Fall Camping, Best time of the Year

fall camping

fall camping

As the Summer starts to wind down, and the breeze kicks up, a lot of people start to think about packing up their rigs and thinking about winter storage.  But for me, this is one of the best times to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.  So please, take a few minutes to consider what you may be missing by putting “Bessie” away too early.

One of the distinct advantages of Fall camping, is that with most of the kids in school, the campgrounds are a lot more open, and the sites seem much more secluded.  Generally, you have your pick of campsites, and more privacy when you are set up.  In the evening, you are less likely to disturb your neighbors playing your radio, or a spirited game of Euchre.

The cooler nights being “outside” help me sleep a lot better than summer camping.  Even at night in the summer, it can be very warm.   You can’t beat jeans and your favorite sweatshirt, stepping out of your trailer with a hot cup of …whatever you drink in the morning… and the cool crisp morning air wakes you up, and you start cooking breakfast and reading the paper.  The colder weather makes the campfire at night a more cozy intimate event rather than being pushed back by the heat in late July.  The weather being cool also opens the door for different types of activities while camping as well.  I am not a huge fan of nature walks through the forest in the summer, between the humidity and the bug activity, but this time of year I take advantage of that (and save a few dollars on Off spray).

“Fall Color” trips are considered by some to be some of the most beautiful campground settings there are.  We are lucky to be in a state that offers so much to see, and for so long.  Colors start to turn a lot earlier in the U.P., and then there is a color wave that travels south, and soon all of Michigan is bright with vibrant oranges, greens, and reds.

So fellow campers, please think long and hard about whether you really are done for the year before you pack up.  You may have to use your furnace more, but it might be your favorite trip of the year too.

Spring Into Camping!

Escape Cabin Fever at Westland Camping

Escape Cabin Fever at Westland Camping

This Winter has been Hard.  Brutal.  Unrelenting.  Cold.  If it hasn’t been actively dumping record amounts of snowfall, it has been too cold to go outside, and when you were outside, you were shoveling; and then getting back inside before your eyes froze.  This can lead to a serious case of cabin fever.  We can Help. Continue reading

Westland Camping Campground Spotlight: South Higgins Lake State Park

Westland Camping Campground Spotlight: South Higgins Lake State Park

Westland Camping Campground Spotlight: South Higgins Lake State Park

Higgins Lake is a large lake in norther lower Michigan, and has two separate State Parks  attached to it, North and South Higgins Lake State Parks (Surprise!)

This article is specifically talking about the South Park, and contains a ton of material from their website, which will have a link below:

South Higgins State Park is a 1,000-acre park split in half by County Road 100. To the north is Higgins Lake and to the south is Marl Lake and 700 acres forested in maple, oak and pine. The park contains almost one mile of shoreline along Higgins Lake, which is a large spring-fed body of water known for its clarity and fishing potential. Marl Lake is considerably smaller, shallower and less developed.

The park was first opened as a campground in 1927 with 15 campsites. In 2002, the park marked its 75th anniversary with the dedication of three new toilet/shower facilities, new electrical systems and water upgrades. As the second largest campground in a state park, the park’s 400 modern camp sites are situated in a hardwood-shaded area. The park is very popular during the summer months and reservations must be made early.

For more information, or to make reservations, checkout the park website here.

For a complete map of the park, click here.

For a list of park activities and information…scroll down a little.

Campground Address:

South Higgins Lake State Park
106 State Park Drive
Roscommon, MI 48653
Phone Number: (989) 821-6374

Cross Country Ski

Trails are not groomed.

Fishing

Higgins Lake stretches seven miles and can reach 135 feet in depth. It is best known by many anglers for its perch and lake trout populations. Marl Lake also provides for excellent fishing opportunities. Perch, smallmouth bass, and northern pike are commonly caught in the lake. Most anglers use a canoe or small boat and fish in the center of the lake. Anglers also have good success ice fishing on Higgins Lake.

Fishing in the Parks

Learn more about fishing at Fishing in the Parks, a free educational program.

Hiking

There is a self-guided nature trail in South Higgins, as well as five miles of hiking trails surrounding Marl Lake that offer naturalists a good opportunity to explore the local area and observe wildlife. Please keep in mind that portions of the Marl Lake trail system pass through areas open to hunting. It is recommended that hikers wear highly visible clothing during the hunting seasons.

