a great spot! The tap room opened up to a wide garden area with outdoor seating along the Kalamazoo River.  Although it was still cloudy and a bit drizzly, it was still a wonderful afternoon sampling a flight of their scotch ale, stouts and a very tasty Michigan raspberry and blueberry witt.

Just across the river was Bell’s – not much from the outside but a very cool tap room inside.  We ordered a flight each and a food order. Jackie had mostly stouts, I had some of their tap-room-only brews and liked a saison they featured from a local homebrewer.  The Imperial Octoberfest was great with the meal, but Jackie loved their Brown Ale. Doug paired his beer with a grilled Michigan trout sandwich, Jackie had a burger with cherry jam and bacon.  Good stuff all around.

Next day was another travel day further up the “mitten.”  Another overcast start to the day as we headed up toward Grand Rapids.  Unfortunately it was too early to stop at Founder’s Brewery – we just had to watch as we drove by.  But as we rolled over the hills and farmland, we spotted a harvested cornfield that naturally had plenty of Canada geese.  But in the midst of them was a pair of Sandhill cranes . Rrrrrrppp. Stop the van. Get the shot. Get back in and keep going.  

We were taking a 2-lane road through the country that had some really nice farms along the way. One was a field of gourds and pumpkins being harvested, others had self-serve farmstands at the end of the driveway.  Nice. We also realized we would have time to stop in Frankfort just before checking in at our campground. Frankfort is a lovely town on Lake Michigan that looks like it would be very busy in the summer. The wide main street had plenty of room for the motorhome to park, so it was quite easy to stop and check out yet another brewery for a flight.  Stormcloud Brewing had a nice patio and we had some nice beer. Oddly, our favorite was their Georgia brew with peaches and pecans. Actually better than similar ones we have had back home.

We pulled in to the Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and set up.  Plenty of time to head up to see the dunes and shoreline of Lake Michigan.  But more on that in the next post.

Platte River Campground

Thanks for keeping up with us as we head to New England and the coast of Maine in search of fall colors.  Stay tuned for more.

Doug

 

 

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