Sand Dunes at Silver Lake State Park

Nestled in between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan on the Western side of Michigan, lies a landscape that is otherworldly. We started off in Hart, Michigan, where our cute Airbnb was located. Driving towards the beaches on Silver Lake, we started to notice all sorts of dusty jeeps and SUV’s driving around with an orange flag swinging around on the front of the car. There was no rhyme or reason as to why these trucks where chosen. All-wheel drive seemed to be the only prerequisite for the homemade dune buggies.¬†We followed the line of trucks, and were quickly greeted with a sand dune that soared over our heads. The beach was just over that dune, we just had to climb it.

Climbing dunes isn’t so easy, but it’s oh-so worth it. You slide back half a step every time you walk up, and the sand burns the bottom of your toes. It takes all four limbs to make it to the top of these behemoths, but when you make it to the top, it’s sand and lakes for miles.

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Racing up sand dunes! Humans for scale.

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So close to the top…

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Made it to the top! This is the view of Silver Lake.

Spending the day along Silver Lake is a perfect beach day. There’s tons of shoreline and opportunities to rent pontoon boats and party on the lake. We didn’t rent a boat, but instead opted to claim a piece of the shore for ourselves. Beers in hand and with perfectly chilled water, we spent the day running up and down the dunes, burying each other in sand, and trying to make a human pyramid.

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Success!

As the day progressed, we got hungry and decided to make our way back to the Airbnb. We booked a place with 12 beds and 1 bathroom, so showers for everyone was an hours-long process.

After everyone was good to go, we decided to go out to Kristi’s Pour House, the local bar in Hart. They had a live band playing and $1 cans of beer! It was a wild night of dancing and singing.

The next day we decided to check out the Lake Michigan Side of the beach for a little bit. The waves were surprisingly large for a lake! We stayed for a bit on the public access portion, and then decided to walk down the shore towards the lighthouse.

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The squad hanging out on Lake Michigan. You can’t even see the other side!!

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Lighthouse in the state park.

Apparently $5 buys you entrance into the lighthouse so you can get to the top. We didn’t do it, but it definitely looked like a sweet time!

It was a short weekend at Silver Lake State Park, but it was a good weekend. It’s definitely been my favorite state park in Michigan thus far. I can’t wait to go back!

-nina

South Higgins Lake State Park

If you’re looking for a party campground, you’ve found the right place! South Higgins Lake State Park is complete with campsites stacked almost on top of each other, fire pits, open container laws, and picnic tables. Many people pull up their RV’s, plug in their space heaters, and enjoy the comforts of home while surrounded by nature (kind of).

Camping at this state park isn’t a bad time. If you go with friends, food, and plenty of beer, you’ll have a great time. The scenery is also quite stunning. The first night we arrived, we were surprised with an absolutely beautiful sunset.

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Sunset on Higgins lake.

Many of my friends decided to swim, but I was put off by the freezing cold water and the abundant signs warning of swimmers itch. Those who went in seemed to have an excellent time, though!

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Some of the guys debating whether they should go into the water.

For those uninterested in taking a dip, there were some hiking trails across the road. If you’re looking for any solitude here, take a hike! There are 1, 3, and 5 miles loops that you can take around another lake in the area. There is minimal elevation gain, and tons of trees!

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There are few easy trails around the state park for those who want to get away from the crowds.

When taking these trails, make sure to bring plenty of bug spray! We were attacked by mosquitos, and had to cut the walk short. You should also bring some waterproof shoes. There was tons of mud!

The majority of the weekend consisted of cooking, hiking, and drinking beer. It wasn’t a solitary weekend in the woods, but it was fun nonetheless! Definitely a way to get away from the same bars in the same towns with your friends for the weekend!

-nina

P.S. Before you head out, make sure your car has a Michigan recreation passport. It’s a little sticker that goes on your windshield. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one at the campground for $16 that is valid for a year!

Kayaking in Port Crescent State Park

I woke up bright and early Sunday morning to go explore the thumb of Michigan. My first thought was to go kayaking around Turnip Rock, which is right up at the tip of the thumb, in Port Austin. We set out on the 2.5 hour car ride up M53 at around 8:30am. Not quite early enough, but given that the trail takes around 4 hours, we thought we had plenty of time.

We were wrong. After we arrived at the kayak rental place, they said that they would stop renting kayaks to Turnip Rock at 10am (we got there around 11:30am soo….). I had been wanting to do this for a while, so was pretty bummed about not being able to go. These feelings didn’t last long because we were able to rent kayaks to use around Port Crescent State Park, which is also in the tip of the thumb.

With a double kayak in tow, we set off into the river, on our way to Lake Huron!

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Gus doesn’t seem too excited about my lack of paddling

The kayaking trail was gorgeous! It was a beautiful day out (it was also 100 degrees outside, but oh well). Along the trail we saw swans, turtles, and tons of birds!

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We found a swan on the river!

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Such a beautiful river! And so peaceful too.

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures haha

The river led to a beach that was right on Lake Huron. These great lakes always amaze me. You’d think they were an ocean! The beach was really nice. It was long, so you could take a long walk along it. It is also only accessible by boat, so it wasn’t too crowded, and you could see all the kayaks and canoes lined up along the shore. A lot of people brought their lunch along. Gus and I opted for a nap in the sun.

