The Upper Peninsula of Michigan contains 29% of the state’s land, but is home to just 3% of its population. While a handful of roads meander across the peninsula, connecting coastal communities and tiny interior towns, the vast majority of this heavily forested land mass has remained wild. The peninsula is commonly referred to as the U.P. and folks who reside there are known as “Yoopers” (derived from “U.P.ers”). We visited three distinct locations after crossing the enormous “Mighty Mac” bridge between Mackinaw City and the U.P.:

The Mackinac Bridge

First up, the tiny town of Munising, which is located at the western edge of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The park, which borders the southern shore of Lake Superior, is about forty miles long and covers an area of almost 75,000 acres. Authorized in 1966, Pictured Rocks was the nation’s first National Lakeshore. Its most famous section is the 15 miles of shoreline that feature colorful sandstone cliffs and formations that tower 50 to 200 feet above the lake. Because the best way to view the scenery is to get out on the water, the NPS has contracted with a private vendor to provide narrated cruises that explore the cliffs.

We took the last tour of the day, the sunset cruise, however, our advice would be to sign up for an earlier one. While the sunset cruise was great, it was extremely crowded and, therefore, difficult to move around. We saw an earlier boat go out (for the sunset cruise, people start lining up over an hour before departure, so we were actually there when the earlier tour left the dock), and that boat was only about half full.

Regardless, the views were striking.

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We spent the next several days exploring the inland trails and viewing areas. While the trails were rather ho hum (the ones we explored were relatively flat paths through the forest), the coastal scenery was fabulous.

Miners Castle, one of the park’s most popular formations, features another example of Michigan’s absolutely stunning waters.

Miner's Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Just up the way from Miners Castle, visitors are treated to sandy beaches, forested trails, and one picturesque view after another.

Forested path and beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sandy beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We continued our good luck with campgrounds in the area, staying in an enormously large, private, heavily wooded site at the KOA.

Forested RV campsite at Munising KOA

During our visit, we saw numerous reminders of just how cold it gets during winter:

In fact, we got a taste of it in the middle of August!!

Frost warning forecast

Fortunately, the cold snap was short lived and we had plenty of firewood to keep us toasty.

Marquette

Our explorations of Marquette were limited by the fact that we have a German Shepherd. For those of you new to the breed, Shepherds are known for 3 things: 1) their loyalty; 2) their ability to shed their weight in dog fur every blessed day of the week; and 3) their ridiculously over-sensitive stomachs.

Beyond the normal Shepherd belly issues, when we adopted him, Thor was suffering the effects of two different types of intestinal parasites. It took weeks to get his digestive system cleared up and properly functioning, but he’s never really been 100%. Indeed, this whole year could be subtitled “Veterinarians Across America.” We’ve been in a seemingly endless loop of diarrhea, vet visits, bland diets, antibiotics, probiotics, special foods, etc.

It has been miserable for him and exhausting for us.

Another day, another vet appointment (and no, he probably shouldn’t be sitting on the chair…but who can say no to that face? Certainly not me!)

And I know what you’re thinking: “When I signed up to receive this blog, I did not expect to be hearing details of dog poop,” but… here we are.

Prior to arriving in Marquette, he, once again, had a flare up and, we, once again, took him to a vet who, once again, gave us a prescription for Metronidazole, the standard medication for dogs with persistent diarrhea. This particular vet, however, also suggested that we consider buying a new prescription food that had just gone on the market. The price? $63 for a 16 pound bag.

I literally LOL’ed in her face.

By comparison, his regular food (which was also special food for dogs with sensitive stomachs) cost $50 for a 30 pound bag.

Needless to say, we did not buy the fancy pants magic dog food…

…until this past week when we couldn’t take the endless diarrhea anymore and were willing to try anything.

Fortunately, we’ve already seen significant improvement, so we’re cautiously optimistic that this new food might just do the trick. Either way, I’ll keep you posted – whether you care or not.

When not on 24-hour poop watch, we did explore the city a bit. Marquette is a college town featuring many of the things we tend to enjoy – a nice bike trail, some peaceful waterfront views, and a collection of unique and impressive restaurants, shops, and bars in the downtown area.

One of the standouts was a completely unexpected Cajun/Creole restaurant in the heart of the main shopping district. Lagniappe doesn’t look like much, a windowless basement level room with low ceilings, dark paneled walls, and an assortment of Mardi Gras decorations. But the food was a legit “Wow!”

