Upper Peninsula Summer Road Trip

Summer means road trips in the camper, mountain biking, craft beer, and exploring! After a busy spring – lived in Canon City for 27 days, closed on a new investment property, and started a deck job – we planned a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Several months ago, we planned for a 45 day road trip that would end in our beloved Lower Goose Island, but with the amount of work we have on our plate, we decided to cut it short. But we were still super excited and ready for a break!

Tuesday, June 28th departure. First Stop: South Dekota
Drive Time from Arvada: 9 ½ hour drive

Campground: Oahe Downstream Recreation Area
Cost: $32.09 per night

We hit the road on Tuesday, June 28th and drove a long, long day – over 9 hours in the car! Mike’s new dually truck handles our Lance Camper so much better than the Ford F250 and the ride was smooth, just slow going in our big rig. Before hitting the road, we also bought a 34” hitch extension to tow the bikes. Mike fashioned fork mounts to the dinette, so the bikes were inside while we traveled. Not ideal for quick over-nights, as we’d have to pull the bikes out and in. We rolled into the lovely campground around 9:30pm and set up. Although we only stayed for a night, would recommend this site! The facilities were clean, we had a spacious site that was private and quiet and there was a frisbee golf course on site. Would stay again if we ever pass through the area!

Wednesday, June 29th – Second stop, Crosby, Minnesota Cuyuna Lakes Mountain biking

Campground – Portsmouth Campground
Cost: $41 per night

Cuyuna Lake

The next morning we woke and got right on the road, knowing we had another long day of driving. Mike noticed his rear tire was flat, so we knew we’d need to stop along the route, as we’d be riding at the next location. The day was filled with long stretches of highway and lots of green fields. On a mission to find a new valve stem, we stopped at a bike shop about 2 hours from camp and they didn’t have one. About an hour outside of our final destination, we stopped at Muddy Bikes, a great shop, where the tech fixed Mike’s bike with a new stem and sealant. Pulling into Crosby with a freshly repaired tire, we headed straight to Cuyuna Brewing to get libations and burritos. Crusher IPA, named for one of the mountain bike trails, hit the spot!

Bellies & growler full, we headed to camp, where we had an easy set up. Portsmouth campground, while nothing to right home about ambiance wise, had electric hook up, a bike wash station, showers & bathrooms that were clean enough and best of all, trails connected to it. We were psyched to get up and ride!

Thursday, June 30th – 3rd stop, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Campground – Apostle Islands Campground
Cost: $50 per night, $216 total for 4 nights

We were up early, itching to move our legs after two straight days of driving. Over breakfast we looked at the maps and saw that a lot of the trails were directional. Riding straight from camp, we were on a green trail that was super flowy. Our aim was to head to the Crusher section, which had switchbacks up to Miner’s mountain, where views were supposed to be incredible. The trails had actual dirt, red dirt, and were flowy, fast and fun. Huge berms along the switchbacks had us smiling and me whoopin’. Only getting turned around once, we pieced together several trails to get in a total of 11+ miles around Portsmouth Mine Lake and Cuyuna lake. Riding back to the camp to pack up, we had ear to ear smiles and were ready to get back in the car to drive to our next destination. After about four hours, with lots of green fields flying by, we were in Bayfield Wisconsin. Way up north, Lake Superior greeted us in all her glory. We pulled into the Apostle Islands Campground around 5:30, checked in and got a map, then turned our rig to set up. While this was definitely not our type of camping, as there were huge RVs and pull-behinds extremely close to each other, the facilities were clean and each site had water and sewer hookups, making them extremely convenient. After we pulled in and set up shop, we fed Winnie and rode down to Adventure Club Brewing to grab some great beer and enjoy being here! We headed back up to camp, cooked pepper & peanut bowls, then called it a night for the next day’s adventure: kayaking on Lake Superior!

Beers at Adventure Club Brewing

Friday, July 1st

The Lake was calling and we had to go! On the drive in to Bayfield, we booked a kayaking tour of the Apostle Islands, a cluster of islands off the coast of Bayfield, Wisconsin. Beautiful coastlines, sea caves and expansive views….I was ready to be on the water! Trek & Trails, the company we found that offered kayak trips, was in the town of Bayfield – only an eight minute bike ride from our camp, so of course we decided to ride into town. After 30 minutes of camp yoga,  Mike found a trail that would take us around the lake into town, Brownstone Trail, that we tried to take only to find out it was closed due to a landslide. Biking on the road wasn’t ideal but we did it and got to the shop in plenty of time to try on wet suites, store our bikes, and discovered we needed to be on Myers Beach….a 20 minute drive. Greatttttttttttttttt. Thank goodness we had Wisconsin people working the desk, super friendly and offered to give us a ride, since he was going there anyway. Oh, these Wisconsin folk are just salt of the earth! A 20 minute car ride brought us to Meyers beach, where we met our guides, explained that we’d need to catch a ride back with them because we don’t follow directions, then huddled up with our group. Lake Superior took our breath away, and while we couldn’t be more excited and ready, due to high winds, the tour was canceled mid-way through our paddling overview. The sea caves would need to be revisited.

