Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Springtime in Northern Michigan (Digging Up the Past)

While I'm traipsing through Europe enjoying gorgeous northern nature, strong coffee and ancient Baltic languages and cultures, I figured I could pre-write at least one blog post about older travels so that my five or six loyal readers would have something to peruse during my almost immeasurably long absence. (Ha, who am I kidding?! I live in the United States, meaning I'm incredibly lucky I can manage a two-week vacation for the first time in my life!)

In the spring of 2009, the wedding of my old friend Roberts to Liene (aka Femme au Foyer) and the birth of my newest nephew called for a trip to Michigan. I decided that it was time for me to also explore some new places, as it seemed that every time I traveled to Michigan, a lot of time was spent in just the southwestern corner of the state. Therefore, I borrowed a car and headed north. In just a couple of days I discovered what quickly became one of my favorite corners of the world. Old Mission Peninsula and Traverse City are absolutely gorgeous places to explore, and I wish I had the time and resources to spend a week there every year!
Other than admiring orchards with blooming trees (northern Michigan is best known for its cherries, and apples), I drove the entire length of Old Mission Peninsula, a small and peaceful place - particularly in the off season. The peninsula is 32 square miles large (only 22 miles long - in some spots you can see water on both sides as it is quite narrow), and Mission Point Lighthouse, built in 1870, sits at its very tip.
On my road trip I also drove through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is yet another beautiful place to include on your bucket list. The 7-mile long Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is worth your time, even if you do nothing else in the park. I did walk out to the dunes at one point to find a fantastic view of Lake Michigan - the different shades of blue were breathtaking.
A view of Glen Lake from the scenic drive
Dunes overlooking Lake Michigan
During my trip, I treated myself by staying at the wonderful Korner Kottage Bed & Breakfast in Suttons Bay. I also savored an amazing meal at the cozy (might feel too cozy at a busy time) but outstanding restaurant, The Cooks' House, in Traverse City. At the time, they were open for lunch, which is when I dined there, but it seems they have altered their schedule to only serve dinner.

The following year, in the spring of 2010, I had scheduled a spring trip to Europe. However, a tiny thing called Eyjafjallajokull - otherwise known as the Icelandic volcano that kept erupting and grossly disrupting international air travel - changed those plans. Suddenly I had vacation time to use up, and needed a place to go. Easy and inexpensive way to solve that problem: visit family in Michigan! Mom was game for a short road trip to northern Michigan, so I was excited to revisit a couple of places I'd seen the year before and discover new spots.

The roadside contrasts of white blossoms, yellow dandelions, green grass and blue skies impressed us as we explored the wineries of Old Mission Peninsula.

Too early for grapes, but dandelions were plentiful!
We visited three wineries that day (I was designated driver, so my wine intake was minimal!): Peninsula Cellars, Bowers Harbor Vineyard, and Chateau Chantal. Our favorite - by far - was Bowers Harbor. In addition to the wine being excellent and to the vineyard's mascot being a big fuzzy friendly Bernese Mountain dog, the gentleman working in the tasting room at the time was very personable and helpful. In chatting with him, we found out that he had lived in the Washington, D.C. area for many years, and had traveled to Riga several times for his government work. A serious benefit to visiting these types of establishments outside of their peak seasons (mom and I were there in the middle of the week in the middle of May) is being able to speak with and interact on a more personal level with owners and employees. We enjoyed the riesling so much that I purchased a bottle for mom as a Mother's Day gift.

Mom and I also ventured further north, stopping in Elk Rapids and Charlevoix before our final stop in Petoskey. I will not try to outdo a professional writer, Ann Patchett, who published an absolutely fantastic piece on Petoskey in the New York Times the following year. I dare you to read that essay and not wish to immediately book your next summer vacation to northern Michigan!! As Patchett writes, "Within 10 minutes I started to wonder how I could spend the rest of my life in Petoskey."(Well, a Michigan winter might cure her of that desire, but we understand what she's getting at.)

Anyhow, I hope none of you are missing me too terribly and that you are having a good week!


  1. Hope you are having a fabulous time! Lovely to think we had a hand in your first trip :) However I'm reminded that I still haven't had the chance to visit Petosky - despite the proximity to my relative's property, despite living in Michigan for two years, despite wanting to search for and find a genuine Petosky stone...

    1. Yes, the trip to the Continent was lovely, paldies! :) Lots to write about, of course... I do wish I had the time and money to go to Northern Michigan more frequently, as it is just SO nice up there!


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