From Mackinac to Christmas

Posted December 20, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
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“In da beginning dere was nuttin.

On da first day
God created da Upper Peninsula.

On da second day
He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, & da ducks.

On da third day
He said, “Let dere be Yoopers to roam da U.P.”

On da fourth day
He created da udder world below.

On da fifth day
He said, “Let dere be trolls to live in da world down below.”

On da sixth day
He created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven.

God said it was good and…
On da seventh day He went huntin.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is commonly called The U.P., or The Yoop, and those who live there, Yoopers. Any Michigander who lives below The Mackinac Bridge is a Troll or a Flatlander. All other tourists are Fudgies. Try not to be offended. Yooperland is a unique culture with its own deities, a place where terms of enchantment if not endearment are toll for the Big Mac.

Lake Superior
On the shore of Lake Superior – These Fudgies prefer cherry pie.

Last December, at Gulf Shores State Park, Jim gave me The Yoop for Christmas. He presented it in a mapped route – our 2021 adventure – from Alabama to Christmas, a small town on Lake Superior.

Christmas, Michigan

Since childhood, Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha has captured my imagination. For decades, I have longed to see The Shores of Gitchee Gumee, and I would remain patient. Like all of Jim’s gifts, the Upper Peninsula would take a while to unpack.

mackinaw city
Our campsite in Mackinaw City on the shore of Lake Huron

Every gift – the strand of pearls; the certificate for a new paint job for my ’66 Ford Fairlane; and the keys to Beauty, our Airstream – came in a succession of beautifully wrapped cardboard boxes.

1981, 12 nested boxes to reach a strand of pearls

A master of the slow reveal, Jim understands that anticipation is a gift – the best part of the ride – because there’s no place to go but U. P.

2021 was a 4-3-2 travel-turducken of surprises – Jekyll Island, Charleston and Cape Fear, Ocracoke, Assateague, South Jersey, Shenandoah National Park, Ohiopyle and Bay City – all led to the penultimate prize: The U.P.

upper peninsula

The friendly camper’s ice-breaker, “Where ya heading?” was no slam dunk in 2021. Until we reached Bay City, our answer, “The Yoop,” or, “Christmas,” left the neighbors stumped. Only when we crossed the Michigan border did the response change from, “Say what?” to, “Lucky you!”

Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Pictured Rocks National Seashore

No one stumbles upon or passes through The Upper Peninsula. There’s no cheering squad stationed on the north end of the bridge. Tourism there is a complicated necessity. The locals – who need the business – would rather keep Yooperland under the radar. It’s a brilliant conundrum. It’s what keeps the “Pure” in “Pure Michigan.”

With few amenities for tourism and travel services, the RV is the best tool to experience the natural wonders of The Northland. Other than a spirit of adventure and plenty of time, all you need is thoughtful outfitting, plenty of provisions and dry-camping capabilities. In other words, you need Beauty & The Beast.

Tahquamenon Falls
Our campsite at Tahquamenon Falls

Pulling out of Bay City we drove past barn …

after barn …

until we reached …

Mackinaw City

The Grand Hotel
Carmen kayaking toward Mackinac Island from our campsite in Mackinaw City

Like good Fudgies we settled down on the south side of the Mackinac Bridge on Lake Huron for two weeks of discovery before crossing into The U.P.

tee pee campground
A bridge view from our lovely family-owned and operated site at Tee Pee Campground

Other than The Grand Hotel, we knew little about the famed Lake Huron resort.

maniac island
Mackinac Island

The link between The Hotel Del Coronado and The Grand Hotel is the stuff of Hollywood legend and a quirky Beaubeaux family secret.

Jim – renaissance man, magician and Star Trek enthusiast extraordinare – is also a time-travel enthusiast. Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson is his favorite book.

The story begins with a traveler, a guest of the Hotel del Coronado, in our old hometown.

hotel del coronado
Stock photo of the Hotel del Coronado

There, the traveler becomes captivated with a framed image in the lobby – a photograph of a beautiful actress from a previous era – and the romantic time-travel adventure begins.

somewhere in time
Stock photo from the motion picture

Long story short: The film Somewhere in Time (based on the book) was released in 1980 and Jim was first in line. The Hotel Del Coronado was not available, so the production was filmed on Mackinac Island at The Grand Hotel.

the grand hotel

When Jim saw the film, he suffered some kind of inter-dimensional episode and has been in love with Jane Seymour ever since. He only snaps out of it when I remind him that back in the mid-80’s Christopher Reeves and I had a nice chat in our front yard. I was watering the geraniums. He was jogging by.

