Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Park

The little one has been wanting to go camping for a while so we decided to use her last week of freedom before the start of school to do just that. I have been wanting to get back to a primitive camping area on the Lake Superior shoreline in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. CK and I stumbled upon it years ago on a kayak adventure to Pictured rocks. Our plan was to find a cheap motel for the weekend but ended up crashing out in the van with no camping gear just to stay there it was so cool. He has since gone back with his son every year or so and when he told me the 20 miles of gravel road into the place had been paved the allure was gone.

But a few weeks ago on a bike ride through the Thumb of Michigan I happened across a cool county park just north of Port Hope. On the grounds of the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse is a quiet little park. I have for years sailed past this lighthouse miles off shore on my annual "HellnBack" sails and always wanted to see the old light up close from land. I rode past the sign and had to stop in.

The tent area is an open area along the coast with no privacy and the trailer/RV section was mostly seasonals with the rest of the spots filling up on the weekend by transient campers. It was the preverbial trailer park but on the amazingly beautiful Lake Huron coastline. The thing that caught my eye was the half a dozen cabins set into the woods in the back of the park. I stopped by the park office and picked up the brochure and asked a few questions before rolling off into the sunset.

Jane was on board as soon as she saw the web site and paperwork. We would save hours of drive time each way and still have an awesome area to kayak around. The history in the area and the huge amount of old ship wrecks just off shore added to the mystique. The cabins were rustic meaning no water or facilities like a bathroom or kitchen. They were two room wooden tents with beds, electricity and a mini fridge...perfect.

We rolled in on Sunday afternoon with the ZiggyMobile loaded to the gills. The week started off by a watermelon we picked up along the way at a roadside stand falling out of the van and busting open as soon as I opened the rear doors. Our neighbors watched as we made multiple trips between the cabin and the van. The cabins weren't as secluded as the brochure's picture suggests or my memory remembered.

Our neighbors watched quietly from each side. They had all been there all weekend and had kept to themselves. Once settled in the little one and I went down the road and grabbed $20 worth of fire wood. It was an honor system with a small birdhouse to put the money in. Soon we had a cozy fire and the week had begun.

Each side of us had a different music source. Tired out classic rock from a small radio on one side and a mix of I don't know what from the other. both coming from radios sitting inside their cabins and turned up just enough to hopefully not bother the people two cabins away all weekend. Now we were smack dab in the middle feeding on both. We were low seniority so we sat and made the best of the mix.

After a bit the campers closest called over and said "If you guys have any music you want to listen to we can turn off our radio".... With the agility of a cat I sprung to life pulling out the speaker system and firing up the laptop pulling in the smidgeon of internet I could pull with my Verizon card and we had some kick ass blues rocking the campfires. When we asked if it was too loud on the other side we were asked to turn it up! Now we had a party!

Before long all three cabins were jammin around our fire pit and the loud drunkenness had begun. We had Red and Cameron from one side and Rebecca and Henry from the other. On the small world side of life it turned out that Henry and Becky worked within walking distance of my job. They both work at the DMC Children's Hospital and lived walking distance from my sailboat in Mt. Clemens.

The night turned into a blurry drunken mess with good music and booze concoctions coming from all directions. It was off the hook. Henry and Becky were a couple of crazies that kept the party right to the edge all night. Before the end of the night they were all looking at their phone calendars trying to figure out how to get a few more days off work to stay and party with us. It just wasn't in the cards though as one or the other couldn't get out of work.

Rebecca and Henry's two year old son had a tragic accident the next morning severely burning his hand in the fire pit and was rushed off to the Emergency room. Jane and our little one volunteered to clean their cabin up so they could get moving faster for help. We hope he came out OK even though the little guy will have a long road of treatment ahead of him. I have to give the little guy props for taking the pain as well as he did. I was impressed. That's one tough kid. The four pork steaks and the NY strip they left in the fridge went to good use on the grill the next couple of days.

