© 2021 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
WKAR News

AmeriCorps member who toured state's rustic campgrounds for months calls it the 'greatest adventure'

Paige Lackey, a white woman with long blond hair wearing boots, a beanie, leggings a sweater and an insulated vest, stands in front of a white 30-foot RV in the woods. A small dog is next to her. A sign for Project Rustic is in on the RV
Courtesy
/
Paige Lackey
Paige Lackey traveled the state with her dog, Willow.

At the end of April, Paige Lackey started a five-month trip to collect data on the state's rustic campgrounds for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The AmeriCorps member visited more than 75 different sites across the state in an RV with just her dog as her companion.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke to her as she started wrapping up “Project Rustic.”

Interview Highlights

On What She Enjoyed Most About Traveling

I thought it was really special that every single campground was either on an inland lake, one of our Great Lakes or some sort of river or stream. And that's definitely a draw for me as someone who loves spending time on the water, so that was a fantastic surprise.

On What She'll Do With The Data She Collected During The Trip

Now that I'm off the road, I will be using the GPS data that I collected at all of the campgrounds to create maps for these areas for internal use for the Department of Natural Resources as well as for visitors to these campgrounds to get a lay of the land as they enter the campground. The maps will eventually be posted at all of the kiosks at the entrance of the campgrounds.

On Where Some Of Her Favorite Camping Spots Were

I would say I'm partial to the Upper Peninsula. I love the experience that our Upper Peninsula offers to the state and to visitors and just spending time in those more remote places where your cellphone doesn't have service and you really are relying just on the natural beauty of the place to spend your time there and to entertain yourself.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

Earlier this year, we spoke with an AmeriCorps member working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to collect data on the state’s rustic campgrounds.

Paige Lackey visited more than 75 different sites across Michigan in an RV with just her dog as her companion.

She joins me now to talk about the trip called “Project Rustic.” Thank you for being here.

Paige Lackey: Yeah, absolutely. I'm excited.

Saliby: So, how did the trip go just overall?

Lackey: It was amazing. It was honestly just the greatest adventure to be exploring Michigan on the road for five months, you know, through a little bit of the change of the seasons as well.

It was honestly just the greatest adventure to be exploring Michigan on the road for five months, you know, through a little bit of the change of the seasons as well.

I got the tail end of spring and got to enjoy summer exploring Michigan and got off the road just as fall was approaching.

Saliby: What was the biggest thing that you learned about the state's rustic campgrounds that you maybe didn't realize before setting out on this, you know, months long journey?

Lackey: One thing that I learned was that almost all of the campgrounds are located on some sort of body of water. And there's that fun [statistic], you know, in Michigan, you're never farther than, I think, it's six miles from a body of water? And that really rang true as I was traveling around.

I thought it was really special that every single campground was either on an inland lake, one of our Great Lakes or some sort of river or stream. And that's definitely a draw for me as someone who loves spending time on the water, so that was a fantastic surprise.

Saliby: You mentioned when we last talked that you had never really traveled in or driven an RV before. Did that end up being your biggest challenge along the way or did anything else unexpected come up?

Lackey: Thankfully, I did not have any big challenges [and] no breakdowns in the vehicle or anything that really set me back. Learning to drive the RV was definitely a challenge in the beginning because it's such a large rig.

However, it turned out to be very nice to have such a large amount of space for living on the road for five months. It was a 30-foot RV provided by General RV for the project. And it definitely became my little sanctuary.

Paige Lackey, a white woman, wearing a tank top and skirt, stands in the doorway of an RV. A Project Rustic sign is on the vehicle.
Courtesy
Paige Lackey had never driven an RV before her trip.

I did encounter some roads that I could not navigate the RV down. And in that case, [I] was able to use a different vehicle to get out to those more remote areas with some less traveled roads. But honestly, I'm very lucky to say that I did not have any major incidences or things that set me back in the project, so I was very grateful for that.

Saliby: Now that you're done, and you've collected all this data, how will it be used and what's next for the project?

Lacey: So, I was updating the recreation search database, that is a public facing resource on the DNR website, in real time while I was on the road.

So, I was collecting photos and information, and then I would have kind of a computer day where I would upload it all directly to the website. So, that's been an ongoing process while I was on the road.

Now that I'm off the road, I will be using the GPS data that I collected at all of the campgrounds to create maps for these areas for internal use for the Department of Natural Resources as well as for visitors to these campgrounds to get a lay of the land as they enter the campground. The maps will eventually be posted at all of the kiosks at the entrance of the campgrounds.

Saliby: I'm wondering if you got the chance during your trip to talk to Michiganders who were also taking their own rustic camping trips. Did that end up happening? And did you meet any really interesting people?

Lackey: Yeah, I definitely met a lot of people while I was out and about and quite a diverse group of people, you know. Some folks that I ran into, that was their annual trip every year to that specific campground and maybe their family had been doing it for generations, so that was really special. And then I met a lot of people traveling from out of state as well, so obviously, Michigan, you know, draws in these people who are really interested in exploring all the natural beauty that we have here.

I feel like being outside and camping really, you know, facilitates some of those more organic and natural conversations.

[I] definitely formed some friendships along the way as well, had some coffee with some people and sat around a fire with some folks as well. I feel like being outside and camping really, you know, facilitates some of those more organic and natural conversations.

And you know, people saw the "Project Rustic" logo on the RV and wanted to know what I was up to, so it was really great to interact with the public and be able to explain the project face-to-face as well.

Saliby: And I don't know if you can pick just one, but is there one campsite that really stuck out to you that you would recommend to our listeners to check out?

Lackey: There's no way I could pick one. I mean, there are just so many great places. I would say I'm partial to the Upper Peninsula.

I love the experience that our Upper Peninsula offers to the state and to visitors and just spending time in those more remote places where your cellphone doesn't have service and you really are relying just on the natural beauty of the place to spend your time there and to entertain yourself.

Saliby: Paige Lackey is an AmeriCorps member who just finished a five-month-long trip touring the state's rustic campgrounds. Thank you for joining me.

Lackey: Thank you so much.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Related Content
News from WKAR will never be behind a paywall. Ever. We need your help to keep our coverage free for everyone. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. You can support our journalism for as little as $5. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.