A Tale of Two Parks

Continuing our trek north I must tell the tale of 2 very different park experiences. As I’ve mentioned, traveling during the summer months presents challenges finding spots. Thus far we like sticking to state parks over private campgrounds mostly due to costs. I have yet to check availability at other types of campgrounds but my guess is they are mostly full.

When I selected our next spot it was based on availability and location along our travels north. Wilson State Park is where we landed. This state park is located in Harrison MI. The park itself sits on the northwestern portion of Budd Lake, a 175 acre lake. I was excited to have the opportunity to go kayaking with our campsite onsite. However, that did not happen for a variety of reasons. Here is the story of Wilson State Park.

I must start off by saying, I’m not sure why it is classified as a state park. It’s a 36 acre wooded area with 160 campsites. And it’s located right off of business highway 127, so plenty of traffic noise. There is a small beach area with two tiers, a lower and upper beach. Unfortunately we were unable to use the beach area as they do not allow dogs. The park itself sets up high above the lake, leaving only the beach and 2 stairways as access to the water. The day we arrived the beach was closed due to an algae bloom. With no trails we got our exercise by walking around the campground each evening with Josie.

We selected a site that backed up to the water but our view of the lake was on the opposite side of the awning set-up. Nice view out the slide-out window and back bedroom window. This site was the most difficult to level our rig so far. Many of the sites here are unlevel and take some maneuvering. We leveled out the best we could.

Basically our four days were spent getting some work done and taking Josie for walks around the campground each evening. I found a local produce market in town with great prices and plenty of fresh produce. Plus we had lunch at Jack Pine’s restaurant that had delicious food (the sign below was in their bathroom). And we had our first fire in quite some time, possibly since May sometime (can’t remember the last time to be honest)

Our overall stay was fine, campground was what it was, a place to park and plug in. Thus far my least favorite stop.


For the weekend I selected a state forest campground about an hour and half north. This would be our last stop before crossing the Mighty Mac into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I knew little of the campground except it was remote and on a small lake in norther Michigan. This campground is located outside of Vanderbilt, MI. With little expectations we continued north for our weekend stay. Here is the story of Pickerel State Forest Campground.

I must say, this is what I was looking for in terms of camping. A completely different experience from Wilson State Park. And it was. All the sites here (and most of Michigan’s state forest campgrounds) are first come, first served. No reservations are accepted. Perfect for us. They are also primitive sites, no electric hook-ups but with a generator onboard we were covered. The campground is located off of a 3 mile long dirt road, it’s remote. Little to no road noise here. Upon arrival we drove around the campground to select our site, of which there were many to choose from.

The sites here are spacious with plenty of separation between neighbors. My kind of camping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a social butterfly but I also love my solitude. This was my happy place. But it gets even better. With lake access in close proximity to our campsite we were able to inflate our kayaks and transport them via car and back. Leaving them inflated to dry and for use the next day.

The lake did not disappoint. It is a small but beautiful lake with a large sandbar going out a ways into the lake. This was ideal for Josie to run, splash and play, not to mention her humans. The water was clear with a nice sandy bottom. We were able to kayak and enjoy the peace and serenity of this secluded treasure. We spent one afternoon kayaking to the other side where there was another sandbar area. Josie got out to play. The three of us enjoyed the afternoon spent on the lake on what seemed like our own private area of the lake, as most everyone else was swimming near the launch area. Just us and nature, truly my happy place.

Trying to get Josie out of the kayak in the shallow water.
Enjoying the seclusion of this part of the lake.

It was an unexpected wonderful gem of a place. After our experience at this state forest campground, they are now on my radar of places to look for. With no reservations accepted they fit us wonderfully. This is what we envisioned when we set out on this full time RV living adventure. While we were here we discussed ways to get into a beginning solar setup that won’t break the bank to allow us to be more off grid.

Between these two experiences I must say the Pickerel SFC won by a landslide. Here is a quick comparison of the two.

WILSON STATE PARKPICKEREL STATE FOREST CAMPGROUND
COST$22/night$15/night
ELECTRICYesNo
DUMPSITEYesNo
WATER AVAILABLEYesYes (via a hand well pump)
TRASH AVAILABLEYesYes
LAKE ACCESSVia beach only – no petsOpen access – pets welcome
REMOTENo – next to a busy roadYes, via dirt road access
SECLUDED SITESNo – open and close to neighborsYes, large sites with separation
INTERNET AVAILABILITYYes – no problem getting a signalYes, surprisingly we could get some service here
TOILETS/SHOWERSYes, bothNo, vault toilets only
RESERVATIONSAccepted – booked up on weekendsNo, plenty of sites open on weekends

UP NEXT: Finally arriving in the UP

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Parks

  1. Hi.  Enjoying your blogs.  Cool to watch you live out your dreams and learn at the same time.  I offer this not as a complaint but to help.   As a photographer I am sure you’d like your photos to be viewed and appreciated as they were meant to be.   But the emails from the blog contort the aspect ratios.   I’ve viewed them in AOL, Gmail, and Outlook (all on my phone).  In every case the result is the same.  I attach some screenshots.  In some cases they are really illegible, with several scrunched together across the page.  But even when there’s only one, the aspect ratio is noticeably off.   When viewed on my laptop, the problem is to a lesser degree but still exists.  In that case, it is most noticeable when there is more than one photo side by side. Hope this helps you troubleshoot and ensure all your readers view your photos as you intended. (Note: this isn’t a one-time thing.  It’s been this way from the beginning.) Much love to Shamy!  And safe travels!DonPS  I had a camping idea this week (inspired by my seeing a bobcat in my camp one night last week), that might interest you as well.   To take a trail cam along whenever I camp.  They usually come with a belt to strap them to a tree and store triggered movement photos on an SD card.  Might add another layer to your camp documentation!  Just don’t leave the camo-colored cam behind when  you move on!

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

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    1. Thank you Don for the info on the photos. I know WordPress changed the way posts are formatted and set up so I will have to do some troubleshooting. Interesting I haven’t had any trouble when I pull them up and Shane hasn’t noticed anything from his email subscription but I will check into for sure. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. The trail cam would be cool but I would have to add it to our travel day checklist to ensure it doesn’t get left behind. 🙂

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