Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Early Morning Campsite Grab

Thursday June 5, 2014
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire, Michigan


First, I want to answer some questions from past blogs.  Several people asked how we are liking the solar.  So far everything seems to be working or at least no problems are evident but we haven’t really had to use it since we have shore power.  So a real report will be coming up when we get into the UP and are boondocking.

You also asked about my toes.  What I have does not seem to be plantar fasciitis.  I have no problem at all when I wear shoes only when I am barefoot which is a real handicap for me since I hate wearing shoes and have been a barefoot girl all my life.  A few days of Aleve and wearing shoes even in the house….SIGH…seem to have knocked it out.  I haven’t noticed it in the past week or so.

David did get a lab appointment in Marquette for a couple of weeks from now when we are in the UP.   It’s a bit of a drive but that’s ok.

You guys are just the best to be so concerned about us.  


We’re living recklessly.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is next on our list of places to visit.  Problem: Four months ago when we decided to scrap our trip west for a Pennsylvania Solar install and then take on the Great Lakes for summer, there were no spots available at the National Seashore campground.   I’ve been checking back ever since and could only get Monday through Thursday.  No week-ends.   But we want to stay at least 6 nights.


So earlier in the week, we call them.  They have a no reservations campground D.H. Day but it is primarily for tents although she “thought” we could probably get in there.   Well that didn’t sound so good sight unseen.  Several helpful commenters suggest local campgrounds but before we call them, we call the Platte River campground just to see about walk ins.   Yes they have walk ins and you can stay up to two weeks if you get one but they won’t know if they have one available until they open at 8:00 on the day you want it and it’s best to be first in line.


Well OK then.



I get up at 5:30 this morning.   Ruby and I leave at 6am and buzz the 90 miles over Route 72, through Traverse City to Empire and south on Route 22.  David finishes packing up Winnona and follows after us.  If I can’t get a site in Platte, we’ll  look at D.H. Day and if that’s a no go, we’ll check out the much further away private campgrounds.  

Arriving at 7:50, I am the 2nd person in line after a guy who wants to renew his site for a few more days.  I actually have my pick of three that are large enough for Winnona and choose site 215 turns out to be great!   SWEET!!!  Problem solved.



David arrives about 11:00 and we get Winnona settled including the screened in room for mosquito defense. 

The site is very nice.  No neighbors on one side, no one directly in front of us and the other site  is distant and empty for now.  Too small for a 35’ RV though. 

The campsites are set up with a paved drive and then the picnic table is set on a pad big enough for a tent and the table. 






We relax after our hectic morning,




We have six nights here so we do some planning for what we what hiking, biking and kayaking we can fit in.  We get some dinner and decide to see about the sunset over Lake Michigan since there is a trail to the lake running behind all 4 loops of the Campground.  It’s just over a mile.  Sounds perfect





It is a lovely level trail for quite a way through a peaceful forest.
What a great hike this is and it’s right here. 



And then things change dramatically.



The trail comes out of the woods and onto the sand. That’s where the problems begin. It’s up hill which isn’t a real problem. The real problem is the mosquitoes greet us in swarms as I’m trying to take pictures of the wildflowers on the dunes as we come out of the woods.

What? I thought mosquitoes were worse in the woods. Not so here. I guess it’s cooler in the woods. It’s also dusk and perhaps that has something to do with it.

We pick up the pace. I’m not turning back now.  I’ve come far enough that I intend to see the lake mosquitoes or no.









What a beautiful late, vast and becoming covered in mist.


I am snapping pictures as fast as I can including ones of 2 loons here to greet us straight out in the water in front of us. I could have gotten stellar pictures if I could have held the camera still. But the mosquitoes are all over my hands and fingers.

Who thinks to bring gloves? How do you operate your camera with gloves?  Even my mosquito suit wouldn’t have helped me with this.   Dryer sheets in my collar have no effect at all.

But it’s gorgeous.












I hate it, we really can’t stay.




And so we learn another lesson about Michigan mosquitoes.  After 5pm you have 3 choices.  Either sit by a fire with smoke or sit in your screened room or go inside. 

Forget about any sunset pictures unless you are willing to douse yourself in 40% deet.

We practically run back to the wooded part of the path which has some but many fewer mosquitoes.

It really is a lovely trail and I’d like to walk the beach so close to us.  I think we’ll try early in the morning one day just after sunrise and see how that works.


The End


  1. Does anyone know what good mosquitos are? Do they help pollinate? This might be useful since Monsanto is doing its best to rid our planet of bees. But they carry terrible diseases and are relentless, spoiling visits, and making people miserable. I'm trying hard to "Think Positive", but coming up pretty empty.

