Six days after our two-night venture in Bozeman to get the Airstream up and running for the season, we finally departed on our first trip of the year. Seeing as winter lasts about 14 months in these parts, we had waited until the last possible weekend to de-winterize. Of course, in those six days between our stay at the Bozeman Hot Springs and leaving for our one-night stay in West Yellowstone before moving on to Grand Teton National Park, it dipped below freezing a couple of nights and it snowed again, including on the day we hit the road for West Yellowstone.
The couple of nights of below-freezing temps didn’t cause any harm to the Airstream, but when we woke up to heavy, wet, sloppy snow falling on the day of our departure, we did consider delaying the start of our trip a few days. However, we only had a little more than 90 miles to drive on a fairly flat — though, somewhat curvy — route, so we found a small weather window, hitched up, and were on our way!
The drive from Bozeman to West Yellowstone is gorgeous no matter the time of year, but it was especially spectacular on this particular day, when it’s supposedly late spring, but is actually month 18 of winter.
It really is a beautiful drive and part of it actually takes you through the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. You kind of ride the border of Montana and Wyoming for a bit, crossing into Wyoming and then back to Montana. A bonus to this route (besides its beauty), is it affords the opportunity to get a pic with an official sign without having to fight the crowds!
We had originally planned to make the entire drive to Teton from Bozeman in one day, which is about 180 miles and should take about four hours, plus or minus a few depending on weather, traffic, and bison jams. As the trip grew closer, however, it was apparent the weather wasn’t going to be ideal, so we decided to add a pitstop at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, MT. This would break up the drive nicely and give us a chance to fill our freshwater tank before heading to our site in Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park, which was a dry camping (no hookups) site.
This was our second visit to Yellowstone Grizzly; you can be read about our first here.
We were in an easy-to-back-in-to full-hookup site along the perimeter of the park, just on the opposite side of the fence from some type of commercial business. We quickly got settled in and filled our freshwater tank. We then disconnected and put our hose away as there was a freeze warning and the park required the disconnection of hoses if there was a potential for freezing. This is a very nice, albeit expensive, RV park. After a walk around the park, we picked up some pizza from Wild West Pizzeria and snuggled in for the night. The next morning, we took long hot showers seeing as we’d be limited on water use at our next site, and then dumped the tanks and topped off the fresh water.
Off to Grand Teton National Park and Colter Bay Campground!
RV Parks Stats
Name: Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins
Address: 210 S. Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Last October, we had to do something to the Airstream that we had never done in our 3+ years of owning it — we had to winterize it. While our Airstream was born in Ohio, it had always spent winter in warmer locales, with us in it. But, we decided to settle into a condo in one of the coldest places in the contiguous US where winter lasts a very long time, so we had to winterize before tucking it in to storage for a long winter’s sleep.
We aren’t expert winterizers, but we are pretty good at Googling and YouTubing, and found the process to be pretty simple. We followed the same process the factory uses — empty the tanks, drain the hot water heater, blow out the lines with an air compressor, drain the low points, and put some RV antifreeze down each drain.
As I said earlier, winter lasts pretty late into the year here in Bozeman, so we didn’t get the chance to pull the Airstream out of storage until May 15th, when we booked two nights at Bozeman Hot Springs Campground to make sure all systems were go. This is not our first time staying at the hot springs — you can read about our previous stays here, here, and here. Here’s what we checked/tested during our post-winter shakedown:
Ran city water through kitchen, bathroom, and shower faucets, as well as the toilet, to make sure all had good water pressure and there were no visible leaks.
After disinfecting the fresh tank with a bleach water mix, turned on the water pump and ran water through all faucets and toilet to make sure water pressure was good and water pump seemed to function properly without any leaks.
Filled hot water heater with water and checked that there was hot water at all faucets, along with good hot water pressure, while first using the water heater on electric and then on propane. Also checked to make sure there were no leaks at hot water heater.
Made sure the fridge and freezer operated properly on both electric and propane.
Made sure the air conditioning operated properly.
