Took a day trip to Mackinaw City, and around the upper west part of Michigan, including the Tunnel of Trees. It was a beautiful day, but the haze from the Canadian Fires reduced the view across the water. Because of construction on the island, we decided not to visit this island this year, so we rode around Mackinaw City, walked the shops and had dinner. Pica was thoroughly loving her ride. :-)
This post is merely about our stay at this resort which is now owned by Outdoor Adventures; our campground membership.
I must say, we found this place to be outstanding. A stark difference from Lakeshore Resort, as this place is quiet, family-type atmosphere that is nestled among a previous ski resort. The resort was recently purchased by ODA and was left in disrepair by the previous owners, so the average person may not find it so appealing yet. However, we enjoyed it so much that we want a full 3 weeks here next year.
During our stay, we saw at least 12 staff members zooming around upgrading, mowing, painting & fixing. They still have a lot of work to do, but they have happy attitudes, and they're doing a GREAT job! Here is the list of their amenities (according to their website):
- 300' outdoor water slide - needs fixing, hasn't run since the previous owner
- Paddle Boats - there are none, but there are kayaks
- Horseshoes - they were all stolen & haven't been replaced
- Basketball - court is in same square footage as the tennis court
- Volleyball - Sand volleyball and at foot of putt putt
- Snowmobile rentals - we saw 2 run-down snowmobiles. Not sure if they run
- Putt Putt - we LOVED this course. Challenging, fun, and even good exercise!
- Tennis Court - next to basketball in same fence, but no net.
- Game room - locked off
- Fitness Center - locked off
- Playground - Large and very nice. Good view of lake as well
- Adult Lounge - beautiful and serene.
- Indoor Heated Pool - absolutely beautiful and large!
- Hot Tub - Large and great to have it in a separate corner. Loved the pool area!
- Dry Sauna - Closed until further notice
- Clubhouse - locked off
Campground: 60 sites all beautiful designed to give each camper a sense of privacy and good views. Sites on the south end (31-63) are mostly for larger rigs, but they have full hookups with 50a. They also have cement pads. Sites on the north end (1-30) are water and 30a with no sewer and no lake front sites. They are still nice and settled more in the woods. All sites are supplied with a picnic table and fire ring. These sites have gravel pads. There is a small laundry facility and shower house on the north side.
Cabins: The cabins are not rented out by ODA, they are rented by a 3rd party company that rents them through AirBnB. This means anybody can rent them, not just members. I think this is good, but it also means they charge a lot more. According to the website, a smaller cabin is $110/night, but the large house cabins are $375/night. There are a lot of cabins, and they are built aside the beautiful golf course.
Atmosphere: This is definitely worth noting. There was a sense of family here that we've never felt anywhere else. I can't put my finger on it, but everyone felt like they could talk to everyone else without tension. It's as if we all watched each others' backs. So many friendly folk, especially with the staff.
All in all, we were very pleased to see this campground is being upgraded and worked on. They have a lot of work to do, but we're hoping that when we return next year, more amenities will be up and running so we can enjoy them with the kids & grandkids. For now, we like it just fine, and it's a GREAT distance from the main U.P. attractions and Mackinaw Island!
Interlochen State Park is one of our favorite locations to return to. It's next to a music school which we can hear from the campgrounds, and the entire Traverse City area is full of things to do and places to see.
This visit, we rode the Boardman Lake Trail in Traverse City while our truck was getting worked on. Gorgeous and short, this trail provided us a bonus viewing spot of the youngsters' sailing school. It was really neat to watch those 7-yr olds navigate the mini sailboats.
The next day was a longer, more challenging ride on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Smooth, and 22 miles long, the northern side is mostly gradual slopes, where the southern side will give you 11% grade challenges, and the reward of speed on the other end. Having a picnic lunch at the dunes was definitely a bonus.
Stay details: Interlochen State Park; Interlochen MI
* This park is large and beautiful, and offers many opportunities for family fun near the lake. The sites come in all different sizes, but only has electric, so water fill-up is a must before parking. The park has a day use area for swimming, boating and BBQs, as well as nearby trails. The nearby music school is a nice ambience when enjoying your evening fire.
We were on site 95, but the next one over was facing us with his party and campfire, so it was rather intrusive. There are a LOT of large sites here, and a lot of family fun things to do. Recommended sites: 369, 371, 64, 414 & 193.
This time of year causes difficulties getting into state parks, so we needed a filler night on the way to Interlochin. So, we are using our last Harvest Host stay to visit this distillery and have dinner. We parked in the back near the woods right beside of their wheat fields. Very quiet place, and nice people. Dinner was pretty good, and the tasting of whiskey's were pretty awesome. Highly recommend this location if you have a Harvest Host membership.
Stay Details: Iron Fish Distillery; Thompsonville MI
* Note: You need to have a membership with Harvest Host in order to stay here, but you will have a wonderful, peaceful evening and an excellent outdoor dinner. If you get a chance to stay here, they have a nice path in the woods for their guests. :-)
It was difficult to find a campground on the west side of the state, so we settled for a lesser-known one, Orchard Beach State Park. I'm really glad we did though, because our site was absolutely beautiful and we found several treasures in the area.
- Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary: Just a few miles from our place, this little haven is home to the only 3 Giant Sequoia's in Michigan. They Grey family brought 6 of them from CA in 1938 and planted the seeds on their farm in Manistee. Three are left today, and all are here at this bird sanctuary/farm
- Arcadia Marsh Preserve. 15 miles north of Orchard Beach, this 305-acre preserve is home to 231 bird species (17 endangered), 28 fish species, and 201 plant species. It was a beautiful and serene boardwalk stroll in the morning before it was too hot.
- Orchard Beach Trail is a 2-mile trail just outside the campground. It was a beautiful walk in the woods and some meadows. We would highly recommend this walk for exercise and time to unwind.
- Manistee Bay and Lighthouses. Must take a quick tour through town and visit the lighthouses. To our surprise, the city beach here is a dog beach! Even though Pica chose to stay behind on this hot day, now we know where to take her for some fun. It was a fun walk with some cool shots for a night without the pup. There is also a Riverwalk on the south side of the river if you're interested.
Stay Details: Orchard Beach State Park; Manistee MI
*Note: This very large and active campground is a very well-kept campground with a lot of recent upgrades due to its beach erosion in 2019. They are still relocation the main pavilion and steps going to the beach, so don't expect the beach to be open yet. Most sites are tight and made for group camping. We were lucky enough to get a large pull-through site that gave us a pretty good view of the lake. Sites provide 50a electric only, so fill up your water before finding your site.
Arriving at Charlestown S.P. meant meeting up with our daughter and her family. The only problem with being on the road is missing family. Being back in the north for 3 months allows us to catch up with everyone. By the end of this time, they all might even WANT to get rid of us! LOL!
Katie & Tony came out with the kids this weekend and camped for the night with us. The last time they camped with us, there were heavy rains and a tornado warning. This time, there was beautiful (warm) weather and sun. We all had a great time catching up, talking, having fun with the kids, and just being together. We look forward to seeing them again later this year.
Stay details: Charlestown State Park - Charlestown, IN
Note: This area was once the Rose Island Amusement Park, until the major flood of 1937 which created a 25-mile wide Ohio River flood which non until put 70% of Louisville under water, but also desimated the park . It was then purchased as an ammunition plant, then dedicated to the state of Indiana in 1995. The park itself is very large with 8 hiking trails and a campground. The campground consists of 189 campsites (129 electric, and 58 full hookup). The sites are well spaces at a great angle so you're not looking inside your neighbor's windows. It has one small playground, several trash bins throughout the park, and a good amount of shaded sites to choose from.
While we were here, we did encounter several ticks on us, the kids and the dog. We decided not to take any more walks in the woods.
Cumberland Point Campground is an Army Corps of Engineers campground. We have been wanting to stay at this place for quite some time, and it did NOT disappoint!
I must warn anyone who wants to book this place. BOTH the loop campground and the dead-end sites are very steep, with a sharp grade from road to site; which means you might have trouble with a 5th wheel hitting the truck. Use caution, and I would not recommend bringing any rig over 35' to any of these sites without knowing it will be a challenge to park.
With that said, we booked site #11 because I learned online that it was the best one with the lake view. Online, the site fits 40' rigs (we are 35'). Upon arriving, we were told that he didn't think we would be able to turn around at the end of the dead-end. So, we walked down, checked it out, and decided to give it a try.
Mark and I have been doing very good with communication on parking, so we had this! He turned wide, I watched his angles and limits, and radio'd findings. He took it slow, got the truck & camper at a little more than a 90 degree angle, and was clear to make the turn. The front corner barely touched our soft toneau roll. He straightened it back up the hill, then backed in with ease. Within 10 minutes, we had the rig unhooked, leveled and slides out.
In the meantime.... Upon arriving, two guys came out of the woodwork looking at the size of our camper. I think they made fun of us even thinking of trying it. Once we got in to try it, they told us "we haven't looked at all the sites yet", and continued on down the hill to where we were going. Like every RVer, we all watch the newbies coming in to see how things are done. Perhaps we silenty wait for that 'oopsie' to happen while feeling proud we would 'never' make that mistake! LOL!!
Anyway, as we were making that turn, they watched in awe, as they had previously told us that we would NEVER be able to make the turn. Mark and I worked in precision without their help, as we made the turn in one try, then backed in one try. I just smiled at them and said "See, you can do anything if you remain positive about it".. I think they left with their tails between their legs. Ha!
So here we are, on an absolute perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold. Very little breeze, and an awesome lake view and the sounds of waves gently hitting the shores below. Mark rode up to buy wood, and was told by the park manager that we could forage whatever we wanted! Wait, what???? When do we ever hear that? So Mark went to work foraging, and he had a 3' tall pile of wood in no time! He even got to use his new toy (a Makita circular saw)! Before long, dinner was sizzling on the griddle, the fire was crackling, and the birds were serenading us with their song.
