Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cruising Up North in Michigan – Part Four

On our recent drive into northern Michigan, we made an overnight stop in Traverse City, which sits at the base of Grand Traverse Bay, a huge inlet from Lake Michigan that is bisected by the long, narrow Old Mission Peninsula.  We had been looking forward to touring the area and walking around the compact downtown, but we awoke to a cold, blustery, and rainy day.  After driving around a bit we decided to run out the rain by continuing northward.    

Old Mission Peninsula, Looking Westward from the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay
We traveled north on US31 and reached Charlevoix in less than an hour.  The city sits on an isthmus between Lake Michigan and small Round Lake, which is sort of an ante-lake to the much bigger Lake Charlevoix which lies just out of sight to the east.  We did manage to find the lakeside neighborhood with the little English hobbit-house-like cottages.  After lunch and a walk around town, we continued north to the Petoskey area.

Petoskey sits on the southeastern shore of Little Traverse Bay, a large inlet of Lake Michigan.  The town is full of neat old buildings in a thriving downtown.  Its growth at the turn of the 20th Century was fueled by summer residents coming up north from Chicago and Detroit.  Nearby is the Chautauqua-like settlement of Bay View, which I suspect was one of the attractions, along with the woods, streams, and inland lakes, that drew people like Earnest Hemingway’s parents to summer in this particular area of northern Michigan.  The summer people first came by lake steamer, then by train, and now by automobile and airplane.

Little Traverse Bay from the Southern Shore near Petoskey, Looking Northwest out to Lake Michigan
We stayed a few days in the area and enjoyed the sights and Lake sounds.  We had some nice dinners, and stopped for drinks in the bar of the historic Perry Hotel.  I bought a few Petoskey stones, those polished-smooth, stone-like pieces of ancient coral found on the shore of Lake Michigan – where better to buy them but in Petoskey?  The area is Hemingway country:  he would occasionally get into Petoskey during his many summers in the area, and would actually live there for some months around age 20, although he spent his time primarily just south of town at his family’s cottage (and later small farm) on Walloon Lake and in the small nearby town of Horton Bay on neighboring Lake Charlevoix.    

The Petoskey Marina on Little Traverse Bay
One day we drove north about an hour to Mackinaw City, where we boarded a ferry for the short ride to Mackinac Island, which lies just off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the Lake Huron side of the Straits of Mackinac.  From the boat we had great views of the enormous Mackinac Bridge that connects the lower and upper peninsulas.  Travelers disembark on piers jutting out from the one small town on the island.  Without motorized vehicles, horses all around, and well-preserved 19th Century (and earlier) buildings, the island evokes a simpler, slower bygone moment in time.  We spent hours walking about, on yet another day of record-setting mid-September cold.  

Mackinac Bridge, with a Cargo Ship in the Distance, Looking Westward on a Calm Day
One particular highlight was our walking tour of the Grand Hotel, a vibrant scene of by-gone elegance decorated with lots of bright reds and greens.  Understated it is not.  The famous front porch affords great views of the surrounding grounds and the fraying pool area, and in the distance, Lake Huron and the Bridge crossing the Straight.   

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island 
View of the Straits and the Bridge from the Grand Hotel Porch
In town I confess that we did stop in a fudge shop or two.  We missed visiting Fort Mackinac, as time constraints, cold, and drizzle conspired against us.  We shivered in our light jackets waiting for the return ferry; I think we later heard that it was about 20 degrees below average for that day of the year.   
The Main Street on Mackinac Island
An Island Hotel and Waiting Taxi
We drove back to Petoskey for one more night, then headed south the next day for home.  On our first day back at the southern end of Lake Michigan, the weather cleared and rose 15 degrees back to average.  On our next drive Up North, we’re hoping for a taste of that “global warming” we’re still waiting for around these parts.

R Balsamo

The entire series is here.

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