In the course of a week we drove through all five great lakes and took a few side trips along the way. We killed a couple of weeks exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula waiting out our time (for covid restrictions) before we could enter New York and visit my daughter. Then looped around the lakes to visit Niagra before heading south to Jersey City. In a previous roadtrip I had driven the northern route across Canada but this was the first time I’d been through from the US side.
Katy’s goal was to get her feet wet in each of the great lakes.
It’s the beginning of October and the leaves in Michigan are already a bouquet of colors. The air’s crispness is the first sign of things to come. Michigan’s upper peninsula is wild and rugged and we loved our time on the beaches and in the forests even though it rained half the time. Most of our adventures were in the Painted Rocks National Seashore on Lake Superior. We had already visited this lake in Duluth over a month earlier. And in between we drove all the way around Lake Michigan past Chicago and all the way back up through Michigan and across the U.P. to get to the other side. Staring across it is like staring at the ocean. It’s roughly the size of South Carolina or Austria. 350 miles by 160 miles. Which means if it was frozen and you walked 6 hours a day it could take 20 days to hike across it.
Leaving Lake Superior we drove south through heavy thundershowers to the Mackinac Bridge crossing the Straights of Mackinac, the confluence between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. We had spent time on Lake Michigan on the way up hiking the high dunes and enjoying the beaches at both the Indiana Dunes National Park and Warren Dunes State Park.
On the eastern side of the Mackinac bridge begins Lake Huron. We make a quick stop in Mackinaw city and check out the old Mackinac Point lighthouse and Katy gets her feet wet at the shoreline. I am startled by the steam powered whistle that chimes with the clock.
The coastline is too circuitous so we head south through central Michigan and then east to Bay City on Lake Huron for the night. As we head into the hotel the sky turns black with clouds and a furious hail storm begins.
Neither of us want to drive through Detroit so we slip past it and down into Ohio back onto I90 and to Sandusky near Cedar Point on the banks of Lake Erie. Our campground is throwing a Halloween street party. It’s a strange mix of semi-permanent “seasonal” campers and kid filled late-season weekenders. We watch from a distance. The campground goes right up to the lake with a sunset across the water and the glow of Cedar Point in the distance at night.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
In the morning we take a side trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and stay at a KOA near Hudson for a few days to explore. The Cuyahoga Valley is situated between the two dense urban areas of Akron and Cleveland. It’s an unusual National Park. It’s primarily a wooded valley with a road and train track running through it next to the Cuyahoga River. But much of the areas along the main and side roads are owned by private residences and even a couple small towns. It’s preservation grew from the environmental movement born from the Cuyahoga River catching fire multiple times from pollution in the 50s and 60s. It does contain some gorgeous forests and the rock formations at The Ledges were pretty cool though very similar to the area where I grew up.
From Cuyahoga we headed towards Buffalo stopping briefly at a beach on Lake Erie before heading past Niagra to our state park campground on Lake Ontario. When we arrived the wind was heavy and the waters of the great lake were turbulent and threatening. But by the morning it was still and peaceful again. In the distance you could just barely make out the nubs of skyscrapers from Toronto. Katy showed me a cool sandbar on the rugged shoreline between the open lake and an inland swamp.
The next day we checked out Niagra Falls. We were both feeling a bit sick and the weather kept switching from hard rain to sun every 20 minutes so it was difficult to take pictures. But it was fun to see the falls again. We didn’t get to stay long.