I love it when a plan (sort of) comes together. Full-time travel requires a delicate balance of planning. Plan too far ahead and you sacrifice spontaneity and flexibility. If you don’t plan far enough, amazing opportunities limited to select dates or small numbers of people will remain out of reach.
Yes, it’s a delicate balance. As an avid planner, I struggle with finding the happy medium, my planning nirvana. I believe it’s located somewhere between carefree and uncommitted and a spreadsheet of confirmation numbers.
Recently someone asked how Daniel and I decide where to go. When you can go anywhere, where do you even begin?
Our summer 2017 plans took shape last December when I told Daniel I’d like to relive our 2005 Canada Day experience. It was, after all, where we fell in love with RVing. Twelve years later I thought we needed to go back to the beginning.
Pulling out our well-used Rand McNally Road Atlas of North America and a calendar, we set our sights on getting to Niagara Falls, Ontario by July 1.
The path we plotted started in Fort Myers, Florida and took us through fantastic destinations like Blairsville, Georgia, Door County, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Then we put the map away and didn’t give much thought to the journey north.
In April I came across an article about little-known hikes in America’s National Parks. Usually I ignore articles like this. Most often the locations highlighted reside out west. But, in the text the name of a small town in Michigan caught my eye. I thought I knew Michigan’s parks.
A quick Google search revealed that Copper Harbor, a gateway to a special island, was only a 2.5 hour drive from where we’d be staying in the Upper Peninsula. Luck was apparently on our side. With careful planning, Daniel and I would get to hike Isle Royale, the least-visited national park in the lower 48.
When America’s National Park Service celebrated its centennial birthday in 2016, more than 330,000,000 people visited various locations around the United States. Isle Royale saw just under 17,000 of those nature-loving faces. That’s a pretty exclusive club…way less than 1%.
Isle Royale, the biggest island in the biggest Great Lake, sees fewer visitors in a year than Yellowstone sees on a summer’s day. As a nation of drivers it’s easy to understand why. There are only two ways to get there: by ferry or seaplane.
Daniel and I caught the ferry from Copper Harbor on Friday morning. Since we needed to check in by 7:30 a.m. we opted to drive over the day before and get a room in town. Trip Advisor offered great information on where to stay. Bella Vista was clean and comfortable with an outstanding view of Lake Superior. I’d tell you the location afforded an easy walk to the marina, but Copper Harbor’s size allows nearly every business the same boast.
Dinner included whitefish tacos from a food truck and a sample of local beer at Brickside Brewery. The bartender’s breakfast tip about arriving early to the dock to grab a scrumptious scone and the best coffee in town at Jamsen’s paid off and we excitedly boarded The Queen and settled in for our three hour conveyance to a pristine wilderness.
Daniel and I shared a table with an adventurous couple from the midwest who’d be spending the next few days camping on the island. While the four of us poured over the park map together, I suddenly wished for more flexibility. The return ferry to Copper Harbor meant we’d have a mere two hours while our cruising companions would enjoy three days.
Remember that delicate balance of planning? Because we had committed to Canada Day 2017, we’d only get to trek about seven miles. Daniel and I would see mostly coastline instead of delving deep into the island’s interior where 1600 moose live.
The delicate balance of too much planning versus not enough eluded me that day. No, we wouldn’t get to climb the Greenstone Ridge to Mount Ojibway Tower or search for fresh berries along the trail. We wouldn’t wake up to see a majestic moose in the distant mist or listen at sunset as loons call to one another across the still waters.
As we left the island though I realized those two hours at the park served a great purpose. Now Daniel and I were aware of Isle Royale’s existence and we saw enough to want to return for another visit. Someday we’ll stay longer and do more.
Arriving in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Sunday, we were reminded why we’d had to leave Michigan’s UP. July 1 was only three weeks away and we had two more destinations to explore yet.
As Daniel and I watched the evening news we learned that this year, 2017, marks the 150th birthday for our northern neighbors. Canada 150. Once again we’d gotten lucky.
Our goal of being in Niagara Falls, Ontario for Canada Day, something we decided in December, coincides with the sesquicentennial celebration? Wow.
I love when a plan (sort of) comes together.