An Outdoor Playground in Michigan

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If you recall, last weekend I had so much fun backpacking that I wanted to try it again over the Fourth of July holiday. I’d love to do the Manistee River Trail. However, as I researched it, that trail is very popular over the summer and particularly crowded on holiday weekends. No…. that’s not what I had in mind.

As I thought about Plan B, I remembered that I have always bad experiences camping on holiday weekends. Holidays are amateur hour in the woods. More than once I’ve been camped next to a bunch of drunk men who couldn’t keep their voices down after midnight. No, thanks. That’s not what I had in mind either.

The Mackinac Bridge that spans the Straits of Mackinac…..

I’ve been wanting to head to the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. I’m going to the North Country Trail Conference in late July in Marquette, but my agenda will be set with conference activities. Although I’ll be doing lots of hiking, I won’t have the freedom to explore. So, I started thinking that maybe this would be a good time to tack an extra day onto my four-day holiday and drive as far north as I can go without going into Canada.

The UP reminds me of a mini-Alaska. Winters sock it in for months at a time but that doesn’t stop people from enjoying snow sports. Snowmobiling is huge up here, and snowmobile trails are as plentiful as roads. I really want to come up here to see it in winter, but I’ll have to get my adventure hat on and take the chance on driving in even snowier weather than at home. And the summers here are divine.

Cut River Bridge and Delta

 

 

I got here yesterday, and I’ve been driving around and hiking as much as I can. I’ve been to the UP twice in the past. As I pass the places I stayed with my second husband, I realize that we didn’t do any of the outdoors stuff up here at all. WTF?? I’m not sure what we were thinking. We stayed in McKeever Cabin which is a remote cabin, but all we did was stay in the cabin and skinny-dip in the lake. I passed the road where we rode bikes, and I laughed because we rode our hybrid bikes on a stupid highway. Why didn’t we get in the woods? What a waste of time!

Lake Michigan Recreation Area…

I took the long way up here and stopped in Manistique, the Lake Michigan Recreation Area and hiked around the Cut River Bridge. The lady at the Welcome Center in Mackinaw City told me about a place called Big Spring where the water is so clear you can see huge fish all the way to the bottom. I stopped there, too, but I didn’t take the glass-bottomed boat ride. It was jammed with people and dogs, and I was looking for a more secluded experience. But the spring was lovely just the same.

Big Spring aka …..

Kitch-iti-kipi

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Lake Michigan look so raw and beautiful as it was yesterday. And Ashok and I saw and waded in three Great Lakes in one day – Lake Huron,  Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. All were cold. All were sandy. And all were stunningly beautiful. It was a very special drive.

Lake Huron

Most of the businesses here are locally-owned, so I visited with the shopkeepers and asked for recommendations on what to buy. I bought smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar from the man that smoked the fish at the Cut River Store. I had my first pasty from Lehto’s Pasties as soon as I got on the peninsula. Pasties are meat pies that are a UP tradition. I can just imagine eating these hot hand-held pies in the dead of winter. They are so filling! We didn’t eat any of those when we were up here before either!

Ashok and I hiked today, but I’ll tell you all about that in a post of its own. Suffice it to say that I am falling in love with the UP. As I drive down the road surrounded by wildflowers, water and green, my mind’s eye overlays an image of what it might look like in winter … then in fall with the leaves changing. Click, click… those images keep shifting in my head and I wonder what it would be like to live up here. Could I take a snowmobile to work? How about munching on a pasty after a winter run? What might that cold wind feel like off Lake Superior in January? Brrrr …. I’m chilled already. Or maybe it’s the 50-degree July evenings that are raising goosebumps on my arms. No sweating this year!

Michigan Goodies!

 

 

 

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