Our group of 23 Leisure Travel Van owners met up in the Apostle Islands in Bayfield, Wisconsin, on August 7, 2023, to begin a 23-night/24-day caravan tour of the Michigan Upper Peninsula. Unfortunately, we were delayed en route to the opening rally in Bayfield due to health challenges and being hospitalized in Iowa. Diana Brannon stepped in as leader until we could join the group.
We did catch up and joined the group in the Porcupine Mountains of the western Upper Peninsula (UP). Together, the group of Leisure Travel Van owners was made up of 25 people (including us), some from Arizona, some from Nevada, and others from California and Florida. The caravan included a total of 14 Leisure Travel Vans. Models represented were the Unity FX, Twin Bed, Rear Lounge, and Murphy Bed. Also represented were the Serenity and Free Spirit.
While in the Porcupine Mountains, we visited the Lake of the Clouds. Nestled in the mountains of a true wilderness, the Lake of the Clouds is a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Since there were so many of us traveling together, we divided up the caravan into smaller pods of 2-4 LTVs, with each group having a designated pod leader. We didn’t want to overwhelm the small roads, and the smaller pods would help keep everyone safe while traveling from one destination to the next.
We know that any of us could do this tour on our own and have a very successful and wonderful experience. Traveling in our Leisure Travel Vans is a lot of fun, but MaryAnn and I have discovered traveling with other owners is far more fun and rewarding. Traveling together gives people the opportunity to develop friendships that will last a lifetime–that is what our caravan tours are all about.
The Upper Peninsula Tour is the third LTV Southwest Roadrunners caravan tour MaryAnn, and I have had the pleasure of organizing and leading. We led a caravan tour of 12 LTVs through southern Arizona and another caravan tour of 12 LTVs through Idaho and western Montana.
After the Porcupine Mountains, our next stop on our itinerary was Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Copper Harbor. The historic site at Fort Wilkins is a very interesting place that provides information about the local history of Copper Harbor and the Upper Peninsula and what brought Europeans and early Americans to the Upper Peninsula hundreds of years ago. Plus, there are a few people dressed in era clothing on site to answer any questions visitors may have about life at Fort Wilkins in the 1800’s.
During our tour of the UP, we encouraged everyone to meet together every night around the campfire, if available, to discuss the adventures of the day and plans for the next day. The night before a travel day, we would also discuss our route to the next stop on the itinerary and any excursions along the way.
From Fort Wilkins, we continued east to Marquette. It was here we took a group photo and enjoyed our first of two evening meals together. We stayed in Marquette for three nights to allow people time to explore the area, sample the local restaurants, and go sightseeing. This was also where many owners went on a group bicycle outing.
From Marquette, we traveled southeast from the shores of Lake Superior to Garden, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Along the way, owners visited some of the lighthouses and museums as well as sampled local restaurants.
Our next stop on the itinerary took us northeast back across the UP to Lake Superior. We stopped at Kitch Iti Kipi, a natural freshwater spring and the largest in Michigan. We boarded tour boats in Munising to see the Painted Rock National Lakeshore.
From Munising, it was a short drive east, about an hour and a half to Grand Marais for a two-night stay exploring the Painted Rock National Lakeshore Park and other local attractions and national wildlife reserves.
Next on the itinerary was a two-day stop at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We camped in the Lower Falls campground. We especially enjoyed the Upper Falls. However, both the lower and upper falls of the Tahquamenon Falls State Park are very good and worth a visit.
We continued our caravan tour from Tahquamenon Falls, stopping in Sault Saint Marie to visit the Soo Locks. The Soo Locks are a series of locks allowing hundreds of cargo and various other ships to pass from Lake Superior to Lake Huron and then to Michigan.
Our next stop was the much-anticipated visit to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island. The caravan stayed three nights at Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground. This campground has 700 campsites on Lake Huron’s shores with a picturesque view of the famous Mackinac Bridge. There were free shuttles and free parking (plenty of room for parking our LTVs) to take the ferry to Mackinac Island.
We enjoyed a group pizza party here at Mackinaw City on our third and final night before leaving for Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore the next day. Sleeping Bear was our last stop on our itinerary, and we stayed in the Platte River campground.
MaryAnn and I enjoyed camping at Platte River. It’s obvious to us that the person who designed this campground had clearly been a camper. The campsites were large and far apart, with showers and trash receptacles well dispersed throughout the campground. All the sites were level and paved with electricity only.
While at Sleeping Bear, people explored the park and the surrounding community. Some brave and hearty souls even traversed the infamous Sleeping Bear Dunes, a two-mile hike through deep sand that leads to a near-straight drop to the shores of Lake Michigan. Beautiful panoramic views make the hike to the top worth it, but not for people not used to hiking difficult terrain.
Perhaps you’ve wondered why the Upper Peninsula is part of Michigan instead of Wisconsin. The story dates back to when Michigan was just territory, Wisconsin was a wilderness, and Ohio had just become a state. A shooting war broke out between Ohio and Michigan over who would have control of Toledo and consequent access to the waterways. No one was killed during this war, but they were shooting at each other from opposite sides of the river. Since Ohio had representation in Congress as a state, congress gave the Toledo area to Ohio and the Upper Peninsula to Michigan to appease the people in Michigan.
It was during this conflict between Michigan and Ohio that people in Ohio started calling Michigan people “Wolverines.” It was meant to be bad, but the Michigan people liked the name and took it as their own. Hence, we have the Michigan Wolverines today, and the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio continues now on the football field.
The best time of year to visit the UP is in August and September. There are much cooler temperatures and a lot fewer or almost no mosquitoes. The Upper Peninsula is a beautiful and historic area worth traversing in your LTV. But it’s far better to tour this beautiful place with your other LTV owners.