Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
Monday September 18th, we packed up and drove west on Hwy 401 from the Toronto West KOA (west of Toronto--what a concept). We followed it until we reached London, Ontario and then turned northwest on Hwy 402 until the traffic slowed and we got in line to pay the toll for the Blue Water Bridge that takes you to Michigan. We paid the $12 toll (only $6 for a car but another $6 for the trailer) in Canadian to get rid of a bit of our leftover Canadian cash. And finally got to drive up over the bridge and then get in line to go through the US border crossing. This was a slow process and there was one line marked for RVs and Trailers that then just before we were going to funnel into it changed to a NEXUS only line (speedy special entry). So we waited nervously in the Cars Only line. But all was well. There’s a sharp turn at the end of the Cars Only lines and they like to have the trailers and RVs avoid it. But it was no problem for us. We had a pretty empty fridge since I purposely didn’t buy any fresh produce over the weekend after having to give up ALL my produce when we went from Nova Scotia to Maine back in August.

This time they were only concerned about tomatoes and peppers so we had no problems. We made the turn without a hitch and then turned north on M-25 along the coastline of Lake Huron. There are houses all along the beach so you don’t see much water but every now and then there was an opening and we could see the lake. It had been 80 and humid when we left the Toronto area but it clouded over before we got to London and then we had rain while we waited in the lines for the bridge and the border.

It was only a little damp when we arrived at Forester Park in Carsonville, MI. This is a county park and they offer both water and electric and full hook up sites. We asked for a water and electric site since we’d just dumped our tanks and we were only planning on staying for 2 days. The ranger gave us a nice big back-in spot that was easy to get into and near enough to the office for us to pick up the free WiFi signal with no problem. The WiFi was nice and fast and since the campground was pretty empty (lots of seasonal rigs with no one there) we had it mostly to ourselves. Walter had 4 bars on his phone and of course my Sprint-based Virgin Mobile phone had no signal. There was also no TV over the air here.

The electric and water hook ups were on the wrong side again but at least this time our power cord was long enough and I only had to use our longer hose (which is what it is for). Late in the afternoon the sky cleared so after dinner we took a stroll down to the little beach. The park is pretty narrow but runs quite a ways north and south along the coastline. But the county only owns a small portion of the beachfront in the middle of the park. The Day Use Area is centered in this section so folks can easily get down to the water.

The sky was just starting to light up with a little pink when we arrived. Here’s the view looking north. The docks belong to the private houses whose access roads run through the park!

Forester Beach MI

And this is the view southward.

Forester Beach MI

More private beach begins just past the stairs on the right. There’s the remains (just the posts) of an old dock out in the water and because of the storm that had just passed we had a bit of surf on the lake. While we stood and watched, the sky got just a little pinker out to the east.

Forester Beach MI

We wandered around and played on the play equipment (but took a pass on the slides) and then walked one of the campground loops before heading back in the deepening twilight. It’s getting darker sooner every night now.

It clouded up again in the night and we had light rain off and on all day on Tuesday. We took it slow enjoying the fast internet connection and then drove about 20 miles to the town of Sandusky to the Walmart to do another round of grocery shopping so that we would have enough groceries so that we wouldn’t need to find a place to shop while we explore the coast of the ‘Thumb’ and the lower peninsula. If you look at the map of Michigan below you’ll notice that the main portion of the state (the lower peninsula) looks like a left-handed mitten with its thumb showing. Forester Park is about half way up the thumb. The upper peninsula is supposed to be gorgeous but we didn’t really have the time to drive all the way up there and still get back to Ohio on the first of October.

Michigan Map

Having taken care of our shopping, we had a quiet afternoon watching it drizzle. The temperature hardly varied all day. It was 66 when we got up, it got up to 67 during the day and it was 66 when we went to bed. Whoo hoo, such a huge swing during the day!

Wednesday September 20th, we awoke to fog and a temperature of 66. We broke camp and drove north on Hwy 25 along the coast of Lake Huron. Slowly the sun began to break through the clouds and by the time we arrived at Sleeper State Park on the upper end of Michigan’s thumb, the sun was out and it was in the low 70’s. Yippee.