To find such flavorful Cajun/Creole cuisine all the way up at the very top of the Upper Peninsula, about as far as from Louisiana as one can get, was a complete shock. But it was so good, and so reasonably priced, we actually visited twice.

Marquette Tourist Park

Our Marquette campground had the potential to be awesome, but we landed a rather crappy site. First, our site featured the world’s largest fire hydrant right in the middle of it. Behold:

It almost looks like I photo-shopped Thor into the picture, but alas, he’s really there and the hydrant really is that much larger than him.

I’m not sure what kind of fires they have in Marquette, but apparently, the fire department really wants to be prepared.

Thor: If a fire hydrant is 4 times the size of a regular one, does that mean I get to pee on it 4 times as often?

Me: Have at it.

second, our site was full of sand while everyone else had grass or packed dirt. Sand sucks. It gets all over everything and makes a mess; third, in this park, there’s only one water spigot for every two sites. Our site was one of the unlucky ones which meant we had to run 75 feet of water hose under our rig, across our patio, and over to our neighbor’s site (see the blue hose between Thor and the “Hydrant of Doom” above); and fourth, as one final insult, somehow, some way, no matter how empty the park was, we always, always, always had neighbors on both sides. They changed every night or two, but in a campground that was 80% empty, we always had someone sitting outside our windows.

The view throughout the entire campground:

…except for our section which was like a parking lot. A parking lot that featured a comically large fire hydrant planted on a sandy beach with a stupid blue hose running through it.

On the other hand, when intense storms rolled through – which was a frequent occurrence during our visit – I think the neighbors might have actually helped block the wind from the trees that surrounded our RV.   

While the larger park suffered plenty of storm damage…

…we escaped unscathed. So I guess I should stop complaining about having neighbors.

Newberry

As we made our way south, we stopped for a quick two nights in Newberry, which is located in the middle of the U.P. Our quick stop gave us enough time to check out a state park that had come highly recommended (Thanks again, Jackie and Gwynn!)

Tahquamenon Falls State Park protects a series of lovely waterfalls. The falls are accessible via an easy paved path, however, you can make your visit more interesting (and fun for doggies) by checking out the park’s trail system.

We can only imagine how gorgeous this park must be when the Fall colors explode.

One nice thing about our time in the U.P., especially in the days following Labor Day weekend, was this:

Ahhhhh, dreamy….

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, we’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Unfortunately for us, we just ran out of time.

And with that, we pointed Barney’s nose south and headed back for the main part of Michigan. Next up, we have far too much fun in the super fun town of Traverse City.

_________________________________________________________________

Where we stayed:

Pictured Rocks KOA, Munising, Michigan

Marquette Tourist Park, Marquette, Michigan

39 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! I never knew the water in Michigan looked like the Caribbean! So pretty!! Sounds like you had a lot of fun up there, luckily before the snow rolled in, which is probably October ????????. Sorry about Thor’s issues. That sounds very “unfun!”

    • We’ve truly been blown away by the beautiful waters up here, but yes, those lakes will be frozen over in just a couple weeks, so it is time to head south!!And yeah, these kinds of things are definitely the price we pay for all that puppy love. Well, that and the dog hair. And the bed stealing. And the muddy paw prints on everything…. 🙂

  2. We, too, really enjoyed Pictured Rocks. While we didn’t see it from the water, we did so enjoy the trails along the edge. I do wish we had either taken the boat ride or kayaked but, alas, we didn’t. Michigan is a wonderful state and that lake is my favorite. I so wish it had a longer “nice” season. Sounds you had a great time. Reading about poor Thor was sad. I sure hope the new food gives him (and you) some relief. He is so cute. Love, love your fire hydrant. What other park gives you a dog park with its own hydrant right on your site!! Haha! Glad there wasn’t a fire near by and you had to share with the fire truck. Safe travels as you move on!

    • Thanks Pam. I’m glad you enjoyed Michigan too. I was actually reading your posts about Marquette before heading up there, with the intention of following in your footsteps, but then everything went crazy with Thor and we didn’t get to go see some of the stuff you saw (like the ore dock). Happily, we still felt we got a good feel for the place. I guess it would be convenient to have the hydrant in our site if our house was on fire, but anyone else? Yeah, that would probably be pretty annoying. 🙂

  3. Now I am bummed we didn’t head to Michigan when we left Wisconsin. I’d have been in heaven. Post Labor Day looks perfect! I hope the “magic dog food” has Thor feeling better. I can’t believe there was a fire hydrant IN your site, how weird is that!??!

