=Since we started camping in 2012, we've camped exclusively at Michigan state park campgrounds. For the most part, we've found a good rotation of campgrounds that meet our needs. These include electrical hookup, within 4-5 hours of home, and a nice beach, especially for our week long trips. We typically do two week long trips per summer. For the past few years, we've stayed at the same two campgrounds for those trips. This year we thought it might be time for a camping trip to mix it up a bit.
Our Old Favorites
One of our campgrounds was Ludington State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It's one of the most popular campgrounds, as it has access to Lake Michigan as well as an inland beach, lots of biking and hiking trails, and a pretty nice town nearby if you don't mind the 15 minute trip each way. I've always had a love/hate relationship with it as it's pretty far away, it's where our awning blew apart in a windstorm on one of our first trips, and we've always had bad luck getting sites, even though we're online trying to book at 8:00:01 in the morning six months in advance of our reservation.
Still, everybody loved it until last year when we went and happened to stay during the one week of the year where the high temp rarely crossed 65. Of course the campground had nothing to do with the weather, but we agreed that it might be a good opportunity for a reset.
So this year, we decided to stay at a new (to us) campground, Burt Lake State Park. It's about a four hour straight shot north of us, and it was definitely a great experience, though there were as always highs and lows. Here are a few thoughts:
First Impressions Aren't Everything
We actually stayed at a different campground about 45 minutes away earlier in the year, so we decided to go check it out. We even went to our sites. At the time, they didn't look so big and we thought that we'd be squeezed in, but actually they turned out to be very nice sites and we had plenty of room.
Rules are sometimes suggestions
One thing we've learned is that while the rules are pretty much the same across all state campgrounds (how many cars you can have on your site, quiet hours, etc.) , at some parks they seem to be suggestions. We saw sites that had more than the normal two cars allowed per site. We saw quite a number of sites with RVs that were larger than the stated limit. There were cars parked where they probably shouldn't have been parked. Most were little infractions, but when we started noticing how many there were, it became alarming.
There goes the neighborhood (Part I)
When we first arrived, the neighbors right next to us were this older couple, probably in their 80's, in a small pop-up that they actually towed with their car. They were so cute as they sat in a screen tent passing time by reading or playing cards. When they left on the third day of our trip, we said goodbye. Later in the day, this massive 45-foot motor home drives by and my mother-in-law joked that it was probably our new neighbor. Except it was no joke. They squeezed onto a site that we later looked up that was supposed to hold no more than a 30-foot long motor home or RV. Our fire pit was on the corner of our site, so we had this wall right next to us.
To make matters worse, when I was sitting with my back to their motor home, I suddenly noticed a rather offensive odor. Turns out they had no sewer cap and hadn't done a very good job rinsing out the drain line. Disgusting.
There goes the neighborhood (Part II)
They finally left on our last full day, so we waited to see who would arrive. We joked that it couldn't possibly get any worse. Well, turns out that it's time stop making jokes. This time a 40-foot trailer showed up. Behind the trailer was a small trailer holding two jet-skis. Behind that was a pickup truck towing a 25-foot boat. Somehow, they squeezed all this in. When a ranger happened to drive by and we pointed it out, they basically told us that they couldn't do anything about it. Weird, because at other parks rules are…..enforced.
My big mouth and bad eyes
One day after the kids went to bed, my wife and I went for a stroll. We always enjoy looking at other sites and seeing how people setup camp to enjoy their time. We walked by one site that had a nice big food tent, with five bulb lights hanging that were incredibly bright. I started cracking jokes about how they could see the site from space, and even went on about how they were getting ready to host a ‘Hootenanny' later that night. My wife was cracking up so much that she couldn't tell me that a lady was sitting at the corner of their nearby camper, and she didn't look very amused. Oops. Well they do say it's harder to see around dusk!
The importance of a checklist
Around the middle of the week, a family across the way was packing up to go, and we noted how they did a great job with everybody helping. All seemed well as they were pulling away until the unmistakable crack of something going terribly wrong could be heard.
They only went a few feet and came to a quick stop, but the damage had been done. They had put up their TV antenna, and forgotten to put it down. The antenna went straight into a tree branch. It was all bent up and pulled sideways. We have a checklist that I use every time when setting up, and a different one every time we're tearing down. We've been doing it long enough that we don't follow it step by step, but I do make sure to verify every single item on the list before going into motion. I'm really glad I do!
Lighters, kindling, and darkness don't mix
On our last night, we didn't get a fire going until after it was dark. My father-in-law was getting it started and was looking for the lighter, which we keep in the kindling bag. He couldn't find it and went and got another one. We had switched fire pits (because of the huge load of equipment as noted above) so we figured it had probably fallen out around the other pit, and that we'd find it in the morning.
About 15 minutes after the fire stared, a sudden whoosh told us otherwise. The lighter had mixed in with the kindling, and…became kindling. Luckily, they don't put very much fluid in those things.
A Great Camping Trip At A New Park
All in all, we had a great time. The weather was about near perfect. It only rained one day. This, of course, happened to be the day that we had a previously booked boat rental. Still, we still ended up having a great time. The rest of the week was hot and sunny, so we gobbled up lots of beach time. It's always fun finding a new place and having a great family trip.
Readers, how have your summer trips gone this year?