Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ohio Aug 2015 Maumee Bay State Park Oregon OH and Lake Erie

The drive to Maumee Bay State Park from Van Buren was almost a direct northerly route.  The Van Buren State Park manager had told us that he'd driven the road "too many times to count" as recently as the past week and gave us very simple directions which we followed to the letter.  We were looking forward to getting back to being near water and as soon as we found our site and set up, Don set off to explore on his bike.  Later on he convinced me to take a ride and I, in my quest to put my feet in all 5 Great Lakes (I'd been in Superior in 1981 and Ontario in 2009,) began to question it when I saw Lake Erie.  There is a swimming area at the park but it did not look really tempting but that may have been the presence of smokestacks across the lake and a few UFOs (unidentified floating objects) in the water.  But I soldiered on and was brave and walked into the lake.  I have neither died nor suffered from any type of pollutionitis which I DID get swimming in CT in 1970 so all is good.
Don had not gone to the nature preserve the day before so we rode over there and found that it was closed.

Our plans were to spend some time in Toledo, both for "city time" as well as because some of his family had moved there from Findlay and his uncle had written about it during a visit to them when he was 10 (1930.) However, first we wanted to explore more of the park.  The weather was beautiful and we were more and more finding how lucky we'd been with the weather since we set out 4 months before.  While the Atlantic states were sweltering in June, we were in ME with blissful temperatures.  The only hot days we'd encountered had been back in Ulster Park and we'd dealt with them by getting some pool time each afternoon.  So, late morning on the second day we rode over to the nature center to find the visitor center closed for lunch.  We decided to do the walk through and then come back to visit.  OK, I tend to judge how pretty and/or interesting I find a place by how often I find myself lifting my camera for a photo.  I might as well have installed a head mount in the preserve.  There were mushrooms, and frogs, and birds and flowers and a seldom sighted turtle and oh yes, dragonflies.  And there were areas of intense vegetation that provided shade and the calls of all sorts of different birds and then huge open areas of marshlands and all were replete with wildlife.  We didn't get to see a fox, since it was day time, but one had left some scat on the boardwalk.  We took several hours with Phoenix trooping happily along and then toured the visitor center upon our return.  

A Blanding Turtle-a rare sighting

I told him to smile for the camera-I can't see if he did but he looked right at it

I asked this one to stay in place so I could grab a pic-and he did

Fun in the mud

Do you see the frog?


 Of course, I would need to do laundry and groceries so I set off to the town of Oregon the following day while Don explored some more at the park and spent time reading.  While there I saw a place for haircuts that we both needed so we decided we'd go back the next day on the way to Toledo.

Well, that nice weather we'd been having changed and the next day was rainy and cloudy but we drove into town for our haircuts.  Mistake.  Since getting on the road I have become re-enamored with Supercuts where I can get a quick (15-20 minute) haircut for $14 (old fart rate.)  I had not had a bad one yet and though this place was not Supercuts it was built on the same business model.  Perhaps it was the fact that my cutter was young, pregnant for the first time, tired and shall I say, grumpy, but my instructions to start with 1/2 to 3/4 inch and then I'd see if I wanted more off were quite literally ignored and she lopped off a good inch with the first cut.  From there it was all downhill and I sat that remembering that hair grows back and that we all have bad days.  Her mood improved as I chatted away and she admitted how knackered she is all the time but I was sorely tempted to complain.  Then I figured that leaving a very small tip would say what I wanted to say and not risk her losing a job she could ill afford to lose.  However, Don was also disappointed with his cut and has not (as of the end of December as I write this, had another.) Both of us had VERY short hair and that combined with the weather made us decide that we really didn't want to go into town after all and would rather simply go back and relax.  That means clean and fiddle with the MoHo too, so that is what we did.
We thought maybe we'd stop on the way through the next day on our way to MI...

Cadbury dreaming of being a hunter

What I suspect he thinks he'd hunt...if he could

This guy visited every morning

On the way to town

Michigan Aug 2015 Silver Lakes State Park Mears MI, Lake Michigan and a Dune Buggy ride after going through Hell! From Aug 2015

We left Bruin Lake, went through Hell and then drove northwest across lower Michigan.  Our route took us past Grand Rapids where we'd hoped to stop to see a friend but she was recovering from surgery so we continued along to Silver Lakes State Park in Mears.  

Silver Lakes is known for its dunes and there are 3 parts: one area is reserved for commercial dune buggy rides (which we thought we would not do and then decided we would and had a great experience); one area is reserved for non-vehicular (i.e people on foot) traffic and the third is for personal ORV (off road vehicles) which abounded in the campground and gave the morning and late afternoon hours a constant rumble broom-broom-broom quality to them.  

