I grew up in Northwest Ohio - nearly all 23 years of my life. Yet it still took me 23 years to see the shores of Lake Michigan. But oh, was it worth the wait.
On Lake Michigan, the water is clearer than some tropical waters but colder than the Pacific in May. Wineries scatter the countrysides while breweries speckle downtown Traverse City, where in the summers visitors can take kayak brewery tours, and it's just what it sounds like. The sun shines down warm and bright, the birds chirp and chatter in the background of every conversation and the poppies seem to bloom right in front of your eyes. Lake Michigan is a northern paradise.
My family stayed in a cozy lake house on West Arm Traverse Bay, which borders the Leelanau peninsula to the east. Twenty minutes southward landed us in the heart of Traverse City, where we lounged on the beach, explored the downtown businesses and sampled the local fudges, coffees and beers. Just a short jaunt northward took us into Sutton's Bay, a quiet little lake town that looked like Nicholas Sparks had dreamed it up for one of his romantic novels.
Both Traverse City and Sutton's Bay are adorably quaint, with their local shops and restaurants and quirky antique stores. Once we'd gotten our fill of window shopping and parusing, we headed eastward to the sand shores at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for both a spectacle and a workout.
Sleeping Bear Dunes seem somewhat out of place in Northern Michigan, as the park is comprised of dunes that cover a 35-mile-long stretch of the Lake Michigan coastline, and look like they could have been plucked out of the Sahara Desert. While some are safe to climb (hence, the exercise part), others aren't - and warn about 2 or more hours of strenuous climbs back up to the top and/or expensive boat rescues from the lake shore. The dunes were not only behemoth but also beautiful - the white of the dunes made the water appear somehow clearer and bluer - which I didn't quite think was possible.
On the drive back from the dunes, we stumbled across a little slice of heaven in the form of an iris farm. My sister and I stopped to buy some bulbs for my mom and piece together a bouquet for the lake house, but couldn't help ourselves from standing in awe of the variety of colors - from jewel tones to pastels to a bluish-purple so deep it nearly looked black. They were so beautiful, I wanted to buy one of each color for a garden I don't have.
But with all these places to explore and experience, I still found that some of my favorite moments were spent at the lake house, out on the kayaks with my sister or sitting around the camp fire making s'mores with my family. The moments I spent listening to the backyard birds and frogs chirp and croak while I swung lazily in my hammock, or the brief times my dog stopped to investigate and sniff around the flower beds that housed the irises I'd stopped to admire.
Northern Michigan and the lake which surrounds it stole a part of my heart that week. I was living in colors I'd never experienced before, eating good, unhealthy campfire food and drinking cold summer shandies, and the whole time I was surrounded by my family (even the dog)! What more could I have possibly asked for? After that week on the lake, my mind was as calm and clear as the water.
"if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you." (thanks for sharing, troyjrjr).
As you may have imagined, I took way too many pictures. To check out more of them, click here!