Once the place emptied out and the weekend warriors went home the whole flavor of the park changed. We had the cabins to ourselves and made ourselves at home. I set up the screened in gazebo and we commandeered an extra picnic table from next door. The hammock soon became the place of choice when lounging around the cabin's yard. The girls went bike trail crazy and rode the trails so much the little one blew a tire. This moved her up to her Mom's bike with some adjusting and Mom moved up to my recumbent road bike. This was a big moment for the little one. Moving from her kiddy 20 incher to Mom's mountain bike was a little scary for her for a minute but she soon was on top of the world and we couldn't get her off it, hehe.

The rocky coastline and the old lighthouse made a great back drop for a week of relaxation. The park is clean and well kept. The bathrooms are clean and the pay showers felt great every night. It's like going to the car wash, throw in a few quarters and away you go. During the week we met Joey. He is lucky enough to have a job with a great view running around the park on a John Deere Gator taking care of the daily tasks.

Joey had the ability to call off the album name of anything from the 70s I could pull out of my massive collection of MP3s. He made our stay even more fun checking on us during the day and stopping by to chat when he was caught up.

At night the lighthouse's beam would explode across the tree tops every minute or two. On the foggy nights it was even more magical. The lighthouse was built in 1857 and comes with the obligatory ghost stories of its haunting that seems to come with all the old lighthouses no matter where you go.

The old light keepers house is now an interesting museum and we were surprised to find it still open to the public very late into the night. One night we rode our bikes up and did the ghost hunter walk through with our EMF ghost detector. I got the little one all worked up and sent her off to nervously look for ghosts.

The meter bumped a few times but no fire works. I snapped a few pics with mirrors in the background to see if I could get an anomaly to keep her interest. I did catch a possible orb in one mirror that made for bragging rights to some of the other kids she met at the park. Her telling of the ghost hunt kept the local girls attention whenever she talked about it.

The little one made friends during the week with a bunch of sisters living on a farm near the park. Anna, Eva and sister who's name escapes me right now were a hardy bunch. They talked about riding their cows around and loved to blindly scoop big ole' spiders out of their webs to play with. They would ride their bikes to the park after their chores were done where their dad would meet them in the car. The playgrounds and the view across Lake Huron was their reward for helping around the farm all day.

A scenic six mile drive down the coast lands you in Port Hope. There you will find another great water front park with historic ruins left from a mill that burned down over a hundred years ago and all the trappings of small town America. There is a small family run grocery store with a limited selection and a great old fashioned meat counter where they cut all their own meats fresh every day. Out around the side of the building is a small window where they run a classic ice cream stand that the little one and I frequented every time we found an excuse to venture into town.

A good enough reason to make Port Hope a destination for a scenic drive through the country is the historic Port Hope Hotel. This old wood floor piece of Americana has all the small town flavor that America has lost in the last fifty years. The menu has all the "bar & grill" favorites including the quintessential big ass bar burger.

The "Leroy" burger is not for the faint of heart! It weighs in big with well over a pound of meat in a big' o ball of beef. It appears to be deep fried rather than grilled and once it meets the bread and condiments it become an intimidating plate full of cow.

Jane and the little one split the Leroy with cheese while I went whole hog and ordered the bacon cheese leroy. By the time we finished our burgers and split an order of fries we were painfully full. I have heard tales of this burger from people for years. I found them all to be true and now stand before you to tell the tale myself, hehe

Load up the vehicle of choice and spend a weekend wandering through the thumb in search of this bar burger. It is reason alone for a road trip.

Overall the park rocks. It is a great place to disappear for a few days and unwind. I will be back. The park is so awesome we never even took the kayaks off the van.... The lake air and the relaxed atmosphere made the thought of all that work as a good project for tomorrow and tomorrow never came... We knew we were close enough to let us drive over and do a day yak adventure whenever we wanted so we chose to soak up the cabin life while we had it.

The Ziggyland rating for this adventure and cabin rental is 5 of 5 Jolly Rogers.




Huron County Parks/ Lighthouse Park

Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society

Port Hope Hotel, home of the Leroy Burger