    Virtual hugs,


  2. The lake looks very relaxing. Too bad the mosquitoes ruined it for you.

  3. The first picture of the trail is absolutely lovely. Not liking to walk in sand at all, the second wasn't all that attractive to me, and especially after you mentioned the mosquitos. I normally use Skin So Soft Bug Guard lotion, but have never been in a real infestation to try it out. Hope you survive the bugs and get to see the sights as well.

  4. You are a better person than I. Those mosquitos would have eaten me alive! I would have never lasted. Please take them with you when you go :) We will be there later this summer and I don't want to have to deal with them :) Please? :)

  5. Love the loons! The screen tent looks familiar. We just got one like it because Bill and Nancy gave it two thumbs up. Enjoy your travels.

  6. Just goes to prove the early bird gets the campsite. That is enough to get even me up that early... ;c)

    I so dislike bug repellants, I wonder what that stuff can do to me. Have you ever had any luck with the Avon Skin so Soft? Supposedly it works better than Deet and leaves your skin silky smooth.

    It must be true, I read it on the Internet. :cD

  7. We were at Sleeping Bear in July and had no mosquitoes! So maybe there is hope. We loved that area. Be sure to also see the lighthouses.

  8. What a beautiful campground and gorgeous shots of the lake and the loons -- in spite of the mosquitoes. Thanks for braving them to take photos and share with us. The voracious mosquito population makes me reluctant to travel there -- but am I understanding correctly that they're only a problem after 5:00? (Which of course is still a big problem!!) What kind of screened room do you have, and does it work well? (There is NO WAY that I would use DEET! So incredibly toxic.)

  9. We visited that area at the end of June four years ago and were amazed that there weren't any bugs at all. We sat out each night without a fire. We were in Empire and staying at Indigo Bluff RV Resort. The lake is so beautiful. Hope the day time is better for you.

  10. Like John and Pam when we visited there were no mosquitos AT ALL. I remember commenting to several different people about the lack of them and they all said it was pretty normal to have so few. I don't remember what month it was, it was pre-blog so I'd have to do some digging to find out. We stayed in Empire as well, there weren't any sites open at Platte River, we stayed at the private campground. The city run CG was a nightmare, low branches across all the sites. Thought I'd put that info out there for any one else looking to stay in the area.

    If you get into Traverse City go to the Traverse City Pie Company. BEST cherry pie ever!

  11. I just checked my old Facebook albums and we were there the last week of July in 2010. The Platte River was our first kayak ride, I'd forgotten that! Brimley and Glen Arbor were nice stops nearby as well.

  12. oooo those pesky mosquitoes!!! Love the loon pics... glad you guys found a oood spot

  13. Be sure to get a 'pasty' they were really yummy

  14. A shame about the mosquitoes. You might want to invest in a pair of liner gloves. They are thin gloves that I've been using since 2007 to operate my cameras on our polar and other cold weather travels. There are also gloves used by archivists to handle historic documents and pictures, but they aren't sized well and can be quite loose when you wear them. (I picked up my liner gloves from REI, but you can probably get them online. Aside from being good for handling cameras in really cold weather, they are nice to have for early morning outings where temps might be on the cooler side.

  15. I love your adventurous spirit in spite of the mosquitoes. The bugs were a major reason I chose to go to college in the West after living in the UP for several years.

    If you have the time, you should explore the northernmost part of the UP--the Copper Country. We rank our stay at McClain State Park in Hancock as one of the top five experiences in our three years on the road. Lake Superior is more like an ocean than a lake. So much of it is still untamed--really beautiful.

    Regarding the bugs, we used to take massive amounts of B-1 to ward them off. It definitely helped.

    1. If you do go this far north, be see to take a day trip to Copper Harbor. God's Country is an apt description of this special place.

  16. Nice site grab...we love that you're living recklessly;o)) We need to learn to do more of that!! Sorry about the skeeters, but love that screen room;{ Hope the early morning walk works better and you get some more wonderful Loon photos!!

  17. Durn mosquitoes! I like your screen room too! We've never picked one up, but a lot of the volunteers here have one. Have to tie them down well, as afternoon gusty t-storms carry them away.

  18. We didn't get to Sleeping Bear Dunes when we visited Michigan a few years ago but hope to on our next visit. The photos are lovely, although the mosquitoes not so much. Glad to see you are once again on the road.

  19. Love loon pic, we've been able to canoe with some a time or two here in VT. Hope the mosquitoes don't prohibit your enjoyment of the park, we have a screen house but haven't used it in over a year.