View of the Friday Night fireworks from Tee-Pee Campground

Aware of what I would be up against that day, we joined our fellow Fudgies …

and ferried under bridge …

mackinac bridge
See the four guys working way up on the cables? Yeah, big bridge.

to Mackinac Island, where we indulged in mansion envy …

garden envy …

cottage envy …

mackinac island

cabin envy …

mackinac island

and, Seymour envy.

mackinac island
Will this event wrinkle the subatomic vortices to cauterize the time warp? I hope not. I love him just the way he is. And Jane’s just part of the family now.

After visiting the hotel, Mackinac Island is a delightful place to hang out …

and break the law.

mackinac island

The no-motorized vehicle law allows electric bikes with doctor’s permission, but the details are kind of sketchy.

mackinac island
Cycling is the preferred mode of transportation on the island

Fortunately, our quiet, low-profile Dolphin eBikes attracted no attention as we thoroughly toured the heights of the island without suffering the expense and embarrassment of a fine.

mackinac island

Or, maybe we’re so old they just assumed we had a permit.

mackinac island

In any case, there were no awkward moments with the law or the horses.

mackinac island

This island is gorgeous, no denying that, but it was just as fun to ride the North Central State Rail Trail to the friendly and picturesque town of Cheboygan for coffee, or something stronger.

For a tourism centered town, Mackinaw City has much more to offer than ferry, fudge, fried whitefish and t-shirts.

mackinaw city
The beach at our campground

Kayaking under the bridge and through the straights, hiking and cycling the headlands kept us busy for most of two weeks.

Worth more than the price of entrance was the thoroughly entertaining Jack Pine Lumberjack Show

and charming Heritage Village.

After two weeks of intoxicating summer weather, we finally crossed the bridge …

mackinac bridge

and followed a troll to …

Tahquamenon Falls

Paradise, about seventy-miles north of the bridge, greeted us with promises of waterfalls, blueberries and shipwrecks.

paradise, Michigan

We pulled into Rivermouth Campground, our home for seven nights.

Tahquamenon Falls

We were in it deep now.

“Stained with blood the tuft of feathers
On the little head of Mama;
Even to this day he wears it,
Wears the tuft of crimson feathers,
As a symbol of his service.” – The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow 1855

Not much to say about Tahquamenon except this is where the gitchee-gumee gets real.

Tahquamenon Falls
At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, also known as The Root Beer Falls draws its nickname from the distinctive color of the water which is created by the leaching of tannins from the cedar swamps which feed the river.

Paddling from our campsite to Lake Michigan was better than church.

To leave that gorgeous river, it had to be good … so we headed to The Shipwreck Museum

On “Christmas eve,” 😉 we pulled out of Paradise. The town of Christmas would be our final Michigan destination. We needed a place for the night and fortunately, a Harvest Host, right off the highway, accepted us.

Bee Wise Farms

Bee Wise Farms

We spent the remainder of the day and night at charming Bee Wise Farms where we stocked up on honey and superb Michigander hospitality …

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

It is true that Christmas only comes once a year, but it’s really cool that you can go to Christmas any time at all.

christmas, michigan

Christmas has everything.

A great place to stay, Bay Furnace Campground.

A lake …

a casino …

christmas, michigan
Kewadin Casino – Christmas, Michigan


Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Spray Falls – Picture Rocks National Seashore

and many fabulous pink-sand beaches.

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

Munising is only a couple of miles away.

munising, michigan

There, we dabbled in pasty culture, the pride of Michigander cuisine.

Some neighborly Airstreamers in Mackinaw recommended a pontoon to view the lake …

Great suggestion! What a splash!

As the light changed, we began to see the colors in the rock formations…

which explained why the pebbles looked like jewels. Some even glow in the dark.

Most days the lake was a bit too rough to risk paddling close to the rocks, but we watched and prayed.

Then, on our last full day, conditions were perfect. We inflated a kayak and took it out to Miners Beach.

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

While one of us sunbathed with Pico …

Pictured Rocks National Seashore
Who loves the sand? Who loves the warrrrrm sand? Who loves the warm, warm sand?

the other took a turn paddling out for close-up views of the lake shore.

Paddling through the Sistine Chapel couldn’t feel more glorious. Never have I seen anything – natural or man-made – like Pictured Rocks.

Did the ancient mystics arrive to this place and mistake it for Heaven?

Imagine how it looked before the white man’s foothold.

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

And to think that we almost missed these views.

We’re not purists. We travel fast when it can’t be helped, but the long, slow journey is the gold standard.

It takes time to get comfortable in a new place …

Pictured Rocks National Seashore miner's beach

feel the pulse …

pictured rocks national seashore

meet the locals …

sign up for Medicare …

and carve out time for interruptions …

because you never know when Heaven might drop in …

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

to say, Hello.

Pictured Rocks National Seashore

And, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.