Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Some of the best memories I have from my childhood involve being in the wilderness. Camping wasn't exactly my family's "thing", but in addition to having a cottage in Golden Lake, Ontario we also went camping once in Algonquin Provincial Park and as a teenager we did an RV camping trip through the Canadian Rockies. My time spent on these trips and especially my time spent at the cottage gave me a love of the outdoors that I've been able to expand on as an adult.
Now that I have a kid of my own I want to instill the same love of nature that I have in her. She is 5 going on 6, which is the perfect age to start camping. As an adult camper that loves to escape from every day life in the forest the campgrounds at Tahquamenon Falls were far from perfect. Camping is different for everyone and my preferred experience does not involve homes on wheels and air conditioning. I don't fault anyone for not wanting to sleep on the ground or in a hammock. That said, this trip was perfect for a 5 year old's first time camping. She didn't care that we were camped beside a large RV.
We left on our 5 1/2 hour drive around noon on Friday and got to camp right around dinner time. My sister and her family were already all set up and comfortable, so we quickly pitched the tent and got dinner started (Hot dogs because kids.)
The drive really exhausted my daughter, so before dinner was even ready she had crawled into the tent and passed out. Despite stirring her she insisted she'd rather sleep than eat.
The campground/campsite wasn't ideal. Nowhere in the area did there appear to be any "rustic" sites. It was all built for RV camping with large spaces for parking and not many trees or grass. Despite all this we made the best of it and found a place for the tent in a flat area with soft, sandy soil. After a quick dinner and a little fire we headed to bed.
On Saturday morning my daughter was up with the birds and raring to go! My Brother in Law was running a 10k trail run, so my Sister saw him off at 8:30 while we ate some eggs and muffins and got ready to watch him finish the run.
After the run we took a short walk to check out the Upper Falls from a few different viewing areas. It is hard to get any idea of the size of the falls, but they're 50 feet tall and 200 feet wide. In terms of volume of water it is the 3rd largest waterfall East of the Mississippi River.
On our way back to the car we took a trail and stopped to eat some wild raspberries and look at some interesting wildflowers.
After heading back to the campsite my Sister informed us that camping with their 8 month old was proving to be a bit difficult and they'd be heading out to a family member's cabin a few hours away. We ended up relaxing for a couple hours and then decided to check out the lower falls. They were absolutely spectacular. Despite being smaller than the upper falls the scenery in this area was breathtaking. We could have easily spent 2 days just walking around exploring the river, falls, and woods near here. There are 2 ways to access the falls. You can either rent a row boat and cross a small area of the river or you can take a boardwalk 0.3 miles and then walk across about 50 feet of shallow but swift river to get to them. After you cross you're free to walk around the shallows, go under the falls, and explore all over. The riverbed is mostly smooth but not slippery rock and is easily crossed by just about anyone. We spent our time there catching minnows, checking out cool bugs under river stones, and wading around the falls.
Back at the campsite we had some meatballs that Sarah had pre-cooked with some red sauce for dinner and then made smores, which is very important on any camping trip with kids! Sarah and I also whittled some "blueberry skewers" which were fun to use!
On Sunday morning Sarah made an incredible pancake breakfast (choice of blueberry or chocolate chip!) while we enjoyed the sunrise before we packed up and headed home.
I think this short trip was a perfect introduction to camping for my daughter. I can't wait to take her on many more adventures and show her how fun and satisfying spending time in the great outdoors can be.