Our Minnesota Mantis is migrating south for the winter! (Insert me yelling…TAKE ME WITH YOU MANTIS!!!)
We are super excited to announce we have partnered with a company in Phoenix, Arizona that will rent it out for us during the off season in Minnesota! Come November 1st through April our Mantis will be available for rent at SimplyGo Camper in Arizona!
As part of the migration we are offering some big promotions! We are currently offering 50% off for anyone interested in a one way rental from Minnesota to Arizona in late October. If you are interested please contact me at at our Minnesota outdoorsy listing.
This weekend we went up the North Shore to chase gold! And boy did we find it (Fallelujah ya’ll!) in more ways than one…
Down to this sweet little white and orange kitty who fast became our campground champion every night (more on that in a minute).
Grand Marais Campground – Spot 279
For this trip we stayed at the Grand Marais Campground in Grand Marais, MN. This campground was the reason I wanted a camper. This town, in my opinion, is the prettiest small town in the country. We talk about retiring here one day. And this campground is IN town ON the beach. You can’t get a better location in town or on the North Shore. From our campsite you could see the light house blinking back at you every night on the harbor! All of the pictures below are from the campground – beaches galore and trail heads right from the campground. And best of all you can walk into town. No need for a car to go get dinner.
Good bye summer we will miss you! We spent Labor Day weekend getting in one last trip of the summer camping season – don’t worry I said summer season. We still have some trips on deck for Fall 😉 We will be chasing peak fall colors through the upper Midwest come October 1st. But for now we are very much enjoying a restful September at home remembering all the fun we still managed to have this weird summer.
We spent it at the Disneyland of all playgrounds for kids in MN – Crow Wing Lake Campground. And there is a really fun story around why we chose this place to be our last hurrah of summer…
Travis and I lived in Seattle for 4.5 years before moving back to Minnesota 4 years ago to raise our kids around family. A lot of people don’t realize how beautiful it is in Seattle. I’m talking mountains, waterfalls, and hiking. So much hiking. The people that live there are adventurous – always looking to explore the gorgeous landscape that is Washington State. Just living there and getting to hike out my front door on weekends into the snow capped mountains was enough to quench my wanderlust for years.
And there is where I met some of my best friends – many of whom are the ultimate adventurers! Take my friends Jennifer and Brad for existence of Roaming Free in an RV. They came to me one day and told me they were selling everything, buying a 5th wheel and were off to see the world as full time RVers. WOW! And they have now been doing if for 5 years.
So when Jennifer told me about a campground in Minnesota they recommended I jumped on it. She described it as the ultimate campground for kids and it was only 2 hours from the Twin Cities – in a town famous around here called Brainerd! And boy was she right – it’s basically the Disneyland of campgrounds for kids. If you live in the upper Midwest and have small children I can’t recommend it enough!
Crow Wing Lake Campground – Brainerd, MN
Okay so why is it so awesome? First of all it’s only a 2 hour drive from the cities. THIS IS EVERYTHING WITH KIDS. And even though we booked it in May for Labor Day weekend we still got a lake view campsite.
Second, its located ON a lake with tons of beach front. And not only that, but every rental you can imagine from paddle boards to pontoon boats is available.
Third – THE POOL! WITH TWO WATER SLIDES. My favorite picture of the whole trip. Go teags, go! #fearless Meanwhile Tommy was like, “Ummm no – I’ll watch from the sidelines thank you very much”.
And fourth this playground was THE best playground we have ever come across – EVER. And we go to a lot of playgrounds…It just keeps going and going. Tommy’s favorite part was the school bus.
Fifth, our site had a view of the lake and the perfect trees to finally get to try out our hammock! Not one of our sites all summer had trees to accommodate one so this was VERY exciting.
And last, but certainly not least grandparents! My parents were able to meet us there on the way home from a large RV trip they did in Montana. It was great having neighboring campsite. And we even got to sneak into downtown Brainerd for drinks on a patio for date night. Highly suggest Sage on Laurel. They even had gluten free delicious food for me…and margaritas. Enough said?
