In early morning light at Fayette Historic State Park, I wake in the tent. I cringe at the ache in my shoulder from sleeping on the thick foam mattress we had bought for camping; this is what 40 does to a person. Gone are the days when I would bounce back after sleeping on only a simple mat in the forest, now I need plush and comfort to soothe my muscles.
I slept better than the night before though. When a creature of some sort bellowed out into the blackness, it echoed across the water, bleating. Visions of a mother moose crashing through our campsite overcame me – or maybe it was an elk. Whichever the case, it was cavernous in its sound, deep and guttural. I have never seen a moose in the wild, even throughout my time spent in Alaska. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to around 500 moose after an effort was made in the late 80s to repopulate the species. Maybe I’d get to see one this trip.
Last night the frogs sang in chorus; hundreds, if not thousands, rang in the darkness creating a natural sound machine that was impenetrable by any other noise. They lulled me to sleep and all at once suddenly stopped, save for a few random chirps like popcorn almost done cooking. Their popping ceased and the wind and water took over. Breeze whipped through the cedars making a soothing rush sound as the waves lapped on Lake Michigan’s shore.
Our campsite is on the small side, but backed by a grove of cedar trees that break the wind from my favorite of the Great Lakes. A small path leads through the curved and gnarly trees and over ancient moss covered stones to the rocky edge of the water where sunset lovers gather in the evening.
We watched the sun fall beneath the horizon from a different spot earlier that evening. At a quarter to 10, we stood along the shores of Snail Shell Harbor, within Big Bay de Noc, gazing at the pink and blue glass that reflected the cotton candy skies above. The sun stays up late here during Michigan summers. It’s only June and the season stretches out before us full of promise.
We were the only two there, enjoying mother nature’s show. Along the land lay an abandoned historic village of yesteryear. Fayette is a preserved ghost town that used to house a population of around 500 in its heyday when it was an iron-smelting operation in the late 1800s.
The few remaining tourists had gone home and we watched on in silence as the colors changed the scene as each moment passed. What drew me to this place, the white limestone cliffs, took on the shades of the sky before meeting the smooth surface of the bay. The unique shoreline reaches heights of 165 feet and is part of the Niagara Escarpment.
Poor sleep aside, this was a good trip. We hiked along the clifftops during the day, explored the town and cooked over the fire each night. We both fell asleep to books in the evening and fond memories were made.
The campground at Fayette Historic State Park received my praise with beautiful scenery and more depth to it than your average state park. From the campsites, a short walk or even shorter drive takes you to the old town in one direction, or the beach the opposite. It also had sparkling clean, modern bathrooms with huge showers and plentiful hooks and shelves for all your articles.
I met Mary, the camp host who travels solo in her sleek little RPod camper with her cat Lucius. She was a friendly older woman whose independence rivaled my own. Flower baskets hung from her home on wheels and she spoke of her travels and search for the perfect camper. She’s there to help guests with questions and share her knowledge of the area; brochures and maps fill her table in neatly organized folders.
On our way home and only a
The real treat is getting to ride the self-operated raft, pulled along by a rope, with an observation window on the bottom where you can observe the clouds of sand pluming up from the rushing waters below. An other-worldly experience opens up as you see the patterns and shapes move slowly by and giant trout swim lazily past. The visit here was the perfect ending to our trip, making our appreciation for the U.P. even greater.
Fayette Historic State Park is a two-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge and is located on the Garden Peninsula. Please note that this small peninsula is sparse when it comes to modern conveniences or places to visit. There is a small grocery store, and a few other businesses, but the park is the main attraction here.
The campsites are smaller and less private, but if you book early enough, a site close to the water will afford you a nice backdrop of forest and glimpses of of the water shimmering through the trees. We had a site like this with electricity. Our site number was 34. Campsites range from $25-$29 a night. A recreation passport is required. If you don’t have one on your license plate, a $9 daily fee will be charged.
The Historic Town
The town is a