So, we helped the guides carry up all of the kayaks (hey, at least we got some sort of a workout) and headed back in their van with them. We chatted about the mountain biking in the area, the young kids exchanged battle stories of broken wrists and racing, then dropped us back at the shop where we scooped up our bikes and pedaled back to our campsite….well, first we stopped at Adventure Club Brewing to get some of that delicious nectar to wash away our disappointment, although with the beautiful sunshine and lake air it didn’t feel so disappointing, plus we found another company to take us out at 10am Sunday, to view Roman’s Point. Winnie sure was happy to see us too, so we cooked some dinner and called it an early night. Tomorrow, we’d check out the trails!

Saturday, July 2nd

We awoke to another great day – not too hot, not too humid yet. Mt. Ashwabay Mountain Bike Trails, Part of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association, was a 12 minute drive for us. After asking several people if riding right from camp would be a possibility, the consensus was that the two bigger hills leading up to the system would make it an unenjoyable accent. So, we dropped the camper – which took a minute to coordinate with the One Up still attached – and drove to the trail head. For being a weekend, the trailhead had plenty of parking, ample shade, and a really clean vault toilet.

Taking a peek at the map, we chose Tsuga Daddy to ride first, a 6-mile blue route. A super flowy trail with some ups, some technical features mixed in, and had a high point at the top of a ski hill! While the vert didn’t compare to Colorado, it still felt like an accomplishment. Zipping back down, we did a total of 11 miles or so, with New Glarous Spotted Cows waiting for us at the car – well deserved and definitely appropriate for the Wisconsin trails. Back at camp, we made some burritos and took a much needed rest before deciding to take bikes onto the Madeline Island ferry. With the truck already loaded, we quickly changed and headed down to town to park. Tickets were pretty steep – $50 for both of us, round trip – but hey, it’s the experience that counts! We queued over at the bike area, with quite a few cars, trucks and vans waiting to board as well. When the ferry came, the people and cars were boarded then we pedaled on, fitting in between cars, with just a glimpse of the lake as we took off. It felt so good to be on the water and a bit reminiscent of Casco Bay.

Madeline Island Ferry

Arriving on Madeline Island, we debarked and pedaled into the small little touristy town, with ice cream shops, small market stores and a few bars and restaurants. Our goal was to hang at the Lake, so after picking up some beach beers in the quite busy corner store, we headed toward Big Bay State Park. Looking at the map it looked like we were quite a bit away and after doing the big ride that morning, Mike wasn’t thrilled about the distance. But, despite asking if he wanted to turn around after a few miles, we carried on the 7 miles to the beach, where we parked the bikes and meandered down to the shore of Lake Superior. The park had a boardwalk that ran along the sandy shores that we wondered down and after dipping my toes into the icy lake, we were ready to ride the 7 miles back to catch the ferry and have some dinner – we had ridden 15 miles on top of the 11 done previously, so we were ravished! Nothing caught our eye on Madeline island, so we boarded the ferry for the very quick ride back and went to the Pickled Herring.

Diner with a view at the Pickled Herring

Sitting outside with a view of the small marina, we had a lovely dinner – Mike of course got curds to start with a white fish pesto dish and I had brussel sprouts and a trout pizza with local blue cheese and balsamic drizzle. Hit the spot!! As dusk fell, the air got chilly and we were glad to have driven into town, so hoped on our bikes and rode to the car that sped us back to camp. Tomorrow, we kayak!   

Sunday, July 3rd

Morning came quick after a great night sleep and coffee in the camper just tastes better. Because we had to be at Lost Creek Adventures 20 minutes before our 10am tour started, we heated store bought burritos in the microwave, packed our bags and headed the 25 minutes to Cornucopia, a little town just east of Bayfield. Our tour guide, Megan, rounded us up after a few minutes and we dove into introductions, kayak instructions, and how to maneuver the pedals, which helped you steer. A couple in our group, novice kayakers, had a faulty boat, so the swapping out of kayaks took quite a long time – we had been at the facility for an hour and fifteen minutes before heading down to the actual beach! Mike and I were good sports, because in a group tour, you’re only as good as your slowest. Finally launching for Roman’s Point, where sea caves and brownstone rock decorated the coast, our kayak bobbing on the choppy Lake Superior. While it wasn’t exactly the sunniest of days, the shade felt great while paddling and we wore long sleeved, hooded beach shirts under our kayak skirts and preservers. We kept pace with our guide, Megan, who let us know that this was her second year guiding and she had taken the summer off from the Mayo Clinic. A pretty cool summer gig!

We approached our initial destination so Megan could explain a bit of the geology, letting us know about the layers of rock, the middle one being brownstone, where much of Chicago had gotten it’s building material from. Around the corner was our first sea cave – a small passage that had a wide opening and smaller exit that shrunk with each bobbing wave. When Megan gave the, ‘try it if you feel comfortable’ we were headed straight in, paddling in unison, dodging the sea walls and turning sharply in time to duck out the exit. Nailed it! Next up was an archway to paddle through, then the guide grouped us up and let us know we’d need to turn around. Mike and I both felt the trip was cut a bit short due to the inexperience and boat mishaps of a few in the group, but what are ya gonna do? It was still a lovely day on the lake! After we paddled back, we returned our gear and headed to the Fat Radish, a heady farm-to-table restaurant a short walk from Lost Creek.