Hunting

The Marl Lake area is open to hunters during scheduled hunting seasons. There is a good opportunities for small game such as squirrels and rabbits. This area is open for archery and firearms deer seasons. Hunters also have some success during turkey and bear seasons.

Metal Detecting

Metal detecting is recognized as a legitimate recreation activity when it is conducted in ways that do not damage the natural and cultural resources in Michigan State Parks nor violate applicable state statutes. If you wish to use a metal detector in this state park, here is a map that shows clearly where this activity may take place. Any items found must be reviewed by park staff and may be retained for further investigation.

Michigan State Park Explorer Program

Learn more about the natural features and resources located in this park with the Outdoor Explorer Program.

Pet-Friendly Area

There are two pet-friendly areas of shoreline at South Higgins Lake State Park. The first is for campers-only and is near the west campground. The second area is in the day use area. Please contact the park for specific details. Pets must be on a six foot leash and under an owner’s immediate control at all times. All pet waste must be properly disposed of in trash receptacles.

Swimming

The sandy beach stretches three-quarters of a mile long Higgins Lake.

Watchable Wildlife

The Wildlife Viewing Guide is now on line atwww.michigan.gov/miwildlifeviewing.

Westland Camping Campground Spotlight: Tee Pee Campground

Westland Camping Spotlights The Tee Pee Campground's Gorgeous View

Westland Camping Spotlights The Tee Pee Campground’s Gorgeous View

Westland Camping Center isn’t just an RV dealership, we are campers ourselves and want to make sure that you know all of the options available to you when you are planning your family time this year.  The Tee Pee campground is a great place not too far away, but with so much to do around it, I think you would be well served to spend a long weekend (or longer) exploring the campground, and the surrounding areas.  Here is a little bit of a preview from their website: Continue reading

Family Camping Memories Should Be Recorded And Shared

Westland Camping Family Vacation to the Platte River
Westland Camping Family Vacation to the Platte River

Westland Camping Family Vacation to the Platte River

Westland Camping Center is not just any RV dealership.  We are a family that has camped together forever, and continue to do so today.  We don’t just sell Travel trailers, 5th Wheels and Pop-up Campers, we take them out and use them.  We got into this industry because it gets us closer to the things we enjoy doing, and, OK, get paid to think about camping every day.

With that in mind, I want to share an insight into one of my favorite camping keepsakes: The Family Camping Journal.

I love looking at pictures from camping trips past, and seeing the camper equipment and games changing as my Brother and I got older, as well as the great views and vistas from our sites and the places we went to.  However, pictures only show you so much.  Sometimes you remember the people, but can’t remember what was happening, or why this trip was special.  Yes, sometimes a picture isn’t worth a thousand words.

My mother, as the dedicated family historian, would take an hour or so every night or every other night, and describe where we were, what we did, and any funny anecdotes or stories pertaining to the day’s activities.  She noted the name of the campground, and site numbers.  She noted the general weather conditions, who was with us, and of course, how much trouble the dog got into…

The Journal itself wasn’t fancy, just a wire-bound notebook with a plastic cover to help make it last.  Over the years we had several of them.  But the collection of memories that were in it made it so much more than a mere notebook.  It was “The Journal”.  Sitting around the campfire at night is a natural “story-telling” atmosphere, and often we relived past camping trips.

It was also a great resource for planning trips later on, because we had a record of places we went, and what we thought of the place.  Some entries were more clinical about site conditions and campground descriptions, some were more story oriented, but it was overall a clear record of our camping history as a family.  I want to share some of those camping tales with you, starting with this one from 1980″

Mom Writes:

We have always kept a log book of our camping trips, and although they are often nearly illegible – I usually wrote the entries while we were driving – they provide a very good snapshot of our trips. This entry is from a trip we took to the Upper Peninsula in July of 1980; Kevin was four and a half, and Steve was fifteen months.

 

            “We found the Tee Pee Private Campground about one mile east of the Mackinac Bridge, with an excellent view of the bridge and Mackinac Island. The lake has a rocky bottom, but a nice beach with a play structure of the Mackinac Bridge.

