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Porcupine Mountain State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Camping Trip to Porcupine Mountain State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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So for our family vacation this summer, in addition to spending some time in the Shenandoah, we went camping for a long weekend in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Porcupine Mountain State Park.

Our connection to Porcupine Mountain began the summer Simon was born.

Taido loaded up the three big kids + one cousin and took them all camping there. He drove our mini van (pulling a flat bed trailer full of gear) all the way up to the north of the north of the north.

To Lake Superior.

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It was 2006.

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The barefoot child in the above photo just graduated from college.

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15 years ago, these four ran and played and swam and threw rocks…

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And experienced the joy of being in this beautiful place.

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While I was at home nursing a baby, they climbed through forests and made trails over their own little mountains.

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They even enjoyed a little (probably enforced) camp chill time.

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They walked the long staircase every day to stand in the freezing cold lake, and to watch the sunset.

And then they drove back home and told me all about it.

But I forgot about this place I had never been to.

Until 15 years later, Taido suggested we go there again. He said it would be cooler in the summertime, and that the drive would be shorter since we don’t live in Arkansas.

So a plan was made.

A long weekend in July was marked off on the calendar.

And off we went.

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Again there were four kiddos. Much bigger this time.


And a different set of kids, save Ben.

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We drove to the north of the north of the north and escaped the hot summer sun.

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We walked the same long stairway down to Lake Superior.

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We hiked the same trails.

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And found ourselves in the middle of quiet woods.

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And alongside waterfalls.

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The kids crawled over rocks.

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They sat by the river and watched the water flow by.

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Now that the kids are older, sometimes we left them back at camp and went on morning hikes while they were still asleep in their sleeping bags.

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We walked along the river in the cool shadows before the sun was high.

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And we pondered how it is possible that piles of rocks can be so gorgeous.

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When the kids were awake we drove as far north as we could go.

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And everyone at least touched the ocean-like lake, and some brave folks got all the way in.

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And then more hiking!

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Porcupine Mountain State Park has miles and miles of beautiful trails.

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This trail above The Lake of the Clouds might have been our favorite.

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But it’s hard to choose! We also loved the river hike along the waterfalls.

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And we enjoyed not having to watch little guys so closely.

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I remember when Taido came home in 2006 and he showed me pictures of the giant staircase down to the lake, I thought that if I had been there, I might have been a little nervous about the kids camping up so high. Of course, this time I didn’t even think about the kids running down to the lake on their own.

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Though I was still tempted once or twice to tell Ben to be careful. 🙂

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And after hiking and swimming, we had a little camp chill time.


Napping + Outside = Dreamy Summertime.


This time, no one had to be forced to nap.

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We had no cell service at our campground. Such a rare gift in 2021, y’all.

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My niece Emily let all the cousins use her drawing materials.

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I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw these boys drawing.

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And just like in 2006, we went down to the lake every night to watch the sun drop below the horizon.

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The colors were different each night.

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It’s amazing how the sunset happens every day but is never the same.

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And of course, the kids still got their shoes wet.

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And they still spent hours skipping rocks.

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Our sweet camping trip reminded me again and again that you’re never too old to play in the sun.

I found this passage about teaching kids to love the outdoors in a Mary Oliver book of essays recently that I just love:

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones — inkberry, lamb’s-quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones — rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

(from Upstream)


My little kiddos grew up so fast (just like everyone told me that they would.)

This camping trip was a blessed pause, a moment to see that yes, I think we did give them the field and the woods.

I hope we showed them the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit.

And I will always rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

A few details for if you go to Porcupine Mountain:
There are two campgrounds in Porcupine Mountain State Park: Presque Isle and Union Bay. Both of our camping trips were at Presque Isle (no electrical hook-ups + pit toilets), but we drove one day to Union Bay, and it is lovely as well. Reservations are accepted (and recommended) at both campgrounds. There are also several great-looking backcountry sites, which we have our eye on for a return trip. The closest town to Presque Isle is Wakefield, which was a good 30 minutes away, so stock up on ice and firewood when you drive through there on your way.


  1. Looks like it was a fantastic trip! I sure hope we get to camp together again someday! Love you friend. Be safe on the Camino!

    1. Thank you so much friend!! For sure we will enjoy the outdoors together again!! XOXO

  2. Alison – I love your photo journal you make everything come alive. I can taste those delicate leaves and lovely blossoms. Each page inspires me to do more nature hikes you are a blessing

    1. That’s so kind of you to say Elgin! Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

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