The kids did so much better on this trip! You could tell they were seasoned veterans this last trip of summer compared to the first trip. Tommy loves his cozy bed. He calls it his box (HAHAHA!) We basically turned the bottom bunk into a crib – since he is still in a crib at home.
Tommy saying good morning! I smell eggs…
We love you Mantis – thank you for such a great summer! We cant wait for cool temperatures and chasing the peak colors this October in Door County and Northern Mn.
We just got back from the longest trek to date in the Taxa Mantis. We lived in 19 feet for 9 days as a family of 4. Did I look homeless by the end? Yes. Would I suggest the trip with a 5 year old? Absolutely. With a 2 year old? I would advise you to proceed with EXTREME CAUTION. BUT was it all worth it? YES. My wonder lust has been satiated – for now. Michigan’s UP has just about every natural wonder you can imagine all in one place. Making it – to date – one of the most beautiful landscapes I have come across.
If you want a place where in one week you can sled down sand dunes, chase waterfalls (like there is legit a waterfall map!), swim out to sand bars in water the color of the Caribbean, hike through pristine mountains (yes there are mountains in the Midwest – who knew?!), and go to remote islands that ban cars and the way of life is old school horses and bikes – go to Pure Michigan. I totally get the marketing campaign now.
In order to accomplish seeing as much of the UP as possible with small kids we broke up the trip so that no drive was longer then 5.5 hours. We did a big loop from Minneapolis to Munising (central MI) to Mackinac Island (Eastern MI) and then headed back to Minneapolis via the Porcupine Mountains (Western MI).
Day 1: Minneapolis to Lake Minocqua, WI (4 hours)
(Patricia Campground is rated 5 stars here if you need a place to stay – we have family in the area so we parked in their driveway)
We drove from Minneapolis to Lake Minocqua WI. Travis had to work that day so we left around 3:00 and arrived about 4 hours later. This is a gem of a town that happened to be the perfect half way point between Minneapolis and Munising for the night. It’s in lake country with the cutest downtown. My family has been coming here my whole life and my aunt happens to have a cabin here, so it was the perfect stopping point for us – and we could park in her driveway for the night. For those that get an earlier start you can drive directly to Munising. But beware the drive time will be 7.5 hours if you have small kids. Regardless a stop at Island Cafe for coffee or breakfast is HIGHLY suggested. Get the espresso milk shake or chai tea 😉
Day 2: Drive from Lake Minocqua to Munising Michgian
KOA Pictured Rocks/Munising Campground
You can’t miss Munising! This is home to the waterfall map, beaches with sand bars , Caribbean colored water, and sand dunes! It’s 30 miles of lake-shore called the Pictured Rocks! However, because Munising is SUCH a destination we were stuck with a campground I would not recommend to anyone. It was literally across from a landfill. We were far enough in the back it didn’t bother us to much, but I can’t imagine if you were in the front campsites on a hot windy day – yuck! With that being said my kids could have cared less and enjoyed the playground and pool.
Day 3: Exploring Munising (Personally my favorite day of the trip)
We woke up early to chase waterfalls! There is literally a waterfall map you can follow! They are sprinkled everywhere around Munising. First up was Miners Falls – this was about 20 minutes from town and about half a mile hike to see it. (The longest hike we did with the kids). For brave souls you can even go swimming in the base of it – but you have to leave the trail and it’s definitely treacherous. The overlook was more then enough for us!
After the falls we got back in the car and drove to Miner’s Castle Overlook – which requires almost zero walking. It’s right there. This was easily the most scenic photo op of the entire trip. You cant miss seeing this overlook – its post card worthy.
To wrap up the day we went to a beach called Sandy Point. You can see Miners Castle jutting out from the cliffs from the beach! This beach was unreal – it had a HUGE sand bar that you swim out to, perfect warm sand, and the color of the water was all hues of blues and teals. The prettiest beach I have ever been to hands down – and I know I keep saying that but seriously Munising is like having the Carribean in the midwest. Mind blown. This is 7.5 hours from my house??