Made sure the furnace operated properly.
Made sure the microwave worked.
Made sure the oven and stove both functioned properly.
Made sure the solar system was working properly in conjunction with the batteries.
Made sure the propane detector is functional.
Made sure the smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are functional.
Made sure all fans, including the fantastic fans, the vent fans in bathroom & shower, and the stove vent fan are all functional.
Made sure all of the lights are working properly.
Made sure the electric awning functioned properly.
Did a visual inspection of the roof.
Did a visual inspection of the tires and made sure the tire pressure monitoring system was working properly after reinserting the batteries into each monitor.
After replacing a propane tank monitor, made sure both tank monitors were reading correctly.
It was after that last item that we realized we had a problem. Up to this point, our propane had been functioning properly off of the one tank we had open. When we opened the second tank after replacing the monitor, we heard pssssshhhhhh. Not good. We had a leak, and a very substantial one at that. I was literally able to put my finger on the leak and found that the rubber ring had disintegrated and this is where the propane was leaking from.
We shut the propane off and disconnected it, and then we went in search of the parts to fix it. Thankfully, we were in our own city, so we had ideas of where to look. Unfortunately, Bozeman doesn’t have a Camping World, Tractor Supply, Cabela’s, or Gander Mountain. It was also a Sunday, so that meant that all of the RV dealerships that might have a decent parts selection were closed. We tried Lowe’s and Home Depot first, but they only had replacement hoses for propane grills, which are not the right part. We checked Ace Hardware, and they had almost the right part, but the hose was too long (15″ instead of 12″). We then went to a local hardware store called Kenyon Noble and an employee there was able to help us immediately. They had the right part, except the connecting piece wasn’t exact. Our propane hoses had what’s called an NPT thread where as the hoses at Kenyon Noble had an inverted male thread. In the pic below, our hose has the red end — you can see the difference in size between the two.
We ended up finding an adaptor that would work to make everything fit properly.
We made sure to use gas line seal tape around all threaded parts to make sure there would be a tight fit and no leaks.
We ended up replacing both hoses as the other one looked as though it could go at any time. Once we had everything reconnected, we turned the propane on and had no leaks!
I did end up finding the exact hoses we needed with the correct connecting threads, so I ordered a set to have as a backup. You can find them on Amazon here.
Luckily, this turned out to be a fairly easy fix, but this did inspire us to order a few extra things to have on hand for spare parts just in case, like more hot water heater plugs (ours looks like the next time we remove it will be the last time) and some fuses.
A reminder for all RVers: Don’t count out local hardware stores for RV supplies while you’re on the road. As you can see, we couldn’t depend on the usual suspects for parts. Our Ace Hardware has an RV supply aisle that rivals Walmart’s.
After determining we were good to go for our upcoming 2-week trip to Grand Teton, we were able to relax and enjoy an adult bevvie by the fire.
We woke up on the morning of September 24th at Woodenfrog Campground near Voyageurs National Park in Northern Minnesota and made the 5-hour drive to our stop for that night — 4e Winery, a Harvest Host in eastern North Dakota. If you’re unfamiliar with Harvest Hosts, check out their website here, and if you’re interested in signing up, use this link to receive 20% off your membership before 12/31/20, or 15% thereafter. Harvest Hosts are a great way to save some money as you travel!
This Harvest Hosts is a particularly popular one, and we were thankful they had room for us. Even though the winery was closed on the day of our stay, Lisa allowed us, along with three other RVs, to stay and opened the tasting room for us. We made sure to thank her for her hospitality by purchasing a bottle of wine. They have a large, level open field for RVs to park in, and besides the hundreds (thousands?) of crickets jumping around, it was a very peaceful evening.
When we woke up the next morning, we had no idea that we had just spent our last night on the road for the year. We still had almost 750 miles to go until we got back to Bozeman. However, the weather the next few days wasn’t looking promising for safe driving due to forecasted high winds, so we decided to start early and keep on driving as far as we felt like we could.
