Camping illegally with strangers can be fun

by Sarah

Little Presque Isle, MI

Jul 9

It had been a long day of mostly driving. We were tired and Sandy was getting a little cabin-fever-y. Desperate to do something before the day had passed us by we took a look at our long list of places to stop to see if there was anything before Marquette. A cryptic note read: “Cliff jumping: Whetmore Landing, Big Bay Road, outside of Marquette.”

After long detour on a variety of unpaved roads (thanks, TomTom) and several stops to ask locals for directions (“Whetmore? Oh, you’re way off…”), we arrived. At the same time, a Honda Element with Iowa plates carrying two guys and a couple kayaks also pulled in. We stood around looking at the not-very-helpful park district bulletin board. Someone had told the guys they could camp there, but nothing on the board confirmed that.

We all ended up walking along the beach, and the guys asked some local kids where to camp. They suggested Little Presque Isle, a small island not far off the beach a little up the road. You could wade out to the island and camp completely undisturbed. The guys, Jeremy and Ben, a political science professor and a co-op grocery business strategist, invited us to join them. They even offered to bring dinner. What the hell, we thought. Sure.

The aging hippie owner of the little convenience mart where we stopped for ice and crackers immediately guessed that we were planning to camp, and warned us that they’d kick us off the beach at Presque Isle. “On the island?” we asked. “Ohhhhh…. No, they’re too lazy to go out to the island. You’ll be fine.” Another guy in the store agreed. Mainland beach: DNR-bait. Island: safe as can be.

In the beach parking lot, we ran into some stoned teenage canoers who also immediately sussed our plans. They were totally psyched we were going out to the island, and gave us lots of advice, the gist of which was, you’ll be fine on the island, dude. Also, there’s a sweeeeeet camping spot on the left side.

We packed our stuff as efficiently as possible, cursing our bulky, wussy car-camping supplies, and set out for the wade to the island.

Wade. Sound like maybe knee-deep, right? But the wind was picking up waves, and I’m really very short. So, it was more like waist-to-chest deep for me. Halfway across I remembered that I hadn’t brought extra underwear. Three-quarters of the way across I remembered that I had left my phone in my pocket.

Luckily, the sun doesn’t set in this part of the UP until like 10, so we had a few more hours of warmth and wind to dry off and warm up. Also, despite having been dumb enough to wear flip-flops instead of Keens for the ocean crossing, I was smart enough to have brought jeans and a sweater to change into. We spent a pleasant evening with our new friends watching the sunset, sitting by the blazing fire, eating sesame noodles, and listening to the wind blow.

In the morning, after a beautiful hike around the perimeter of the tiny island, we bid our buddies adieu and set off back across the crossing. It was cold and wavy like before, but going back is always easier. A few minutes later I was wearing dry underwear and we were headed into town for breakfast.

I told Sandy yesterday that I was worried from rereading my blog entries that the theme of the trip would turn out to be “Sarah’s neurotic and scared of strangers.” But in the clutch, it turns out I can tell a fun adventure when I see one.


Big Ben Jul 9 / 12:33 PM
sarah Jul 9 / 09:58 PM
Mom Jul 10 / 12:24 AM
Big Ben Jul 10 / 03:05 PM
bacgjnep May 15 / 11:44 PM
Amoxilbuyonlinnen Feb 3 / 10:48 PM
PatriceStef Apr 16 / 01:07 AM
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The Numbers

miles driven
miles ridden by ferry
~ 105
gallons of petrol purchased
cheapest price per gallon (Roseville, MN)
priciest price per gallon (Rural Ontario)
nights spent at friends' homes
nights spent at hotels/motels
nights spent at B&Bs
nights spent camping
photos taken
unsolicited questions about the Fit and its gas mileage
unsolicited admirations about our awesome Travel Scrabble kit
lottery tickets purchased
money won
Sandy's license plate game score
Sarah's license plate game score
Head's up Trival Pursuit record, Sandy v. Sarah
Mini-golf record, Sandy v. Sarah
First game
Second game
speeding warnings received
speeding citations received
mph over limit we were driving
mph over limit nice Michigan state officer cited on ticket

The Plan

Sandy and Sarah spent 18 days road tripping around the Great Lakes. This site is an aggregation of their posts, twitter tweets, and flickr photos. Subscribe to our RSS feed to follow future adventures. You may email us at You may also be interested in...