Day 4: Munising
The second morning in Munising we went into town and got some food – honestly there are not a ton of options. However, you must stop at Muldoons – it’s a legend in the UP. Pastries with either fruit or meat stuffing. Delicious.
Then the boys headed back for a much needed nap time for Tommy, while Teags and I continued our quest to find more waterfalls!
Wagner Falls – It’s right by town and a short walk (like a few hundred feet) from the parking lot. This was actually my favorite falls! It was a big wide waterfall.
Munising Falls – This one is tall and thin and falls over a sandstone rock! Beautiful! Also, just a few hundred feet to go see this one from the parking lot.
And last but not least Sable Falls and the Grand Sand Dunes – This was about 50 min from town! Hike the path towards the waterfall and then keep going to find the sand dunes – this was magnificent and my pics don’t do it justice. Sand dunes the size of small high rises crash right into Lake Michigan. Vertical walls of sand. If you do the Grand Sable Dunes trail you see them from the perspective of being on top of the dune! The pic below is us on top of the Dunes. Can you spot Teags running in the dune?? Her shirt blended right in.
Day 5: Drove from Munising to Mackinaw City (2 hours) and Ferry to Mackinac Island
Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground
The next day we packed up camp and headed the short drive (2 hours) to Mackinac Island! Well the actual island requires a ferry, but you stay in Mackinaw City on the mainland. Our campground here was AMAZING – it has even won awards for being the best campground in Michigan. The name of it is Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground. Our campsite was ON the beach! Not to mention it had playgrounds galore, bike rentals, a pool, mini golf, wifi – you name it it had it. It could not have been more different than our campground in Munising.
Due to rain predicted for the next day, we decided to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island in the afternoon that same day. Mackinac Island is old world charm at its finest. No cars are allowed on the island – and it’s magical as a result. Upon entering the harbor you only see a sea of bikes and horses. I kid you not Amazon is delivered via bike here – and propane tanks for heat are delivered via horses. The island is also known for FUDGE. (We read that Murdick’s was the original fudge on the island and best, but this was up to much debate by locals.) Said to be the best in the world. We explored town, grabbed dinner, and had a picnic with our food and fudge in the park right by the harbor. The original plan had been to rent bikes and do the loop around the island (it’s about 8 miles), but due to weather we opted for walking through town instead.
Day 6: Lazy day in Mackinaw City
We woke up to POURING rain. Which was fine – at this point in the trip it was a great day to rest up. We spent the morning reading (anyone else reading Midnight Sun?!). Travis read the kids Harry Potter.
In the afternoon the rain slowed so we went into town! Mackinaw city (on the mainland) is super cute to explore also it turns out! It even had a laundromat so we could refresh the towels and get through the trip with clean underwear and socks – WINNING. Afterwards we got lunch at BC Pizza (excellent and GF options!), got our first PSL’s of the season at Starbucks (priorities!) and went to go eat at the Mackinaw Straights Pier.
While at the pier, 2 year old Tommy kept yelling BOAT! In the harbor was a GIANT boat that said coast guard. It turns out it was the most trusted Ice Breaker ship in the history of the coast guard – it would break ice to make the great lakes navigable during winters. And was built shortly after Pearl Harbor to transport supplies. It had recently retired and was available for touring! We bought tickets and got to go on it! The kids both said this was a highlight for them.
Day 7: Drive from Mackinaw City to Porcupine Mountains (5.5 hours)
Black Bear Campground in Ontonagon – Located at the entrance to Porcupine Mountains
In the morning we got all the kids wiggles out at our campground’s amazing playgrounds and beach before we started off to drive the entire UP shore line back towards Minnesota – from east to west!
We drove from the farthest eastern point of the UP to the farthest western point. It’s about a 5.5 hour long day and seemed to take forever since your climbing mountains.
The exhausted boys en route….
But then you arrive to this – the entrance to the Porcupine Mountains! This was across the street from our campground. We stayed at Black Bear campground and it was lovely. Basic, but clean with water and electricity and a stunning location right across from the lake and right next to the entrance to the park. We really enjoyed site 19 next to the woods. Would stay here again in a heart beat!
Day 8 – Exploring the Porkies!
