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Part of the trail to Second Beach.

Part of the trail to Second Beach.

I love to travel and the desire to go places is never pacified.

I think the inner explorer was awakened just before my sophomore year of high school when my mom and I went on an extensive road trip. We started at our house, took Interstate 80 out to San Francisco, Calif., then up to Port Angeles, Wash., over to Mount Rushmore, S.D. and down through Illinois back home to Michigan. It was fun and I got to go through most of the western states.

My mom and I are traveling partners. We have visited Chicago on multiple occasions, got snowed into Marquette during one spring break, walked up and down the Las Vegas strip, trekked up and down a “mountain” in La Push, were nearly washed away at Yosemite National Park, trotted all over Mackinac Island on a horse tour and stared out at Lake Michigan from Traverse City. As one could guess, I’ve gathered some fun tales from the road.

Here are some gems from the many trips we have been on.

A “short walk” to the beach.

When we had gone to La Push, Wash. We were taken by the beautiful driftwood lined beaches and gray skies. On the road leading into the small Native American village were small parking lots; one was for Third Beach and the other for Second Beach. As we were leaving La Push, we decided to stop at the Second Beach lot. A sign next to the beginning of the trail said it was basically a short distance from there to the beach and we figured “why not” and carried on.

One of the uprooted trees that were found along the trail to Second Beach.

One of the uprooted trees that were found along the trail to Second Beach.

It wasn’t short at all.

We claim we walked up and down a mountain but in reality it was more like a rather large hill. Uprooted trees, poorly maintained steps and lush green forest surrounded us the entire way. It was beautiful but we were unprepared. We had no water and improper footwear. At several points we asked ourselves if it was worth it but continued on.

It was worth it.

The end of the trail had a wall of driftwood blocking you from the beach. We could have easily climbed it seeing as it was only two to three feet high but with our terrible footwear, non-existent cell service and aching bodies we felt staring at the beach was more worth it than dying on it. We made the way back with some beautiful pictures and a fun tale to tell out friends and family. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. There is a chance it’s been altered because the Twilight Series gave the area a boost in tourism so what I experienced could be very different from what someone would experience today.

We have a “problem.

Spring break vacations for a college student usually entails booze and lots of it mixed with a sunny beach. Seeing as I avoid the sun like the plague and hate sand with a passion, my mom and I decided we would travel up to Marquette, Mich. To visit some of my friends, then some family (my mom was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula), then make our way down through Wisconsin and stay in Chicago for a few nights before returning home.

Perfect plan, except we forgot a key element.

The Upper Peninsula is known for harsh winters. Think The Wall in “Game of Thrones” or Fargo in “Fargo.” Snow is piled high and temperatures are incredibly low. For the people who live there, it’s just another winter but for those who are visiting it’s a nightmare.

We stayed at a really cool hotel called The Landmark Inn. It’s one of those old hotels that have a cool history and no one room is the same. The top floor had a lounge that was the place to be once it opened at five o’clock but it was always open to guests beforehand as a quiet place to read or relax with great views of Lake Superior.

View from our hotel window during a calm moment in the storm.

View from our hotel window during a calm moment in the storm.

We shopped around then visited my friends, Kaitlyn for lunch and my best friend, Dan, for dinner. We went to bed thinking of the following day and how we were excited to visit my grandmother who lives in a secluded settlement outside of Escanaba.

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen until I woke up to my mom saying, “Emily, wake up. We have a problem.”

She told me to look out the window and when I did, I was faced with a wall of white. As in, I could barely see the bright streetlight that was close by. We were in a blizzard and we weren’t going anywhere.

After making the necessary call to my grandmother that we would see her the following day, we made the walk of shame down to the front desk asking if we could extend our stay. Luckily, they understood seeing as they had been through this situation plenty of times and many people had already called to cancel their stay because of the storm.

That was March 11, 2013 and I know that because it was the day Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 federal felony counts. When we received the breaking news update that the jury’s decision was going to be read, we raced up to the lounge and set up my mom’s iPad to stream the coverage.

We had dinner in the lounge that night and braved the storm the next day, having canceled the rest of the trip because the storm was so bad it had earned a title and was consuming the entire area the rest of our trip included. We stopped in to see my grandmother but instead of continuing south to Wisconsin, we went east toward the Mackinac Bridge.

I’m probably one of the few people who can boast getting snowed into their hotel during their spring break vacation.

“That’s why you have to be prepared”

Whenever I graduated from high school, my parent’s graduation present was a trip to anywhere I would like to go. They thought I would pick somewhere in Europe and I surprised them when I said I wanted to return to San Francisco. I loved the city but had only spent two nights there before my sophomore year in high school during the road trip mentioned above. Part of the trip was to leave San Francisco for a few days and go to Yosemite National Park for two nights.

Fine right? Nope.

The second day we were there was when things got interesting. The night before there had been a terrible thunderstorm and buckets of rain had fallen. When we drove to the park that morning, it was gloomy but it didn’t stop us. Our first stop was Bridalveil Fall, a beautiful waterfall that you can get right up close and personal to. My mom had suggested we stop there first because the parking lot fills quickly and we didn’t want to deal with a high amount of people meandering around the trail leading up to the waterfall. The parking lot itself was quite wet but we chalked it up to the rainfall from the night before.

We should have read the signs as they came at us a bit better.

Bridalveil Fall from a distance.

Bridalveil Fall from a distance.

First, about an inch of rushing water soaked our feet at the beginning of the trail. Then, off to the side, water was rushing over rocks at a clip that would make an experienced sailor cringe. The farther up (yes, up) the trail we went the higher the water got. At one point, we were easily trudging through six inches of water and at that time we were being misted by water too.

Things quickly escalated from there.

That mist turned into a full-blown hurricane of water around us and we were grabbing onto the handrails along the trail and pulling ourselves forward. Were we laughing? Yes, but looking back it was probably our method of calming ourselves down in the eyes of being washed away. Our vision was soon impaired due to the amount of water surrounding us and the roar of the fall was starting to ache our eardrums. I don’t know how close we got before we opted to live and flee back down the way we came but I feel like it was close (not that we could see anything).

We made our way back down as quickly as we could, laughing at how we looked as if we had just dived into the ocean. Once we were close enough to the parking lot, we started passing people on their way up. Some stared and some laughed at our soaked condition. One stood out though.

A woman with a small group of people were wearing the thin plastic ponchos you can get in a pack of two for a dollar. The woman scoffed at us, looked at her group and said, “that’s why you have to be prepared” and continued to march up the trail. My mom and I had a good laugh about it seeing as we knew what they were walking into and those thin ponchos didn’t stand a chance. We got back to our car, drove to the gift shop, bought t-shirts and sweatpants and scurried to the bathrooms to change into what we called our “refugee outfits.”

As it would turn out, the rain from the night before combined with the record amount of snow melting, the waterfall was a bit more intense than normal. We saw that group later and they were in the same position as we were.

Moral of the story? Don’t judge people for being drenched when visiting a waterfall; it’s likely going to happen to you.

States I have traveled to are highlighted in green.

States I have traveled to are highlighted in green.