For those of you who don’t know me…FALL IS MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR! Like if fall could be 9 months out of the year (with summer being the other 3 obviously,) I think I would be the happiest girl in the world!
I’m not sure I can chose my favorite thing about it: the cool temperatures (hello jeans+sweatshirts,) the beautiful colors of the leaves, football games, outdoor activities or pumpkin spice lattes. Either way, the vibes of Fall are just something I look forward to all year long.
This year was especially fun and special; being that it’s Fitz’s first Fall experience! Does anyone else feel like Northern Michigan really lucked out this year with some warm, sunny and colorful days! Kwin and I definitely took advantage of this with lots of hiking, biking and “fall-ish” activities. Let me know if you enjoyed any of these too; or if we need try some new things next year!
Hiking and Biking
Vasa Single Track– HIGHLY recommend going here for an epic bike during the fall! NMMBA has done an awesome job recently of creating more trails for you to explore all over the state land in Williamsburg, MI. You can also hike or RZR on designated trails.
Electric Bikes on the backroads– We invested in some Electric bikes a couple years ago, specifically for bike rides like these! We are able to cover so much ground, and still enjoy the ride. Plus adventuring on back dirt roads is always so much fun with Kwin. Shoutout to Oma Jo for hanging out with Fitz so we could have a little day date!
Home Sweet Home– We’ve spent so much time over the past five years working on trails around our property. I’m not lying when I say they are my favorite trails to hike! The dogs can be off leash, so many different trails to choose from, and the beauty of the landscape makes it great too!
Mt. Holiday– A local favorite for skiing in the Traverse City area is also a favorite for hiking year round! Climbing to the top of the main ski hill really gives you an epic view of both East and West Grand Traverse Bay!
Marquette Trip– Our annual UP fall trip took place in Marquette this year. It was a beautiful and sunny weekend; filled with lots of hiking! Some of our favorites are Hogsback, Sugarloaf, Deadriver Falls and catching sunrise on Lake Superior. Fun fact… FOUR years ago Kwin and I got engaged on top of Hogsback Mountain; and look at us now with our beautiful baby girl in the same spot! This hike will always have so much special meaning to me.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes– I’m usually not for frilly drinks, I’m pretty lame and just prefer a good black coffee. BUT this time of year calls for all the frilly pumpkin drinks I can get my hands on. If you’re in the Traverse City area…. go to Espresso Bay and get their pumpkin spice latte (it’s made with REAL pumpkin, no fake sugary syrups) YOU WONT REGRET IT.
Third Coast Bakery– Donuts aren’t really my jam, and I usually only have one pumpkin donut a year. However, after trying one of there HIGHLY RECOMMENDED GF donuts… I was converted to a donut person. Lets just say we made it a Sunday tradition to get a few of these bad boys! If you’re in the Traverse City area and looking for a bakery that is Gluten Free and very allergen friendly (soy, dairy and some items even egg free) give this place a try! I haven’t had a bad bakery item yet!
Pumpkin Patch– Is it really fall if you don’t go to a pumpkin patch? Unfortunately with COVID, this wasn’t the “usual” pumpkin patch experience…but we still made the best of it!
Lions Games– Even though the lions let us down 75% of the time, we still spend our Sundays cheering them on!
Elk Rapids Sporting Events– I love fall because of all the sports! And with Kwin taking a break from coaching this year, we had more time to go support the other teams; like football, soccer and volleyball! Fitz is enjoying going to all these games too. I’ve got a feeling she’s going to be a little sports star!
Sauna Season – I missed out on sauna season last year, due to being pregnant. But let me tell ya, I’m so excited the weather is cooling off and the sauna is being lit again!
Hot Tubs– Kwin and Fitz have some fun bonding time in the hot tub before “tubby time” almost daily! My heart melts watching her splashing around in there and interacting with daddy. She really is a water lover already.
Halloween– EEEEKKK, I was looking forward to Halloween so much! In fact, Fitz rocked three outfits and looked absolutely adorable in all of them. Dottie from a ‘League Of Their Own,’ A Polar Bear, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!