Yes, there are mountains in the midwest, crazy right?! And they are BEAUTIFUL mountains next to Lake Superior. They are known for three spots – Lake of the Clouds, Summit Peak, and Bond Falls. Due to more rain we only got to see the first two. But if you ask me the fog really added something to the landscape and was a nice addition.
Lake of the Clouds AKA the End of the Earth:
At this point the rain was starting but not pouring. The mist and fog were coming down over the lake. You emerge from a dense forest to this view. Spectacular! We just did the overlook, but there is also a trail for sunnier days.
Last but not least was Summit Peak – we did the half mile trail to the tower. At this point it was POURING and the fog was DENSE! But we lived in Seattle for 4 years so no big deal to us – felt familiar haha! Tommy was not having it at this point and Teags was drenched. On a clear day this is the best view in the park of the woods and Lake Superior!
Day 9: Drive from The Porkies home to Minneapolis (5.5 hours)
This was supposed to be a 10 day trip but due to severe weather we ended up heading home one day early. Which was fine by us! We had seen all that we hoped to and it was STUNNING. The farthest we ever got from home was 8.5 hours away in our loop around the UP. It wasn’t THAT far from home – why hadn’t we done this before?? If you have not done the UP before and happen to be a reader in Minnesota – its 100% worth doing and not that far from home. PURE MICHIGAN – thank you for having us!
T4 TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS AKA OUR TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TRIP
Don’t put your toddler in a swim diaper by accident for a long car ride. (This happened on day one – thank god for the washing machine at my aunts cabin so we could wash the car seat. Rookie mistake I know.)
Even when the forecast says good weather do not believe It – prepare for days that were supposed to be sunny to actually have severe thunderstorm warnings. Bring the rain coats even if it’s not predicted!
Bring more food then you expect to need. By the porkies it was very hard to find even a grocery store. Let alone a Walmart!
Bring quarters for laundry!
Bungee cargo nets for the top of the mantis above the bed are critical for extra storage! We liked 30×15 nets from amazon. Also extra plastic milk crate bins for under the bunk beds – $4 at target!
To help kids sleep at night bring a toddler rail for the bottom bunk – it makes it almost crib like. Tommy referred to it as his box haha. Also buy 54 inch long curtains on amazon with grommets and hang them via a bungee cord to make a privacy curtain for the sleeping spaces for night time.
That’s all for now – our next adventure is in 48 hours…because we are crazy! Thanks for trekking through the UP of Michigan with T4. Until next time!
Things on deck include an Instagram as well as an in depth camping gear post coming soon!
A couple weeks ago I texted Katy of Captured Glory Photography. She is massively talented and has done a bunch of our family pictures in the past. I asked her is she would be up for a little bit of an odd request! That we had a fun project we would love to document.
I told her we had a new travel blog and rv rental on Outdoorsy.com starting and would she take pics of the RV for the listing? She said sure! And added that we should get some family pictures in the RV as well. Brilliant! An RV family portrait session – love it.
(You better believe I tried to make Joanna Gains proud in how I staged it for these pictures haha)
Here are some of us and the kids cheering to our new trailer and all the memories ahead! Can you tell Teags has done a few photoshoots in her life? That girl is FIERCE.
Now for the actual trailer tour!
Now to the back! This area is a dining table during the day and a bed at night.
Something we loved about this unit is that the back opens up and windows in the kitchen are made to be pass through windows like a food truck! It lets the outside in.
Now back towards the front! Bathroom and Bunk Bed area for kids! The bunks can be in couch mode during the day and bunk bed mode at night! The bathroom is a flush toilets and hand held shower. From the ceiling you can hang a privacy curtain.
This unit was designed by a man that made human habitats for NASA and we feel like you can see that in the design. So compact, but he thought of everything! His philosophy is bringing the outside in. Providing everything you need, nothing you don’t.
The kitchen storage is a milk crate system to lessen weight and makes packing a breeze. Everyone go take a crate to your room and pack it and put it in the mantis! No duffles needed. He also put holes made for carabineers and bungee cords everywhere. As you can see we added some extra netting to the top bunk for teags stuffed animals. Some people even set up hammocks inside the mantis using the carabineer holes!
