Au Train, Michigan

Au Train is a small community about 20 minutes west of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is a small market to buy bait, groceries and ice cream. And not much else. It’s a blink and you miss it kind of place. But it is very pretty and definitely worth the short drive for a restaurant, gas or shops. Our group rented 5 cabins on Au Train lake, which is connected by a river to Lake Superior. Our cabin overlooked the lake and every day I woke to a beautiful sunrise. Our resort had boat rentals and while we didn’t catch anything we could keep, we had fun trying. The lake is pretty quiet. There were some kayaks and a few other boats out with us, but nothing that would disrupt your ability to enjoy a good book by the shore.

One of the reasons this area appealed to me was because we could do small day trips from there. I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and it is still one of my favorite vacation places. There are so many beautiful places to see. The following are the highlights of our trip and I provided links when possible for further information.
Cut River Bridge on US-2, about 25 miles West of St. Ignace. From the road you won’t understand the fuss, but stop at the roadside park and follow the short trail. The architecture of the bridge makes for some very cool pictures. You can walk under the bridge and if you are feeling adventurous, go down the 240 or so stairs to the bottom to see the small river. Bathrooms and picnic tables available. Cut River Bridge Park

The Waterfalls. A trip to the U.P isn’t complete without visiting some waterfalls. We did 2 day trips to see 6 local waterfalls and then saved Tahquamenon Falls for the last day. You could spend a week just exploring waterfalls! For information on more falls visit Waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula

Au Train Falls

Sable Falls

Tahquamenon Falls

Wagner Falls

Munising Falls

Miner’s Falls
Pictured Rocks Sunset Cruise. I’ve done the cruise several times but this was the first time I had done the sunset one. The setting sun really makes the colors pop. I would definitely recommend checking this one out! We went the 2nd week of August when the sunset was around 8:55pm. The sunset cruise starts at 7pm and gets back about 9:40pm. Get there EARLY if you want to sit on top. We were there at 6:30 and most of our group didn’t make the top deck. INSIDER TIP- Everyone one seems to want to sit up top, but if you want the best pictures you are better off sitting below deck next to a window. Also- the gift shop will be open after the cruise. Pictured Rocks Cruise

Lakenenland Sculpture Garden. About 15 miles East of Marquette. We saw this place on the side of the road and decided to stop in. I am so glad we did! A very talented artist uses this acreage and 1/2 mile trail to showcase his work. It is open 24/7 and there is no charge, though I do suggest contributing to the donation box at the entrance to help keep it going. For more information and pictures visit Lakenenland

Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore. As many times as I have been to the U.P, I had never driven the whole 42 mile park from end to end. We started in Grand Marais and finished in Munising. At the Grand Marais end there is a huge beach and then miles of steep sand dunes. Then the other end is where you find the pictures rock cliffs. Inbetween there are hiking trails, waterfalls and gorgeous overlooks. Our favorite was the Log Slide Overlook. It was a sunny day and the water looked as pretty as any I had seen in the Caribbean! Another thing I really liked is that this 72,000+acre National Park is a favorite with hikers and campers and as such there are multiple places to stop for bathroom breaks or a picnic. Everything was well marked and accessible. Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore

Presque Isle Park, about 10 minutes North of downtown Marquette. We didn’t plan to go here, we were just driving the coast and came upon this little gem. This park has picnic areas, bathhouses, bike trails, cliff diving, black rocks and scenic look outs. We stopped to walk out on the big blacks rocks that very much reminded me of Hawaii. I wish we had more time to stay because we barely scratched the surface of this pretty place! Presque Isle Park

These are just a few of the places we saw on this most recent visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I know there are many, many more wonderful places to visit. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments.

Have You Tried a Group Vacation?

Romantic vacations are great Lounging by the pool, dancing, moonlit walks on the beach, sleeping in, room service, fancy dinners and carriage rides in the park.  Just the two of you blocking out the rest of the world.  Chad and I have been to Maui, St. Thomas, the Bahamas, Manhattan, San Francisco, Vegas, etc.  They are like bonus honeymoons!

Family vacations are also great. We did many fun family vacations with our kids were young.  A 3 week RV trip to South Dakota, Panama City Beach, Disney World twice, The Wisconsin Dells, Alaska, The Outer Banks, The Smoky Mountains.  It was great to have the kids undivided attention, explore new areas, play board games and make those memories together.

But there is something special about a GROUP vacation!!  We did a few group vacations with a few other families before the bulk of our kids hit middle school/high school.  Then with so many kids in the group with conflicting schedules, not to mention many changes in the adult lives too, the vacations stopped.