The winery is located in Mapleton, North Dakota, which is barely over the eastern border of the state from Minnesota. Our route would take us entirely along I-94 until it met up with I-90 in Billings, Montana. Anyone who has driven in this area knows that driving across North Dakota from one end to the other is not the most exciting — sorry, North Dakota. However, there are some nice/quirky places to stop along the way. I don’t know if North Dakota is trying to compensate for something, but this route is home to three ‘World’s Largest’ statues: Dakota Thunder, the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; Sandy, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane in Steele, ND; and Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND. (DO NOT attempt to tow a trailer up to see Salem Sue.) We made sure to also incorporate getting gas, eating, stretching our legs, and ‘freshening up’ during these stops.
When you continue west along I-94, almost to the western border of North Dakota, you’ll eventually come to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, which is a national park visitor center and rest area all in one. From here, you get panoramic views of the Park’s badlands and have access to hiking trails. Of course, there are also restrooms, picnic shelters, and vending machines, as well as visitor center things like park info, exhibits, and a gift shop/bookstore. It’s a great place to stop for a bit, even if you don’t have time to go into the park and explore (which we were able to do last year).
Once we crossed the border into Montana, we decided we could make it the rest of the way to Bozeman and kept on trucking. Seeing as we had been without hookups the previous two nights, we stopped at Cabela’s in Billings to dump our tanks, which took way too long because someone parked too close to the dump station. From there, it should’ve taken us a little more than two hours to get home, but thanks to wind, rain, darkness and traversing Bozeman Pass in the wind, rain, and darkness, it took almost three.
We finally pulled into our parking lot at about 9:15pm (more than 14 hours after leaving Mapleton), spent 30-40 minutes unloading the important stuff, grabbed some food, showered, and went to bed. It was a very, very long day that we never want to experience again, but at least we now know that we can make a lot of ground if needed.
Voyageurs National Park is one of those under-the-radar national parks — so much so that when we told people we were stopping there on our way back to Bozeman after visiting family in Wisconsin, most people had never heard of it. Voyageurs is named for the 18th century French Canadian adventurers that canoed through the area lakes and rivers, transporting furs and other goods. It’s located along Minnesota’s northern border and some of the parks lakes are shared with Canada, so visitors to Voyageurs need to be aware of their location so as not to inadvertently improperly cross the border. The red dot on the below map of Minnesota signifies the park’s location.
Besides the three visitor centers and a couple of trails on the mainland, Voyageurs is a water centered park. Very little of the park is accessible without a boat to traverse the four major lakes — Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point, and Namakan. Unfortunately, COVID put the kibosh on exploring the park via one of the visitor centers (they were all closed) or a ranger-led boat tour (they were all cancelled for the year). The only camping within the park is tent camping, and requires boat access and a permit. In a typical year, some campsites can be accessed via boat tours, but many require reserving a canoe and paddling to your destination.
Woodenfrog Campground is an excellent place to stay with an RV or tent when visiting the area, as it’s centrally located on the shore of Kabetogama Lake, and about a 10-minute drive to the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center.
Picnic Area, Boat Ramp, Swim Beach and Interpretive Center in Day Use Area
Due to time and weather constraints, we were only able to spend one night at Woodenfrog. We arrived at the campground around 1pm on Wednesday, September 23rd. Approximately half of the sites were available, so we were able to drive through and pick out a site that suited our needs. There are some sites with lake views, but they were all occupied, mostly by tents, probably due to how unlevel those particular sites are. The size, privacy, and levelness varies greatly from site to site, so I’m glad that it was not busy and we were able to take our time scouting out sites. (This involved Travis staying in the truck while I got out and ran up the road to check out the available sites so that we didn’t have to circle back around.) We ended up in site 43 — a very deep, very level site with a good amount of privacy that is located next to a water spigot (which was turned off by the time we visited) and across the street from a vault toilet (which we didn’t use). We were also able to get plenty of sun to keep our batteries charged via our solar panels.