Writing this on our first wintery day -hello white stuff&40mph winds– and getting a little sad that fall has come to an end. We are lucky in Michigan to experience all four seasons, as it really makes you appreciate whatever season you are currently in. So I’ll sign off hear and say: Until next year Fall!
It is no surprise that Kwin and I have welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world a month ago…man how time is already flying by! Miss Fitz has been a perfect addition to our family, and has already proven to be an amazing travel partner too! Here is a little look into the adventures we’ve been on as a family of three!
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes
At just a whopping WEEK OLD, we threw Fitz into our Ergo baby carrier and made our way to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and Glen Arbor, MI. Thanks to our friends J and Lauren for letting us set up camp in their yard at their cabins (have to be COVID cautious!) Since I was still in “recovery mode” we played more of the tourist role; doing short and simple hikes…but still having great views!
Every August Kwin and I spend a week traveling around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan(the bugs are usually less crazy then…not this year though!) Our first destination on this road trip was Marquette, MI. A favorite of ours! Marquette has awesome hikes for both sunrise and sunset, great food and overall is just a fun place to be! Hiking- Sugarloaf Mountain and Presque Isle Park Camping- Tourist Park Food- Sol Azteca for dinner, Java Bay for breakfast and Contrast Coffee!
A definite MUST when going to the upper peninsula! We had two friends join us for this portion of the trip: Corey and Stephanie Adkins! It was so fun showing them, along with Fitz, the beauty of the Porkies!
Another favorite of Kwin and I’s. We love the primitive nature of this town…no cell phone service and full of so much Michigan history! We’ve never camped in Copper Harbor, but decided this time to stay the night at a cute campground just at the base of some awesome biking trails (so jealous that I wasn’t able to bike with Kwin!) Hiking- Brockway Mountain and Estivant Pines Camping- Lake Fanny Hooe Campground Food- a local food truck and Jamsens for breakfast.
What a spoiled girl, spending so much time on the lakes! This little girl has been in Elk Lake, Torch Lake and had her toes dipped into both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior!
Fun fact! While hiking with our friends-Corey and Stephanie- Corey made a joke that I’ve breastfed Fitz is some crazy spots! So I thought it would be fun to list them out here! -Pierce Stocking Overlook -Lake Of The Clouds -Miners Trail (Porcupine Mountains) -Cascade Falls -Lake Superior Shoreline -Face In The Rock -Elk Lake and Torch Lake
People call us crazy taking a newborn to all the places we have. We call it living life to the fullest(:
Yup you read that right, TWO BEARS! Don’t worry, both were within reasonable distance away…but still pretty cool! Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is pretty chuck full of wildlife and it’s especially noticeable this time of year. With animals coming out of hibernation, and the lack of leaves on trees to hide things in the woods; You’re chances of seeing something on a hike are very high!
We weren’t uncertain to whether or not we would even be able to make this annual trip of ours to the cabin (due to COVID and the stay-at-home order here in Michigan.) However, when Governor Whitmer loosed the restrictions allowing people to go to their second residences, we ran for it! Obviously following all necessary precautions- wearing masks at gas stations, bringing in all our own food from a grocery store around home, and only going to the cabin!
The trip was nothing short of amazing, per usual! In fact, because Kwin doesn’t have to be at work currently we were able to stay longer than ever… 6 days! Whew, that’s a long time staying at a primitive cabin with no running water, electricity, or cell phone service.But man, it was much needed during this time of craziness!
We spent lots of time hiking (averaging 8-10miles per day,) reading, doing chores around the cabin, fishing, searching for the biggest White Pines we could find (we found one with 14ft circumference) and spending quality time with each other! Would you believe me if I told you there were still HUGE snowbanks? Welp, there was! The currently melting snow resulted in REALLY high water levels in the rivers and HUGE waterfalls, I had never seen them pumping so much!
Kwin and I enjoy and look forward to this trip so much! With the sprouting tree buds, the chirping birds, muddy terrain, and sunny days…It’s a true sign that we’ve made it through another Michigan winter! I hope you enjoy the blog and are getting outside during this beautiful spring weather yourself!