Wisonsin Bloodys are the best!

Beers & a Bloody Mary was ordered and arrived with a charcutier board on the side, along with a beer chaser. Wisconsin folk sure knew how to garnish a drink! After a scrumptious lunch and some local tunes, we headed back to the town square of Cornucopia to grab some essentials in the country store, then headed back to camp to relax and cook a scrumptious dinner. That evening it started to rain, so we called it an early night, as we’d be heading to Marquette the next morning.

Monday, July 4th – 4th stop Marquette, Michigan
Campground: Rippling River Resort
Cost: $50-$55 per night – $210 total

Let Freedom Ring! Independence day brought rain, and we packed up as quickly as we could to get on the road to drive the 206 miles and three hours and forty five to Marquette. The Rippling River Resort had a much cooler vibe than the Apostle Island Campground, with trails running right through. The rest of Monday was spent relaxing, setting up camp and enjoying the beautiful wooded site.

Tuesday, July 5th  – Friday July, 8th

The rest of our time in Marquette was all spent on bikes – we didn’t touch the truck! Here are the highlights – from trails, to beaches, to breweries, this town had it all and we’d love to come back!

Biking in Marquette was amazing!

Trails -Noquemanon Trail Network – these trails ranged from greens to blacks and we rode a lot of these trails. All from our campsite! Some favorites were Carp River Loop, Pioneer Loop, Marquette Mountain Loop, Zueg’s Trail, South Lake Street Trail (the multi-purpose trail that took us right into Marquette), Sepsis Trail, along with a few shorter connectors.

Ore Dock Brewery

Breweries – we biked to Ore Dock brewery one afternoon and Black Rock Brewery the next. Both had solid brews and super cool vibes. Ore Dock had a great patio to street hawk passerby’s along with cool bartenders. Black Rocks Brewery had a much larger facility, with two tasting rooms, a stage for local music, and a huge back area with picnic tables and areas to sit. The pilsner here was amazing and we even got a crowler to go.

Black Rock Brewery
Black Rocks in Presque State Park

Attractions –   Presque Isle State Park is home of the Black Rocks, a gorgeous stretch of rocky beach. Only a few miles from downtown Marquette, we biked down and around the park, walking out to the Black Rocks to see the crowds of brave souls jumping off into the icy Lake Superior. South Beach Park, off of S. Lake St, was a slice of beach that we rode to straight from camp, and had a multi-use path that took you right into town.

South Beach Park

Restaurants – Iron Bay Restaurant was a great spot with views of the marina, craft brewed beer on premises, and delicious plant-based burgers! Vango’s Pizza & Cocktail Lounge had delicious Greek salad, was in the North side of Marquette. After the Black Rocks Brewery, we headed here for some good pizza at an affordable price.

We both agreed that Marquette was the highlight of the trip and would definitely be somewhere we’d like to revisit!

Friday, July 8th – Chippewa Falls, WI
Campground: Pine Harbor Campground
1 night, price $40.43

After packing up camp at our beloved Rippling Creek Resort, we headed slowly south, stopping to meet a friend from Colorado at the WinMan Trails – an awesome mecca of trails and bike hub in the middle of a lake district in Winchester Wisconsin, a little shy of 3 hrs from Marquette. Unfortunately, Mike busted his spoke about a mile into the ride, so after only a short loop, we had a beer with our friend, then got on our way. After another 3 hours, we stopped at another RV park, not our favorite, but it did the trick, had electric and bathrooms & showers that were clean. The weather had already gotten soupier, so we called it an early night, with the AC cranking, and planned our next day’s drive home.

Minneopa State Park

Saturday, July 9th , South Sioux City, NE
Campground: Scenic Park RV Campground

Driving a bit over 5 hours, with a pitstop in a small Wisconsin super market to stock up on curds and Spotted Cows, we made it to Nebraska. We wanted to stretch our legs, so headed to Minneopa State Park, where we hiked down to a beautiful waterfall and then strolled up a greenway. Afterwards, we headed to Marto Brewing Co, a hip spot that did pizzas and beer. Pretty impressive for a smaller-ish town! We sat outside, despite the insane heat, so little Winnie could hang with us. After sufficiant watering, we headed to the campground where we hung inside, with the AC crankin!

Sunday, July 10th, North Platte, NE
Campground: Lake Maloney State Recreation Area

This was our last stop until home, so after driving about 4 1/2 hours, we headed to Pals Brewery, which had fantastic brews and a really cool outside scene. It was way too hot to be sitting outside, but with little Winnie, we made the sacrifice. Our waiter had just moved back from Denver! We hung for a bit, knowing we were close to the campground, then headed to the area we’d be camping. The site we scored had lake access, so we set up show and immediately jumped in – the temps had reached high nineties! It was a great spot to enjoy our last night, talk about the highlights of the trip and really be greatful we had the opportunity to see parts of the country we hadn’t before. Next stop….HOME!

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