We left Grand Marais and headed west to Munising, a significantly bigger town also on the shore of Lake Superior. We had multiple reasons to make this move: less of a hassle getting to our excellent downtown Marquette markets, the option to participate in the Munising Tuesday market, the ability to see more of the UP, and Grand Marais, though lovely, is quite small and we wanted to see and do more.
We did a cruise tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, so be forewarned: Half the pictures in this post are of rocks like these.
We pulled into the Munising Tourist Park, a city owned campground right on the shore, and as it was Monday I expected plenty of openings at this first come, first serve park. Unfortunately, I had mis-remembered: the Munising Tourist Park is not first come, first serve, and they tend to be near full capacity throughout the summer. They had no openings at all; the best they could do was give us two day later in the week.
Ah well, we continued a couple of miles down the road intending to check out a rather new private RV park, but then spotted the Kewadin Casino in Christmas (yes, that’s the name of the town, and they really work it for the tourists) and remembered that they have ten RV sites with power. Checking in with the players club we were told to pick a spot, it was free, and we could stay up to four days. Free is good; we like free. It wasn’t the prettiest place we have stayed, but the price was right, we had 50 amp electricity, we enjoy casinos, and got to explore another small UP town.
Jack at the Kewadin Casino in Christmas, MI
On our second day we made the ten minute drive back to Munising, and after coordinating with the market manager set up for the Tuesday evening affair. It was fantastic. They had an excellent live band, a good sized and energetic crowd, and food, all of which translates into a money making experience for vendors. We were quite excited to realize that between Marquette and Munising we had two excellent markets to enjoy for the remainder of our UP stay.
PKM wanted to check them out but was cautious: ducks are kinda big.
After two days we moved from the casino to the Munising Tourist Park, where we lucked into a water front site. We had one ever so small hiccup while setting up: I had failed to put the motorhome in “park” when I got out to check my position, and thus nearly rolled the rig into Lake Superior until Rosemarie hopped into the driver seat and hit the brakes. Details.
Our site at the Munising Tourist Park
Anyway, our site was stunning. The shore was quite literally 30 feet from our bedroom, we had a beautiful view for sunset, and went to sleep each night with the sound of waves gently crashing ashore. We resolved that all stays at this park must be waterfront as every other spot would disappoint.
Our beach at the Munising campground.
While in Munising we made the less than an hour drive to Marquette to try out the new Wednesday evening market. It is much more… intimate than the rocking Saturday event. Instead of 65 vendors there were about a dozen, and we observed far less foot traffic. On the plus side, there was live music and an excellent food truck, Dia de los Tacos.
Sunset from our site in Munising.
We made decent, if not great money, so despite the higher than expected vendor fee ($30 as opposed to the Saturday $20 price) we considered it well worth it for the two hour event. Besides, the great thing about both of the Marquette markets is that we don’t have to bring our own tent or tent weights (the city provides them) so the ride in our little Geo Tracker is much more comfortable.
We picked a good weather day for something we had been meaning to do ever since our first visit to the UP: a sunset cruise along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We highly recommend it and can’t believe we waited this long. The views are stunning, and the billion year old geology fascinating.
After four days in the Munising area we shifted further west to the big college town of Marquette, home to Northern Michigan University. We stayed at yet another municipal park, the Marquette Tourist Campground. Though not as consistently full as Munising’s, the summer weekends can present a challenge for those of us seeking last minute reservations. We used our typical “check the web site every day for cancellations” method and secured back to back reservations for an 11 day stay, which would get us into September.
The Marquette campground offers full hook up, electrical only, and dry camping sites, all of which are quite large, in a lightly wooded riverside location. While it simply can’t match the stunning waterfront views we experienced in Grand Marais and Munising, it is reasonably affordable ($30 for electrical only, $35 for full hook up) and is positioned in what is becoming one of our favorite cities.
One of our spacious spots in Marquette.
Most “college towns” are pretty interesting, possessing an energetic and youthful “vibe.” What really jumped out at us in Marquette: it’s not just the college kids, a pretty high percentage of the adults were just.. interesting. Free spirited. The place reminds me a little bit of Asheville, NC and Portland, OR. We took the time to do some exploring and to take in the atmosphere of the town. Two of the highlights: Black Rocks Brewery and The Rice Paddy restaurant.
I believe this is called Temple Rock. The dark line from the rock that looks sort of like a footbridge to the main shore is actually a network of roots from the tree on top of the rock. Years ago the land bridge gave way, but the roots remained, still providing water to the tree.
If you have read our Maine and Nova Scotia posts, you know we enjoy our craft beer, particularly sampling it on location. The great thing about our life style is constantly finding new “local” spots and thus establishing new “favorites.” Nothing against Ore Dock Brewing, but Black Rocks is definitely our UP top brewery, and their 51K IPA is our new fave beer. The atmosphere of the bar and outdoor area are just excellent. Everyone is friendly, they have frequent live music, and regular food trucks.
Jack enjoying Black Rocks Brewery perhaps a little too much.
The Rice Paddy is a Marquette institution, and the proprietor, Aoy Lacapelle, is a bit of an icon in the town. There is some limited seating; but it’s mainly a take out place for authentic Thai cuisine with some other Asian options as well. It is a must visit place, though call ahead and be prepared for long wait times during peak hours. A final word of warning, they default to spicy, and they are not playing around with it. Unless you have a high tolerance for the spice, ask for it mild.
Towards the end of August we attended a local geocaching get together hosted by some local cachers. A couple dozen of us met up on Presque Isle, a very nice park with a good number of caches, for some food, conversation, and prizes. Ever since attending the MidWest GeoBash we have been much more engaged about finding geocaching related events, and were glad to have this one pop up during our stay. Thanks “2 UP Geologists” for hosting this affair!
Finally, a bit more on our markets. And yes, I realize the last couple of posts have been rather heavy on “market talk,” but frankly, these seven weeks in the UP and a ten week stretch in Key West are our top earning windows. Once we leave Michigan, we don’t expect another market for two months or so, and they won’t be as rock solid as what we experience up here.
Can’t go to a fantastic market and not buy something!
So with that said: during the last nine days of August we did three more markets. The two Saturday events in downtown Marquette were outstanding, almost record setting for us. We really benefited from the timing: peak summer season, good weather, and lots of NMU parents dropping their kids off for school and orientation. The Munising Tuesday event got rained out: some vendors still set up, but the band and food cancelled, and with high winds and lightening anticipated we took a pass. Lastly, the two hour Marquette Wednesday market was extremely slow, but not every vending opportunity is going to be a winner.
Next up: August Report and then our final couple of weeks in the UP.