Our RV spot in Roscommon, Michigan, is centrally located and offers wonderful day-trip adventures. Mike had two bucket list items he wanted to achieve while in Michigan. One was to see Lake Huron (accomplished the previous weekend) and Lake Superior, which would complete all of the Great Lakes for him. He also wanted to cross the Mighty Mac, which is the Mackinac Bridge that joins lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You can see our video of this trip at RandomBitsRV on YouTube.
We’ve visited the bridge and the Upper Peninsula a couple of times now, and each time we’ve had the burning question: Why were there differences in pronunciation between Mackinac and Mackinaw? Some say Mackinac with the ‘k’ sound while others use the ‘w’ sound ending. I found the answer to that trivia question by accident. The entire area was named by Native Americans as Mishi-Mikinaak, with Mishi-Mikinaak Island their sacred place where they believed the Great Spirit resided. When the French came around 1715, the name was changed to Michilimackinac (the French ‘ac’ having an ‘aw’ sound). The British then changed the spelling to Michilimackinaw, which eventually shortened to what we know it today, Mackinaw. The Mackinac bridge, Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Straits use the French spelling and Mackinaw City uses the British. Either way, it’s all pronounced Mackinaw (‘aw’ sound). Now we know, but we didn’t then. So sorry for the mispronunciation, Michigan.
Proper pronunciation notwithstanding, we headed out on I-75 North and the excitement began to build as we approached the bridge. As we left land and began our ascent over the water where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, the deep and light blues of the water dazzled in the sun and sparkled. As we got farther onto the bridge, azure water surrounded us, reminiscent of the Florida Keys. When traffic stopped about one mile before the toll bridge, looking over the side was intimidating. I have to admit, while my husband was looking around in barely contained pure joy and excitement, I was feeling a little bit queasy–more from the height than the lake swirling below.
With the Mighty Mac behind us, we approached the toll bridge and were getting ready to enter the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The $4.00 was totally worth it.
Lake Superior–anywhere–was our destination. Mike found a state park on line with beachfront views, so we punched it into the GPS and started driving. The journey took us around the shore of Lake Michigan, and we found a sweet lookout spot where we could get see the five-mile bridge we just crossed.
There were crystal clear views of the lake while we drove. The GPS took us on a long deserted road with trees, abandoned shacks, and no other vehicles or people for miles and miles, and eventually brought us to our turn off for Muskallonge Lake State Park. We saw warning signs for bears, moose, and other wildlife. I would have been as excited to see a moose or bear as Mike was to see the bridge, but no such luck this trip.
We pulled into the state park and, surprisingly, the ranger let us park without paying so we could have our first glimpse of Lake Superior. It was a short stroll to the walkway and down a few stairs. The walk was quite pretty, as it was set in a deeply wooded area.
Seeing the vast expanse of Lake Superior with no other land in sight was a humbling experience. It’s so big. I’ve lived on the east coast of Florida for the last 30 years. I’ve seen the ocean and felt the magic of being so small among natural force so massive. For some reason, Lake Superior was the same but felt so different. The sand wasn’t light bits of gritty dust, but more like ground pebbles among large, fist-sized rocks making up the shoreline. There was no fine layer of salt mist on my skin, tangy taste on my lips, or its sharp scent filling my nose. The air and water were clear. The lake was calm and went on for miles. We stood silently in awe for several minutes taking it all in.
The shoreline of colorful rocks was beautiful. There was a small expanse of beach, but nothing compared to Florida’s miles of wide beaches. The trees opposite the shoreline proudly displayed colors of the changing leaves with signs of an early Fall.
It was sad to say goodbye to the Superior shoreline, but we headed back up the stairs to the truck where we would begin the three- to four-hour return trek over the bridge and back to the campground.
On the road out of the state park, we found this cute little gem. I got to see a moose after all:
Goodbye Lake Superior, for now. What a day of wonderful adventures, sights, and feelings. We can’t wait to visit again.
Safe travels, Dawn
The blogs are still out of order. Someday, I’ll catch up.
Where We Are Now: Roscommon – Alpena, MI.
Where We Plan to Go: Chicago area.
Location of Blog Entry: Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lake Superior.
Dawn, we just came back from a 3 day trip (from our workamping site) up to the UP to check out some of the nearly 200 waterfalls, had a great time and enjoyed your post as well. We are not too far apart if you are still at Roscommon, we are at Baldwin, MI – would love for us to drive over and meet you two — Check out our blog and let us know if you’d like to meet either here, there, or somewhere in between
We would love to meet you guys while we are here in Michigan. I sent you a friend request on FB through your blog site so we could make arrangements. Thanks for reaching out to us! Dawn and Mike
Just friended you on FB and msgs you with our phone number awaiting your call
What a delightful excursion! Your photos are gorgeous.