Even though boat tours were not available during our visit, Arrowhead Lodge, a private resort located right next to the day use area of the campground, had canoes and kayaks available for rent. If we would have stayed another day, we definitely would have rented a kayak to get out on the water and explore some of the islands.
Late September was the perfect time to visit Voyageurs to be submerged in the beauty of the changing leaves. The campground, including our site, as well as the islands scattered across Kabetogama Lake, were all putting on a brilliant seasonal display that seemed to be at peak during our visit. We had never experienced such gorgeous fall colors and were so glad that we visited during this time, even if it was just for one night.
We spent the first 30+ years of our lives in East Central Wisconsin but never made it up to the northern border along Lake Superior where you’ll find Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s a shame, because the city of Bayfield, which is the main gateway to the islands, is super cute and the lakeshore is beautiful.
Fun Fact: At 487 residents (as of the 2010 census), Bayfield is the smallest official city in Wisconsin. For a new city to be incorporated today, state regulations require a population of at least 1,000 residents, so Bayfield would be considered a village with those parameters. But don’t let the smallness scare you — the city has some great food and retail options, and of course, outdoor recreation.
As we had spent the previous three nights dry camping, we wanted to have full hookups for a few days while we were in Bayfield. There are not a lot of options in this area, so we were fortunate to get two different sites for two nights each at Apostle Islands Area Campground. The first two nights were in a full hookup site and the second two nights were in a water and electric site.
Navigating through the campground could end up being a little awkward due to the fact the streets are really only wide enough for one-way traffic, but two-way travel is allowed on most of them. Luckily, we never encountered an issue, but there were traffic jams near the dump station at times because of its location right on the side of a main thoroughfare. Our first site was #27, which was a full hookup (30 amp) site. It was an easy back in until we noticed after we had put the jack down and unhitched that we needed to back up about another foot in order to reach the water hookup that was in a really awkward spot. As a matter of fact, the electric hookup was in a very weird spot at this site as well, and we noticed this was a common occurrence at the full hookup sites in this section of the campground. After hitching up again, putting the jack up, and backing up another foot, we were good to go with all of our hookups. Kind of. Our sewer hose decided to fall apart on us and were worried we were going to have to drive at least a half hour to the closest Walmart to get a replacement. Luckily, the campground has a precent decent camp store with RV supplies, and had what we needed. Crisis diverted!
Our second site was #32 — a gigantic, woodsy, water and electric site. This was also a back-in site, but a little more difficult to get into as we had to make more than a 90-degree turn going down a steep decline. Thankfully, because of the size of the site, we had a lot of room to work with.
Even though we had the site reserved for two nights, we ended up only staying one. We left early to avoid some weather that would have made our last day not very enjoyable. As we were moving on to a location without hookups, we made sure to fill water and stopped at the dump station before departing.
Food and Drink
Disclaimer: We still continue to diligently social distance and keep our public outings to a minimum, and on an infrequent basis, we partake in food/drink situations that are outdoors with a lot of spacing between tables. Because of this, we most likely missed out on some dining opportunities, but it gave us peace of mind.
Thanks to the weird hookups situation and having to get a new sewer hose, it took us longer than anticipated to get situated on our first day. When we finally did, we drove into town to find something to eat. It was that weird time of day between lunch and dinner and the only place serving food at the time was Greunke’s, which is both a restaurant and inn. We ordered a trout plate, which was HUGE — definitely enough for two people to share. It was the best trout we had ever had and we enjoyed it on their outdoor patio.
We picked up apple cider donuts from Erickson Orchard on two different occasions, as well as some apple cider. We enjoyed the first batch of donuts on a hike and the second batch for breakfast/travel snacks on the day we left.
We got lunch at The Deck at the Bayfield Inn on our second day. Missy got the fish tacos and Travis got a burger, and both were absolutely delicious. They were very diligent with their COVID protocols, which was nice to see. Actually, every establishment in this area strictly adhered to protocols that the city had put in place. The views were beautiful from the rooftop deck and the cocktails were tasty!
