Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009: My Favorite Memories

Number, The First.

In 2009, we had some exciting times, and some not so exciting times. The year passed with speed that I did not anticipate. Here is my first favorite memory from 2009.

In early January of 2009, I settled on a family vacation. Well, partial family, as it would just be the kids and I. I had been planning on doing on for a month or two already, but in January, I decided that I would take the kids camping up to Mackinaw City, Michigan. Mackinaw is one of my favorite areas, and aside from a single day trip two years earlier, I had not been to Mackinaw City since I was a child.

I planned endlessly, budgeted, earned and saved money for the trip, and in early June, after school let out for the summer, the kids and I made the long trek up to Mackinaw City.

We had our first tent, and I had found a camp ground with budget sites for under $15/night. I used coupons, and internet deals to stretch our money as far as possible. Initially, we were set to spend almost a full week up there. We left on Wed, and were set to return on Tuesday.

The drive is long from home to Mackinaw City, and we left at 9am. It was after 4pm by the time we had gotten there, and set up camp, and after 6 by the time we had gotten to the grocery store, and back to the camp site. I took my time driving up, though. I planned a stop at a large rest stop that had a museum in it, but we wound up stopping even before we got there.

We visited 3 rest stop visits on the drive up north, plus one food stop (which included 2 gas station stops- 1 for gas, and 1 for directions because the road was under construction and we couldn't back track to the highway), and 1 stop at a place called Sea Shell City. It is a giant shell store, but also some tourist items.

On day 2, we spent time in Mackinaw City. We visited Colonial Fort Michilimackinac (Mich-ill-a-mack-i-naw), where I bought us a season pass for just $65. The pass allowed us to visit all the area historical parks. Had we paid entrance at each one, for the same price we would only have been able to visit 2.

We ate lunch in the park next to the fort, then walked over to the next historical park, which was a lighthouse. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, playing in fountains, walking the beach, and seeing the Mackinac Bridge lit up at night.

On day 3, we drove across the Mighty Mac to St. Ignace. There, we visited Indian Village, which is a tourist shop and museum, and also has some displays outside. We took many photos, and drove on to the next stop, Castle Rock. For just $.50, you can climb stairs that go up to the peak of a massive tall rock formation that juts out over the forest. You can see the Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, St. Ignace, and much more from the rock.

At the base of the rock, there is a real totem pole, and a statue of Paul Bunyon & Babe, the giant Ox. We drove from there over towards the other side of town. We stopped and ate a picnic lunch at a roadside park with a fantastic view of the Mackinac Bridge and Lake Michigan. We then went and had fun at the Mystery Spot, which included Mini Golf, and a Maze.

On the drive back to the campground, we stopped at a lake side park in Mackinaw City to run around and play, and watch a couple of guys flying kites. By the end of Day 3, I knew my patience was never going to last for a full vacation. I went back and forth, and looked at the weather. It was supposed to rain in the evening and over night on Day 4. We talked, I talked with Nick, and decided that the best bet was to head home early. First, though, we wanted a day on Mackinac Island.

On Day 4, we packed quickly, loading down the car. Checking out early, we got a partial refund, then headed to the docks to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island. The kids and I enjoyed a LONG day on the isle, which included a carriage tour of the isle, and a visit to our 3rd historical park, Fort Mackinac.

When we got back to our car, it was after 5, and we still had to drive over to St. Ignace to pick up some smoked fish. I was exhausted, the storm clouds had rolled in badly, and Nick told me to take the kids to a hotel for the night, instead of driving home.

We grabbed our first restaurant meal of the trip (we ate breakfast & dinner at the campground every night, and packed picnic lunches every day) at McDonalds, and got a room. The hotel was small, but inexpensive, clean, and nice. I was able to take a long bath while the kids watched TV.

Day 5 dawned bright and clear. The sun was out, and it was evident that despite the nasty clouds, the rain never came- figures! We decided that since it was so nice, we would do the one remaining activity we had planned to do- the 4th historical park. The park was in Mackinaw City, right next to the campground we had stayed at.

The park was fantastic, and I'm glad we didn't skip it. The park, Mill Creek Discovery Park, was the site of an old mill, and had trails through the woods, saw mill demonstrations, a small playground, a small animal museum, and an adventure trail. The adventure trail consisted of a guided nature walk, a canopy bridge, which was just a thin board we walked along, while attached to another wire with a harness, so no one would fall. After another trail walk, we wound up at the zip line. That was so much fun! We zipped through the woods, over a pond, down to another station waiting to receive us at the end. I only wish I had taken my camera! Next time we go, I'll know enough to know that the camera will be very safe during the ride.

Lastly, we got to climb a rock climbing wall. The kids loved that, and Gilly scrambled right up to the top. We left the park at shortly after 2pm, and drove straight through with two quick stops. One was at a rest stop for a bathroom/map check, since we were taking a different route home than we had taken up there. We stopped at my dad's place to drop off the fish, and finally made it home- late at night. It was almost 8 before we got home.

The kids and I had a blast. I learned that I can't plan a lengthy trip when I don't have parental help with the kids. Despite their ages (they were 13, 10, and 7), they fight a LOT, and in a tent or car, there is no separating them.

All in all, though, I am so glad we went. The kids got to go around to see a lot of fun places, and do a lot of fun things. They learned a lot of Michigan history, and we got a lot of great photos.


J Rodney said...

I am sure this is one vacation trip neither of you will ever forget Heather, as you really created some great memories with your children.

I have to say though that as much as I love camping, I have learned that taking a two day camping trip is just as good as taking a seven day trip:) Sleeping in a real bed really can be great!

Expressions by Heather said...

A real bed... man, that is worth a lot, isn't it? I think as we get older, we realize that beds are just so much nicer than the ground or air mattresses. Nick and I are talking about doing this again, this time with all 5 of us, but for a shorter time, and with less stops along the way. If we do, we're going to rent a small cabin at the same campground. The cabins are only $35/night, so affordable, just not for a long period of time.

Liz said...

I live on the island year-round. I'm glad to hear you had a nice trip here.

Expressions by Heather said...

I would love to live on the Island seasonally, but I'm such a wuss when it comes to winter, I'd much rather winter on the Island of Maui ;)

I've been looking at photos of the isle recently, though, and must admit, it's very pretty all covered in snow!