Camping With Canines: The Plan and First Leg of Our Great Lakes Trip

4 07 2018

Our adventure to the Great Lakes evolved with twists and turns from the planning stages up until our last night camping.  We started planning months in advance with our friends John and Deborah McMurtrie, looking for somewhere to go in June that would be cool and scenic, our two criteria for a summer vacation.  We were intrigued by Isle Royale National Park, an island in the middle of Lake Superior, but it soon became apparent that it was out of our reach.  We settled on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan and Pictured Rock National Lakeshore on Lake Superior in Upper Peninsula Michigan.


As time went on, a cousins’ reunion in Indiana was added to our plans as was a visit with another cousin in Michigan and a stopover in Minocqua, Wisconsin where my niece and her family would be vacationing. Our plans were to tent-camp on the way up, leaving our dogs under the care of our daughters, and meet up with the McMurtries at Sleeping Bear.  We arranged for a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner, to the uninitiated) that we would share in Grand Marais, a little town just outside of Pictured Rock.  Babe’s Place was a two bedroom house conveniently located for all our adventures. Perfect!

6.26.18 Grand Marais near Pictured Rock (37)

Babe’s Place, Grand Marais, MI

Our first game-changer came just a few weeks before we were to leave.  We bought a used A-frame pop-up camper.  Outfitted with AC, heater, microwave, stereo, and refrigerator, this was living in the lap of luxury when compared with our normal Spartan tent life.  No more sleeping in a hot, stuffy tent and worrying about the chance of rain!


The second major twist in plans came two weeks before leaving, when we decided that rather than leave our pups behind, they would come along.  As mobile as babies (but with a lot less noise), camping with canines was not an issue.  Our dogs would stay on leashes or long leads and could sleep in air-conditioned comfort with us. However, the house in Grand Marais was a problem.  Understandably, no dogs were allowed.  We sent word to the owners, inquiring about nearby kennels (none) and asking as a last resort if it would be possible to park our camper there for our dogs to stay in.  Their response stunned us.  No.  And furthermore, it was strongly suggested that we cancel our reservation.

Cancelling was not an option.  Deborah was flying in from California with their grandson Tristan, and John was driving up.  They needed a place to stay.  Scrambling, we assured the owners that of course we would never have the dogs in their house and we did not wish to cancel.  After a search on the Internet, we discovered a campground nearby, and decided to tag-team staying there with the dogs.  Our only concern was that this campground did not take reservations.  We would have to get there as early as possible and hope for the best.

Our first leg of the trip took us almost-uneventfully to Franklin, Tennessee, where we would drop off my g-nephew Nate who had been with us for the week and then spend the night with my niece Becky’s family.  I say “almost-uneventfully” because of what happened in Atlanta.  Atlanta, a city that I will never willingly travel through again.  Driving through the center of the city (which was actually suggested by our GPS as shorter than the I-285 bypass) in four lanes of unyielding traffic and pulling a 1500 pound camper, our car’s engine inexplicably shut off.  Power steering off, hazard lights flipped on, heart pounding, hoping that for once Atlanta drivers would show mercy, somehow I was able to move the car slowly to the outside lane and then onto the shoulder of the road. Whether by the grace of God or the self-preservation instincts of the other drivers, I brought the car to a stop without so much as a horn blowing.  Once stopped, the car started again without complaint and I was able to inch up the shoulder to a nearby exit and then through the streets of Atlanta and back on the highway.  Hours later when we reached Tennessee, my heart was almost beating normally.

Despite our concerns, our mixed-breed mutts Shae and Pip took to the long car rides without hesitation.  Pip stayed in the back of the car while Shae commandeered the entire back seat; they settled in quickly and slept most of the way.  We stopped more frequently for stretch breaks, something as useful to us as for them.  They became adept at jumping back into the car and later sleeping on their beds wherever the night found us.  And likewise, our noses adapted to the constant doggy odor that soon pervaded the car and camper.  Traveling with canines was easier than we had imagined!


This photo is from a previous trip; without tent gear in the car, this time the dogs had much more space!