We walked along the waterfront after lunch as it was a gorgeous early fall day. We came upon the Maritime Museum that looked very intriguing from the outside, but it was closed — we wouldn’t have gone in on this trip anyways.
The last food establishment that we patronized in town was to pick up some smoked trout at Hoop’s Fish Market. You guys. It was so, so, so good! We bought two filets — only one is shown in the picture below — but we wish we would have gotten at least twice as much.
Meyers Beach Sea Cave Trail
This is an out and back that can be as long as 11 miles (where you’ll find a campsite), but the normal turnaround point for most people is at 3.6 miles. We ended up doing a little over five miles round trip, which gave us plenty of opportunity to see some nice views and enjoy our donuts at the halfway point. It’s an easy to moderately difficult trail with more elevation gain the further you go, and the first 3/4 mile is a plank trail.
Lost Creek Falls Trail
We really enjoyed this hike! It’s about 2.5 miles roundtrip and a decent stretch has boardwalks, making this fairly doable for all skill levels — though it does get a bit more aggressive toward the end. I’m assuming this trail is pretty busy during the summer, but we had the falls to ourselves on the late September Tuesday afternoon that we went.
Obviously, one of the main things to do at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is to kayak amongst the islands and various sea caves. When we visited, the kayak outfitters were no longer renting out gear for the season. I did find one that was still doing guided tours, but only on the weekends, and we were there midweek. Boo. It was probably for the better anyways. There were [rough water? rough sea? high surf advisory?] warnings while we were there, so we probably would have capsized anyways, because 2020. There are various tours offered by Apostle Islands Cruises, though the schedule was a bit diminished this season. Again, because 2020. A lot of the islands have lighthouses and camping, accessible via the tours/water taxis. There’s also a ferry to Madeline Island, which while not technically part of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, is the largest island and has commercial development such as restaurants, as well as full-time residents. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to experience Apostle Islands from the water, but that’s the breaks when you still work full time — you can’t be confined by a ferry/cruise schedule.
Regardless of our waterless adventures, we enjoyed finally visiting this part of our home state.
After we left Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, we drove west along the Upper Peninsula towards our next stop at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Northern Wisconsin. We spent one night at a Harvest Hosts at Big Snow Resorts’s Indianhead Mountain in Wakefield, MI. This seems to be a pretty popular stop for people, as three other RVs also spent the night. We parked at the edge of their large parking lot and our particular spot was pretty unlevel, but we were able to make it work. The SkyBar was open for food and drinks, so we stopped in to get some beverages and a basket of fries. We enjoyed the views from their large outdoor deck, which overlooked the chairlifts and the changing leaves. We walked the property for a bit, going down and then up the ski runs, to get a bit of post-drive, post-beer, post-fries exercise. Big Snow was another peaceful, enjoyable Harvest Hosts stay. If you’d like more info about Harvest Hosts or would like 15% off a one-year membership, follow this link to their website.
Of note, Wakefield is one of four counties in Michigan that is in the central timezone, while the rest of Michigan is in the eastern timezone. We didn’t realize this and it confused us for a bit.
As we drove from our previous stay at North Bay Shore County Park in Oconto, Wisconsin to Bay Furnace Campground in Munising, Michigan, we were awestruck by the beauty of the landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — from the gorgeous views, homes, and towns along the shores of Green Bay and Little Bay de Noc to the northern coast of the peninsula on Lake Superior. We didn’t know much about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which helped to keep expectations low, but I can honestly say that it’s in the top few destinations for one of the most beautiful places we have visited in all of our travels.