We toured the campground to find our spot and picked one in mixed sun and shade that was really easy to back into. Michigan State Parks have a daily vehicle fee (like Idaho) so we paid $32 for a yearly pass to take care of all the days we’ll be camping in their parks in the next week or so (it pays for itself in 4 nights). Our electricity only camping spot cost a whopping $25 a night in addition. Boy, is Michigan a nice change from the prices we saw up in Ontario and New England.

We set up camp and I got the camera out to capture the mushrooms that were growing right next to the trailer. There were tons of them like this. As you can tell from the acorn caps nearby, these aren’t really very big.

Flat topped mushrooms

A little further away there were these that had just come up. Maybe they’ll turn browner and flatten out in the next day or so and be the same kind. And then again...

Yellow topped mushrooms

There were lots of cap-less acorns about but I found a couple that still had their caps.

White oak acorn

There was also one of these really strange red speckled nuts. I don’t know what it is but at first glance it looked like a slightly rotten strawberry!

Maybe an oak gall

With all the oaks around, it might be an oak gall of some sort.

After lunch, I hiked back to the registration booth to get the password for the WiFi here. Walter’s computer actually could pick up the signal inside the trailer. But I had to sit out at the picnic table to pick it up. There are very few folks here so there’s not much competition for the bandwidth so it was plenty fast. I’m sure when the park is full, it’s a whole different matter. One of the great joys of September is that parks like this tend to be empty.

My phone of course didn’t work here. Walter’s Verizon phone had a 1X signal with roaming and our hot spot didn’t work at all. Walter managed to find the local PBS station (and it’s 3 sub carriers) over the air. There was another station but it was just a bit too far away and broke up badly—but 2 days later it was fine. Weird.

That evening I pulled out my Bear Extender, which I had thought had died, and low and behold it worked and I could get the WiFi inside the trailer. Yippee.

It didn’t cool off much that night and it was already in the mid 70’s by mid-morning on Thursday morning. We set out for a walk about 11 and it was 78 already. We took the Old Dune Nature Trail from the far end of the campground. It goes through the woods and over the low sand dunes that have been taken over by forest. The area is covered by bands of low dunes and troughs between them. The dunes formed at the end of the last ice age as water and wind piled sand into a small bay. When the bay filled up the lake receded leaving them to be taken over by the forest.

There was a lot of fungus along the trail including this stuff that looked like coral.

Coral fungus

We surprised a garter snake, who surprised us by making a very quick run for it off the trail and then freezing in the leaf litter just off the trail.

Garter snake

There were really nice interpretive signs all along the loop and we learned how to tell the difference between a red maple and a sugar maple (the red maple leaves have serrated edges) and a white and a red pine (the red pine has peeling bark like a Ponderosa) and a white and a red oak (the white oak leaves are deeply lobed).

In the understory there were a few wintergreen berries here and there.

Wintergreen berry

And lots of white oak acorns whose caps go down the sides of the nut as opposed to the red oak acorns whose caps are like berets that are a little too small.


Along the back side of the loop I spied this lovely little mushroom with a bulls eye on its top.


Further along we saw more of them that were more solid in color.


The campground staff were getting ready to celebrate Halloween the first two weekends in October and had gone around and put up decorations on the Haunted Highway. We passed the Creepy Crossing

Creepy Crossing ghost trail sign

And Witch Way

Black cat Witch Way trail sign

The signage for the trails here is a little overly complicated but we did managed to follow it back to our trailer so it does work. By the time we got back it was 82 and humid and we were ready to hide inside for the afternoon. I think the high was about 84—a good afternoon to take a nap!

Late in the afternoon as it began to cool off we drove over to the beach (which is on the other side of Hwy 25) to have a look at the lake. Here’s the view looking east.  

Sleeper state park beach

Walter found another Red Chair but this time it wasn’t an Adirondack and clearly not placed there by the Canadian Park Service.

Walter Cooke red chair beach

I took my sandals off and waded out into the lake. The water was very pleasant to this depth but a few steps farther out and it was cold once it got to calf depth.

Sara Schurr wading in lake

We sat and enjoyed the view for a while since it was now down in the high 70’s and a lone gull waddled up the beach to inspect us.

Sea gull

Having determined that we were not a source of food he waddled back to the water and hopped back in.

Way off on the horizon to the east we spied a sailboat. He came towards us very slowly (there wasn’t much wind) and then he began to get smaller. I zoomed in on him and captured him before he disappeared.

Rainbow sail boat

Heading back into the campground portion of the park we passed a whole bunch of ghosts!

