So you’re thinking about a mid-distance, overlanding trip that involves remote, backcountry driving that’s easily reachable from the Mid-Atlantic and accessible for most make and model vehicles—look no further than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). My daughter (Raegan aka Rae) and I had the chance to get away for a week this summer to take a 2600 mile round trip from Northern Virginia to Copper Harbor, MI (our northern most point on the trip). To me, this trip represented my first serious “solo” excursion and a destination that I had penciled in on my “bucket list” several years back. To my daughter, she wanted to relive the excitement we had the year before completing the 2014 Vermont Overland Trophy.
For the latter half of the trip, I would be hooking up with the folks from UpOverland on Wednesday evening, August 6th at High Rock Bay (42.42675, -87.71429) for the UpOverland2015 adventure. Setting off on Sunday morning, Rae and I targeted a destination of Ann Arbor, MI in order to visit American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) on Monday morning.
About 7 hours into our drive, we had a slight detour through Toledo, OH to the FCA Jeep manufacturing facility to see where Wranglers are born. It was pretty cool–a recommended pit stop for the everyday Jeep enthusiast.
The following morning, after our quick visit to AEV, we set off towards the UP with the intention of camping along the shores of Lake Superior and meeting up with Luke Comstock and his wife, Heather.
(note: Rae and I tried to play the Taylor Swift game (seen on Expedition Overland)–we could make it no more than 20 minutes)
Here is where I need to mention, Michigan is big!! I don’t think I fully grasped that it would take every bit of eight hours to drive from the outskirts of Detroit to the Mouth of Two Hearted River State Forest Campground (46.69792, -85.42224)—it just didn’t seem possible that it would take that long (during trip planning) and we weren’t crossing a state line!
Entering the UP, is like nothing I’ve really experienced before. After crossing the Mackinac Bridge and paying a small toll, we moved north on RT123 heading towards Whitefish Point. The whole area was sparsely populated, the roads are elevated to cross long stretches of marsh landscape, and there were hundreds of trails meandering deep into the lush, evergreen forests. When we reached Paradise, MI, we headed west with the hopes of finding our first dirt road—it didn’t take long!
Turning right off of Rt123 and onto W Farm Truck Trail, I was amazed to find a well-groomed, highly traveled trail system that’s covered in a very fine sand. About a mile in, I decided to air down to about 20 PSI to increase my footprint as we started to encounter deeper sand along the trail. As we inched closer and closer to camp, the trail narrowed to single track with deep ruts and the lush forests gave way to a charred landscape of a recent fire. The view was simply stunning!
Shortly after 9pm, we rolled into the campground to find only 1 spot left–which we didn’t expect for such a remote spot and it being a Monday. We were greeted by Luke, set up camp and strolled out to the Lake Superior. It quickly hit me that this was going to be a great trip, one I would remember forever and I was grateful to be sharing it with my daughter. We headed to bed late that evening, Rae and I were both excited about what tomorrow had in-store for us!
To be continued…
A couple things to consider…
If you’re thinking about making a trip to the UP, here are a few things to consider or use to plan your trip
- A Michigan ORV Permit: Not necessarily a requirement to access trails in the UP, it’s worth the $36 insurance to have this permit if you come across a DNR Officer and you’re in a gray area trail
- Maps/Planning: I utilized the following resources for maps and waypoint information
- Michigan DNR ORV/ATV Trail Maps–Overall, this is one of the best resource sites I’ve encountered from a trip planning perspective. Michigan DNR offers multiple map formats, recreation and lodging information–just an all around great site to utilize for trip planning.
- Gaia GPS–Tried and True, this app. keeps getting the job done.
- Michigan All-Outdoors Atlas–I gotta say, this atlas makes Delorme Atlas & Gazetters look like children’s books–I highly recommend utilizing this atlas for planning your trip into the UP.
- Travel Time:
- Travel from the DC area to Detroit is approximately 8.5 hours
- Travel from Detroit to the Mackinac Bridge is 6.5 hours
- Travel from Mackinac Bridge to Marquette, Mi is 3 hours