We left the Marzinski Horse Camp site near Manistee, MI last Monday....having no idea if the spot, about 30 miles south, we had in mind next would have merit as it was just prior the 4th of July. A mid-week holiday leaves a lot of flexibility as to when people are going to be traveling.....and taking camping spots. So off we went, fingers crossed!
It was back roads from Manistee down to the general area of Free Soil, Michigan....odd name for a town, but it must have some history. Pretty soon we found our turn off....
We weren't actually going to the Recreation Area, but there's FREE camping just 1.5 miles prior to the primary destination for most people. One little turn off the main road and we were on our way down a well preserved, sandy, gravel road where these campsites are supposed to be located.
Yep! Just a short way and we came upon one - empty! but continued on down the road just to see what else might be available. The second site was perfect, but occupied....third site pretty good, but occupied. These sites were very far apart, which was a big plus. However, after these three sites, the road got a little dicey....there were available sites, but just not easy to navigate, plus they were very far from level, on little hillsides, among very close together trees, and very sandy car paths. If you remember my post from RVing....I got so stuck in the sand outside of Wickenburg, AZ that I had to have a semi-tow truck drag me out. Let's NOT do that again, I reminded myself! So, we got turned around and headed back to Site 1.1
Not bad for a holiday week. The biggest minus was it was literally, right on the road. But, free and in a beautiful forest, so I wasn't complaining. So, in no time flat, we were all set up and ready to see what we could see.
The van is about 5 feet from the road, in a bit of sun, and sitting at about a 25* angle. I prefer the canopy next to the van, not behind me somewhere, so I can just hop out the side door and be under cover, but, again.....FREE and beautiful!
"So we sailed up to the sun.....til we found a sea of green..."
That's ALL I've been able to think about since we arrived. Even if we weren't in a yellow submarine!
MILES of ferns....nothing else at all growing beneath the trees. It is mesmerizing! No photographs can really capture what this is like....ferns as far as you can see...."a sea of green"!
There is a trail that took off from our site, so that was a 3-4 times/day walk for Bo. It leads up to a ridge with a two-track "road". Once up there he could run free which is such a huge treat for him. He races like the speed of light through the woods and all the ferns. He loves it!
Holiday "traffic" soon began, however, on the campsite gravel road. It wasn't horrible or constant, but it was obviously busier than it probably usually is. We got used to the cloud of dust that surrounded us every time a car went by. The van is completely covered in dust, reminding me of the desert. But, FREE, and a beautiful forest!
There isn't much vegetation besides the lush, ferny undergrowth, but we did find a few interesting tidbits of nature...
After every hike, Bo looked forward to his "spray water treat"!
We were lucky to have this spot because lots of would-be campers came by during the week looking for a spot. Really glad we decided to head right over here from Manistee early. Here's the real deal with this spot. It's 1.5 miles from the Lake Michigan Recreational Area, it's FREE for 14 days, and if you want to go to the Rec Area, it's only $5/day (or $15 for 7 days!) for a day pass. A super inexpensive vacation! What's at the Rec Area??? These photos will tell the story!
Wow! Did you do the math for your 7-day vacation? $2/day, if you boondock-camp. What a deal! There is a campground at the Rec Area, but it is considered a "light" usage area. Don't ask me why! Who wouldn't want to come here? There's a playground for kids and for me, a water pump and dumpster. Anyway, it's gorgeous! If it was dog-friendly, I would have been at the beach every day. There's also a walk-up look out...
I wouldn't suggest this 151-step ascent if you have any mobility issues. Even with the flat landings every so often, it was a strenuous climb. Honestly, the view wasn't really superb. Perhaps this was built before the trees were as large as there are now, but it was still pretty.
What else can I say about Lake Michigan? It's a natural, inland wonder!
There's spotty internet at the campsite....so I'm 5 miles away writing the post. It's good enough at the site for texting but it goes from No Service to 3G to 1X to 4G constantly. For the most part, tho', I was able to live with it.
Two days ago, Monday, "Mark from New Hampshire" who was in Site #2, came by and said he was leaving if I wanted his spot. That was thoughtful! I didn't have to think twice about that! I literally threw everything in the van an grabbed that perfect spot! After all, we weren't leaving til Saturday and sleeping on that incline was getting old. In 45 minutes we were set up at the second site.
Still "on the road", but sitting back about 40 feet vs. 5 feet and it is perfectly level....and huge! And shady all day! One guy came by asking if I was leaving because in his words, too, "it's the perfect spot". Early bird catches the worm! LOL!
Bo adapted to the new site quickly!
I don't often build campfires....it's just too warm in the summer, I think, to sit around a campfire, but at this site, someone took the time to build a really nice fire pit and it is way behind...like 100+ feet... where the van is sitting so, if one were to build a fire, the smoke wouldn't be in your camper.
This site could easily accommodate several tents or a large RV....very "family-friendly". Now that the holiday "traffic" is over, only an occasional vehicle has passed by the site. Here are a few more shots from around this site..."sea of green" everywhere!
I am not getting tired of the fern forest...
What do I do all day besides take photos and take nature walks?? Reading mysteries is a favorite past time....I've read all these books, plus a few more since arriving in Michigan...
Through the trees we've had some pretty sunsets...
But the best ones were...
Back to home base "civilization" on Saturday....then where? Who knows?? But I'm not saying we won't be coming back to Michigan sometime! Except for those few hot days that everyone else experienced, the weather has been summer-perfect, the road trip up the shoreline was great, and the two national forest sites have been very easy to live with!
So, until next time......so long from Michigan's "sea of green" fern forest and it's glorious Lake!