Monday, July 27, 2015

A Few Days in Northern Michigan

We drove out to Indianapolis for a family wedding on a July weekend, and had another wedding the following weekend in Cincinnati.  In between, we decided that we would head up to Traverse City, Michigan, where the Nancy’s sister has a house, as well as visiting friends from DC who spend their summers an hour further north in Boyne City along Lake Charlevoix.  It was a relaxing few days.

The drive up took about eight hours; we passed through Kalamazoo at about noon on Sunday and decided to stop for lunch.  Based on guidebook information, our first choice for a meal was Food Dance, but only breakfast is served in Sunday and besides it was going to be a 45 minute wait – plainly this is the place to be on Kalamazoo for Sunday brunch.  So we wandered down the street and ate at one of the outside tables at Olde Peninsula, which advertises itself as Kalamazoo’s first brew pub.  Nancy had a reuben sandwich (it was OK); I liked the salmon cooked with a Beer-B-Que glaze.  To drink I had their own Midnight Stout, which was a great beer.  I liked the beer so much that we picked up a couple of growlers (the double IPA and the Sunset Red) as house gifts for the hosts with whom we would be staying during the week.

We drove northward on US 131 and reached Boyne City in the late afternoon.  Our friends live in an improved old logger’s cabin which, they told us, like several other houses near them, had been dragged across the frozen-over lake in the winter.



Lake Charlevoix was directly across the road, and the weather was plenty warm enough to dip into the water for a swim – cold but not nearly so cold as Stone Pond where we will be swimming in New Hampshire in a couple of weeks!  Our friends grilled some lamb ribs and locally–made sausages for dinner; then we enjoyed watching the sun set over the far end of the lake which was very nice despite the clouds




The following day, one of our hosts had to telecommute to her office, but Vic took us for a driving tour of the cities around Lake Charlevoix where he had some errands to run, in any event.  Our first stop was a nice little watch and clock shop in Petoskey, Chronotech, where I was able to replace a disintegrating watchband; they had a great collection of standing and table top clocks where it would have been nice to browse and fantasize.

Our tour of Petoskey next took us to the Crooked Tree Arts Center, situated in an old church, where we looked at passable graphic arts on the walls, all of it for sale.


 Then we drove through a neighborhood where most of the houses were made of stone



this hobbit-like house, in the process of being thatched, was especially interesting


From there we paused to look across Round Lake, which connects directly to Lake Michigan, toward its link to Lake Charlevoix



then drove down into Charlevoix itself and along Belvedere Avenue, packed with fancy mansions overlooking Round Lake.  We had a nice lunch at Kelsey’s Lakeside Grille, then headed toward home, catching a ride across a narrow point of the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix on a four-car ferry; the main point was to enjoy the cheap ferry ride  although it also saved us the ten mile drive around the South Arm




We took our leave from Boyne City and drove down for a visit with Nancy’s sister and brother-in law, who have a house along the Boardman River a few miles south of Traverse City.


The following day, we headed off to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which runs along some 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline (plus another 35 miles of shoreline on the North and South Manitou Islands).  For our first day, we drove up to the northernmost section of the park to hike to Pyramid Point, which took us first to this splendid (although quite windy) bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.



We followed the trail quite a ways to a long meadow, but most of the wildflowers were long past by mid-July and it is not a part of the trail I would particularly recommend for anyone short of time. 

Woodpecker holes in tree along the Pyramid Point trail

Meadow on the Pyramid Point trail


Before heading off, we drove over to the Good Harbor Hiking and Ski Trail, but instead of doing the woods and wetlands part of the trail, we were content to walk up to Lake Michigan, where the waves were crashing just as invitingly as at the Jones Beach of my youth – but this was a lake, not the Atlantic Ocean.  I had not, however, brought a bathing suit, and besides, it WAS rather chilly in the wind. 




We walked along the shore for a while, hoping to find some Petoskey stones, but not surprisingly the beach was pretty well picked over and there were none to be found.


On the way back to the house, we navigated by way of Long Lake so that we could stop at Moomers, a local ice cream favorite that boasts having been voted “America’s Best Scoop” on God Morning America.  The ice cream itself was fine (maybe not worth a long detour, but fine for the amount of time we spent) and there was a very interesting range of flavors

The following day, Nancy and I were on our own – we had the chance to go kayaking on the rapids downstream on the Boardman River from our hosts’ home, but we chose to go back to the more dune-y part of Sleeping Bear Dunes.  We got a bit of a late start, and by the time we got to the main park visitors center in Empire (named after Phil Hart), it was nearly noon; so we stopped in for lunch at Joe’s Friendly Tavern.   It was a nice enough place for lunch – so long as you wanted a burger for lunch.  The tater tots was a nice change of pace for a side dish.

Before setting off for a hike, we took the advice of our hosts and the guidebooks by following the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which took us through maple-beech forests as well as along bluffs overlooking the lake.

We paused here to look back inland over Glen Lake



Our longest stop was at the dune overlook, which towers some 400 feet over Lake Michigan. The signs urge visitors not to run down the dune to the lake, warning of the high cost of being rescued, the alternative being that it could take two hours to climb back up the sand to the top, and expressing concern about environmental damage.




But no effort was made to enforce that warning, and there were plenty of people running down and laboring back up – although it certainly want quite steep and long, one pair of teenagers I noticed appeared to take about half an hour to get from the bottom back to the top.

We walked along the dune tops to the north for a view out over Sleeping Bear Dune in the distance



We finished the Scenic Drive, the continued to the north for our afternoon’s hike – over the Dune Climb (not nearly so challenging as the Dune Overlook stop during the scenic drive)



Then we continued up and down over a series of dunes for nearly two miles to the shore of Lake Michigan.

There were masses of wildflowers, looking very much like baby’s breath

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Also along the path were an endangered species of thistle, the Pitcher’s Thistle; this park is now the main place where they are found growing wild.





At long last, after going up and down eight or nine dunes, we reached the shore of Lake Michigan.  The water was calm and I waded in; it was pretty rocky and there appeared to be a steep drop-off just a few yards off, but I was hot and wished I had brought a bathing suit



And it was a long slog back, up and down the eight or nine dunes; we were certainly hungry at dinner time

We left first thing Thursday morning to head for Indiana on the way to the Cincinnati wedding.  We hit Kalamazoo around noon and decided to head for Food Dance, the place where we had failed to have lunch on the way north.  Their lunchtime customers were just barely beginning
to arrive, so we had no trouble getting a table, but the food was decidedly ordinary, and the service was a bit lackadaisical (they forgot to bring one of the items I ordered).  Unsurprising to find only moderate fare in Kalamazoo, but it was a disappointment after the anticipation of getting back there.

On our way out of Michigan, we drove through Clearwater, the town where Nancy;s parents had lived when she was born.  The main street through town after getting off I-69 has been designated the East Chicago Street Historic District; we made a beeline for Clay Street, where Nancy remembered her house having been located.  We could not figure out just which house had been hers, but we were able to locate the Standard gas station at 92 West Chicago Street, down the street from her house that her father had operated during her early years.  The building had been converted into a CPA’s office, but the old architecture as well as the Standard Oil name and logo had been retained.  Sadly, we didn't pause to step inside.

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