Our original plan for visiting Pictured Rocks was to stay at Kewadin Casino, which is located across the street from the Hiawatha National Forest’s Bay Furnace Campground. The casino is free and offers a few sites with electric hookups. However, when we were about to turn into the casino, we decided to take a spin through the campground to see if there were any available sites. About half the sites are reservable and the other half first come, first served. I had previously checked on recreation.gov and all of the reservable sites were booked. Reviews on Campendium let me know that this is a very popular campground in the area, so we weren’t sure what we’d find, but figured we could just stick with our original plan of the casino if nothing was available. We arrived in the area on Thursday, September 17th at around 1:00pm. There are two loops in the campground and we passed the first to drive through the second. We immediately came upon Site 2 on the left and it was empty. It looked like a fantastic site, so we snagged it. We then did a very quick walk around the loop and only found one other site available. Site 2 was large, deep, private, and level. Its only drawback — full shade. This meant we never got much sun to our solar panels, and even in the middle of the day with a cloudless sky, it was always dark in the Airstream. Small sacrifices to make for such a great site in such a great location. There are a few sites with a decent amount of sun to be found in each of the loops, but they all seemed to be reservable sites. Also, any of the sites with views of Lake Superior (this campground sits right on the cliff overlooking the lake) were also reservation only. However, those sites seemed to be quite a bit colder due to the wind off of the lake, and it was already pretty cold during our stay.
We didn’t realize it when we were there, but right before the campground sits the Bay Furnace Historic Site, which contains the ruins of a historic blast furnace that is the only thing remaining of an iron-making settlement called Onota that was destroyed by a fire in 1877. Apparently there’s a short trail around the furnace with informative signs.
Mixture of Reservable and First Come, First Served Sites
Firewood for Sale from Camphosts
Day-Use Picnic Area
After getting settled into our site, we drove about 25 minutes to the Miners Falls Trail. At 50 feet tall, Miners Falls is the park’s most powerful waterfall. The trail is about 1.2 miles roundtrip and has 140 feet of elevation gain. It’s an easy, popular hike that allows dogs, but when we went at about 3:30, there were few people. The trail is wide and well defined, but does involve some stairs towards the end in order to get down to the falls.
After the Miners Falls hike, we drove over to Miners Castle Overlook, which is the most popular spot in the park. However, at 4pm on a mid-September Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t overly congested, and pretty much everyone was wearing a mask. There are three different easily-accessible overlooks giving three different viewpoints of Miners Castle, which is probably the most iconic landmark at Pictured Rocks.
From there, we headed over to Miners Beach to get an up close look at the vibrant turquoise water. Miners Beach is about a mile long and reminded us so much of a Pacific Ocean beach!
On day 2 of our Pictured Rocks visit, we did the Chapel Loop hike. Many places list this hike as 10.1 miles, but pretty much every review agrees with our assessment — it’s longer than that. We clocked almost 11.5 miles roundtrip with over 830 feet of elevation gain. The full loop took us past Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, Chapel Beach and continued along the Pictured Rocks cliffs to Mosquito River and Beach, then past Mosquito Falls as we made our way back to the parking lot. It’s not a difficult trail, per say, just long. While it is a loop trail, there are a number of trails that branch off of the main trail to get to various overlooks, waterfalls, and campgrounds, and some times it’s not completely clear which way is the right way. We hit the trailhead a little after 8am on a Friday morning and there were only about 7 or 8 vehicles in the parking lot. However, when we left the parking lot around 1:30pm, the parking lot was full and there were cars at least a mile down the road. Speaking of the road, it was a really rough drive in. We were impressed that a paved road was both washboard and riddled with potholes — a feat we had never seen achieved before. When we left the parking lot after the hike, it was apparent someone had come in with many truckloads of gravel and fixed the road a decent amount while we were hiking. As a matter of fact, towards the end of the road, we ended up right behind the gravel trucks. I’m not sure if the road is always terrible and has to be repaired often, or if we caught the last day of it being crappy right before they fixed it.