  20. I'm sorry the bugs chased you away from seeing the sunset over the lake. I keep hearing about the mosquitos up there and it's making me want to stay away. Remember the weekly bug spraying at Quail Run? We've only seen him once since we've been back and we're starting to need him.

    What about those disposable gloves you use for dumping the tanks? I would think you could operate a camera with them.

  21. Lucky you to get a great site as a walk-in! Woohoo! Nice mosquito tent over the table. You'll be able to eat outdoors-hooray! Nice path to the Lake until the mosquitos...! Swarms sound awful :( But, the loons are wonderful :) I love loons, especially their call :)

  22. My Thermacell arrives this week. I'll let you know how it works. The mosquitoes seem much worse than last year. I wonder why.

  23. At least you got some loon pics. Bummer about the mosquitoes.

  24. Congrats on getting a site at Platte River! There's also a road near the back of the campground loops that will take you to the beach (on bikes) . . . we went to that beach a lot because it was the only one that allowed dogs (couldn't go to the main beach).

  25. Maybe there's hope that it was just a bad mosquito day since so many posters said that they were there before with no mosquitoes. It looks like a lovely place. Have fun!

  26. It was definitely worth you getting up at the crack of dawn and bustling to the park to get that site! In the picture, Ruby looks like she's completely covered in bikes and stuff! Drat those mosquitos! Are there no non-pesticidey decent bug sprays that work? I definitely would want to see if I could find something. What a surprise to see the trail go from deep woods to sand and then the lake. Beautiful except that I can picture you jumping around swatting wildly at the swarms of mosquitos!@#@! My grandmother used to carry a lit stick of punk (I think) to keep the bugs away when she walked on the golf course. Have fun and I hope that you can avoid the mosquitos! xxxooo

  27. Love where you are, Sherry. The UP was one of my favorite places. I traveled the entire perimeter of the mitten … Door County Wisconsin is also just a knockout!

    LOVE your dining tent. mosquitoes are rat bastards…

  28. Hey Caroyn, I am from Door County, thanks for the thumbs up !!!! The Winter being as harsh as it was can determine the mosquito size and hatch amount ..... Just what I have experienced growing up ..... After some very harsh winters the mosquitos were in swarms that could rearrange the summer plans !!!! Hope they are short lived this year or at least move on .....
    Glad you got the sight Sherry ..... Love the photos you were brave enough to capture !!! Have fun !!!

  29. yaaa on the site. . .way to go. . .and thrilled that the loons greeted you right away.

    It is on my bucket list to photograph loons this summer. . .thought I was in luck the other day, but turned out to be common mergansers. . .oh well. . .didn't have them on my life list yet either.


  30. Since you are headed into the U.P., you may want to check out staying in township & county parks. There are several nice ones, our favorites being Trout Lake, Ontonagon & Munising. The Tahquamenom Falls are a must see as is a day trip to Mackinac Island. I read a previous comment recommending a visit to Copper Harbor, I concur but also recommend seeing Eagle Harbor, being certain to stop at the Jam Pot for delicious baked goods. It's owned & operated by monks. The Porcupine Mountains offer great hiking trails too. I must warn you though, biting black flies frequent the U. P. Unfortunately the 40% Deet is the only thing we've found that helps but please don't let the mosquitoes & flies deter you, Michigan is too lovely a state to pass up.

  31. I forgot to mention the 1 pound cinnamon rolls at the Hilltop in L'Anse. Not only are they good but one is big enough to share.

  32. I think SallyB has it right - the worse the winter, the worse the mosquitos. Doesn't seem fair to be stuck inside all Winter and then get driven back inside in Summer :-(. Hope they are late sleepers and you can enjoy a pest-free morning hike. We always ate lots of dill pickles (friend drank the juice as well) to keep the mosquitos from biting - maybe it was the garlic? Love all the pics - even more appreciated as you had to take them on the battlefield.

  33. Funny, I was just wondering about your toes, yesterday, Sherry. Glad it was a passing issue. You're a better woman than me...I can't stand mosquitoes. I, recently, bought a hooded net shirt--don't know if it will help or not when I encounter them. The Thermacell, when sitting still really does work. They have one that you wear on your belt--I don't know how that works if you're constantly moving. I bought one before anyone had heard of them and was camping with a group of women on Skidaway Island and the bugs were merciless. I put it on and before I knew it everyone was under my awning and amazed at how clear of any kind of bug the area was. They all bought one after that. Me. I'm more apt to move or travel somewhere where they aren't.

  34. As usual, love the pictures. Good to hear about this part of Michigan as we will be passing through in August. I miss the loons back east. Do not miss the mosquitos though. I'm looking forward on hearing how the solar works as Greg will most likely be putting ours on in September.


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