Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our Mid-West Summer Vacation

We had a wonderful mid-west summer vacation this year! And we learned something new - when you camp in the mid-west, you can't expect the same beautiful sunshine that you do in So Cal!

 Our vacation began with Family Camp at Camp Harvest just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's a beautiful camp and we had a great time getting to know some other families from our church.

Our days were quite filled with lots of activities, but I was especially thankful that one scheduled activity was a nap after lunch. This helped out a bit with the early mornings and late nights.

Micah enjoyed trying out the archery range

And Nathan did well enough to win a free canteen item

Ashlyn was a little more timid with the bow, but she did try it out with a little help from Daddy

Ashlyn was eager to participate at the sand pit by sliding down the hill. (Needless to say, we took lots of showers here!)

Micah loved the opportunity to see how far he could jump!

The kids loved camp food, and the opportunity to pick and choose a little.

Ashlyn connected with this gal who was on camp staff this summer. She talked about her for weeks afterward.

Very happy to get her nails painted!

I think the greatest anticipated activity was the zip line. Although we have a zip line in our back yard, Micah had never been on one that was high enough up he had to be harnessed in. We all had a blast with this!

Wow! That was fun!

Ashlyn and Daddy ~ She didn't want to go alone so they both got harnessed up and then Nathan held her as they flew down the zip line.

Having two zip lines right next to each other gave us the opportunity to race. If I recall correctly, Micah beat me on this run!

We also had lots of fun at the water slides. There are two slides right next to each other; one of them lifts up before hitting the water so you go flying through the air. Nathan was the only one of us to try that one out and sadly I didn't get a picture of it.

Micah loved the slide!

Nathan was amazing on the mat ~ he was able to glide all the way across the water to the beach

Ashlyn preferred to play in the sand. Maybe next year she'll try the slide.

I was not quite as successful on the mat, but I still had lots of fun!

Playing in the water with my girlie

Nathan enjoyed playing volleyball one afternoon

And the kids enjoyed playing around in the lake

Time for roasting marshmallows

The weather was beautiful so we enjoyed eating outside one morning.

We took a boat ride over to the little town of Croton to get some ice cream. Yum!

In front of our cabin

It was a blessing to hang out with the Dinn family during our time there.

Micah and Tytus

After a wonderful three days at Camp Harvest, we were off on our own to see some other parts of Michigan, and Wisconsin. We decided it would be fun to camp at a few places around Lake Michigan, and it was a lot less expensive than staying in hotels. However, we didn't count on the mid-west weather. After setting up our tent on the first night it was clear that rain was coming. We were able to get through dinner and then the drops started coming... and coming... and coming. It poured all night long. We stayed mostly dry inside our tent, and it gave us a great opportunity to teach our kids about trusting the Lord. A memory we won't soon forget. (Mid-west rain comes with lightning and thunder, so they were a bit nervous about it.) Eventually we all fell asleep. And the next morning we learned that at one point during the night it was raining about 3 inches an hour! After surviving that, we weren't too concerned about the light rain the next night.

One of the campgrounds had a little train that took the kids around the property.

Mmmm! Dinner time!

Ashlyn was very excited about her new pink camp chair.

We spent one day at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. What an amazing place! I wish we would have had more time there. While we were there we visited the US Coast Guard Museum and the 1900's blacksmith shop in the restored town of Glen Haven, climbed the sand dunes, and drove the 7 mile scenic drive with views overlooking Lake Michigan. The kids even participated in the Jr. Ranger program and received a Ranger patch for their work.

At the Coast Guard Museum they had a turn of the century shipwreck rescue demonstration that Micah took part it. I was amazed to learn that the waters of Lake Michigan could be quite dangerous during the late 1800's/early 1900's and there are quite a few ships laying at the bottom of the lake.

Ashlyn didn't want to participate in the demonstration, but here she is with Raggedy Ann, who was stuck on the "boat" that was sinking in the Lake.

The US Lifesaving Crew listening to their instructions (Micah is in the yellow shirt)

Drill time

Ready to rescue...

