Lake Michigan & Grand Traverse Bay!

I had one day to fill after I left Kevin and Karen’s before heading to Ann Arbor.  I have always loved the Traverse City area so I eagerly made plans to spend a day there. Monday morning Kevin headed back to Chicago way before Karen and I were up. Karen and I had some coffee and then I said goodbye and headed out the door. It was a cloudy cool morning, and there was a strong chance of thunderstorms all along Lake Michigan that day. But, I was determined to have a wonderful day, no matter what the weather!

I started up 31 North, and it was my plan to stop at as many points of access for Lake Michigan before stopping at Sleeping Bear Dunes for a visit. At my first view of Lake Michigan, I saw and heard the thunderstorms looming off to the west. I snapped a few pictures before getting back to the safety of my car, whereupon the skies opened up and it poured.

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The picture in my head of a perfect summer day at Sleeping Bear Dunes seemed in jeapordy, but I reminded myself not to let the weather affect my positive attitude! As I drove closer to the dunes, I noticed that the skies became a bit brighter. I stopped at another nice little spot with a historic lighthouse that unfortunately was closed, but had a nice view of the beach.

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I also saw this early sign of Fall along the way. Sigh….I know many of you love Fall, but I’m always sad to see Summer go.

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Finally, I pulled into Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

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My plan at Sleeping Bear Dunes was to drive the Scenic Loop and then drive the additional mile to do the traditional “Dune Climb.” I drove the loop and came to one of the most famous spots. I walked out and saw these signs in front of me.

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This sand dune was the GRANDADDY of them all. I saw about three folks who had just finished climbing up this mammoth 450 foot dune. They were soaked with sweat and their faces were red. And all of them proudly proclaiming the time it took them to scale up. I overheard someone say that one of them, a young girl, had climbed it in 11 minutes. Uh…wow! I looked down the massive dune, looked at the folks at the top, took off my sandals and said, “Ok folks, see you later!”

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It is crazy getting down this dune. You really have to keep your weight back or you will pitch forward and tumble head over heels to the bottom. I kind of turned myself a bit sideways and made it all the way to the bottom in about 3 minutes. I snapped some pictures at the bottom, but it really doesn’t give you an idea of the how high it really looks from all the way at the bottom. I found some pictures online that really illustrates the scale of the hill.

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I found it impossible to stand upright and climb. I had to lean over, almost in a crawl, and use my hands. It was exhausting from the start, but here’s how I did it. I took 30 steps, then rested. I repeated that all the way to the top. It took me 20 minutes to climb. I think this woud be an ideal crossfit challenge workout. And Erin Stimac would like to use a weighted vest!

After the climb, the more sedate Dune Climb a mile down the road held no more appeal to me, so I headed out of the park. After a few miles I saw the perfect stop and rewarded myself for my workout on the dune.

ice creamI continued north and in no time made it to the quaint little town of Leland. I parked my car in the waterfront Fishtown area and wandered into a few cute little shops and then down to the waterfront.

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The afternoon was waning, but I had one more stop to make. Many years ago, my brother Kevin had taken the family on a weekend trip around this area. We’d stayed at the Chateau Grand Traverse Inn within the Chateau Grand Traverse Winery on the peninsula in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. It’s a magnificent winery, and I wanted to go and pick up a few bottles to bring back with me. I made the easy drive up the peninsula and made it to the winery around 5pm.

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I elected for a little tasting of 6 delightful wines before making my decision, and walked up to the checkout. The girl at the register and I started chatting.  I said I’d been there about 8 years ago and she asked what brought me back. I told her my story about my adventure around the country, and how I’d found a couple of cities along the way to where I was considering relocating. When I came to Montana, she told m that she’d lived for years in Missoula, one of my spots! She shared with me what it was like to live there, the culture, the weather, etc.  Amazing what can happen when you start opening up yourself to others. I left the winery with a big smile on my face. Oh, and with some nice wine.

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Traverse City, my destination for the night, was only a short 10 minute drive from the winery. I arrived to my motel, which was right across the street from the Bay, checked in, and found my room. I walked right past a group of three women, relaxing outside their room on comfy chairs, drinking beer and laughing and having a wonderful time. I greeted them with a jolly “what a great start to the weekend!” before I realized it was Monday evening! They laughed and so did I, as I admitted that I have no idea what day of the week it is anymore.

I unloaded my belongings into my room and took a quick shower, washing away the sweat and sand that I’d collected on my climb at the Dunes. I dressed and headed out to The Filling Station, about two miles down the road. The Filling Station is in a historic railroad depot, and it was filled inside and out with a lively evening crowd. I walked in, ordered a beer and a lovely pizza at the bar, got my drink, and relaxed. I was also treated to a live little Celtic combo, playing some really fine tunes. The pizza arrived shortly thereafter and I pretty much demolished it, having worked up quite an appetite from my day at the Dunes and subsequent shopping.

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The next morning, I made my final stop in the area. I made the short drive down to Interlochen, MI, home of Interlochen Arts Academy, where I’d spent the summer before my graduate studies at University of Michigan. Unfortunately gates were up at the entrances prohibiting me from wandering around, but it was a nice memory!

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Next stop: Ann Arbor. GO BLUE!

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