PS. For anyone who cares, baby girl did great with all the hiking and activity this past week! I cannot wait to bring her up to the cabin with us and make a whole bunch of new memories with her(:
A quote I’m sure most people have heard of or seen while scrolling through Pinterest. I love this quote, like a lot, and have ever sense visiting the mountains for the first time five years ago. It was a spontaneous trip out to Colorado and The Rocky Mountain National Park with Kwin and my cousin Jenna. I remember falling in love with the mountains; the views, the wildlife, and the sense of freedom that radiates out there.
Kwin and I drive through the mountains almost every year on our trips out to Moab, Utah. We make comments about how cool it would be to explore this land a little more, and experience what the mountain life would be like. That’s when the idea arose… we could totally do it, a month long road trip!
Three years, yes three years of planning. We knew that we wanted to be in the mountains and see the Western United States; Like Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon. We also really want to explore Western Canada, like British Columbia, Jasper, Banff and Waterton. So much to see, yet so little time!
After lots of research and talking to many different people [and maybe stalking strangers instagram accounts] we finally decided that hitting it all in one 4-week long trip probably wasn’t going to work. However, dividing it up into two summer trips would be the best idea [oh yeah we’re already planning next summers trip!]
The Great American road trip.
So what exactly was our route going to be?
Kwin and I decided to stay in the United States this summer and hit up
The Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
The Black Hills (South Dakota)
The Grand Tetons National Park (Wyoming)
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Glacier National Park (Montana)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)
When planning our trips we like to create a “back bone” of places we want to go and things we want to see. This allows us extra freedom to add or subtract points of interest. Some people might think we’re crazy and get anxiety from not having every second of our trip planned, but we love the “going with the flow mentality.” Going about our trips this way forces us to talk to other travelers and hear about their experiences, as well as diverge into the local communities [because let’s be honest, the locals always know the best trails to hit up, especially if you’re trying to avoid the big crowds.]
Life is crazy, and there always seemed be something holding us back [hence why its taken us three years to plan our trip.] I’ve learned first hand this past year that life is precious and can be taken from you in a second. Neither Kwin nor I wanted to waste anymore time and regret NOT doing the trip we’ve both always wanted to do. Well I’d like to report that the trip was amazing, and I’m so glad that we finally just did it!
I’m going to break up our trip into a couple of blog posts, just because I don’t feel like one blog would do any justice. We had some many great memories that we’ll both forever look back on.
Start: Home Sweet Home
Destination: Porcupine Mountains-Our Cabin
We hit the road, finally! Pulling our A-Liner camper and a truck filled with all the camping goodies. Our first destination was going to be Michigan’s UP! We absolutely love Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and thought what better way to start our trip than with a couple days there.
We stopped in Marquette, MI and did some great mountain biking at the South Naquemanon Biking trails. If you’ve never been to them I would highly recommend going! I would consider myself an intermediate rider, and I love these trails! We did one of our favorite trails ‘Gorge-Ous’ which rides downhill and along the Carp River, ending right on the Lake Superior shoreline. In true Megan fashion, I started off the trip with a couple cuts and bruises thanks to flipping my bike….in my defense, there is just so much beautiful scenery to look at that I may have gotten side tracked a little bit(:
From there we got a delicious dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Iron Bay. Not only do they have great tasting food, but the environment is awesome too! Tables made with parts of the Mackinaw Bridge, menus on old Marquette newspapers, and pictures that tell the history of the town. Such a cool place to eat that’s right across from the Ore Dock on Lake Superior!
A hidden gem about an hour west of Marquette. We like to stop here anytime we’re heading to the cabin to give the dogs a nice hike PLUS there is a waterfall that kwin enjoys jumping into.
The mosquitos were pretty bad, and it stared pouring rain on us…but neither of those stopped us! It was raining so hard that by the time we got back to the car you wouldn’t have been able to tell who jumped into the waterfall and who didn’t.