Let me explain. So last September Travis and I were absolutely intrigued by RVing but had zero experience. We found Outdoorsy and rented an RV in Zion!
That’s what started this whole thing! We knew if we ever got one of our own we would put it up on Outdoorsy for rent when we weren’t using it. And business is BOOMING. It’s out again as we speak in Grand Portage and was in our garage for all of 12 hours between rentals! 😂🙌 (Our listing can be found here if your curious – much more to come for the listing soon including staged professional pics we had taken last week!)
The original plan was for us to bring our trailer and park it on site at the cabin to have extra room for my mom’s birthday. But it was rented out. (We have since blocked the calendar so we actually get a chance to use it 😉) So we all stayed in the cabin, which actually worked out just fine!
Gunflint Lake is on the Gun Flint Trail in Minnesota. There is a gorgeous lodge there called Gunflint Lodge and it’s known for having so many activities for the kids. They have cabins for rent as well as areas to park trailers. You basically drive to Grand Marais on the coast of Lake superior and then head into the interior of Minnesota’s North Woods a hour. Once you arrive you are sitting in the US/Canada border. The other side of the lake is Canada! Its famous for the boundary waters and traveling via portaging AKA hiking from lake to lake with your canoe. Travis proposed to me up here and our wedding was up here also! It’s our happy place 💕
We loved doing small hikes with the kids every day! Our absolute favorite was lonely lake! It’s trailhead is right from the lodge and takes you to an untouched pristine lake. #CousinSquad
On the way back from the overlook there are amazing views of Canada.
Our other favorite hiking spot was found by my brother in law! A nature center about 20 min away at the very end point of GunFlint Trail. My sister even spotted a baby black bear!
When we were not doing trails for the kids we enjoyed the beach and playground at the lodge! They also had great activities for the kids so Teagan and I did soap making! (Socially distant and outside). Teags made this soap! She added apple cider oil and even exfoliating oatmeal and cinnamon! That’s my girl!
We also had plenty of downtime too and made a 500 puzzle, baked, cooked over the fire, and the grandkids loved showering Nana in love all weekend.
The drive home was about 5.5 hours and we made it 9 haha. We adore the North Shore and had to stop at all our spots down highway 61 on the way home. First up was Grand Marais which I easily think is the cutest town in America. I mean just look at this place! MUST STOPS: JAVA MOOSE COFFEE AND SVEN AND OLES PIZZA! Grab your food to go and watch from the harbor as boats that look like pirate ships and sea planes land in front of you!
Then as you head south back towards the cities on 61 you have to stop at a waterfall – there are dozens! I love Cascade. 300 feet of a trail and your there – gorgeous falls! Of course I forgot my camera for this one.
Next up was Black Beach in Silver Bay, Mn. OH MY GOODNESS. This one was new to us and we will be back. Look at the water color?!
And finally we stopped just North of Duluth at Two Harbors. And now we know why they call it that! This walk out to the light house literally splits the harbor in two! Look at these huge boats!
After that we actually drove haha and made it home. The North Shore is an absolute gem of a place and we feel so grateful to get to live with in 5 hours of all of this! Thank you for joining T4 as we Trekked the GunFlint Trail and the North Shore of Lake Superior, MN!
Next up is our biggest trip of the year – stay tuned!
Welcome back! Two years have come and gone since the first blog, OurBunBrandisOven.blog. And it is SO good to be writing again. I still get questions about what is Tommy up to? What’s the latest with T4? A LOT has happened since then. Above you, you will see a Menu button. If your new here, you can see who we are as a family and why we are starting a family travel blog! With that being said, come Trekking with T4 through Lake Itasca State Park on our first trip in our new travel trailer!
When Covid happened this spring, Travis and I saw the writing on the wall that traveling would look different from now on and we started looking at RVs. In early May, we took the plunge after viewing a Taxa Mantis and ordered one. It was supposed to arrive in late June. We made camping reservations for the 4th of July and planned to take it to a family reunion. Due to Covid and high demand for trailers, our trailer was delayed a month. Sadly, we had to cancel both trips.