We also had neighbors closer than at other parks and were thrilled that on either side they were families with small children.  The 3 boys on one side and the 4 girls on the other were completely taken with both Cadbury and Phoenix and for 2 days we had a constant stream of volunteer dog walkers.  Cadbury was a little leery of the constant attention but certainly gave no indication he would prefer to be left alone.  Phoenix happily padded along with her new friends, with only an occasional backward glance to be sure I was still nearby.  

Because she was not yet comfortable being alone in the coach she came with us the second day, the only full day we'd be there, when we drove over to Mac Woods Dune Rides and stayed in the car in the shade under a huge tree while we went for a throughly thrilling ride on the dunes.  Acres and acres of them! Our guide was funny and informative and since I was riding shotgun I got to take all sorts of pictures.  One of the interesting facts we learned was about fulgurite which is the compound formed when lightning strikes the sand and fuses it, creating hollow tubes.

After the ride we drove over to Little Sable Light and went swimming in Lake Michigan.  What a weird feeling it was to look at crystal clear, aqua water-just like the Caribbean at home on St Croix-but enter the water and not taste or feel a lick of salt!!!  The day was warm and the water was actually not cold and we swam around for awhile before we went back to the campground to cook dinner and while I prepared it,  Don walked down to take pictures of the sunset over the lake.  . 

The mornings were punctured with the sounds of all the campers with ORV revving their engines and preparing for a day on the dunes, so it was nice when they were all gone and quiet reigned.  The girls in the camper next to us are home schooled and presented me with wonderful pictures they had colored the day they left.

Our VERY short haircuts that we got in Oregon, OH


In Lake Michigan
Little Sable Light

Sunset over Silver Lake
Watermelon on a hot summer day-NOTHING like it

Michigan Aug 2015 Bruin Lake State Park, Pinkney MI from Aug 2015

Oh how we wished we had not stayed the extra day in Maumee Bay and had planned to stay longer here.  Bruin Lake was for us what a campground should be like in so many ways.  We arrived there after deciding not to stop in Toledo and deal with the road repairs and crazy traffic.  We stopped on Rte 23 when we got to MI and I immediately fell in love with their welcome center.  Organized by region, clean, with a beautiful area outside for walking the pets and picnicking I was in brochure heaven!  The woman working there could not have been more helpful and I spent at least 15 minutes telling her what we planned as she gave me suggestions and brochures.  One of my favorites though was something from the MIDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) that was a map of all planned road repairs for 2015, where they were, when they were scheduled to start and end.  Such a simple idea and it makes planning ever so much easier.  We do, of course, use the GPS, but we had not yet updated it and even then it does not know about road repairs.  Just wonderful! The only thing we did not like was that in addition to camping fees MI also charges a recreation fee for the year.  That is not too bad, as it is $35 BUT there is a charge for each vehicle and the daily charge for our car would be an additional $6 per campground.  Luckily, you can also just get another recreation tag and with our reservations at 7 different parks it made more sense to spring for that and not have to hassle with getting a new tag at each place as well as paying more.  It is interesting how the different states handle fees though, for as we would find in IA, some state parks charge next to nothing, provide the same or better amenities and don't have other costs tacked on.  Moving from state to state and using the state parks highlights once again how different the states can be.  Then again, it also varies from county to county within a state and a good or bad state park in one area does not mean for a moment that they are all the same.

The drive up was beautiful, once we got past Toledo, as we passed farmland and old barns and as we drove into Bruin Lake we were surrounded by towering pines and their glorious scent.  Our site was across the street from the lakeside sites but private with lots of room.  The lake was a short walk down the hill and there were trails around the campground.  Because we would only be there for a night we didn't do anything other than walking and riding around but one of the best parts was listening to the kids.  The park was filled with kids of all ages and all of them seemed to have bikes.  The sounds of children's voices and laughter as they met and played together, into the early evening as darkness fell and then the smell of campfires and roasting marshmallows was just wonderful.  To top everything off, the showers (about which I am extremely picky) were perfect!  Copious amounts of luscious hot water with nice strong pressure and I was in heaven.  I only take a 5 minute shower at the longest but it felt very luxurious.

 After months of beautiful nature and the occasional town or city, driving over Toledo reminded us about industry

But soon again our way was marked by long, tree lined routes

 the occasional farm

and Lakes.

It was there and looking at the maps and brochures that we saw that the town of Hell was on our way to Silver Lakes and there wasn't a chance we would not take the opportunity to go through Hell.

Click on the link to take you to our
Next Stop: Silver Lakes State Park Mears MI and a Dune Buggy ride after going through Hell!

Previous Stop: Maumee Bay State Park, Oregon, OH

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