I enjoy camping, especially in Michigan where we have some of the best parks and campgrounds. You really don’t have to drive far to find a campground. Most campgrounds have plenty of options for pitching tents, parking a trailer/camper, or even renting rustic cabins to sleep in if you prefer to be off the ground.
My older sister, niece, cousin and their friends plan an annual camping trip. This year, my sister invited the rest of the family (read some reasons why I enjoy camping). It was the first camping trip for my younger sister, husband and three young kids. My husband couldn’t make the trip, so between the rest of us, plus our cousin and sister’s friend, there were 11 of us heading to Port Crescent State Park in Port Austin. The 640-acre park sits on Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. There are 142 modern campsites with electrical hookup and a new camper cabin that sleeps six.
From the metro Detroit area, it’s a nice, relaxing drive to Port Austin/Caseville in Michigan’s “thumb.” You eventually start passing farmland, vegetable stands and small towns. I made it to Port Crescent State Park in approximately two hours.
The campground was hit with a big storm the night before so everyone was drying out their campsite, including tents, sleeping bags, clothes, wood and more. My mom and niece had to take a bunch of stuff to the laundromat to dry (some of them arrived a few days earlier). When I arrived, though, the sun was out and a decent wind off of Saginaw Bay was keeping the gray clouds moving.
Port Crescent is a nice campground – I like the wooded sites and well-maintained grounds and bathroom areas. The campground has several access points to the three miles of sandy beach along the Great Lake’s Saginaw Bay. There is also a play structure for kids, as well as the ability to borrow games, books and movies.
My sister reserved two campsites for our group that offered a spectacular view of the bay. I waited for the younger kids to arrive so they could help me pitch my REI Quarter Dome Plus tent. This backpacking tent is easy to set up, even alone. But I thought it would be fun for my nieces and nephew to help since they’ve never before done it. I went over steps to pitch the tent: I showed them how to choose a spot on the campsite to place the ground cover, then lay on it to look up (make sure no big branches are hanging over the tent in case of a storm that might cause the branch to fall) and also make sure you’re not laying on uneven ground because that very quickly gets uncomfortable. We then spread the tent on the ground cover and connected the pole sections. This tent is color-coded so as long as you can tell the difference between gray and orange, you can connect the poles to the tent! We easily staked the tent and added the rain fly. I usually stake the tent last as it’s easier to move the location or make adjustments if necessary.
My 8-year-old niece wanted to sleep in the tent with me so we unpacked our sleeping pads and bags, as well as her multiple stuffed animals who also wanted to experience camping. My mom and I then took the kids on a walk around the campground and to the beach on Lake Huron. It was awesome to feel the fresh breeze and cool water! I always love walking through a campground as you often encounter friendly people, and I love watching people having fun together outside.
Back at the campsite, we ate lunch, then had a fun dance party and limbo contest. When it was time to start a campfire, we sent the kids to forage for firewood and kindling. This provided a fun distraction/game for them, plus helped them feel a part of the campfire process. One tip I’ve learned is to wander the empty campsites in the morning. Many campers will pack up their belongs and leave the leftover firewood in or around the fire pit. And of course the tree branches, pine cones, and dry needles provide great kindling and tinder.
In the evening, we enjoyed s’mores and stories around the campfire. The next morning was very windy and chilly, but thankfully the clouds moved on by mid-morning and we had a beautiful summer day to enjoy. We enjoyed scrambled eggs, made by adding eggs and other ingredients in a plastic bag, clipped and placed in boiling water for 15 minutes. It’s an easy meal to make, with easy clean up (making it even better!).
Cheeseburger Festival was occurring in Caseville so a group of us piled into vehicles and drove the short distance to Caseville. It was packed! There was music playing, lots of booths displaying jewelry, toys, clothing and more for sale, plus many food stands to purchase burgers, fresh lemonade, dessert and more.
Back at the campsite, the kids and their parents went swimming in the lake, while the rest of us relaxed around an early campfire. Dinner was homemade pizzas, which was fun for all of us to make as we got to choose our own ingredients, then cook on a camp stove. These were delicious! The kids especially enjoyed making their own.
Saturday morning, we visited the farmers’ market in Port Austin. Lots of vendors set up food booths to sell vegetables, fruit, honey, seasonings and more. There is also a flea market with many booths selling a variety of items, from furniture to candles to purses/bags to clothing.
All too soon, it was time to pack up camp and go home. I wished I would have had time to hike the nearby trails or go geocaching, but overall it was a fun experience camping as a family. We all agreed we will do it again, and possibly longer. Since both adults and kids enjoyed it, we’ll chalk it up to a successful trip!