Thank you, Anne. It was quite a day and loved every minute of it. Take care!
What a wonderful day trip, plus knocking something off the bucket list. Boy, all those stairs – I would be sore for days! Love the sand message. I usually write the place and date in the sand and try to get pictures of us with it. It really helps having the remote shutter release when no one else is around.
Yeah, the stairs were something. I don’t think we realized how many there were until we had to go back up. We were too excited about seeing the lake to notice them. I love your sand message idea. I need to take some photography courses. I take everything with my iPhone even though I have a nice Olympus (I have to figure out how to use it completely). Your photos are so lovely. I know mine could be better, I just have to push through the technical trepidation. 🙂
Have made that trip over the bridge many years ago from the opposite direction. Thank you for the AC & AW explanation. Safe travels from MD’s Eastern Shore.
I’m glad we got to do it and have gone over once more since then. Next time we are here, I think we need to spend a lot more time in the UP so we can explore more. Safe travels to you, too!
I’ve wanted to go to Mackinac Island for the longest time. Read a novel that took place there when they still called it by the old name. I grew up going to Lake Erie in the summer. And the last time we were home we took our kids out to three of the the islands in the lake — South Bass, Put-In-Bay, and Kelley’s Island. It was so great. Are there islands in Lake Superior?
There is one, Isle Royale, that is a national park. I don’t think we are going to make that one this year. There may be other islands, but I’m not familiar with it enough to say for sure. I want to do a day trip to Mackinac Island in the next week or so–everyone says it is a must-do while here. I grew up in Ohio and we used to go to CedarPoint on Lake Erie in the summers, but I’ve never visited the islands. I need to put those on my to-do list. What was the novel? I’m always adding to my reading list, especially if the setting is somewhere I’m visiting.
It was Captured by Love by Jody Hedlund.
LOTS of Islands in Lake Superior. The best (in my opinion), and hardest to get to, is Isle Royale National Park. Other great ones are The Apostle Islands, at the western end of the UP / Wisconsin border. There are regularly scheduled day-charters there, and I THINK some of the islands have overnight tent-camping available. Probably the easiest island to get to is Drummond Island (Lake Huron, not actually Lake Superior), at the eastern tip of the UP, not far from the Mackinac Bridge. It is served by regular ferry service, and it famous for great ATV trails in the summer, and snowmobile trails in the Winter. And, if course, Mackinac Island (also in Lake Huron, sorry to drift from your original question!) is easy to get to, but is a whole different experience from the more “wilderness-oriented” islands mentioned above.
Also, the UP is famous for its waterfalls. Don’t forget to check out a waterfall of three on your way to an island! http://www.gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/maps/statemichigan.shtml
I want to check out all those places! When we return we have to stay longer in the UP. I loved it there and will probably do one or two more day trips, it’s just the places I want to see are about 2-3 hours away and makes a day trip long, but doable. Thanks so much for your suggestions! Can’t wait to check them out. Dawn
One of the more interesting (alhtough NOT most scenic!) islands in Lake Superior is Stannard Rock Lighthouse, a completely man-made island with a lighthouse on it. It is the best fishing spot in Lake Superior. I won’t promote any specific charter companies here, but if fishing and islands are your thing, Google “Stannard Rock Fishing Charters” and you’ll find several companies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stannard_Rock_Light
I’ve only ever seen the ocean, the Atlantic, once some 40 years ago.
But I’ve seen several of the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Each seems to have a personality. To me, they are more intimidating in the colors of the water, just the feel. I find myself unsettled by their expanse and moods.
I like the word unsettled. I was grasping for the feeling I got when seeing Lake Superior, and I think that word is perfect.
After being around salt water, tides, and the distinct scent of the ocean, Lake Superior sort of messed with my mind a little. It’s another of those experiences that can’t really be described–more felt, like you mentioned.
Beautiful pictures, Dawn! It looks like you are having a great time on this adventure!
Thank you so much! We are having an amazing time. I’m so glad we are doing this!
I love your blog and look forward to reading about your adventures as you travel. Thank you for following BrewNSpew.
Thank you so much. I love your Tuesday chatter posts and am looking forward to reading more. Dawn
love the moose!
I did, too. He was so cute! I really want to see a real one!
I love the info on Mackinac’s pronunciation, always wondered myself. I’ve only been to lake superior once myself, I did blog about it. A place called Munising you might, if you haven’t already, want to visit.
I wanted to visit Munising while we were in Michigan, but we didn’t quite get to it. We are planning on returning, and I definitely want to go there! I’ll be heading over to your blog to see your experience. Thanks for stopping by! Dawn