Our assessment of this trail is that while there are beautiful views for about five miles of it, most of the trail is just a hike through the forest. Don’t me wrong, we love ourselves some forest hikes, but not 6.5 miles worth on an 11.5-mile hike. We went counter clockwise, which seems to be the way most people go, which means you run into few people if you do the entire loop. Some people seem to take the trail as far as Chapel Rock and then turn around, which is about seven miles roundtrip. If you take the loop in a clockwise direction, you deal with most of the elevation gain right away. We had high expectations of this trail because of how much people gushed about it on AllTrails, some even stating it’s the best trail they’ve hiked east of the Mississippi. After that kind of build up, we were disappointed, but most likely because we’ve had the opportunity to hike some amazing trails throughout the country with jaw dropping views and wildlife experiences.
After the hike, per recommendation from another RVer, we stopped by Muldoons to pick up some pasties (pronounced past-ee as opposed to paste-ee). Pasties are an Upper Peninsula thing and are basically a handheld meat or vegetable pie. According to the Muldoons website:
In approximately 1864, Finnish immigrants, along with Cornish miners, came to find work in the “Copper Country” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pasties were the perfect, hardy meal for the miners. Their wives were able to use the potatoes and meat from leftovers, and envelope them in a crust which could be placed in the miners’ pockets in the morning, and they would still be warm at lunchtime. Pasties came to be known as a “one-handed meal.” The miners, with their dirty hands, could hold on with one hand and eat their way through the pasty, leaving only a small crust left over. To this day, pasties remain a staple food and tradition for many Upper Peninsula families.
We also picked up a box of delicious home-made fudge for dessert!
Another way to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is by boat through Pictured Rocks Cruises. Missy isn’t big on boats, especially boats on water as rough as Lake Superior was when we visited, so we opted to explore the area by land instead. There are definitely more hikes and waterfalls and shops and restaurants to experience in this area, but we feel we got a good feel for the beauty and serenity of Pictured Rocks. We 100% would visit again and would definitely try to stay at Bay Furnace Campground again.
After spending eight nights at the fairgrounds in our hometown, we were ready to stay somewhere a little more rural with a lot more space. As we made our way from our week-long stay in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we spent two nights at North Bay Shore County Park. This lovely little park is in Northeastern Wisconsin on the shore of Green Bay, about halfway between Oconto and Peshtigo. North Bay Shore is less than 25 minutes from the state border cities of Marinette, Wisconsin and Menominee, Michigan, and a little more than 2.5 hours from our next destination — Bay Furnace Campground in Munising, Michigan by Pictured Rocks.
Sometimes we get dazzled when we pull into a new campground/RV park. This was one of those times. This campground is small with 34 large, spread-out sites and is very well cared for. While the sites on the inner part of the loop are a little difficult to get into due to the placement of the site number signs, all of the sites are deep and seem to be level. A handful of sites back up to the bay and all sites have nice tree cover, with leaves that were starting to turn as we moved into autumn. Some sites appear to be tent sites, but still offer electricity. The RV sites have water and electric, and there’s a dump station available. The park also offers a boat launch and a nice jetty from which to fish. The nightly rate for this campground is $30, but they offer a midweek special August to October of $15 Monday through Wednesday. We happened to stay on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, so we only paid $30 (plus $5 reservation fee) for our two-night stay.
Camp Host (Referred to as ‘Caretaker’ – Seemed to Be MIA During Our Stay)
There isn’t a whole lot happening in the immediate vicinity, be we did check out Copper Culture State Park, which was a short drive from the campground. The park is a small historic park that contains an ancient burial ground used by the Old Copper Complex Culture of early Native Americans during the Copper Age. There’s a small museum onsite which was closed when we visited, but we did walk the grounds along a short trail that winds through fields of wildflowers.
This was a perfect and peaceful two-night stopover and we would definitely stay at North Bay Shore Park again!
We rolled into our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on September 7 and spent eight nights at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds are nothing fancy, but are in a good location, have full hookups, and are only $25/night. The sites are all back in, narrow, and have the hookups in weird locations. There’s a camp host onsite that pops out of his trailer the moment you pull in in case you don’t happen to know your site number. Both the electric box and the sewer connection are locked up when not in use, so his other job seems to be to lock and unlock the utilities.
