July 06, 2017

Camp Fireside (family vacation)

It feels so good to be home!

On Friday, Jerry and I drove (with the kids and Joey) up to Ewen, Michigan. My entire family--my parents, siblings and their spouses/kids, and dogs were all meeting there at my sister's property for several days over the fourth of July. Ewen is in the far northwestern part of the upper peninsula.

The route we chose (the fastest route) was over nine hours! That may not sound so bad, but considering we had two adults, two kids, all our luggage, and a 60-pound dog in a midsize car (a Nissan Altima--we rented it for the trip), it was going to be a very long drive. That was the thing I was most dreading about this trip. Since we are working on saving money right now, we didn't want to stop along the way--so it was a straight-through drive.

The ride ended up not being so bad after all. It went by pretty quickly. Once we got into the U.P., we realized we were going to be driving right past the Air Force base where Jerry used to live when he was younger (until he was 12, except for a couple of years when they lived in California). I had never seen it, and I thought it would be fun to see where he spent his childhood years. So, we took an extra hour to stop there and look around. It is no longer a military base, and unfortunately, it's very run down looking. Jerry was disappointed to see his childhood home like that. We did get some pictures, though.

After that, it was about three more hours to get to Jeanie's camp. Jeanie (my sister) and her husband (Shawn) own a 109-acre piece of property in Ewen (they live in Rockford, Illinois, but go to their camp on weekends), and they named it Camp Fireside. They recently built a beautiful cabin (Shawn and his friend literally built this amazing cabin from scratch--including the wood furniture):

When Jeanie first started going up there (it's a five hour drive for them), she wanted a "dog park" so that she could bring her dogs and not worry about them running off. Shawn fenced in a decent-sized area around the fire pit for the dogs. Later, he fenced in five and a half acres! Now the dogs have a ton of room to play. Jeanie invited Joey, as well as Nathan's dog Bailey, to join us up north. She also invited a few of her friends and their dogs to come as well.

Pole barn and one of the campers
Jeanie has a few campers on the property for guests to stay when they come, so Jerry, the kids, Joey, and I stayed in one of the campers. I am SO not an outdoorsy person, but staying in a camper was much more comfortable than staying in a tent! Jeanie got us all matching hoodies for the weekend--a different color for each family, and ours was green. It made for a cool family photo!

I had bought a hammock on Amazon a few months ago, for the sole purpose of using it at Jeanie's, but it sat in my closet until we packed our bags for this trip. I was worried I'd never be able to figure it out by myself, so I just wanted to wait until my older brother, Brian, could show me how to set it up. Turns out it was extremely easy! It literally takes less than three minutes to set up, and anyone with half a brain could do it. I couldn't believe it.

I bought the two-person one, because it can be used by either one or two people, and I thought Jerry and I might have fun lying in there together (the weight capacity is 500 pounds). The entire hammock folds up small enough to fit inside of that little pouch you see on the side. And it wasn't even hard to get it all back in there! At Brian's suggestion, I did spend an extra $15 to get a better set of straps. The hammock comes with straps, but the ones I bought separately make the set up even easier and they are sturdier.

Anyway, since I'm sure someone will ask, I got it on Amazon. Here are the links to the hammock (the brand is called Winner Outfitters) and the straps (these are affiliate links, so if you buy through these, I get a small commission; but I paid for the hammock myself, so this isn't a sponsored ad or anything):


Relaxing in the hammock ended up being one of my favorite ways to pass time camping. It was SO comfy! And even Luke loved it :)

Speaking of Luke, it was so fantastic to spend so much time with him. Whenever Becky wanted a break, I was happy to walk around or just sit by the fire with him.

Luke even rolled over for the first time while all of us were crowded around him--and I got it on video!

The first evening we were there, I went on a four-wheeler ride with Jerry and the kids. Jerry said I look like I belong on Chips with this helmet on. Hahaha.

The kids had a blast the whole time we were there. They went four-wheeling a lot, swam in the lake, fished at a dam, played Corn Hole, caught frogs in Jeanie's pond, shot Nathan's guns, and watched Brian's fireworks display.

