The Family

The Family
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Troutstream Travels

Troutstream Travels
The Troutstream In The Wild

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dreaming of Ludington

Ludington State Park
Beechwood Campground
Ludington, Michigan

 Ludington State Park

     Before every Airstream trip, Melizza and I make the short journey to the storage lot to tow the Troutstream home.  We immediately plug it in and begin stocking it with food, gear and clothes.  After a few years of ownership, the twenty-eight foot Airstream is still somewhat of a curiosity in our neighborhood.  Many of our friends and neighbors stroll by and stop to chat about our travel plans.  We hear two questions from just about everyone. First, most people want to know where we are going. That question is always followed by “How long are you going to be there?”  Recently, my response to that question is that we will be gone for the weekend.  The inevitable reply from my neighbors is that they can’t believe I am going that far for just the weekend.  With our busy schedules and the end of summer in sight, we will take what we can get.  A long weekend in Michigan is better than nothing at all.  Plus, I bought my Airstream so that I could take more short trips in addition to the big dream vacations.  This weekend definitely left us wishing we had stayed a little longer.  

     We returned to Ludington State Park in western Michigan for a quick weekend getaway.  Our last visit was in the fall.  You can read all about that trip here.  This time, we had an opportunity to witness the summer season.  Ludington is a ideal place to go if you are active and love the outdoors. There is so much to see and do.

Dunes from the trail
Morning on Lake Hamlin

Ethan fishing off the dock
     The layout of the park is perfect in that all of the campgrounds are located off a central road that mirrors a mile stretch of the Sable River that connects Lake Michigan to Hamlin Lake.  This layout keeps the crowds along the lakefront and river.  This creates the impression that you have the rest of the 5,300 acre park to yourself.  The park stretches for miles on the Lake Michigan shoreline with sand dunes sheltering the interior.  It is located eight miles north of the town of Ludington.  The symbol of Ludington State Park is the Big Sable Point Lighthouse which cuts an imposing figure over the shoreline.  On Sunday, I rode my mountain bike out to the lighthouse while the rest of family slept peacefully.  I had the whole place to myself.  The fact that there are no roads leading up to it keeps it from being overrun with tourists.  If you want to see it, you have to hike it or bike it on a 1.5 mile trail.  There are also miles of other hiking trails with remarkable diversity from dune boardwalks, lakeside trails to the lighthouse, forest pathways and a great looping trail around tranquil Lost Lake.

Morning bike ride to Big Sable Point Lighthouse

     There are three campgrounds in Ludington State Park suitable for the Airstream.  In addition, there is a walk in primitive campground close to the lighthouse which I would try out if I were there long enough.  The Pines campground is located just behind the dunes on Lake Michigan.  We stayed there last fall and the kids loved it because they could climb up the dunes from our site and entertain themselves on the endless hills.  The Cedar campground is further inland and has the camp store.  It is close to a number of wooded hiking trails but a little crowded for my taste.  The Beechwood campground is located furthest from Lake Michigan on the shores of Lost Lake.  We secured a spot in Beechwood for this trip.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Beach House on Lake Michigan
Lucy loves the water

Jack preferred to sit on the deck and enjoy the view while enjoying a good book.

      Beechwood is a great campground for the kids.   While it is crowded and a little tight for my taste, the attractions at Ludington are not the campgrounds themselves.  They simply provide access to all of the natural beauty.  This park was fully booked for our late July weekend.  That is typical.  We were camped near the boardwalk along Lost Lake and Ethan took every opportunity to fish.  He hooked a small mouth bass right away and he became obsessed with catching more.  He made a lot of friends on the dock.  Despite the crowds and the density, the patrons are well behaved and quiet at night.  Strangely, alcohol is allowed in this park and it isn’t in other state parks.  I am not complaining, but it is odd.  Perhaps, everyone lucky enough to secure a reservation realizes how good they have it.

Lost Lake Trail

Grandpa would be proud of the little fisherman.  
The docks of Beechwood Campground
      Once you arrive in Ludington State Park, there is very little reason to leave.  I could spend a week here if I didn’t have such ambitious future travel plans.  We left the park once to check out Bortell’s, the local fried fish shack between Ludington and Pentwater. It was well worth it.  They served up fried whitefish and perch with fries.  

Fresh and Local 

    My days began early with my dog nudging me out of bed around sunrise.  Maggie and I hiked around Lost Lake while Melizza and the kids slept in.  Watching the sunrise over the lake in the morning is an inspiring way to begin the day.  After our morning hike, I would drop Maggie off and jump on my bike to explore.  Bikes were our primary mode of transportation and there are paths that lead from the campgrounds to the Lake Michigan beach house and the lighthouse.  There were more hiking trails than we could tackle in our short trip.  Thankfully, we will be returning in the fall.

Maggie eyeballing the deer wading through shallows

Sunrise over Lake Hamlin
The kids walking atop the dunes after sunset

      We spent most of our time in or around the water.  The beach on Lake Michigan was wide with soft white sand and clear water.  I am always amazed how much Lake Michigan feels like the Atlantic Ocean minus the salt and seafood.  We could not have asked for better beach weather.  Once everyone woke up on Sunday morning, we went kayaking and canoeing on Lost Lake and Lake Hamlin.  We took turns on the kayak which felt like driving a Ferrari after the canoe.  I am going to have to figure out how to carry around a kayak because we all love exploring in the water.
An island in the middle of Lost Lake

     On our last day, we went river tubing on the Sable River.  This was a first for me but the kids loved floating down the river into Lake Michigan.  We only had two inner tubes and a boogie board so I swam and walked to guide them toward the lake.  The boys have requested that I purchase this tube pictured below which they tested out due to the kindness of some new friends they met on the river.

      As always, I could have used a few more days in Michigan.  There are plenty of things to do within the park.  Next time, we will be fishing for salmon in the very same river when the fall run begins.  I also want to explore the coast between Ludington and Manistee which is one of the last stretches along Lake Michigan that I have not explored. Just north of Manistee, the scenic M-22 road begins and runs north along the coast up past Sleeping Bear Dunes.  If we get lucky, the fall colors should be spectacular. Perhaps I will stay longer next time.  For now, I will remember the sun setting over the lake and remember the good times with my family.

Me and my Lucy bear