Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Turn Right at the Goats!

 June 24 - 28, 2022
Suttons Bay, Michigan

Our first long drive in many travel days, 228 miles from the UP, over the Mighty Mac bridge, and onto the Leelaneau Peninsula is a beautiful drive that goes by really fast! We haven't seen all of Michigan, but without a doubt, this area is our favorite. It is absolutely beautiful! Through rolling green hills, and right at the goats, I pass the driveway and have to turn around at the top of the road - but then quickly we're here!

Turn here!

Even better than the drive is our destination - the 5-star site at Jim and Diana's (ExplorVistas) is perfect. And all three of us are so happy to see them after way too long! Tessa is wagging and jumping when she sees them through the window on our approach. We might never leave :-)

We've been following the building of their cabin in the forest for a couple years, but in person it's mind-blowing! The location in the dancing maple trees is serene and beautiful, and their house and barn are stunning. They have either done the work themselves or overseen the contractors, and the pride of ownership shines in every detail. We're glad our visit means they get to take a short break!

Peace and quiet.

Lovely views and perfectly level!

Diana's Day Lillies along the barn.

Last time we saw them in Michigan we enjoyed Music in the Park at a nearby harbor. We haven't been to live music since then, and are excited that the first concert of the season is the night we arrive! Warm weather and a friendly crowd in a lovely setting - and we even find a great parking spot!

A good turn-out for the season's kick-off.

Soon the dancers are up and having a great time.

I'm still a big fan of marinas!

Since Tessa loves to cuddle with Jim and Diana, we do our travels together in the Jeep. Saturday we're off to Traverse City for a few stops. One of the things I like best about this area is the clean, cute, artsy, foodie little villages along the lake. And then there's all the wineries, cheeseries, breweries and cideries!!

Jim takes this great shot of the sweet fluffy girl.

Raclette from Leelaneau Cheese and four unique varieties from the Cheese Lady - all delicious!

There's still projects to complete, but we're able to visit inside the cabin with tasty pie from Traverse Pie Company (yes, they have gluten-free options!) and ice cream. The views from their wall of windows feel like you're in a tree-house!

Sunday is cooler, and we're off for a drive south to Point Betsie Lighthouse. I love, love this area! Still lots of trees, but rolling hills, orchards, small inland lakes, vintage farms, and vineyards make this one of the most consistently beautiful places we've ever visited. 

One stop I need to make is Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. I've promised Sherry (On My Own) that I'll get a cherry pie next time I'm here! Also need some wine and salsa - need.

All the little local nurseries give me gardening envy!

Before the lighthouse we enjoy a great lunch and brews at Stormcloud Brewing Company on Main Street in Frankfort - another cute little town, this one just off Betsie Lake.

The lighthouse has no parking lot but we find space on the little entrance road in the dunes. The grounds include the keepers' house, fog signal house, gift shop w/small musuem, and a rare intact oil house. The lovely docent provides seven of us with an informative tour of the beautifully restored keepers' house and the tower (for those like Jim and Diana who make the climb). 

Point Betsie Point Lighthouse

Most pieces are from the period, but not original to the keepers' house. An exception is the china in the cabinet donated by the family of one of the keepers. 

Our delightful docent explains the fourth order fresnel lens.

Up the tower.

In the signal house is a movie made of a real-life rescue from Lake Michigan using the original equipment that Jim and Diana worked with during their time as volunteers nearby. It's very engaging, we're very vested in the outcome, we've watched almost 30 minutes, the final rescue is about to happen. 

A staff person walks in, says they're closing, we have to leave. Uh??? We explain (passionately!) that there's just a few minutes left and surely he can wait. Nope! Turns off the TV, no apology, just rudely kicks us out. 

We're in shock, have never been treated so poorly, commiserate all the way back to the Jeep. Bill is waiting for us, and I'm sure we sounded like foot-stomping kids who were just denied our dessert :-)) Alas, we'll never forget this historic site visit!

Another gab-fest in the cabin, then we're off to our own homes for the night. 

Monday our hosts are back to work with still cooler temps to help them out on their house projects. We spend our last day wandering about taking photos, having brunch outside at the wonderful 9 Bean Rows, shopping in cute downtown Suttons Bay. 

Love small town book stores.

So many fun choices at Bay Gallery.

Immaculate shopping in Suttons Bay

Happy to find lots of country barns.

