joanna irl

Birthday Camping Weekend in the UP

I’m a month late posting about it, but for my birthday last month, we went camping in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and got an early taste of fall that was so much fun.

We camped in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is home to the second biggest freshwater waterfall to the east of the Mississippi River (the biggest, of course, being Niagara). Our site was near the Lower Falls, and when the breeze was still we could hear the waterfall in our tent at night.

There is a nice hike between the Upper and Lower Falls, but there are also parking lots and short trails with access points and overlooks if you don’t want to hike the 5ish miles (or, as is the case with our visit, if it’s been raining and the trail is too muddy to deal with).

The leaves were just coming into the start of their peak, and the ones around the waterfalls were mostly golden with a few shots of red thrown in. The roads between the UP towns had more autumn color, and I kept stopping the car to take photos.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is also home to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, which is located inside the park. They’ve got a restaurant and shop, and you can sit outside on their huge porch in rocking chairs surrounding a cozy open-air fireplace while waiting to be seated.

One of the days we were there, we visited Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The Shipwreck Museum has artifacts from about a dozen shipwrecks from Lake Superior, and stories about what brought the various vessels down.

You can also visit the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s quarters, learn about the history of lifesaving efforts on the point, and walk along the beach.

The museum’s signature piece is, of course, the bell of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, from the 1975 shipwreck immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot (which plays nearly on a loop in some parts of the museum). The bell was brought to the surface in 1995, and serves as a memorial for the men who were lost.

The other highlight of the trip for me was a visit to Deer Ranch in St. Ignace. Not only is St. Ignace a quaint, adorable fishing village with plenty of shops and restaurants (and Mackinac Island Fudge to boot), but it’s home to the oldest white-tail deer ranch in the US. For just $5 you can visit the deer, and for $1 more you can get a cup of food (we had carrots and apples).

When you walk through the ranch, there are barns and runs for the fawns, a huge yard for the older does, and then several wooded lots in the back for the adult resident deer, including some leucistic (white morph) deer! Since they are hand-reared, they are pretty comfortable with humans, and many of them enjoyed having their ears and backs petted. (I made so many deer friends!)

And of course there were meals in little local breakfast places and bakeries and cooking on the campfire and all the usual things that make camping so fun. We’ve enjoyed escaping to Michigan, and particularly the UP, during our time in Chicago. While I’m looking forward to getting back to the west coast, the north in summer and fall is quite nice.

joanna irl

Australia 2014: Heading south in Western Australia

Australia, WA open road

Welcome back for another installment of the Great Australia Travelogue of 2014! For the next leg of our journey, we packed up our friends’ SUV and headed onto the open road, south through WA and toward the coast and countryside.

Continue reading “Australia 2014: Heading south in Western Australia”

joanna irl

Trailer park fun and vintage things older than me: Joshua Tree camping trip

Joshua Tree camping trailers

I apologize for the break in daily posting. Last week J and I went camping (of a sort) with some friends in the Joshua Tree National Park area. We stayed in an artists’ retreat, of the sort that values their privacy (and so doesn’t give out an address, just directions a few days before you arrive) but with enough fun and random things to do to make it a really fun getaway.

Joshua Tree camping our trailer

The property has several themed trailers, from one based on a wig shop in New Orleans, to one that’s like stepping back into the 1970s (which is where we stayed). It came outfitted with everything from an 8 track to a color changing speaker system to a plug in fireplace. We had a good time just exploring the place, but they also offer activities.

Joshua Tree camping archery

There is a small BB gun and archery range, a place to play corn hole, a rooftop Jacuzzi, a saltwater swimming pool, ping pong, a place to grill out, and a tepee with a fire circle inside so you can roast marshmallows for s’mores. The setup contributed to such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that everyone staying there the night we were hung out around the fire, chatting and getting to know each other. They ranged from musicians to engineers, photographers to physicists, and it was fun to sit in the middle of such varied conversations.

Joshua Tree camping 70s trailer

The stars were gorgeous (though hard to photograph) and we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, though it was possibly made more orange by the fact that our trailer practically glowed with the light of the 1970s.

More photos (plus some from the following day) are in this album.