Start: Porcupine Mountains-Our Cabin
Destination: Porcupine Mountains-Our Canin
Have you ever been to a place where you wake up and hear nothing but the sound of birds chirping and a creek running by? Well that’s exactly what we get at our favorite little escape, the cabin! We decided that it would be fun to stay here for a day and really be present in what we were about to embark on. Our goals were to do some hiking (getting our legs ready for all the hiking we would be doing) as well as help Kwins’ dad with some chores that needed to be done. I love the cabin, however, I greatly dislike going during late June and July! The bugs are HORRIBLE. Imagine millions of mosquitos plus deer flies constantly buzzing around you; and no matter how much bug spray you apply they still keep coming. Needless to say, a bug suite is 100% necessary. I tell myself every year that I’m not going back up there when the bugs are nasty…and well…kwin always seems to sweet talk me into it. Okay, no more negativity. Despite the bugs, we still had a great time that day. Hiking, swimming in waterfalls, doing chores, and just getting ready for our big adventure!
Our FIRST day of new territory! We woke up early and hit the road. Now because our road trip was planned to last 3.5 weeks we didn’t feel rushed about having to be anywhere at any certain time. Man, it felt so good to have a trip like that finally! We didn’t have any set in stone plans, instead we planned to just go with the flow of things. We took the northern route for our trip, because we figured that staying north would be much faster, more scenic, and less traffic!
We stopped at a cute coffee shop, The Sandbar, AND a perfect place to paddle. The water was glassy, so why not!
Next we both were interested in stopping in Duluth because we’d heard great things about that town. It’s settled in along the western Lake Superior shoreline, and man were we both surprised and how cute this town was!
We got breakfast at ‘At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe’ and it was so delicious! Something I try to do when looking for a place to eat is: make sure it’s NOT A CHAIN RESTAURANT, if it’s organic and locally based ingredients that’s a HUGE win, and it’s got to be somewhat healthy.
Duluth has this nice paved trail that goes for miles along the Lake Superior shoreline, and we decided to do some roller blading. It was a great way to get some movement in for not only us, but the dogs too. We made it back to the car with seconds to spare before a crazy storm hit!
Sioux, South Dakota
The rest of the day we spent in the car determined to make it to South Dakota…and we did! We set up camp in ‘Big Sioux State Recreation Area,’ and lucky us it had a ton of paved trails for us to bike and roller blade with the dogs again. It was a beautiful place that Kwin and I would love to return to someday.
Start: Sioux, South Dakota- Big Sioux State Recreation Area
Like most mornings on our trip we got up bright and early and hit the road, because as the saying goes “The early bird gets the worm.”
Badlands National Park
Our first National Park of the trip! Kwin had been through this area before, but it was a first for me. It was breathtaking and like nothing I’d ever seen before. The sandy colored mountains with intense formations all over the place. Honestly, it was completely different than I thought it was going to be (but I really didn’t do too much research on it to begin with either.)
We hiked the Castle Trail, Notch Trail and Door trail. Shout out to AllTrails for helping us throughout out our entire trip! I’ve got the app downloaded to my phone, so I can easily find hikes around us at anytime. All of the trailheads are pretty close together because believe it or not, the Badlands is not as big as most other national parks I’ve been to. Besides the handful of backcountry hiking trails, there was only 4-5 shorter hikes in the Park.
We did catch an amazing sunset on one of the peaks though! The sunset on the mountains created such a picturesque moment, painting the sky in pink, orange and yellow hues.
While watching the sunset we ran into a really nice family from Indiana and started sharing our plans. They encouraged us to stop at ‘Custer State Park’ on our way through the Badlands because it had some Great Lakes we could paddle in. Given we had already hiked most of the trails in the park we decided to head out a day earlier than originally planned and instead do a whole day in Custer/The Black Hills.
Our morning started off at ‘Dunn Brothers Coffee’ in Rapid City, South Dakota. This town, was alive! Lots of active people all over the place; There was a 5K race going on, lots of people out biking, and it just felt like a fun place to be. We didn’t get to spend much time here besides getting our coffee, but we would love to go back here in the future!