Gorgeous vintage school house.

This unique barn at a local winery blends into the rolling hills.

On a Centennial Farm - over 100 years in the same family.

Last time we were here the barn was surrounded by sunflowers. 

This year it's a corn crop - not as pretty :-(

Our arrival back at the cabin is perfectly timed, and we enjoy the perfection that is the outdoor space Jim is completing. Another favorite place from our last visit is Hop Lot, so we head there for more outdoor pleasure - this time it's cherry cider and yummy BBQ sandwiches. We even remember to get a photo!! 

Diana, Jodee, Bill, Jim

It's hard to believe when Tuesday morning arrives and it's already time to move on! We had such a great time, and will definitely be back for another visit. Bill washes the filthy windshield and fills the water tank before hooking up. Hard to say our good-bye-for-nows :-(

A couple more stops before we're done with Michigan. Next up Frankenmuth!

Friday, June 24, 2022

Back Across the Bottom

 June 19 - 24, 2022
Iron Mountain - Manistique, Michigan

We leave behind temps in the cool 70's for a couple days forecast in the high 90's. And I thought California had fickle weather!

I'm glad I checked the campground website for our next stop which tells me they're in Central Standard Time - what? Although we're returning east and south, Bill looks at the map and learns our Sunday drive takes us west of Chicago and Green Bay! Michigan's weird.

We only see two other vehicles in 124 miles, and even more rare here - a good size hill ahead!

My family moved to a little company-owned village in the Colorado desert of Southern California when I was five, and I lived most of my life there until I turned 17. It was called Iron Mountain for the range of mountains it nestled below. For that reason I bring us to this Iron Mountain on our return east across the bottom of the Upper Peninsula. A good size town of 7500, it's named for the proximity to a bluff stratified with iron ore. It's also a good half-way point to our final UP stop in Manistique. 

Keeping with the nostalgic theme, Bill took me to my senior prom and the theme was Seals and Crofts' Summer Breeze. With the time change we arrive just after noon to Summer Breeze Campground. The host comments that "it must be nice" to be done driving at noon - you're damn right it's nice, it's retirement at its finest :-))) 

We get set up in our level gravel site with 50 amp FHUs and a large grass space. Picnic table and fire ring, and one of two open sky sites where our satellite connects. It's a pretty, green campground of less than 50 sites.

It's been a while, and even though it's so early, we enjoy our first Mexican food and margaritas in a few weeks. Carlos Cantina doesn't disappoint.

The number of bugs lessens and I get a good night's sleep with no new bites - woohoo! Monday is 99 degrees so we run a few errands while we're in a larger town. Oil change, car wash, post office, grocery pickup - life stuff still has to get done! 

10 degrees cooler in Tombstone today!

I'm looking forward to the advertised good Italian food here, but they're all closed on Monday so we have pretty bad Chinese food - yes, so disappointing. 

Our stay in Manistique is another late check-in so we take our time heading out on Tuesday. This time the time change helps us out.

After all my whining about corn a few years ago I can't believe how happy I am to see fields of it on our drive. At just over two feet tall, it really opens up the space!

Indian Lake State Park is a lovely surprise with the largest sites of anywhere we've ever stayed. 50 amp electric-only, all grass space off narrow interior roads. I'm able to get level, and our satellite connects in #79. Best of all I now remember I was able to reserve a water-front site!! Cooler here as well - so happy.

All us!

Next door is a solid stairway to the water with level terraces to enjoy the lake.

For the last three years of my working life I flew from SoCal to Sacramento every week to work at our headquarters. Bill picked me up at the airport every Thursday and most of those we stopped at Bob's Big Boy for dinner. That one, and most of the others, are all gone now. Seeing that Michigan has a few is exciting, and the sign for the one in Manistique (where our state park is) means that's our first-day-lunch :-)

The familiar icon.

Making it their own! Also the only moose we see while in the UP.

Although the menu no longer includes our two favorites, we're able to order combinations that make them ourselves. Even more happy!

After the great mosquito debacle I keep my outside sitting to a minimum, but a nice glass of Sangria, and this spectacular view, wrap up a wonderful Summer Solstice.

The sun makes it almost to 10:00 before leaving with a lovely sunset. Definitely been a while since we've seen one!

