June Trip Report: Grayling, Kalkaska, and an Awesome Lake

What follows is a long-overdue rundown of our June trip. After the shakedown that went awry in May, this trip went off with next to no problems. My buddy Marc wanted to tag along, so I picked him up from his house. We left out of metro Detroit Friday afternoon with a 3.5 to 4-hour trek up to Indian River. If you haven’t been up to Indian River, it’s a small town split between I-75 and nestled between Burt Lake and Mullet Lake. With the Indian River the bi-way between both lakes.

We stopped off at a bar on the river to meet up with one of Marc’s friend Mike. After a quick beer for Marc (water for me, I was driving) we headed out to the DNR office nearby to grab some campsite permits. Mike was following us thinking we were heading to our meeting spot. However, he ended up tailing another grey Suburban. Once we got to the meeting spot, we realized we didn’t have him. He eventually showed up.

Once everyone was gathered up, we headed out to the area we were planning to camp. I had three different spots picked out based on satellite images of the area. Once we got off the main road, I realized our group had gotten split. I managed to get coordinates to the first spot to the other group, which ended up being a bust. It was a wide-open field that looked like it had just been plowed.

We kept moving along to the second spot and managed to meet up with the separated group at one of our turns. The second site was also a bust. It ended up being a low area off of the trail that no one would have been able to get down to quickly. Some of the rigs with us maybe would have made it up and down but not me for sure.

The last spot was a little further up the trail. Instead of having everyone follow down, we had Dan run down in his Chevy Colorado to scope it out. After a few minutes, he came bombing back up the trail and told us there was a good-sized clearing a little way in, which was good news. I didn’t have another spot picked out that was close. Not sure what we would have done.

We moved down the trail and into the spot. Right at the beginning of the trail, there was a sizable tree that had come down. There was some concern that a few of the rigs wouldn’t make it through because of tents on roofs or just having a higher stance. Luckily everyone made it through without issue.

Saturday morning had us breaking camp around 10 and moving out of the forest. I had planned to work south on trails to get to the Grayling/Kalkaska loop. We worked some trails in the morning, but I ended up deciding to hit the pavement to make the loop. After a quick stop for gas, we spent about 30-45 minutes heading south before we got to the trailhead parking lot.

We made lunch in the staging area and jumped onto the ORV trails. I’ve driven the loop before, and it took almost an entire day to complete the whole thing. That was with three vehicles. This time we had three times that. We started from the north end and worked east and then south. We didn’t complete the entire loop, only the eastern half before we made it to the southern staging area.

The downside to being on this trail system is it is mostly sand, so seeing back more than two vehicles was a problem. We could have done with a little rain overnight or in the morning to keep the dust down. We managed though and made a few stops along the way in some wooded areas to get out and stretch a bit.

The thing I like about this loop is the changes it offers. You get a good amount of different terrain to work with and put your vehicle through its paces. It’s a good test for beginners to try out their rigs and maybe some recovery gear.

Once we made it to the southern staging area, we did a quick regroup. It was early enough in the day to keep on the trails, so we crossed M-72 and were back into the woods. This next section took us directly through the Camp Grayling area on more sandy trails. Most of it was pretty open with a minimal amount of tree coverage.

Eventually, we came to a quick stop at the CCC Bridge State Forest Campground on the Manistee River. If you’re looking for an excellent rustic campground with water access to stay at I’d recommend staying here. This campground was going to be a fallback in case we had issues finding a dispersed spot.

We ushed on heading south still until we found an excellent spot on Grass Lake. It was a good find because the place I had picked out was just a middle of nowhere opening to the east. The site is hidden off the main path, and I wasn’t sure we would even be able to get back to it without walking in. Luckily, the short trail opened up into a wooded good-sized clearing that fit all of us comfortably with room for a few more rigs.

Everyone set up camp for the night and started in on making some food. We got a fire going and spent the rest of the evening having some beverages and chatting. Honestly, this ended up being one of my favorite spots I’ve camped. I had my hammock set up and sleeping on the water is always pleasant. We were all treated to an awesome sunset over the lake and clear skies at night.

Sunday had us break camp and head home. My original plan was to go into the northern end of Manistee for one more night with Marc and Mike. However, some family things came up, and we decided to head back home. Luckily we did because a rain shower moved through later that day which would have made set up that evening a pain.

All in all, this was a successful trip. I planned probably an additional two days worth of routes with the hope to get through everything. Unfortunately, we bypassed a good amount coming south from the first camp and didn’t even get to the western route into Manistee. Their both sections that I want to get back to eventually and try out.

M416 Overland Trailer Build – Part 7

We are now on the home stretch! Bedlining of the trailer went smooth. I used six bottles to get good coverage. I used two to three coats to make sure it would help up for a while.

Taillights and latches installed.

I let it sit for about a week to give the Raptor Liner time to cure fully. Then I got to work remounting the RoadShower and the Rooftop tent. I also installed the key cam locks for the drawers.

I started wiring up the inside of the tongue box which houses the Goal Zero Yeti for off-grid power as well as the ability to be plugged into 110V, for charging the GZ and running all DC electrics.

Now that I had 90% of it done, I started test fitting the fenders, and tack welding on the steps, so I could make templates for the top plates to send to my buddy and have them plasma cut out. I also marked and drilled the holes for the fenders to bolt to the tub.

If you notice in the below pic, I also mounted a Daystar Cam-Can I happened to win in a raffle at a Jeep event, on the tongue of the trailer. I figured it would be better used on the trailer than the Jeep, and it makes a nice, easy-access place for me to store the impact wrench that I use for lowering and raising the jacks. While I was waiting for the step plates to be cut, I couldn’t pass up the chance to pull it out of the garage and test fit it on the Jeep! I also added a little vinyl graphic to the side of it.

I had to do a quick “test-fit” to see how it looked behind the Jeep.

I finally was able to get the step plates from my buddy, get them welded up, test fit one last time, then shoot them with raptor liner. As soon as they were cured, I bolted them up on the trailer.

Here you can see the trailer plugged into 110v charging the goal zero.

Now what I don’t have pictures of, is the electrical. I ran power wires from the tongue box, back through the tub so I could power up the LED lights in the tent. I also have a switch under the lid that lights up an LED light in the bed, and one under the RoadShower so I can see when washing dishes as well as under the tent and ladder since I have it set up to open to this side!

Stay tuned, for the last part of this series, where I show the trailer completely set up, and in use, as well as a first review on what I like and don’t what I would do differently next time!