Although we stayed in Bear Lake, we frequently went into Frankfort, Michigan. Frankfort was about 15 minutes away and was a cute town. There was a grocery store and gas stations near town. The main street had several restaurants, a bookstore, bakeries, and a neat beach area with a lighthouse. We found a Little Library and a Little Art Library.
There were several ice cream places in town as well, and the two we tried were both good. The bagels from L’Chayim were delicious, the ice cream cake from Kilwin’s was amazing (but expensive), and The Bookstore was fun to explore.
On Nick and Mom Day, we walked the jetty to the lighthouse. It was very foggy and you couldn’t see the lighthouse from the shore when we started. We spent some time on the beach at the swings. After telling Ben about the fun things at the beach, we all headed there the next clear day. The benches and swings all face the Lake! There were also a few sand volleyball nets. Restrooms were near the parking lot. It was a great place to relax. You could swim there, and some people were, but the water was too cold for us.
Frankfort was a nice walking town. If you are in the area, I would check it out!
We picked the Sleeping Bear Point Trail to hike in the park. It was listed as a moderate trail, but less strenuous than the Dune Hill Climb. It was a 2.8 mile trail loop. We did the trail clockwise, as the app stated that it was a little easier that way.
We started in a grassy forest type of area. I would wear long socks or stay in the middle of the trail, as there was poison ivy along most of that part of the trail.
We did see some great views of the water along the hike. One of the reasons we picked this trail was the “ghost forest”. The dunes shift and over time the trees that become covered in sand will die. There were a handful of trees, but not what I would think of a forest.
Hiking on sand is no joke! We were all pretty tired at the end, but the kids of course had a lot more energy. If you take this hike, bring water, a hat, and sunscreen. Once you leave the tree area, there is no shade.
The first day we ventured into Traverse City was a bit of a let down. We ended up going after work was finished, so a lot of places we wanted to check out were closed. The city was very cute and we wanted to explore it more. We happened to luck out and discover that the National Cherry Festival was coming up.
We came back a couple of days later for the Festival. Our first stop of business was the breakfast pancake flip tent. Ben had done this before, but it was the boys and my first time experiencing catching our breakfast. We walked into the tent and there were three large griddles lined with pancakes. We grabbed a plate and got in line. Once you are at the front of the line, they would flip your pancakes out to you and you had to catch them. We all did pretty well catching ours. You headed down the next line of tables to pick up butter, syrup, sausages/bacon, juice/milk/coffee.
After enjoying breakfast, we wandered around looking at all the other booths. We grabbed a cup of fresh cherries, split a slice of cherry pie, and found some cute souvenirs.
After the Cherry Festival, we walked around Traverse City for a little bit and saw the Open Space with a water feature/playground, a nice area to sit and rest facing the water, and lots of fun shops to explore.
Next, we went to Costco. The closest one was right next to the airport. When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a lot of people standing in the parking lot, in the field/tree area between the store and the airport. We realized that President Biden must be arriving soon, so we waited a few minutes just happened to be able to see Air Force One land! We didn’t get to see President Biden, as it was a little bit away (and we thought pulling out binoculars while peering through the trees was probably a bad idea!), but it was really cool to see the plane.
Ben and I went on a little date and stopped at Tiffany’s Cafe in Empire, Michigan. It was a warm day, so we each got a shake and a chicken cherry wrap to share.
I got a coffee shake and Ben tried a Boston Cooler. The Boston Cooler was ginger ale and vanilla soft serve. It could be served like a root beer float or blended into a shake. We got the Boston Cooler shake and it was surprisingly good! We didn’t have high expectations for a ginger ale shake, but it was nice and refreshing. It’s something that we want to try making at home!
If you hadn’t noticed yet, we like finding local things to do and especially collecting an item from the area. The boys and I like going to fossil parks. We found shark teeth in Myrtle Beach, and we like to find cool shells at each beach we go to. Michigan is known for having Petoskey stones. These are cool rocks with fossilized coral. There are a few beaches you can find them out, including the National Park.
You are allowed to collect up to 25 pounds of Petoskey stones a year. However, you are not allowed to remove any from the National Park.
This time, each kid got a “Mom Day” where we hung out for a couple of hours. Nick and I made the first adventure out to Point Betsie Lighthouse. Point Betsie had a neat lighthouse, which is available for tours during the summer. Parking is located along the street, as there is not parking lot available for public use at the lighthouse. There is a bathroom and gift shop at the lighthouse as well. The beach is very rocky! Which is great for finding Petoskey stones, but bad for silly people like us who forgot to bring sandals/crocs/water shoes. We managed to find a few stones, although they were smaller ones.
