Now that we are finally in Michigan for the rest of the summer, we can once again slow down in our travels between stops, so the trip from Grand Rapids to Ludington was less than 100 miles. Nearly all of the trip was along I-96 and US 31 which is a 4 lane highway, so it went pretty easy, especially with a stop at the rest stop on the interstate. We made it to our new campground outside of Ludington, Kibby Creek Campground. This is a highly commercial campground of moderate size near Lake Michigan with all the amenities and very little room for the campers. All of the sites were back-in sites and it was obvious that we were going to have a problem getting our RV into the site with the trees on both sides and a big boat parked just across from our site. Once again I am thankful that we travel on Mondays since there was nobody staying in the site directly behind ours. By moving a picnic table we were able to pull through this site into ours without having to deal with the boat in the way to the front. Therefore, we got into our site very easily and got hooked up with no issues, even though the water hookup was just within range for a single hose. We would be sharing the hookup with two other sites before the week was over. The bathrooms were especially noteworthy, as they had been renovated only a year ago. There were two adjoining bathrooms for both men and women and they were designed to appeal to different age groups. One bathroom was painted in garish colors, obviously for kids, and the other was wood paneled in subdued colors with very nice fixtures, obviously for the adults. After trying out the garish colors once, I was convinced to only visit the more subdued bathroom!
We choose this location to once again be near Lake Michigan, so on Tuesday it was time to seek out one of the many Michigan state parks along Lake Michigan. Thankfully, Ludington State Park was very close and it turns out it is one of the top rated parks in the state. When we arrived at 10 in the morning it was obvious why it obtained this rating. It is located on the shore of Lake Michigan which there is a nice beach area, but it also includes Hamlin Lake which has a long history. Back in the mid-1800s, this was the site of the small lumber town, Hamlin which was named after Lincoln’s Vice-President. In 1852, Charles Mears dammed up the Big Sable River and dug a new channel into Lake Michigan. The dam provided power for a shingle mill at the dam, a holding pond for logs, and a sawmill at the entrance to Lake Michigan. He built the small town of Hamlin to support these operations. In 1888 the dam broke and much of the town was lost. The dam was rebuilt, however, in 1912 it once again collapsed taking out the rest of the town. By this point, the lumber industry had died out so there was no need to rebuild the dam. However, in 1914 a new concrete dam was constructed to support the resort industry that had sprung up around the lake. Today the dam is the centerpiece of Ludington State Park and is where we started our exploration of the park. After taking a look at the dam, we proceeded along a nice paved hiking trail that runs along the Sable River below the dam. We did attempt to climb one of the sand dunes at the dam to get a view of Lake Michigan only to be disappointed as we were still at least two dunes away from the lake. The climb up the dune was grueling enough to convince us we were not going to do that again, although a lot of visitors do. Instead we proceeded down the paved trail along the river watching all the other visitors enjoying a lazy float on the water. After about a half mile we came to the beginning of their Skyline Trail which was originally constructed by the CCC back in the 1930s, but has obviously been rebuilt since then. It begins with a long series of wooden stairs to climb up the a wooden boardwalk along the top of the dune. After thinking seriously about the climb, I convinced Kal to give it a shot and we made the climb up over 100 steps to the top of the dune. Thankfully, the wooden boardwalk not only made walking much easier then the deep sands, but it also protected the dune. From the top of the dunes we did get some great views of the surrounding dune complex and Lake Michigan as well. The trail then descends back down to the river where we continued our hike back around to our truck. The views certainly made it worthwhile to make the climb! We then had a nice leisurely lunch at the Hamlin Lake beach area before heading back to the campground for the afternoon. It was good that we arrived at 10 in the morning, since by 2 in the afternoon the cars were lined up for a couple of miles trying to enter the park. I assume a lot of the holdup was due to the lack of any parking until someone, such as ourselves, left for the day. It is a VERY popular state park, even during the middle of the week.
