Yes, I hear Tim Allen’s soothing voice on those Pure Michigan commercials all the way here in North Carolina. I well up with pride whenever I see them and my wife (Katie) is probably sick of me pausing the commercial via DVR as I call her in to watch another Pure Michigan spot.
I grew up in Michigan and last week took my third trip to there with Katie. I dare say this was the best trip yet. Previous trips were awesome, but we often found ourselves racing to the next stop. This time, we planned some time to just stay put for a while during the vacation. This proved to be a really good move on our part.
After months of planning we departed on a Tuesday afternoon RDU-DTW-GRR. RDU to DTW was no problem. The delay machine kicked in once arriving in Detroit. Bad weather in the northeast created cascading delays as we had to wait just over 3 hours later than the original departure time for our plane to arrive from New York before heading on to Grand Rapids. A 9:10 departure became 9:40, which became 9:55, which became 10:30, which became 10:55, which led to the plane door being closed and then opened up later for 5 passengers to jump this last plane of the night between DTW and GRR. All the passengers were actually refreshingly empathetic (or too tired to be upset). We touched down around Midnight and were able to snag our rental car before they closed up. We journeyed 40 minutes to my brother’s house only to fall asleep shortly thereafter.
We took a morning drive to Holland to hike around Mt. Pisgah, check out Lake Michigan, and wander through the streets of Holland. Holland is one of a gazillion charming little towns close to the shore of Lake Michigan. We popped into a few stores and sought out the farmer’s market. This was the start of consecutive 78 degree, sunny, with a breeze Michigan days. We snagged some Michigan blueberries and proceeded to eat them on the street. Post Holland, we met up with my mom at Tripel Root in Zeeland (Feel the Zeel!). This was a great, local, and sustainable-centric location brews on site and puts out some great stone breads.
After a ceremonial trip to Meijer Thrifty Acres, we were off to Montague to stay less than a mile from Lake Michigan with our friends Curt and Sara. They have a great location and just a short golf cart drive away from the Lake. We ate at Harbor View Grille and then stopped at Fetch Brewing in Whitehall for some of the best beers we had on our entire trip. Fetch is located in an old bank where the old vault serves as a game room and lounge. They have loft seating and we stumbled upon a great open mic night where we were immediately serenaded with James Taylor and Old Crow Medicine Show. We were meant to be here on this night.
In the morning, we toured the grounds of Curt and Sara’s property and did a nice dune climb at Meinert Park. The views of Lake Michigan after a hard climb are even more breathtaking (see what I did there?). Then it was off to another great west Michigan lake town: Pentwater. These towns scream Americana and are loaded with shops and eats and the customary lighthouse. This was the day I started planning my retirement back to Michigan….during the summers anyway. From Pentwater, we wandered up the coast to Ludington to reunite with our friends Jim and Annie at The Mitten Bar. We met Jim and Annie almost 2 years ago to the day at…you guessed it…The Mitten Bar. They are great humans that love the same things we do: music, beer, the outdoors, and positivity. They graciously hosted us for a night at their farmhouse in Scottville.
Next stop: Sleeping Bear Dunes. In a previous trip, we were denied seeing Sleeping Bear Dunes due to a torrential downpour. This was our redemption trip. We looked at our hiking options and decided on Pyramid Point. We climbed the trail only to find….extreme cloud cover and no view of the “the most beautiful place in the United States.” Foiled again. To add insult to injury the hike was filled with flies, mosquitos, and gnats that wanted to do harm to us. C’est la vie. Lunch was at The Redheads Cafe in Lake Leelenau. Absolutely delicious. Not to be derailed from good times, we ventured up to Leland (aka Fishtown) and wandered around another great town and looked at boats owned by people with much more money than us. At this point, we were ready to find our home for the next 3 nights, Shangri-La Too Farm on the Old Mission Peninsula north of downtown Traverse City.
Our hosts Irene and Lou greeted us kindly and led us to our room where we had a bowl of fresh cherries waiting to be devoured…and they were devoured. Did you know that Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World?
After a quick nap, we were off to explore the peninsula. We drove past farm after farm, winery after winery, roadside stand after roadside stand and could not have been happier. Our destination: Chateau Chantal and Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. Our relaxation level: high.
In the interest of space and time I will try to condense much of our Traverse City time.
We started July 18 with a hike up to the Old Mission Lighthouse. Pretty nice network of trails. We cleaned up post-hike to eat lunch at The Filling Station. Great pizza and decent brews. Katie and my sister-in-law went shopping and me and my brother went to Right Brain Brewery to split 2 flites.
After some more roaming, we all grabbed a brew and dinner at a neat location called The Little Fleet. It is an open air bar that also hosts 5-6 food trucks. The group parted ways again and Katie and I enjoyed the wraparound porch and sunset at the farm.
July 19 was a definite highlight
Coffee and breakfast at Brew
We took a 3 hour kayaking trip on the Boardman River, Boardman Lake, and Lake Michigan! Why the exclamation point? Well, neither of us had kayaked and didn’t really know what we were getting into. Our driver to the kayak drop-off point had the quote of the trip, “Michigan women are like salmon. They might leave the state for a while, but they always come back to spawn.”
After getting on the river, we were instantly euphoric. The river took us through a peaceful bird sanctuary and the river had a decent current to it. After about an hour the river spit us into a very large and very calm Boardman Lake. Dodging ducks and attack swans we worked our way across the lake. My biceps and trapezius muscles are now sculpted. It was legit and awesome work. At the end of this long lake, we joined back up with the Boardman River, which wound us through downtown and into Lake Michigan/West Grand Traverse Bay. After thinking Boardman Lake was tough, we discovered even more work was ahead to get back to 231 Outfitters just off the beach. The wake of nearby boats provided rough waters and rough paddling. We finally made it. Satisfied, but tired. Our last downtown trip was Oryana Co-Op to pick up some items for a picnic. After a pit stop at the farm and not quite hungry yet, we took our host Irene’s recommendation to grab wine at Brys Estate Winery. This was a perfect post-kayaking/pre-dinner stop. The views from the patio at Brys were second to none. We had exceptional service from a Central Michigan alum named Erin. When she approached us, her first words were “You two look so relaxed.” She was right.
After a few glasses of delicious wine, we packed up our picnic wares and drove to Old Mission Lighthouse Park (located on the 45th parallel). This was after a failed attempt to find a non-crowded picnic area on the east side of the peninsula. It all worked out in the end.
Last night at the Farm. Sadness ensues.
The drive to the airport was full of reflection. We were so pleased with all that Michigan provided us and although it is tough to make a trip there every year, I was already thinking of things I wanted to do on our next journey to the Great Lake State.
Each time I return to Michigan, my pride in where I grew up is renewed. It’s that same pride I feel each and every time I hear those Pure Michigan commercials.