The next day, Will and I went to Empire Beach. Empire Beach had a playground, volleyball net, and bathrooms. There was a parking lot, but it was a paid lot ($1/hour). The beach was much nicer for beach use, as it was sandy. However, it made it harder to find Petoskey stones, as it wasn’t as rocky. We did find a few small ones though.
We bought some polish and will hopefully be able to sand and polish our stones so you can see the patterns. When they are dry, the stones look pretty much like any other grey rock.
So, the first floor is the check in, food court and gift shop. It is where you get your bracelet/pass. It is a paper bracelet that has a barcode on it. You use it for interacting with some of the exhibits. The food court has salads and different snacks like chips. They also have coffee.
The gift shop is also really cool. It has some fun rock stuff like guitar pics and drum sticks. They also have guitar straps as well. There is a ton of other cool stuff that is also worth checking out in there.
Next, there is the bottom floor. It is where the Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson exhibits are. There are some other groups down there. Next is the 2nd floor. It is one of my favorite floors. You can learn how to play the drums, guitar, and the bass. There is also a sticker printer, where you can print your band’s sticker.
Finally, there is the 3rd floor. This floor has the Hall of Fame. On the walls it has all the band names that are in the Hall of Fame. There is also an interactive exhibit. You scan your bracelets barcode and you can submit a band that can be in the Hall of Fame. There is also a show that you can go to as well on that floor.
This was the last National Park on our current route. The name of the park seems sweet, but it is a horribly sad tale. I read two different versions. A mother and her cubs are forced to flee from wildfire into the Lake and have to swim to the other side. The cubs do not make it. The mother bear lays down waiting for her cubs. The other version is that there was a food shortage, and to keep from starving they had to cross the lake. The cubs do not make it. The two small islands pop up as monuments for the cubs.
The main visitor center, Phillip A Hart Visitor Center, was located in Empire, Michigan. It was not in the park. The park boundaries are actually made of 3 sections of land with towns in between and 2 islands. We drove around the park in a few locations, but only saw a ticket/pass booth at the Dune Climb parking lot.
On our first visit, we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Dr. I’m sure it had wonderful views, but all we could see was fog! (It hadn’t been foggy at our campground, about 30 minutes away). There was a small covered bridge that was fun to see.
There were several hiking and bike trails in the park, along with beach areas.
The check-in area was not well laid out for larger RVs. It looks like you used to be able to pull straight forward, but now they have you turn into a parking lot. It has not been redesigned for larger RVs. The campground itself has a pond and a lake. There was a laundry room, a few planned activities, a basketball hoop, Snack Shack, putt-putt, playground, and a pool. Fishing was allowed in the pond and lake, but no swimming. The lake by the office had boats available for use. There were also horseshoes and a small baseball diamond.
The laundry room had a lot of machines. There was no change machine, but I was able to get change at the office. Washers were $1.75/load, dryers were $1.50.
The Snack Shack had some ice cream products, shaved ice, and some drinks. It was only open on the weekends when we were there.
Our hotspot and phones worked…kind of. If it was cloudy we lost a lot of reception on all 3 networks. Some spots were better than others in the park for getting a signal. We ended up buying the campground WiFi for the week ($19.95). Phone calls seemed ok for the most part, but internet was definitely spotty.
The campground did have a lot of nice amenities. The boys really enjoyed the putt putt and basketball hoop. It was a nice destination campground and there were grocery stores within a 20-30 minute drive. Cleveland was about an hour drive and Cuyahoga Valley National Park was also about an hour drive.
NOTE: The campground was included in our Thousand Trails membership, but charged us a 50 amp fee at check-in (not stated ahead of time).
We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.
We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…
The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.
Click to enlarge
As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).
We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).
We had family in the Cleveland area and they invited us over to dinner. The night was pretty amazing. The weather was great, they made a taco bar for dinner, and we had and great company. The boys got to meet their younger cousins.
They introduced us to a new (to us) game called Ticket To Ride. They boys played the Ticket To Ride First Journey* with their cousins. It was a lot of fun and I think we will be picking up one of the versions of the game when we get back home!
After dinner and a game, we took a walk to Lake Erie. There was an ice cream place on the way, so we picked up dessert.