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The beach along Lake Huron. Being only accessible by boat means there’s basically no crowds!

We hung out on the beach for a little while, and then walked back to our kayaks. The trip only took about an hour each way, and you were able to go at a pretty leisurely pace. You can rent the kayaks from Tip-A-Thumb Canoe and Kayak Rental. Our double kayak only cost $30 for the entire day. They continue to rent out kayaks until 4pm, and all boats must be back by 6pm!

After we returned our kayaks, we started to make the drive back down to Royal Oak. On the way down, we noticed signs for the Pioneer Log Village and Historical Museum in Bad Axe. We decided to stop by, as it was right on our way home. We were not disappointed! This Log Village is exactly what it sounds like. They are old log cabins, filled to the brim with historical antiques from around Huron county. They have an old one-room classroom, a house, a general store, and blacksmith room, and a barn. They’re only open from 2-4pm on Sundays, which was incredibly lucky because we showed up at 3pm. Members of the Bad Axe historical society showed us around and gave us some context about what happened. Walking around took 30 minutes, and was well worth the time!

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Pioneer Log Village in Bad Axe, Michigan

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A look inside the log cabin!

Overall, going up the thumb was a great way to spend a Sunday. Although we didn’t make it to turnip rock, we got to explore one of Michigan’s many state parks, and learned a little bit about historic Huron county. Now, I’m on a mission to visit the rest of Michigan’s state parks! I’ll keep you all updated!

-Nina

 

Smokey Mountains Getaway

As memorial day approached, the weather FINALLY started to get nicer. This has been the longest winter ever. Although pretty snow and skiing and winter wonderlands are beautiful, I was about ready to pack up my parka and bring out my hiking boots and tank tops. With a three-day weekend approaching, I thought this was the perfect time to make the drive down to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.

Nine hours of driving seemed way shorter than it actually was. It also seemed shorter when you weren’t leaving after a full day of work, but oh well. Leaving Detroit at 3:30pm on a Friday meant getting in to Tennessee at 1am. Who needs sleep when there’s beautiful mountains to see in the morning?

The lack of sleep didn’t deter us from waking up bright and early to have a full day of hiking ahead. We showed up to the ranger station, and said we wanted VIEWS. Beautiful mountain views. That’s all I wanted, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned!

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Believe it or not, I did make it to the top of the mountain. Surrounded by fog!

The ranger suggested doing the hike to Charlie’s Bunion. I could only imagine how beautiful the mountains would look, but unfortunately we were in a cloud. It was white everywhere. Oh well, it had it’s own type of beauty. It kind of felt like we were on the edge of the world.

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Feeling like I’m on the edge of the world!

After a full day of hiking, we ventured into Gatlinburg. Everyone I knew said they hated it there. I must say, it was an incredibly touristy town. However, how could you not have fun going through mirror mazes and playing mini golf? I had a mediocre dinner of french fries and lettuce (yay, veganism in the South!), and walked around town. The sun started to peak out, so Gus thought it would be a great idea to rent some little zippy convertible car and drive around. In theory, it sounded great, but the weather in the Smokey’s is unpredictable. The start of the drive was really fun (for him, I thought I was going to die. It accelerated a bit faster than my Chevy Cruze haha). As we went further into the mountains, it started TO POUR. Now, I don’t mind the rain too much, but when it’s hitting you at 60mph, then it really starts to hurt! Not as much fun. You live and you learn, and it’s pretty funny to look back on.

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The amazing mirror maze!

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It’s soooo trippy in here.

The next day, we headed back to the same ranger station (Sugarlands visitor center if you’re curious). The forecast said rain was expected by 11am, so we had planned to do two shorter hikes so we wouldn’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere as it started pouring. We started off with another hike meant to produce views, so started the walk to the LeConte lodge. It’s this cute little lodge that you have to hike 5 miles up to, and ugh don’t I wish we had stayed there. The initial plan was to stop halfway, but the sun was shining so bright and we were finally seeing mountains, that we decided to go all the way up! Fast forward like four hours, and we finally made it to the peak! The peak was again, covered in white. We had apparently walked up too far and entered the cloud. The trail itself though was amazing. It made the foot pain and 6 hours of walking totally worth it (although I was pretty done about a mile from the end).

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This was just along the trail to the top. It was a beautiful hike!

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We walked all the way up to the clouds.

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Feeling some serious Lord of the Rings vibes up here.

With 10 miles of hiking and enough elevation to take us up into the clouds, we thought a few beers were very well deserved. Smoky Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg was perfect for the occasion. We both got flights and tried basically every beer they brewed in house. They also had vegetarian/vegan options! It was a fantastic restaurant (especially compared to wherever else we were eating). It was a great way to end our short trip, and prepare for the long drive the next day.

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A well-deserved flight of beer from Smoky Mountain Brewery!

Our trip consisted of 18 miles of hiking, 18 hours in the car, and tons of memories. Was it worth the distance? Absolutely! I definitely can’t wait to go back!