After the strenuous climbs on Tuesday, we were looking for something more sedate for Wednesday and choose to check out the White Pine Village. We had seen signs for it on our drive into Ludington the day before and Kal had checked it out on the internet. It is a private “pioneer” village that captures the history of Macon County. What we found was a real jewel!! White Pine Village consists of some 30 buildings, most of which they have moved to this location to create the village. Some of these are what you would expect, that is, a home, a barn, and a blacksmith. This being a village, you would also expect a schoolhouse, a church, and a general store, all of which are included. What I did not expect was the County Courthouse, since this was the original county seat, a fire house, hardware store, post office, doctors office, print shop, and an operating sawmill. There was also a “luxury” cabin from the days when Hamlin Lake was a resort, a trappers cabin, and a sugar shack. As you expect all of these were filled to capacity with artifacts along with interpretive signs and labels everywhere. However, in addition, there were a number of small museums devoted to different topics. This included a lumberman museum with all the tools of the trade; a lumbering museum about the lumber camps when lumber was king; a music museum about local bands; an Artisan Center for weaving, sewing, and quilting; a Time museum full of clocks of all kinds and information about the local watch making industry; and the Rose Hawley Museum that covered just about everything else that has happened in the county. I especially liked the extensive exhibits in the Jorrisen Barn that covered the history of agriculture from horses to modern equipment and also included a section on the dairy industry. I learned a lot about the operation of a dairy farm that I did not know. I also liked the sugar shack where I learned all about the making of maple syrup from collecting the sap to boiling down the syrup. I was especially interested in one technique used by the Indians. Instead of boiling the sap to remove the water, they would allow it to freeze overnight removing the ice in the morning. While this would not remove enough water to make actual syrup, it would concentrate the sugars enough for a lot of purposes. Of course, I also enjoyed looking at the small sawmill, which until recently they had powered with an old tractor. When it finally broke down a few years ago, they replaced it with a diesel engine. When we arrived we had thought we might spend an hour looking through the various buildings, however, we spent nearly 4 hours in the village. Since we were so close to the campground (less than 10 miles) we opted to return for a very late lunch instead of seeking out a picnic area.
Thursday had a “chance” of rain so we decided to check out the casino in Manistee, the Little River Casino. Like all the other casinos in the state, this is owned and operated by a local Indian tribe and was a very nice facility. While not as large as other casinos in the state, the Little River Casino had all we wanted. There were over 1400 slot machines, many of which could be played for $0.30 or less. We had a very enjoyable couple of hours at the casino and managed to lose only about $40. We then ate lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to the campground.
Friday proved to be another beautiful day, although a bit hotter getting up into the mid-80s. We had been enjoying the weather the last couple of days when it did not get out the 70s. Kal was not really interested in doing anything, so I decided to check out a disc golf course we had driven by on our way to the Ludington State Park. It was only about a 15 minute drive to the course. Unfortunately, I got a late start in the morning as it was already past 11 when I left and the course winds through a dense forest, which means there was no air movement. As the temperatures climb into the upper 80s during the early afternoon, I began to suffer. The course itself is well maintained, but heavily wooded. This meant there were a lot of trees to hit and I spent the entire afternoon doing just that. In addition, the distance between holes was sometimes as much as a quarter mile, which meant there was a lot of hiking as well. By the time I got to the back 9, I was having to stop at just about every hole to rest my hip, which was giving me fits. My best shot of the day came on the last hole which had an open fairway, of which there only a couple on the entire course, of about 250 feet before a group of trees. My shot was flat and straight and went around 250 feet, which for me is great off the tee. However, as my entire day went, the shot was directly at the group of trees in the middle of the fairway and landed just behind them giving me no clear shot at the pin!! I believe for the entire afternoon I managed to get par on maybe 3 holes. NOT a good day for disc golf, but a lovely afternoon hiking through the Michigan forest.
The weekend was spent doing laundry, cleaning the RV, working on this blog, and generally being lazy around the campsite. Except for Kal traveling into town to fill up the truck with diesel, we did not leave the campgrounds. Rather we watched all the kids with their families have a great time camping out!! Not a bad life, ha ha.