East to Michigan!

Hola from Wildwood, GA where I’m staying in a super cool 192 square foot tiny house. Yeah, I totally want one! I know you’re thinking it sounds too small but as someone whose been sleeping in a tent and living out of her car for nearly 9 months – it seems plenty big.

From their website: Tiny house

Ok, back to mid- July. It was at this time that I wholly gave myself up to the notion that I’d visit all 50 states on this trip. Since this was not my plan at the start of my adventure my route is amazingly inefficient but gets the job done. The this leg of my journey took me from Oregon to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where I’ve wanted to go for ages), said and I managed to to add Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan to my list of states visited.

My drive from Oregon to Boise, ID was pretty and exciting. Guess I should have gotten gas before I headed into the mountains. Thank you Prius for getting such good gas mileage – it seemed like my gas light was blinking for hours (Blink, blink, blink…..Don’t look, just keep driving. Blink, blink, blink…….Go slower for better mileage. Blink, blink, blink…….Go faster to get there quicker. Blink, blink, blink…….Sigh!).  Boise itself was lovely and a great place for getting stuff done like another oil change and a haircut. I left after one night and headed for Yellowstone National Park by way of Craters of the Moon National Monument.  I encountered a moonlike landscape and hiked in solitude through lava rocks and tiny plants. The drive featured brown mountains which I noted in my journal “Depending on my mood can be pretty, ugly, boring or hateful.” In my defense there were a lot of them. The scenery got greener as I headed east to camp about 30 minutes outside Yellowstone at Henry’s Lake. This place was great! All green fields, cows, dudes with RV intent on fishing and of course the idyllic lake. Such a change from the monochromatic lava land.

I was looking forward to seeing Yellowstone again but not psyched about how crowed it would be mid-summer. My solution was to get there super early. I entered the gates around 6:45am which worked really well in avoiding most of the crowds. What didn’t occur to me was the amount of steam I’d see due to the cool morning air. Mostly this meant great pictures and occasionally not being able to see stuff due to banks of steamy fog. I did see Old Faithful do its thing which was amazing but not photogenic because of the steam. I loved the mud pots, hot springs, geysers, the animals (bison, fox, elk, big horn sheep), colorful bacteria, and the intense beauty. None of this is a surprise, you know what was a surprise?

That is an umbrella!
That is an umbrella!

The number of hats and umbrellas just lying about around the hot springs. Apparently folks are unprepared for the wind in the area and it would do more damage to retrieve the items then leave them be. So take note when you plan your visit! After I zipped through the park, I headed on to Cody, WY.

Cody was filled with touristy cowboy goodness and a lovely library that the GPS had a bit of trouble finding. I stopped at Old Trail Town for some of that touristy cowboy goodness – great old buildings with old west histories, a museum and huge piles of antlers (yes, this puzzled me too). Antlers!Then I followed my GPS directions out to the middle of no where – dirt roads, cattle guards, cattle – to a cute little campground on a small lake. The only other inhabitants were a lovely family (funny mother, fisherman father, smart & nerdy teen) who invited me to join them at their campfire and drink hot chocolate with them, which I did.

The next morning I head to a place I didn’t want to go, but knew I had to – Heart Mountain Relocation Center. From their website www.heartmountain.org:

August of 2011, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation opened its doors to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, a world-class museum dedicated to passing on the Heart Mountain story to future generations.

The Center provides an overview of the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans, including the background history of anti-Asian prejudice in America and the factors leading to their enforced relocation and confinement. Special emphasis is given to the experience of incarceration, the diverse personal responses of Japanese Americans to their imprisonment, constitutional issues, violations of civil liberties and civil rights, and the broader issues of race and social justice in the U.S.

The Heart Mountain Relocation Center opened in August 1942 and imprisoned more than 14,000 people during its three-year existence. The last incarcerees left the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in November, 1945.

As I had anticipated, it was heart wrenching. The things these American citizens experienced is difficult to comprehend, and it’s shocking to contemplate how it was ever allowed. If you have the chance to visit this place, go. The books When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (one of my favorite books) and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford are extremely good fictional accounts of this time period.

Slowly making my way toward Michigan, I next headed to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I first encountered the magic of the badlands on a road trip in the 1990s and I couldn’t wait to see them again. The park did not disappoint. Not only did I see the majesty of the badlands (just check the pics) but herds of bison as well. I’ve never seen bison this close-up before. I thought they’d kinda be like cows only a smidgen bigger – wrong! They are huge and have wild, non-domestic eyes. Seriously, you do not know what they will do! And yet, they are mesmerizing. (Turns out this was only the tip of the iceberg. My next post will tell you where I saw even more of them.) I camped for 2 nights in the park and met some fine folks and enjoyed some camping hijinks.

My next stop was in a state park in Lucerne,MN where I had the tenting area totally to myself. My big win was waking to thunder the next morning and getting all my gear packed up before the rain started. Then I drove a whole bunch because it was so darn hot and the car AC was better than stopping. In another day I was in Ft. Wilkins State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with slightly cooler temps, some really big lakes and a history of copper mining in the area which was news to me.

Fun Fact!: Within the state of Michigan, copper is found almost exclusively in the western portion of the Upper Peninsula, in an area known as the Copper Country. The Copper Country is highly unusual among copper-mining districts, because copper is predominantly found in the form of pure copper metal (native copper) rather than the copper oxides or copper sulfides that form the main copper ore at almost every other copper-mining district. From 1844 to 1985, more than fourteen billion pounds of copper were produced from Michigan’s Lake Superior Copper District, on the Keweenaw Peninsula. –from http://www.miningartifacts.org/Michigan-Copper-Mines.html

All was fine as I settled into my tent for the night, but I again awoke early to thunder and a sky a sickly yellow color. I packed up my gear and headed into town faster than I thought possible. I stepped into the only open breakfast place in Copper Harbor just as the rain began in earnest, and I was served my breakfast moments before the power went out. I ate by the dim light of the window by my table as I watched the wind and rain whip around the town. The waitstaff found flashlights and continued to serve folks as the storm raged. I hung out drinking coffee until the storm had passed then headed off to check out the fort – a restored 1844 army military outpost. On the way there I stopped to view one of the first lighthouses on Lake Superior built in 1866. The Fort was quite interesting with lots of white painted buildings filled with informative exhibits. When I stopped in at the visitor’s center, it was running on a generator as the power was still out. Listening to the radio as I headed southwest off the peninsula, I discovered that the power was out in a lot of locations and that wind shears had taken down trees all over the place. The damage was quite extensive and made worse by storms that had blown through the region the previous week.

I eventually made it down to Birnamwood, WI where I had made arrangements to spend a few days not driving anywhere.

Stay tuned to find out where I saw tons of bison and wild horses, and what town in Alaska I visited.


Click for more photos!
Click for more photos!

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