Finally, we got the call that our trailer had in fact shipped from Houston, TX and was in route to MN! Ekkkk!!! Our third planned trip of the year, to Itasca State Park, was scheduled for the day after it was now supposed to arrive! We could still go! But in true 2020 fashion, the most unexpected thing happened and not in a good way. Our trailer never arrived in MN. And the dealer could not reach the driver of the RV transporter.
Our trailer was legit missing.
Almost 30 hours after it went missing, it was finally located in Kansas City. Bizarre. The transporter that it had been on had been hit by a car in route. I know – you can’t make this stuff up. Luckily our unit was fine, but the poor driver! The owner of the transport company ended up driving it through the night and it arrived in MN a day late. Our trip had to be shortened, but we could still go! So you can imagine our excitement when we finally saw the RV in the flesh when daddy brought it home! Here are the kids waiting for it to arrive and seeing it for the first time.
We were bound and determined to go on our Maiden Voyage trip in our new TAXA Mantis! So we packed ALL night long and were off the next morning! We arrived at Pinewood Campground around late afternoon and were joined by my parents who are also RVers! It was hot, so first up was JUMPING into Lake Itasca at the beach!
If you don’t know Itasca was the first state park in Minnesota! And for good reason – it’s where the Mississippi River begins and you can swim in the headwaters! Which Teagan did – in her clothes.
Then we came home for some good old campfire fun, which included Teagan’s spooky stories and teaching the two year old Tommy how to eat corn on the cob.
We adored having our Mantis and were asked about it quite a bit by curious camp site neighbors. It was so fun to finally set up a campsite with all this gear we have been accumulating. The camping rug even matched the RV – score! Priorities 😉 If you are curious why we chose this trailer please click on the tab “Our Trailer”. We go into why this unit was perfect for our family. Teagan will tell you when she saw the bunk beds – she was sold .
The next day we did the Wilderness Drive Loop in our car. In the park are Minnesota’s “formerly” largest White and Red Pine. The trees still stand but died in recent years. They were giant! Almost as big as the mosquitoes in the old growth forests you had to walk through to see them 😉
Afterwards we took the kids to see Indian Burial Mounds deep in a forest and to see what life had been like on the frontier for settlers.
At night we had family dinners with my parents who were camping at a near by site! Followed by tons of playground time. All and all we had a good Maiden Voyage and learned so much about our trailer and Itasca State Park.
So what did we learn?
At the end of every blog I will add a section called T4 Tips & Tricks (aka where we succeeded at something) and Trials and Tribulations (where we share our mistakes so you don’t have to make them). Learning is the name of the game as newbies to RVing! So with that….
T4 Trials & Tribulations:
Its a good idea to check if you have water hook ups – ya know so you can fill your RV with water before you leave 😉
Make your electrical cord is long enough to reach your electricity plug in – kinda key haha
Book early enough so that you don’t have to move sites in the middle of your trip
Pinewood campground was just okay -lack of privacy. We heard the best one to stay in was Bear Paw. If you are in Pinewood Campground though we suggest sites that back up to the woods. We loved site 148. It also had a path to the playground!
Cook heavy smoke items outside on a portable gas grill – not in the kitchen. The Mantis has a sensitive fire alarm – opps.
T4 Tips & Tricks:
Itasca has amazing bike paths and you can rent bikes right there! You can get to most anywhere via bike. Once our kids are older we will definitely partake in the bike rentals!
Wilderness Drive is a must! The park has one main road that has many pull offs and overlooks. Makes things very easy to find with in the park!
The park has a swimming beach PLUS playground – HOLY GRAIL!
The hiking is beautiful – we loved Pioneers Grove.
If your kids are sleeping in bunk beds in a Mantis you can use a bungee cord and grommet curtains to make a privacy curtain (and use a sound machine for good measure ;)) to ensure everyone gets a good night sleep!
In upcoming posts I’ll do a detailed interior trailer tour and camping gear review!
Until next time – thanks for Trekking with T4 through Itasca State Park!