Noah and Eli with their friend (Jeanie's friend's son) playing in the lake

Eli and I playing Corn Hole. He beat me. 
Luke's first time swimming in the lake. Clearly, he loved it!
Eli catching (and releasing) frogs in Jeanie's pond

The boys on four-wheelers
Nathan brought a couple of his guns for target shooting. I had never shot anything other than a BB gun in my life, and I thought it would be fun to try! When I saw him shooting his rifle, he looked like the snipers you see in the movies, and I wanted to give it a try. It took a while for me to understand how to use the scope (I am right handed, but my left eye is dominant, which took some getting used to). I actually hit the bulls-eye! Shooting the gun was super fun, and it makes me want to do it more often (just target practice--no hunting for me). 

In the evenings, we all sat down around the fire to chat and joke around. We made s'mores, and I love that my kids enjoy making them for me--so they do the work, and I get to eat yummy s'mores ;)

Joey had a BLAST playing with the other dogs. There were six dogs total at one point! Joey especially liked playing with Jeanie's basset hound, Bentley. Joey was so tired after the first day, that he pretty much slept the rest of the weekend, haha.

Jerry and I took the kids to Lake Superior for a couple of hours so that they could touch the water. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it contains more water than all of the other Great Lakes combined. It's known for being SUPER cold because it is so deep.  People don't even swim in it because of the cold temps (unless they do it just to say they did!). We walked along the beach looking for cool rocks (the beaches have so many rocks, and some of them are really unique).

Brian has done a very elaborate fireworks display for the last couple of years, and they just keep getting better. I hadn't seen one yet, because this was my first time to Jeanie's property, so I was looking forward to it. Check out this trailer full of the equipment to launch the fireworks! He had a whole computerized program set up to automatically launch everything in the timing and display that he wanted.

The fireworks were going to be on July 3rd, and Jeanie let some neighbors know about it. The display has been so great that people who live around there all come over to watch the show. It's actually better than the city's display! I'm not exaggerating. After seeing it, I was stunned. I'm normally not a big fireworks person, but this was AMAZING. If the drive wasn't so long, I'd go up there every year to watch the display. (In in the video at the end of this post, I have a few clips of the fireworks.)

Anyway, we drove home yesterday, only stopping in Mackinaw for some fudge (Mackinaw and Mackinac Island are known for the most amazing fudge!). Side note: Mackinac is pronounced "Mackinaw", and both spellings are used--but Mackinac refers to the island and the bridge, while Mackinaw refers to the city.

It feels great to be home! But obviously, we had a lot of fun. I put together a series of one-second video clips with my 1-Second Everyday app, and turned the entire vacation into a very fun video! I posted the video below...

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend!


  1. That looks like so much fun! Nothing better than having the family together for the weekend, enjoying fun things and just having quality time together without the hustle and bustle of everyday life. That hammock looks so cool, definitely going to check that out and wow, those fireworks looked amazing!!!

  2. What a crazy cool compound! I especially love the dog park!! And there is nothing like having a baby around to hold! I spent the 4th with my family, which included my nephew's five-month old. We all took turns holding him because all of our kids are grown now. It's so sweet to get to hold a little person!

  3. That was a great video, awesome work!

  4. I love going up north! My aunt has a cabin in Rhinelander, WI. It's always my favorite time of the year! I love the small town vibes and the lake and the campfires. Sounds like you had a great time!!

  5. Man! This post is making me CRAVE a good 'ol Michigan Summer Vacay! Growing up, we had cabins in Alpena -- right on a lake! I'm wanting to visit the old stomping grounds and roast some Koegels on the fire!

  6. Wow, your sister's place is AMAZING! I might actually drive ten hours every weekend for that! Looks like heaven!

  7. Love the video! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Love this! Looks like you all had a blast!

  9. I own a Nissan Altima which I chose after renting one. We drove 10-11 hours from Indiana to North Carolina about twice a year with two kids and two adults, it's something you just get used to doing, anything less than 8 hours feels like a breeze now.

  10. How awesome!! The sound of the fireworks disturbed my sleeping cat, Abbey Road!! Lol


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