We would recommend this campground only if you are brave enough to park your rig from an angled road, LOVE beauty, and love the peace and quiet. There are 2 bath houses which also have showers, and are nicely kept. The entire grounds are kept clean and nice by Army Corps personnel, and I must say, this is one of the best places we've been to (barring the fear of the unknown). Yes, site #11 is the absolute best. It's own peninsula and overhang toward the water. But there are plenty of other beautiful sites here too, so no many which you choose, you cannot lose. Each site also comes with 50amp and water hookups, with a dump station at the exit.
On the 2nd night entering a beautiful, quiet evening, we suddenly had neighbors. We don't mind neighbors, and most of the time even get to be friends with them. However, we cut our night short when the mom kept yelling at her kid all night, so loud that I think the entire campground could hear her. Nightie night. An early departure sounds promising at this point. Ha!
Told by the park secretary about the must-see elk herd in the nearby Cataloochee Valley, we headed out first thing in the morning in hopes to see a LOT of these promised elk.
After an 7-hour day of driving and touring the paved and unpaved curvy roads of the Smokies, we did not see any elk, but we did see some beautiful scenery, historical locations, and learned a lot about the area's history.
Here are some of the area highlights:
- Cataloochee Valley: 10 miles of steep curvy roads with beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Most of this area is unpaved, but the roads were relatively cared for and in good condition. I passed over 3 old one-lane bridges, and saw several old homesteads that were built in the 1800's. Sorry, no elk on our trip, even though we heard they are often seen eating along the roadside.
- Gatlinburg: Drove the narrow northern road up to Gatlinburg. We didn't make the stop here because we had Pica, but we will definitely be back to enjoy the shopping and sites. Some of the super cool things in the area are the sky bridge (via chair lifts) & Anakeesta Mountain Park. The downtown shops are amazing for those who like browsing, and there are tons of food options in the area too.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: Just outside of Gatlingburg, this one-way car trail is a definite must-do when you're in the area. Several 1800's homesteads remain in the area and are fully open for people to browse through. There are 2 picnic areas near the river, and there are many walking trails ranging from ADA short to strenuous 8 mile trails and more! Many of these trails take you to beautiful waterfalls.
Overall, just get out and see this beautiful nature! The trip through the Smoky Mountain NP was pretty short itself, but you can always add adventures on your trip to fit your dreams.
This trip and MANY more out west were much more educational due to the JUST AHEAD app. This app follows along on your journey, and tells you about the area, the history and what's expected. We just LOVE this app!
Stay Details: Pride Resort, Waynesville, NC
Note: This is a small campground resort that is nestled on the banks of the Pigeon River. It is small, pretty tight together, and have a few small ammenities like a pool (not currently open), putt putt and community center. They have benches beside the water which we really loved
Through Coast to Coast, we can stay here for 3 weeks during non-peak season, so we reserved 3 weeks just before the season began. What a beautiful gem of a place to relax, work on class, and find hike/bike trails in the Uwharrie National Forest. We are also using this location to give some time away from events so our family has the peace of mind that we are not bringing any 'bugs' home to them from our recent larger events.
Sycamore Lodge is absolutely beautiful, and if you are ever in the area, you should definitely plan a stay to this old homestead; now lodge.
Stay Details: Sycamore Lodge Resort. Jackson Springs, NC
* Sycamore Lodge is a membership resort that hosts a slew of ammenities for all ages. Fully stocked general store, membership lodge (with kitchen, laundry, restroom, sitting rooms, piano & library), miniature golf, basketball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, many sitting areas, pavilion, swimming pool, fishing, and much more!
The Grand Design Rally is open to all people that own a Grand Design RV. We signed up for this a few months ago. This would be our first rally, and we were told that they always have the G.D. techs there to fix warranty and recall issues as well as the opportunity to get on a list to fix general issues. They also hold educational seminars and have venders to purchase items.
As soon as we parked, we met up with our neighbors who owned a Solitude. We hit it off right away, and spent the rest of the weekend with them, attending events together, playing games and having dinner. We also met up with several other couples, and made several friends during the rally.
Having the rally at Myrtle Beach was a bonus. They gave us all $60 worth of 'Design Bucks' that we could use for food during the week. The campground was huge with several ammenities, not to mention the absolute beautiful beach!
On our last night, after receiving a tweet that SpaceX was about to launch their rocket with more satelites, we walked to the beach at 11:30pm and set up our chairs & video of the launch. I was able to get a few decent photos, but we were able to watch the rocket throughout most of the sky, when it finally disappeared back at the north horizon. Seeing this even from SC when the launch was in FL was spectacular and very exciting!
Stay Details: Lakewood Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, SC
* This is a huge Christian family campground that hosts large events. They have a swimming pool, lazy river, water slides, putt putt, paddle boats, ice cream, general store, and much more! The conference ammenities offer an amphitheater, a library, information center, and campground integrated events.
Even though the sites were pretty close together, it still allowed decent room for family get-togethers. All sites offer full hookups with immediate access to the beautiful beach.