The Last Leg of Our UP Travels

I must say it pains me to write this post. With our time in the UP drawing to a close I only wish we could stay longer. The UP is truly a special place. We found home here.

Veterans Memorial Campground

When we left the Porcupine Mountains we needed an easy overnight spot to break up the drive a bit. Jumping on Campendium, I found some options near Iron Mountain, MI. Upon arriving in town we quickly decided to press on a bit further to get past the town proper, saving ourselves some traffic the following day. Veterans Memorial Campground turned out to be a perfect overnight stay. With easy access off highway 2, $10 a night, and spacious sites we were set for the evening. With a stream and bridge right behind our site we could have stayed longer but alas we had to keep moving.

Portage Bay State Forest Campground

This one was my happy place. It ranked in my top sites. Why? 1) It was remote. To get here, you must drive on a gravel road for 7 miles. It’s worth the drive! 2) All but 1 of the sites have direct beach access to Lake Michigan. This made Amy smile! Ours also had a nice view of the lake to boot. 3) It’s peace and quiet at it’s best. During our stay, we never had a neighbor. At most there were probably 4-5 campers max out of 23 total sites. 4) We had cell service. Making this the perfect campground.

Our particular site did require some leveling finesse. But we got Ralphie parked and level after a bit of work. The view was worth it all.

Remote, private beach access, with cell service, all are wins in my book. This is a state forest campground so they only have vault toilets and water available via a hand pump well. But at $15 a night and to be on Lake Michigan, the price can’t be beat. Make sure you are stocked up on supplies as the closest gas station with some groceries is 30 minutes away (one way). I absolutely loved it here. With yoga and meditation on the beach. A couple of hiking trails nearby to stretch the legs and enjoy nature among the trees. Plus campfires on the beach and gorgeous star gazing.

I loved the beauty of the sunset skies and we even woke up one morning to watch the sunrise. I could have stayed forever!

Fayette Historic State Park

This historic park is near Portage Bay SFC, making for a perfect day trip. The only day we left our campground the entire week we were there. Fayette was once an iron smelting industrial community. Today several historic buildings stand for self guided tours, taking you back in history. The park is located on Lake Michigan on Snail Shell Harbor with high cliffs to one side. It was worth the day trip over. I enjoyed being transported back in time and walking the grounds.

The first photo is from the top of the cliffs looking down on the historic town. The first photo on the last row is looking up inside of an old kiln. The photo next to it is all that remains of the docking structure.

Hog Island State Forest Campground

Leaving Portage Bay was tough for me. I really wanted to stay. However we wanted to be closer to the Mackinac Bridge when it came time to leave the UP. We choose Hog Island SFC for it’s close proximity to highway 2, closer to the bridge and it was also on Lake Michigan. Though it was a different experience from Portage Bay. This one is right off of highway 2. Therefore, traffic noise cannot be avoided. Not my idea of a great campsite when you can hear the road noise. Although the waves of Lake Michigan ended up drowning out the traffic noise as they crashed against the rocks. Our site and several others have direct access to Lake Michigan but it’s rocky here unlike the nice sandy beach of Portage Bay. There are no hiking trails here. Josie likes to go for walks so we took her around the campground. It satisfied her but left us wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, I must sound ungrateful. I was happy to be on Lake Michigan for our last few days in the UP. The sunsets were beautiful. I loved listening to the waves crash on shore. Plus I found time to meditate on a rock right alongside the lake, making for a very Zen spot. The weather wasn’t the best, some rain and cooler temperatures but overall I am grateful for our spot. The close proximity to St. Ignace is really the big draw to this place. A great stopover for a day or a few either on the way in or way out of the UP. I will admit the place grew on me over the course of our 5 day stay.

Cut River Bridge

During our stay at Hog Island SFC I found this bridge just 10 minutes away. When you cross it in a car, it seems like a normal bridge, nothing extraordinary. However if you pull off at the roadside park you will find this is no ordinary roadside park or bridge. In fact what’s underneath is well worth the stop. The bridge is 147 feet above the Cut River with stairs leading all the way down to the river and out to a sandy beach of Lake Michigan. There is also a trail following the Cut River for a bit that leads back to the parking lot. A great stop to stretch your legs or simply to explore while staying nearby. For those feeling adventurous you can even walk across this bridge on the pedestrian walkway. It’s a long way down so if you find yourself afraid of heights you might not stay too long. Plus traffic, including semis are whizzing past you at 60+ mph. It’s a bit intimidating I must admit. (I didn’t get photos of the walkway on the bridge because I was concentrating on getting safely back.)

Yes there is even a Troll door under the bridge!

Back in June the kids gifted us a bottle of wine from their trip to Napa. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. Along our travels in the UP, I thought of opening it but saved it. While staying at Hog Island we hit six months on the road. To celebrate our six month milestone and to look back fondly on our wonderful time in the UP, we cracked it open. And drank the whole thing around a campfire as the waves of Lake Michigan crashed on shore nearby. It was a special occasion indeed and the perfect time to enjoy that bottle of wine.

That Monday we packed it up and crossed the Mighty Mac back into lower Michigan. I’ll admit I shed a few tears as I drove across the bridge. We were snagged in construction traffic on the bridge for quite some time. It was like the UP wasn’t quite ready for us to go. I silently said to myself “we’re not ready either”. If only they had a U-turn lane on the bridge I might have taken it and stayed just a few more days.

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