A passenger brought to safety

The dune climb was so much fun, but hard work too. We made it to the top of the one you can see in this picture, and then one more after that ~ a 300 foot climb. Although Micah we eager to do it, we opted not to make the 1 1/2 mile hike to Lake Michigan.

The view from the top was beautiful!

And going back down was so much fun!

On the Lake Michigan Overlook, 450 feet above the shoreline. Yikes! Although Wisconsin is directly across the lake 54 miles, you aren't able to see it due to the curvature of the earth.

Back at camp the kids had fun playing in the pool. Ashlyn even got comfortable enough to jump into the pool.

Enjoying some yummy Michigan cherries

Ashlyn was a big help in collecting sticks to get the fire going

I think Micah's favorite part of camping is sitting around the campfire
We spent two night camping up in Mackinaw City, with a full day at Mackinac Island. This was the highlight of our vacation, for all of us. Automobiles are not allowed on the island so everyone uses bikes or horses. We spent a little time with both.

The Mackinac Island bridge connects lower Michigan with the Upper Peninsula

On the ferry out to Mackinac Island

A view of the Grand Hotel from the ferry

Ready for our Carriage tour of the island

We stopped in at the Wings of Mackinac ~ a butterfly sanctuary on the island.

Excited about the ladybug she found

This butterfly thought Micah's head made a nice perch

Overjoyed that a butterfly finally came to her finger!!

Micah's favorite part of the whole trip was visiting Fort Mackinac, where the first skirmish of the War of 1812 occurred with the British surprising and capturing the American outpost.

Rifle firing demonstration

My favorite part of the day was lunch at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room overlooking the harbor.

Reporting for duty as an American soldier

Eager to doing some laundry

Stopping for a special smoothie drink at the Grand Hotel

The kids were fascinated with the telephone booths inside the hotel. I'm not sure if they had ever seen a telephone booth before, but they sure had fun going in, closing the door, and pretending to talk on the phone.

Relaxing on the front porch of the Grand Hotel

The next day we crossed the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and then went up to the Soo Locks for a boat tour of the lock system between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Since Lake Superior is 21 feet higher than Lake Huron, the Locks provide a way to get freighters up to Lake Superior.

Heading toward the American Locks

On the other side of this gate is Lake Superior. They flood the Lock, raising the water up to the same level as the lake and then open up the gate to let us out.

The open gate, letting up pass into Lake Superior

When we got up to Lake Superior there was a freighter waiting to go down.

On the way back down to Lake Huron we went through the Canadian Locks. Micah was excited that he has officially been to another country, since we were in Canadian waters.

The next two pictures show the Lock system a little better, as you can see the water level inside the lock, compared with the water level in Lake Huron.

Micah was always eager to help when it came to filling up the gas tank.

And Ashlyn was equally thrilled to wash the windows!

After a long day driving through the UP, we arrived in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Since Nathan's dad is a Packer fan we decided to visit the stadium, and we were duly impressed. In a city with just over 100,000 residents, Lambeau Field's 73,000 seats are always sold out. And if you want to be a season pass holder, get in line and expect to wait a while ~ there are over 90,000 people on the wait list in front of you!

We found some cheese heads in the store!

The drive from Green Bay back to Chicago was beautiful! All through our trip as we passed from state to state, I was struck with the uniqueness of each state. They're all so beautiful, but also quite distinct from each other. But I really loved the sprawling fields dotted with farm houses and barns.

And you can't drive through Wisconsin without stopping at a dairy for some yummy ice cream, and cheese too.

We also found an old covered bridge. I'd love to come back here for family pictures.

Micah wanted to try his hand at photography

The kids were far more excited about catching frogs though. I think they spent over an hour trying to catch a few. Amazingly everyone was still dry by the end of our time there. After leaving Micah said he wants his next birthday party in Wisconsin, frog catching and eating 25 cent ice cream cones.

Ashlyn didn't actually catch the frog herself, but she was very excited to hold it; that is, until it started to move. Then she was ready for it to jump out of her hands.

We had such a wonderful time exploring Michigan and Wisconsin, but it's always so nice to be home again! We're thankful for God's blessing with some great family time away.