Again, a place that’s Kwin’s been to before, but not me. I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away when I saw the carvings in the rocks…but it was so cool! I mean just the history behind this sculpting, and the fact that people were able to chisel such a beautiful and articulate sculpture out of the side of a mountain is pretty unbelievable.
Custer State Park and the Black Hills
We saw our first buffalo! Pretty much right when we got into the park, we saw the monster of an animal just lingering around in its habitat. It’s crazy that he didn’t seemed phased at all that there were multiple cars pulled over taking pictures of him. The winding roads lined by tall pine trees (giving it the black appearance in the distance, hence why the settlers called them the black hills) was such a beautiful ride!
Legion Lake and Stockade Lake- Custer State Park is filled with not only rolling hills, mountains, pines and animals…but also a ton of lakes! Honestly, after three days in a row with 90+ degree weather and NO WATER TO JUMP IN (we’re lake people and really need water) swimming and paddling was all we wanted to do.
If you can’t tell by now, Kwin and I have really enjoyed waking up early and starting our day off at a coffee shop then hitting the road to make up some miles. While in Casper we stopped at ‘Java Jitters’ where the barista was super nice and gave us some great tips about Jackson Hole…our next stop! The drive from Casper to Jackson was really pretty in its own way. Most of Wyoming is grass and prairie land, which was not anything like I expected. However the closer you go to the Grand Tetons and Jackson, the more mountainous it got. In fact, just before we got into the National Park we saw our first grizzly bear! Like the buffalo, it was just strutting through the mountains and grasslands, not phased by the cars and numerous people taking pictures of it.
I was super excited about this town from the moment we pulled into it! A cute small mountain town with a river flowing through it, plus tons of active people all over the place! To say kwin and I were in heaven is an understatement.
We hiked ‘Josie’s Ridge Trail’ which was about 4-miles and a pretty steep incline. After sitting in the car as much as we had, it was tough…but so worth it for the views at the top! Since this trail is in downtown Jackson, it’s dog friendly…huge win in our books.
After the hike we decided to mountain bike in the same general area, because there was a nice spider web of trails right in the center of town. Like the hike it was tough! When we were finishing we actually noticed a lot of people taking the ski chair lift to the top and riding down….we tried to ride them from the bottom up, so that tells ya how hard it was! We biked around town a little bit before heading back to camp and fell in love with the town even more.
Our second day in Jackson didn’t start out as planned. After getting coffee at ‘Cowboy Coffee‘ we had to take Kanyon to the vet [Thank you to everyone at VCA Spring Creek Animal Hospital!] Unfortunately she got Giardia while in the UP and had been up all night with diarrhea the past couple days. Once everything was all cleared up, we hiked ‘Ski Lake Trail,’ which again was dog friendly and about 4 miles in length. Definitely not as strenuous as our previous hike, but so beautiful!
Jackson, like most of the towns we visited outwest, had a great paved trail mostly used for running, biking or roller blading. We definitely did some miles on that!
Our last hike in the Jackson, Wyoming area was ‘Blacktail Butte Trail.’ It was a strenuous 7-mile hike, but beautiful at that!
Man, if you think the trip sounds amazing so far..just wait for the rest of the blogs! Grand Tetons and Yellowstone will be up next, followed by Bozeman, Glacier and the pit-stops on the way home! Thanks for reading!
Someone told me the other day “Jeeze, you guys are always in the Upper Peninsula..why don’t you just move up there?” This is a great point, and honestly Kwin and I have talked about it! The vast open land, crystal clear blue waters of Lake Superior, tranquility, and history of the land is VERY special to us. However, our family is here [in lower Michigan,] our friends are here; and if we lived in the Upper Peninsula then we wouldn’t have a place to escape to!
With every trip that we take to the UP we try to cover new territory, and this trips destinations were nothing short of AMAZING!
Kwin and I love camping at the Tourist park in Munising [it really is a perfect location!] Being that it’s only a short 1/4mile paddle across to Grand Island, it makes for fun day trips and awesome sunsets!