            We took the 10:00 boat to the Island and rented bikes. Steve fell asleep in the bike seat, so we switched him to the backpack and rode all the way around the Island. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear, and we got great views of the Bridge. We hiked up to the Governor’s Mansion, then returned to town and went to sit on the porch of the Grand Hotel. Got fudge and took the 5:00 boat back.

            The boys were very tired and went to sleep fast, but we had such a good view of the Bridge from our campsite, all lit up, that we woke Kevin up so he could see it.”

           

            This campground still exists; it is now partner with Good Sam’s.

 

In those days, I also kept track of what we spent; here are some examples:

                        Campsite (two nights)                                     $11.00

                        Ferry to Mackinac (for two adults)                     9.00

                        Bike rental (two w/child seats)                          12.00

                        Lunch on the Island (two adults, two kids)          8.00

Things have changed a lot.

 

I have referred to the log books many times, to find a favorite campsite or restaurant. Sometimes, we would refer back to an earlier trip, and read about it at the campfire. It always brings back great memories! 

Camping Isn’t Easy, But it is Worth it.

Westland Camping research team at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Westland Camping research team at Sleeping Bear Dunes

I know this may sound counter-intuitive for a camping professional to say, but it is true: Camping isn’t easy. There is a lot of planning that goes into a camping trip, planning routes, destinations, menus, etc.

But the value of going camping far surpasses (in my opinion) any other family vacation option. I grew up in a camping family, and every year we would travel to some new destination such as the U.P. or the Smokey Mountains. We even camped at the Wisconsin Dells one year, and it was awesome.

It took some planning on the part of my parents, but the time we spent playing catch by the beach, learning about animals, and perfecting S’mores was worth it to me – and them.
I am taking this opportunity right here to thank my parents, Dave and Irene, for taking the time to plan out our camping vacations.

To help get you into the planning groove, do a little research. Practice makes perfect. You have the advantage of the internet, so use it. To make preparations easier, there are checklists available online that other campers have put together and published for the common good, but feel free to adapt them to your specific needs.

Find what works for you and do it. Your kids will thank you in twenty years.

Westland Camping Fishing Stories: Harsens Island Big Pike Hunt

33" Pike, caught on a 15' Ocean Kayak Prowler

33" Pike, caught on a 15' Ocean Kayak Prowler

I headed out to Harsens Island for some pike fishing this past April,with about 35 of my closest kayak fishing buddies for a multi-day fishing tournament.

Harsens Island is a perfect location for pike due to lots of shallow weeds for spawning, and dramatic drop offs for hunting pike.  It was a little early for spawning this year, so we trolled from our kayaks over 15 foot depths.  Most people had success with rapala  size 11, in fire tiger, but most of the fish I caught were on X-raps, size 14, in hothead or glass ghost.  I felt that size 14 might be too big, but hey, go big or go home right?  Caught lots of hammer handles (23-29 inch pike) on that size, so I kept with it for the first two days.

Saturday was the big fishing tournament, and that’s when I broke out my secret weapon, the River2sea V-joint, a fantastic jointed lure with excellent color choices. With $100 for the first place fish, plus bragging rights, I thought I might use something that the pike haven’t seen yet.  We hit the water at about 9:00 Saturday morning, and it started out slow.  I cruised up the middle channel, without so much as a nibble for about an hour.  So I decided to change tactics a bit.

One river mouth in particular had been producing good sized pike, so I beached the kayak, and started casting from knee deep water to the drop off at the mouth.  Still nothing, except very cold feet.  That’s when I decided that today’s biggest fish probably wouldn’t be very big at all.  I thought that I would have a good chance of winning if I caught any fish.  So back into the kayak to troll a bit more, and cover as many inlet mouths as I could. I also switched out the running depth of the lures from 5 or 6 feet, to 3 foot, and kept the kayak tighter to shore, in about 8 or 10 feet of depth.

As it turned out, that was the winning strategy.  I hooked into a 33” pike, and she dragged me into some shallows, managed to rap the second line I had out around the kayak.  After I landed her, I had to get out of the kayak and unravel the mess she had made during the battle.  After a couple of photo ops, I headed back to base camp to break the bad news to everyone.  It turned out up until I showed up with 5 hours to go in the tournament, the largest was 29”.  The angler who had that fish gave me a dirty look, put his dry suit back on, and headed back out to try and top me.  No dice, and I walked away with the kitty, and a year’s worth of bragging rights.