The entire fairgrounds complex consists of the fairgrounds itself, including a grandstand (more about that later); a large park area with swing sets, slides, and other playground equipment; and the Fairgrounds Family Aquatic Center, which is an outdoor pool complex with water slides and a concession stand. Our stay during the week was very quiet; however, the weekend not so much. As I mentioned earlier, the sites here are very narrow. We were barely able to fit our truck next to our Airstream without infringing on our neighbor’s space. The sites are also laid out in such a manner that there are two rows of sites that back up to each other, with a fence (where the hookups are located) in between. A number of RVs rolled in on Friday morning and didn’t leave until late Sunday. At first we thought they were there because of the hockey tournament that seemed to be taking place at the ice center next door, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Then we figured maybe they were there to take part in the tractor pull scheduled at the grandstand for Sunday — yes, a tractor pull — but that wasn’t the case either. They just seemed to be locals camping. At a fairgrounds. In the rain. In really tight spots. We couldn’t understand how staying at the fairgrounds was a good time, but to each their own! They also took advantage of the fact that there is no quiet time listed on the very brief list of rules. The tractor pull on Sunday was a good six hours of tractor noises and air heavy with diesel fumes, as well as a stand full of mask-less spectators. So, we give two thumbs up for the fairgrounds if staying during the week, but two thumbs down due to the loud, crowded weekend.
There are three options in the immediate area for places to stay with an RV. The fairgrounds, Columbia Park, and Breezy Hill. Just like the fairgrounds, Columbia Park is owned and operated by the Fond du Lac County Parks and Fairgrounds Department, and you can make reservations through their website or over the phone. Unlike the fairgrounds, Columbia Park is water and electric only, but does have a bathhouse and dump station. As the park is a bit outside of the city, the sites are more spacious with a more natural park setting. Columbia Park itself is located on the shore of Lake Winnebago and also offers a boat launch. We had originally reserved part of our time in Fond du Lac at Columbia Park, but instead decided to stay put at the fairgrounds where we were closer to family and had full hookups. The woman from the Parks Department that helped us switch our reservation around over the phone was very helpful both when we changed to staying at the fairgrounds for the duration and when I initially made the reservation and there was a billing issue. We stayed at the third option, Breezy Hill, during our visit to Fond du Lac in 2018. You can read about that here.
After our fourth day of driving, we spent the night at Garvin Heights Vineyard, a Harvest Hosts location. If you are unfamiliar with Harvest Hosts, you can visit their website here. The gist is that for one low annual membership fee, you get access to over 1,250 locations throughout the country that allow you to spend the night in your RV on their property for free. These locations can include wineries, breweries, farms, museums, etc. You are expected to purchase something from the host, and at this particular stay, we bought a bottle of wine and pack of cheese curds. If you use this link, you’ll receive 15% off.
Garvin Heights is a small property, and the parking provided to us was in their (also small) parking lot. Thankfully when we arrived, there were not a lot of cars parked in the lot and we were able to back in to our designated spot without issue. The winery is only open a handful of hours each day from Thursday to Sunday (we stayed on a Sunday), but received quite a few visitors while we were there. As we are still being diligent about our social distancing, we opted out of doing any wine tasting, and instead just picked a bottle of their Great River Rouge for purchase. The winery closed at 5pm, and from that point on, it was a VERY quiet evening. We had hoped to utilize more Harvest Hosts for the previous few nights, but Sunday was the first day it wasn’t crazy hot and the evening into overnight temps were comfortable. We spent the night with the windows open to thoroughly enjoy the crisp air and all of the chirping and buzzing of the various insects and creatures that make this area home. It was one of the best nights of sleep either of us had experienced in a long time!
After getting settled in at the winery, we drove around Winona a little bit. We found our way to Garvin Heights City Park, which offers fantastic views of the city, Mississippi River and Buffalo, Wisconsin. The city is super cute and in any other time (sans pandemic, that is), we would have done a little more exploring. Instead, we headed back to the Airstream to enjoy some wine and play Scrabble.