Our first “new destination” was biking around ‘Grand Island.’ The bike trail is about 23 miles long. I would rate it beginner/moderate difficulty. IF YOU EVER GO TO GRAND ISLAND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS! Not only is it a great workout…but the Lake Superior views are stunning.
Grand Islands history dates back to the 1800’s, when the Native American Chippewa tribe were the main occupants. The secluded nature of the island, yet still having an easy paddle to the main land, made it a pretty ideal location! If you are interested in learning more about the history, check out the book ‘Face In The Rock’ by Loren Graham; Kwin absolutely loves this book. He actually has ‘Chemaun Poll’ (a Native American legend believed that if you tapped your birch bark canoe while saying this you could go anywhere in the lake…and FAST) on his board during the lake crossings.
While on Grand Island, we had the pleasure of meeting Loren Graham. Thanks, to Corey Adkins from 9&10News, Kwin and I were able to tour the North Lighthouse (privately owned by Loren and his wife) along with talking to him about the book, the Native American culture, and the history of the lighthouse! Check out the interview and short segment on 9&10news here!
We couldn’t go to the UP without making a stop in Marquette! Biking, hiking, jumping off black rocks, epic sunsets, and paddling are only a few activities that we did.
Our Second “New Destination” was paddling to a secluded island just off the Presque Isle shoreline. Let me tell you, having a beach to yourself to read, swim and cliff jump is something special! What makes the Lake Superior shoreline different than any of the other Great Lakes is the rocky appearance-Hello Cliff Jumping!
Between Marquette and our cabin is a little town called Michigamme. A little history lesson: in 1985 the Department of Natural Resources wanted to reestablish a Moose population in Michigan, and what better place than the Upper Peninsula. January 1985, 29 moose were transported from Ontario, Canada to Michigamme, MI. Sense then the population has grown to 400+ moose! Some of them have traveled to other parts of the Upper Peninsula, but if you’re in the Michigamme area your chances of finding a moose are pretty high!
Our Third “New Destination” was setting up camp at the Van Riper State Park, and biking all around the area [we ended up doing about 47miles] HOPING TO FIND A MOOSE! I have never seen one in my life, and Kwin has only seen a handful before, so we were determined! Unfortunately, it was sunny and 90+ degrees…so most of the moose were tuckered away from the heat.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed, and now that you’ve made it through the beautiful pictures, check out Kwin’s video [HERE] of the trip!
With the horizon being painted oranges, reds, yellows, and greens…how can one not be tempted to take a beautiful picture? YOU CANT!
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year; I love the cold mornings and nights, the smells, the sound of crinkling leaves, the colors of the trees, and all the other fall festivities. Kwin and I, over the years, have created many fall traditions: like paddle boarding Elk Lake and Smith Lake, evening runs and bikes, weekend hiking adventures, etc. A special one that started three years ago was heading up to Michigans’ Upper Peninsula, to catch “peak” fall colors!
This year Kwin, myself, and ten other friends set out to continue this tradition on a weekend adventure. We first stopped in Marquette spending the morning biking around the awesome trails and downtown. We then ventured the rest of the way to our cabin just outside the Porcupine Mountain State Park.
We always find cool pit stops on the way to break up the trip. This time we found some cool water falls, and the guys were able to do some cliff jumping too!
I really don’t think we could have hit the leaves at any better of a time!
Our weekend was full of lots of hiking both at the cabin and the Porcupine Mountains; Swimming in Lake Superior, saunas, campfires, and enjoying time with good friends!
PS. If you’re looking for the best BBQ in the Upper Peninsula, hit up JW’s in Bergland…amazing food, especially after a day of hiking!
Now, if anyone knows Kwin and I, you know that we had to get some paddle boarding in on this trip too. We have always wanted to paddle at Lake of the Clouds, and figured that doing it for the first time in the fall would be amazing…and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
Michigans’ Upper Peninsula “Peak” fall colors is usually a week or two before here at home. WHICH MEANS MORE FALL COLOR FUN FOR US! Stay tuned for more of our fall adventures, because like I said earlier it’s both Kwin and I’s favorite time of year!