    • Michigan should definitely be on your list. There’s so much in this state that I am sure you guys would really enjoy. And yeah, that hydrant was one of the weirdest things we’ve ever seen in a campground.

  4. Holy crap, if Marquette often has wind storms that topple big trees like that in the campground, I definitely want a site in the area you were in! (Fire hydrant and all, just in case…) I like the way you included Thor in the photo for perspective. He looks like a toy compared to that monstrosity! He’s probably going to be disappointed with any other campsite from here on out, LOL! Poor baby, I hope he’s feeling better (for his sake and yours).

    Your photos of Pictured Rocks are gorgeous! Other than you feeling crowded on the sunset boat tour, it looks like you had lots of elbow room in the U.P. in September. Do you think we could start a petition to move Labor Day up by a month? ????

    • Only a month?? I think the least they could do would be to cut summer down to one week!

      I think visiting all these places when we did was just perfect. There were certainly other visitors at Pictured Rocks (we were there before Labor Day), but, per the usual, the trails were empty. And once we got through the holiday, every place we went was deserted. It’s been such a nice change after a very busy summer in the east.

      As for that storm, I was amazed at how much damage was done. It didn’t even seem all that intense, but walking around, it was like a tornado came through. We most definitely got lucky.

  5. We loved the UP too! Poor Thor….we had a Lab with similar issues and our vet recommended giving him canned pumpkin in his food. At first, we only gave it to him during an episode, but after trial & error discovered a daily dose kept his stools normal. Just a tsp was enough. We would even stock up because sometimes during Thanksgiving Season it would be hard to find and we feared a blow out if he didn’t get it!! Might be worth a try & cheap! Can’t wait to see you in Jan

    • Pumpkin is one of those things that comes up a lot in articles about these issues, but I’ve never known anyone who actually used it. It’s good to know it worked for you. We’ve never tried it, but I have it on my mental list. We’ll see how this new food goes, but we’ll definitely consider trying it if he regresses. So far, so good, so fingers crossed.

  6. Finally…..a blog post about poop! Any dedicated dog owner will understand the role a happy digestive system plays in one’s enjoyment of anything. So, what is the name of the “new” food? We always travel with lots of Flagyl (Metronidazole) just in case. Luckily our vet trusts us and let’s us have a supply even if we don’t have an immediate need. The little pill bottle is always part of our travel kit. It’s the only thing that stops idiopathic squits almost immediately. Sometimes it is what it is and stopping “it” is all you dream about.

    Oh, and the UP looks pretty.

    • Haha… I do think we bloggers need to write more articles about poop. How else are we to share all these great ideas with one another?? 🙂

      So, the new food is by Hill’s (which seems to produce all of these specialized foods). It’s called Gastrointestinal Biome. The Metronidazole definitely helps, but we’d like it to be the exception rather than the rule. If we could get to that point, AND have a couple weeks worth on hand so we can stop visiting vets all over the place, it would be wonderful.

  7. Of course the expensive dog food works 🙁 but I guess it’s worth it if it helps settle Thor’s stomach. That water does look like the Caribbean, it’s so pretty! I can’t believe how big, and badly placed, that fire hydrant is, I didn’t even see Thor until you mentioned him. And I think he should be allowed to sit on the chairs in a vet office cause that is one place that it really is all about him 🙂

    • Ya know, that is a good point. I feel bad because it’s where people sit, but really? If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably used to them being a bit obnoxious. 🙂 That hydrant was truly something special. And not in a good way.

  8. What a great post. And yes, doggie poop is always a topic of conversation amongst us doggie owners. We just changed food because our little guy was diagnosed with a heart murmur and the food (Orijens) we were giving him was on the list of foods causing murmurs. We had already switched from Blue Buff because our big girl had a case of acute pancreatitis ( Blue Buff has since been sued by others) . Finally we have decided to give the Hills Science Diet ( nonprescription) a try. Both are on Youthful Vitality ( for dogs over 7 years) and we have seen major great changes in their energy. Would love to know what food you changed to. Our third puppy is and has been on a Hills Science Prescriptive diet for controlling her bladder stones. She suffered through three operations before we finally gave in to the prescriptive diet. I sure hope Thor does great with the new food.

