Goodman County Park is a secret camping treasure

The open road is full of surprises.

The open road is full of surprises.

After three long days on the road in Michigan, we were beginning our journey home to Minnesota. It was approaching evening, I had coaxed a fan service stop in the tiny town of Vulcan before crossing the state border into Wisconsin, and our next order of business was finding a place to pitch a tent. We vowed to take the first park we saw.

Marinette County Park seemed promising, but we wound up driving in a ways only to be greeted by a fee for a walking trail and a latrine. Curious about the trail, we walked down it a ways, happy to stretch our legs. We did manage to see the amazing Marinette Falls, and pass a sign for delightful-sounding Smalley Falls on the way out, but we had to get going to find a site before nightfall.

Unexpected discovery of Marinette Falls.

Unexpected discovery of Marinette Falls.

Keeping on our main route of Hwy 8, we exclaimed with joy when we spotted a brown sign with a little tent symbol, indicating camping in Goodman County Park just up the road. What the sign didn’t indicate, however, was that the park could be reached by an insanely wide and gravelly logging road, and that we would be startled by the presence of a massive lumber hauling truck when we turned the corner. And also that we had to spend ten miles on this road before even reaching any confirmation that there was actually a campground at the end of it. But a few seemingly unnecessary turns later, there was. Goodman County Park actually seemed like a pretty smooth affair–no real front office, but plenty of amenities for campers and RV families.

The best part–we were the only campers in the whole park.

“No one to hear us scream,” we said. A thought which played a significant part in successfully freaking myself out later that night.

We had the pick of the campsites, although signs informed us that odd numbers were by reservation only. Everything was self-service–even the firewood sat out unprotected, judging you should you fail to adhere to the honesty policy.

Like the other parks we’d stayed at, this one had a green water pump, but this one was particularly rusted out and very difficult to move. I had to throw my full bodyweight into pulling it down, and almost gave up several times before it finally gurgled and released a splash of water into the evening teakettle.

Despite our isolation, we chose a dark, secluded site near the back of the loop. It was cozy, but the higher, brighter sites beneath the tall pines also had appeal.IMG_4210

After our set up–before dark, boo yah!–we did some park exploration and discovered that it was home to an amazing series of rapids and even a large waterfall (fourth one on the trip!)
It looked to be a retreat camp of some kind, reminding us of our scout days. A large grassy park near the river was spotted with what looked like old-fashioned log bunkhouses and dining halls.

Bridge spanning the waterfall on the Peshtigo River.

Bridge spanning the waterfall on the Peshtigo River.

We bought a bundle of wood and actually ended up with more than we needed, since we had scavenged the other sites for leftovers as well.

We were able to have a  big, long, ultra hot fire late into the night, with no one to bother and no other light to interrupt the still darkness. I mean, seriously. We had to move back a few times. It really burned.

Waterfall in Goodman County Park

Waterfall in Goodman County Park

We had an early start time to make it back to Minnesota, miraculously waking up just in time for a morning fire to take off the chill. After a quick pack-up, we bid our Michigan trip adieu and set a course for home.

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