Posted in: Hiking, National Park, National Parks

Sleeping Bear Dunes: Sleeping Bear Point Trail

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.

Posted in: Hiking, Sightseeing

Petoskey Stones

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.

Click to enlarge

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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.

Posted in: Hiking, Sightseeing

Connecting with Cleveland Cousins

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.

Thank you J and K for such a great night!

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, Sightseeing

Deep Lock Quarry Trail

We found this trail on AllTrails app. The Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park was next to the National Park, so we only had to drive a couple of minutes to get to this trail.

The trail was about 1.4 miles, although we added a little bit on with a side trail. It had a few informational signs about things along the trail. There were remains of Quaker Oat millstones, the remains of sandstone blocks from a loading dock, bases of old derricks used to load boats/trains.

Quarry Trail Signs
click to enlarge

There was the old quarry as well. You could see the layers of cut out rocks.

We took a side trail to see Lock 28, which was the deepest lock of the Ohio Erie Canal and was nicknamed Deep Lock. The lock was a little overgrown, but still easily seen. It was really neat to see the remains of the canal system.

Lock 28 Signs
click to enlarge
Posted in: Hiking, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

During our first stay back in Ohio in a year, we stayed up north near Cleveland. We visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. After the scenic train ride, we drove around for a little bit and stopped at the Boston Mill Visitor Center. This was a nice Visitor Center and the boys picked up their Junior Ranger books.

Maps via Google and NPS

Cuyahoga Valley is a little bit weird in its shape. It is a long, narrow park that exists around private property and state parks.

Cuyahoga NP Signs
click to enlarge

We went to the Brandywine Falls and managed to find a parking spot in the lot. We walked the boardwalk to the Falls. It was a beautiful area and you could see the remains of a small power plant. It was mostly just the foundations, but still neat to read about.

Brandwine and Champion Electric Signs
click to enlarge

It started to rain on us, so we head back home.

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: Free. Some activities have a fee. COVID Restrictions: masks required if not vaccinated
  • HOURS: Open daily
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Hiking, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site

Will and I explored the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. This park was located across the river in New Hampshire, but was only about a half hour drive from our campground in Vermont.

Saint-Gaudens was a sculptor and the grounds contained information about his pieces and life. The house was closed, but the other buildings were open. I would not recommend this one for younger kids, as it was a lot of reading and not really interactive. There were some trails, including the Ravine Trail (which the Ranger told us was really more of a moderate path). However, since there was a heat advisory out (92℉), we did not do that trail.

The park also had a phone audio tour available, which was a nice feature to learn a little more about the pieces shown. Will completed the Junior Ranger program there, and they had a neat looking badge.

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: $10/adults, children 15 and under free. Can use America The Beautiful Pass. COVID Restrictions: masks required, House closed
  • HOURS: May 29-October 31 (9am-4pm)
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Hiking, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park

Vermont has one National Historic Park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller. The parking lot for the Park was across the street and is shared by the Billings Farm.

This Historic Park has 20 miles of trails and carriage roads (no bikes allowed, but does allow cross country skiing in the winter). The Mansion was closed while we were there and the Visitor Center only open for bathrooms. The Rangers did have a station outside of the Visitor Center for maps and Junior Ranger Programs.

Walking the grounds, Junior Ranger Loop

There were two Junior Ranger Programs: the traditional (received a wooden badge) and Change Maker (received a quarter made for the Park).

Mansion images, Junior Ranger program booklets/badge/quarter

It was a really hot day, so we only did the Junior Ranger loop and walked around the Mansion. The grounds are beautiful and I’m sure the trails would be amazing. It was so neat to learn from the Rangers about the quarter and that the Junior Ranger badge was made from wood located on the property.

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: Mansion tours were $8/adults, free for ages 15 and under (closed while we were there). Walking the grounds is free. COVID Restrictions: masks required, Mansion and Visitor Center closed.
  • HOURS: Trails dawn to dusk
  • PARKING: Across the street at Billings Farm.
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, Sightseeing

Quechee Gorge

This was a neat spot to find. The Gorge is part of the Quechee State Park. You can park at the Gorge Visitor Center and walk to see the Gorge for free. I believe there is a small fee to get into the rest of the state park.

The Quechee Gorge was amazing to walk over. The bridge had cut-outs in the fencing to allow for picture taking. There were a few trails near the Visitor Center, including the one we took to go down to the river.

Views from the bridge of the Gorge

There were a lot of people hanging out near the river. Some had chairs that they placed on the rocks, others had picnics. There were both dogs and people swimming. We saw a frog, lots of tadpoles, a couple of small fish and crabs. The boys had shorts on, so they went swimming in the river. It was a hot day, so I’m sure it felt good.

The River. We saw a lot of tadpoles and the boys swam in the shallows.
Posted in: Hiking, Sightseeing

Hiking Maine: Salt Pond Preserve

One of our last trails of our stay in Maine was actually a trail outside of Acadia National Park. The boys got to pick form my list on AllTrails app, so of course they picked a short one at .9 miles. Following the AllTrails app directions, there was a very small parking spot off the road with only room for 1-2 cars. However, we later learned that there was also an access road with some parking options (Trail Map/Parking Options).

The path through the woods was an easy path, but had plenty of roots to keep an eye out for. Along the trail we saw a beautiful wild orchid called a lady’s slipper. The trail ended up on the water. We walked along the beach and saw some sea gulls eating a crab. We doubled the length of the hike by walking on the beach, which was really fun. The boys loved climbing on the rocks.