    We really need to visit Michigan…gorgeous! Gay

    • Hill’s seems to be the answer to all of these issues. Every one of our Shepherds has ended up on their over the counter Sensitive Stomach food at some point, and that’s what we had been using for Thor (with moderate success) the last couple months. Now we are on their prescription “Gastrointestinal Biome.” I tend to trust Hill’s because they do manufacture all these specialized foods and it seems like every other day, there’s some nightmare story about other producers. It’s definitely scary stuff. I hope your dogs continue to improve on their new foods. It’s definitely stressful for everyone when they’re not feeling 100%.

  9. Love your blog. We too travel full time with our 7 year old Golden and would not be without Tylan powder. We have used it for years with our various dogs and were given it specifically by the oncology vet to alleviate side effects of chemo in our last Golden. It can be used daily for the rest of Thor’s life if necessary. It is bitter to the taste so I purchase gel caps and fill by hand and give in pill form when needed. Check with your vet regarding dosage and size of gel caps needed. There is a fair amount of information available on line. I’m a little surprised it has not been recommended to you before. It is truly a miracle drug with virtually no side effects.

    • Hmmm, interesting. This is one I’ve never heard of. I’ll definitely check it out. It’s nice to know we’ve still got plenty of options. I think part of the problem with the vets is we never see the same one twice. I think if we were consistently going back to the same doctor for these issues, they might start working down the list of potential treatments, but with our weird lifestyle, they are usually happy to hand us the standard solution and send us on our way. It’s not their fault; it’s just a function (and difficulty) of our lifestyle. But, hopefully we’re making some progress, and if not, I’m getting some great alternative options in these comments. Thanks again for the info!!

  10. I absolutely love Lake Superiors shoreline and you captured it beautiful. Thanks for all the lovely images. Your UP posts have me regretting not heading further east this past summer. Guess I’ll have to make it a priority next summer and I’ll be using the info you posted to help plan. Hope lil’Thor is feeling better!

    • We have truly enjoyed all of our time up here in Michigan. It’s been a great stop. I hope you can do the full tour when you return next summer. It truly is a wonderful state to explore!

  11. We’re trying to figure out our path for next year and you have helped put Michigan on the list of possibilities. It looks so beautiful there.
    Sorry for your doggie. We don’t travel with pets (because my honey is allergic), but all that vet and poop stuff definitely is another reason we don’t. Oh, another reason is we’re too lazy to be pet owners. 🙂 Best of luck getting Thor’s digestive system under control.

    • Michigan has been a great stop! We’ve spent 6 weeks here and have truly enjoyed it. There’s a bit of everything and we’ve never been bored. I hope you guys do visit and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

      Having a dog is difficult, and it can be that much harder when living on the road, but it’s just a part of our lives. We’ve had a dog since 2005 and when we lost our last one, there was a giant hole in our house and in our hearts. Having Thor has made things feel “normal” again. On the other hand, those months when we didn’t have a pet were much more carefree (and cheaper). Like most things, it’s a trade off. There are no right or wrong answers.

  12. Sorry to hear about Thor’s digestive issues. Years ago we dealt with the same continual diarrhea issues with our Springer spaniel. After a 2 hour drive to a veterinary gastroenterologist who did lots of tests, we were told his intestinal tract was inflamed due to allergies. We had to get a special food without any fillers I don’t remember the brand but it had only rice and lamb (no corn, wheat, flour, etc). It was expensive, but it did the trick! Hope Thor continues to get better!

    • Thank you. I think that’s what this new food is. A specialized bland diet with no potential allergens and just the right mix of probiotics to keep things operating correctly. I am actually amazed by how many people deal with these kinds of issues – and how many different products are available to address them. Fingers crossed that this one is the right one for us.

  13. Great blog, as always. Try pork or a good simmered pork bone for Thor. So many European vets recommend pork for troubled dog bellies. Pico has severe stomach problems and pork keeps him in balance. Our vet also recommends kangaroo.

    • So we’ve done boiled chicken and rice before, but I’ve never heard of using pork. Though, I guess it probably wouldn’t be any different than boiled chicken. I’d certainly give it a try. But where on earth does one find kangaroo???

  14. You know that campaign you keep waging for us to get another dog? You’re doing it wrong! I think there is some sort of conspiracy connection between dog breeders and Hill’s. Seriously, though, pumpkin (or sweet potato.) We used to use it when one of our three had tummy troubles, and I’m pretty sure the food we fed our sensitive-bellied Lab had sweet potato. Besides, it’s autumn, and pumpkin is de rigueur. I hope Thor is better soon for everyone’s sake, not that I mind a good poop conversation every once in awhile.