They were never far from my mind though.  As the unofficial “planner” in our group, I saw a chance to resurrect them last year.  By now the youngest kids in the vacation group were older high schoolers. I found a place on Drummond Island that had enough cabins for our group and I sent out an email to my friends, not sure if anyone else would even be interested anymore.  They must have needed the vacation as much as I did…because within a few weeks we were all booked!  We had an awesome time.  Some nights we did potluck dinners, almost every night we gathered around the bonfire.  We were able to catch up with each other over the course of the week instead of just the normal few hours we share here and there in our everyday lives. A group vacation kind of combines the romantic and the family trips.  As a group we don’t all do everything together. Sometimes a couple will go off on their own, or our now mostly adult kids will come up with an activity on their own.  Sometimes the guys go out fishing while the women go to town.  Whatever you want to do, chances are you can find someone else in the group to go with you if you want company. Everyone has their own idea of what a vacation means. For some it means getting to sleep in. For my husband it is a chance to visit other cabins in the morning and share a cup of coffee. For me, I like finding a quiet, shady spot to read.  I usually finish 2-3 books that week! I also bring my camera everywhere I go!  For my family, we try to balance resting and relaxing with offsite fun.  So we spend about half the week around the cabin napping/reading/fishing/visiting friends and the other half off exploring and sightseeing.  Other families may want to be on-the-go more, or not go anywhere at all!  And it all works out. Drummond Island actually worked so well that we did it again this year, and already have next year’s trip booked.

2018 Drummond Island, Mi (I wrote a blog post about it, check the archives)

2019 Au Train, outside of Munising, Mi. (will write a separate post about that)

2020 will be northern lower Michigan.

Our vacation group changes a little year to year.  Sometimes a family can’t come, or a new one wants to join.  Some adult kids are able to make it, while others aren’t. (I actually love that all of our kids have known each other their whole lives and actually keep in touch and maintain those friendships.)

I treasure the friends that are able to make it, and miss the ones who aren’t.  It isn’t easy to commit to a week a whole year out so I really appreciate the fact that these friends do. I’ve had a couple of recent losses and if it has taught me anything it’s that TIME spent together it the most important thing.  It’s so easy in today’s world to put things off because you are busy. So when you can get 5 families together for a whole week it is a blessing.  And one that I am already looking forward to again next year.

BBQ Chicken Sheet Pan dinner

Here is the recipe post I promised. {Thank you all for your support and prayers regarding my last post}

I discovered sheet pan meals last year and they have quickly become one of Chad’s favorite meals.  A quick Google or Pinterest search will yield dozens of recipes.  The following is a combination of different recipes that work well for me.


A sheet pan with sides.  A standard size works well for up 1-2 people, an XL pan is good for 3-4 people.

Cooking spray

2 medium size mixing bowls and spoons

small bowl and fork

aluminum foil

cutting board and knife



Boneless/skinless chicken breasts (1 large breast for 1-2 people, 2 large breasts for 3-4 people)

1 package your favorite brand smoked sausage with casing on, don’t get skinless! (will only use 1/2 of it for 2 people)

Corn on the cob (do not use frozen) 1 per person

1 of each: Red bell pepper, Red Onion, Zucchini, Squash (May substitute for green/yellow pepper or white onion. May also omit one vegetable and add more of another. For 2 people use 3 vegetables,  for 3-4 people use 4 vegetables)

4 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2  tsp ground pepper

1/2 cup BBQ sauce


Salt and pepper


Making It:

1- Preheat the oven to 425 and spray sheet pan with cooking spray.

2- Combine the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in the small bowl.  Mix well with fork, set aside.

3- Wash and trim chicken breasts and cut into one inch strips.  Cut sausage into bite sized, equal pieces.

4- Put both meats in a medium mixing bowl, toss well with 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil and coat with mixture from the 2nd step.  Make sure meat is thoroughly mixed and coated and then set aside

5- Clean ears of corn so there is no husk or silk. Rub with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and double wrap in aluminum foil.

6- Cut other vegetables into one inch chucks.  Put in the other mixing bowl, toss with remaining olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste) until evenly covered.

7- Spread meat on one side of the pan and veggies on the other.  The wrapped corn can go in a corner.  If you don’t have room for the corn you can put them directly on the oven rack, just watch for dripping.

8-  Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. This is why you want to make sure you have cut everything into similar sizes so it cooks evenly.

9- Pull out of oven, brush the meat with the BBQ sauce and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.  You should see the sauce start to caramelize on the meat and the veggies get a roasted look to them.

Enjoy!  You will find there are a lot of variations and I have yet to have it turn out the exact same way twice.  You can do all chicken or all sausage, use different veggies, omit the corn.  It’s very customize-able.  Just make sure you use fresh ingredients and cut everything into similar sizes.