Scary ghost post

I don’t know which I like better, the bow tie or the pink floppy tongue!

It didn’t get below 70 that night and warmed up fast on Friday morning. All this warmth after all the rain they’ve had this past summer has been very good for the mushrooms. A whole new batch leapt out of the ground over night including this amazing stuff that looks like an ocean sponge. I think it is actually a coral fungus like the white one we saw the day before.  

Large orange coral fungus

These mushrooms are like the others in the campsite but much taller and more photogenic. By this point the ones I had taken photos of had turned black and looked like piles of dog poop. They clearly don’t last long.

Cluster of mushrooms

I really do think that they start out looking like this and the flatten out pretty quickly.  

Cluster yellow mushrooms

We packed a lunch and drove east back to Port Austin, a very nice little beach town with lots of summer cottages and a goodly number of very large old homes on the main drag. The best of the lot is now the Garfield Inn.

Garfield Inn Port Austin MI

We found the public park and went for a stroll along the boardwalk. There were folks out in kayaks in the artificial harbor that they’ve built here.

Colorful kayaks in harbor

Out beyond the breakwater you can see the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse (one of the over 100 lighthouses in Michigan).   

Port Austin Reef Lighthouse

We drove on back west past Sleeper State Park about 5 miles to the town of Caseville. It’s not as classy as Port Austin but there are LOTS of houses along the highway between the state park and the town. We found the park and set out to walk on the walkway that sits on top of their breakwater. A commercial fishing boat was just coming in as we set out.

Fishing boat Caseville MI

There’s a sandy beach here and a county park with a huge RV park plus of course houses on the water too.

Caseville panorama

We walked to the end of the breakwater and I shot this panorama back toward the shore.

Caseville from end of breakwater

One lone sanderling (I think that’s what he was) worked his way along the rocks.


And the egret we’d seen on the beach came and posed on a rock as we walked back.

Egret water rock

There had been a breeze as we walked out but it was just plain hot walking south on the breakwater. The truck thought it was 86 and I think it was right—besides it was humid. We had our lunch sitting in a pavilion on the boardwalk in the shade and then toured the rest of the town before driving back to the campground. We took showers in the western bathhouse which was top of the line (the bathhouse on the other side is older and not as nice). It had nice new clean tile, a good bench for your stuff and plenty of hot water that you could actually adjust. AND the lights worked so you didn’t have to shower in the dark—oftentimes campground showers will be lit in the dressing area but not the shower.

It was humid. Our little dehumidifier which usually doesn’t fill up in 3 days was full already in 2 days. The forecast has several more days in the 80’s before the bottom drops out and the weather returns to normal—ie the 50’s and 60’s.

Saturday September 23rd, it was warm already when we awoke at 8:30 to the folks next door cooking bacon and sausage over their campfire. It was already close to 80 when we packed up and headed west on Highway 25 towards Bay City where the truck said it was 90 as we tooled through town. We took I-75 north a ways and then got off and continued on trip along the coastline of Lake Huron by following Hwy 23 north. It cooled off a lot (thank goodness) and in some areas it was only 75! It warmed up a bit by the time we reached Harrisville State Park in the town of Harrisville in what is known as northern Michigan at this point. They gave us a list of empty sites and we toured the campground. This is one of the oldest state parks in Michigan and the roads in the campground are narrow and confusing and lots of the sites are small with lots of trees. But they had a number of pull through sites available and we picked one out in the woods away from the beach (where all the sites were full on a hot Saturday). Even though it was a pull through it only had a 30 amp hook up (the others had 50 amp for big rigs and one of them had water) so it only cost $25 a night. Such a deal. This park has no WiFi (many parks in southern Michigan have it but not in this section of the state).

Walter’s phone had 1X and shock of the century my Sprint-based Virgin Mobile phone had one bar! Our hot spot had a signal and with our booster it showed green but it wasn’t very stable—too many people using it no doubt since it got better as the evening wore on. Walter had figured he wouldn’t get any over-the-air TV here but surprise surprise he got plenty including the Michigan State-Notre Dame football game where Notre Dame demolished Michigan State to the chagrin of most of the folks in the campground.

Sunday dawned sunny and warm yet again. Walter made waffles—yum yum. And then we went about 1 mile into town and did laundry where they had nice fast WiFi!