    Are your lounge chairs from Camping World? I think we may have recently gotten the same ones. Now we just have to find a place to sit outside. What is it with something always being askew about enjoying a nice sit outdoors? Like wind and trees falling on your head. Glad that those trees didn’t actually hit anyone on the head. Wind blows.

    • Ok, I realize these posts aren’t helping me convince you. From now on, I’m just gonna send you a pic every time he’s all snuggled up with us in bed, or rolled over on his back looking for belly rubs, or otherwise doing “amazingly cute dog things.” I’m gonna convince you, dammit. One way or another…

      Our chairs are actually cheapo ones from Dick’s. We bought them to try out the style before investing in good ones. So they were like $40 each. But we do like them and will probably get better ones at some point. You’re right though, sometimes it feels like actually using them is a rarity. As for the wind, I absolutely love being under the trees while camping, but living in this RV makes me want to run the other way. Storms are seriously scary these days.

  15. Okay, that fire hydrant! WTH??? I just don’t even get it. But, it did make for yet another funny blog post. 🙂 We loved Michigan and the Pictured Rocks Shoreline was amazing! We also did the sunset cruise and it was packed as you said. Beautiful, but…..

    • Yeah, some other blogger, I can’t remember who, mentioned the issue with the sunset cruise, but I didn’t think much of it. Now, after having seen the difference myself, I totally get the advice. It was still a fun cruise and, obviously, the lighting is better at sunset, but all things considered, I’d definitely choose the earlier one.

  16. Sorry to hear of Thor’s tummy issues. We had a mastiff boxer with similar tummy issues. Yes, tsp of pure pumpkin helps, note not pumpkin pie mixture, pure pumpkin. Also we did not purchase expensive food from the vet, we switched to Honest Kitchen, which is made here in the USA. Check out their web site. It is NOT kibble but pure dehydrated food that even humans can eat. Takes up less space in an RV than kibble.
    So enjoy your blog and thanks for sharing the good, bad and not so pretty with all of us! Please keep us posted on how Thor is doing.

    • Hi, Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment! I’ve heard of Honest Kitchen, but didn’t know much about it. I’ll check into it. We’re sticking with this stuff for now because so far, it’s been helping, but all options are on the table if things go south again. I appreciate all of these suggestions. I’ll certainly let everyone know how he’s doing. Thor seems to be the most popular member of our family!! 🙂

  17. Another very helpful post! Things I learned: 1) Michigan is gorgeous. 2) Visit after Labor Day. 3) Immediately invest in Hill’s (Colgate Palmolive) because you and all the other generous pet-parents will be driving the stock price up. But seriously, you may also want to check into the dog food offerings at Costco. They have several different products that are grain-free, probiotic, etc. that stack up very well against the super expensive stuff. And you can probably get it by the ton for what the Hill’s costs! You have our sympathy on the ongoing doggie GI issues. Sincerely, a person who has made the mistake of trying to feed Pepto Bismol to a greyhound.

    • Hahaha! You’ll have to tell me the Pepto story some day. I can only imagine what that must have looked like!

      When we first adopted Thor, the adoption coordinator mentioned that the dog food sold at Costco is actually the same stuff sold as “Taste of the Wild” brand – which is very pricey. I never looked into whether or not that was true, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. We’ve been impressed several times by the name brand products we can find under the Kirkland name at Costco (e.g.: Gray Goose vodka…) Anyway, for the time being, we are not messing with anything as this Hill’s stuff seems to be helping a lot, and if it keeps us from having to run out at 3:00 a.m. in our jammies to take him out for his 4th bathroom session of the night, we’ll happily pay anything. So, yes, I think you’re right: you should definitely invest in them!!

  18. Love the photos and descriptions of the Loop. That is a part of our country we have not explored! Sure looks like you picked the perfect time of year to visit. Sure hope Thor is all better with his new food. We have three pups and food has certainly been a challenge for us…we totally get it!

    • Thanks Gay. I think we have finally exorcised the weather demons that had been tormenting us for so much of this year. Late August/ September was absolutely perfect in the Upper Peninsula and we made the most of the comfortable temperatures. I highly recommend you all visit there at some point. It really feels like a different world and is so peaceful. As for Thor, so far, so good this week, so we’re hoping things continue to progress. We’ll see!

  19. Your post makes me, even more, bummed we didn’t get to make it there this summer. Oh well, it’ll be there when we’re able to go another time. I hope Thor is feeling better. Our son worked for Pet Smart in high school and finally convinced us there was merit to higher quality dog food, hope the new one does.

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