The plan is to see the Big Spring nearby, and ride the little raft over the top. But Wednesday morning the wind is up and that now sounds like something for a calmer day - which we hope for on our last day. 

Instead we check out the other places on my short list. 

Schoolcraft Historic Water Tower - 1922 structure held a 200,000 gallon water tank.

The siphon bridge was included in Ripley's Believe It or Not. Built in 1919, the road across it was at the water's level. The design meant the river helped to hold up the bridge.

This beautiful 1886 ladder truck is housed in one of three other historic buildings on the site.

The Seul Choix ("only choice") Lighthouse is the last remaining active station on the north side of Lake Michigan. The grounds include the historic two-story keepers' house, the fog signal house, and the boat house. A separate building that houses the gift shop was built in 1996. The $6 fee to tour the grounds and all the buildings is a great deal.

The docent in the keepers' house has been a volunteer here for 35 years, has written 12 books on the station and its keepers, and is a treasure of knowledge and pride in the location. She shows me photos of two of the five spirits who have been scene here for many years by many people. There is zero doubt in my mind that she's right. 

Seul Choix  Tower and Keepers' House

The signal house includes exhibits on the local community of Gulliver. 

Fossils found during the initial builds.

Late season Lilacs

There were 6 Keepers in 100 years and all of their families have returned several personal items that were used by their ancestors who worked here.

96 steps in this beautiful spiral stairway in the tower.

Period pieces were added to this room in the 1990's. The room was the birthing room where over 40 babies were born in 100 years.

Two of the three upstairs bedrooms where three keepers and their families (18 people at one time) all slept.

Dated in the mid 1700's, this dug-out boat was discovered in 1974 in the dunes near the light station.

Seney Wildlife Refuge is our next stop, but sadly the seven-mile drive is closed to vehicles and foot traffic due to bridge repair. 

The watch tower is also closed due to age - oh darn!

North side of the refuge just off Hwy 28 - where all the mosquitoes in this area are hanging out!

Much of the return drive through the center of the peninsula is Hiawatha Forest, but there are also pretty pockets of open land. 

A few farms and ranches also break up all the trees.

Back at home the wind continues to rough up the lake, and some really weird bugs with fairy wings and long triple tails (Mayflies) have made the outside of the rig their own. 

Pulling out of our last campground the utilities bin door came open, and Bill had to "adjust" the latch to get it to stay closed. Upon arrival here he can't open it after several attempts. Since this is where the sewer and water are.....not good. I warn Jim (our next, much anticipated, stop) of our conundrum, and he's prepared with all manner of tools - the chainsaw is Plan B :-)

The skies are completely cloudless, and the wind is a light breeze for our last day on the UP. The Mayflies love this weather and have invited all their friends to hang out here. 

We leave them to it and head to the Palms Book State Park to see the Big Spring. I've seen in reviews that the line to get on the free raft to cross the 200 foot wide pond can get long, so I'm excited to see just four other people waiting! The returning raft has about 30 people on it, but when we push off our group is just 15 - perfect. This very solid raft moves along a cable with the use of a hand-turned wheel on board. Passengers take turns pulling us across the water. An open rectangle in the center provides a shaded open view into the 40-foot deep fresh water spring. Along with huge trout, the springs pushing 10,000 gallons a minute are visible at the bottom. It's so clear and so beautiful!

That color!

The fish and moving water make wonderful abstract art.

The springs billow along the bottom.

When our exploration is over, the line is almost back to the bridge - our timing was great :-)))

I try another pasty for lunch - 3 Seasons Cafe - not as good as Syls, but still better than those we had on the "other side" of the bridge. So far the guy on the ferry was right!

We check out more of the little town, make a stop at the Breakwater Lighthouse, where the wind is much stronger on the big lake. Back home the bugs are gone and after a lovely nap, we just hang out at our beautiful spot. 

Cleaned yesterday afternoon :-))))

The history of how the UP became part of Michigan instead of Wisconsin (a deal that gave Ohio the Toledo area), is interesting. But for us it really seems like it should be part of Canada instead. Even though we didn't see any Moose, we definitely saw a lot of trees! It's mostly two large national forests surrounded by two big lakes. Absolutely beautiful, not a lot of variety, with some exceptional natural features like the Pictured Rocks, Lake of the Clouds, Big Springs, and all the water falls we didn't see - and pretty, little lighthouses. We didn't visit the northeast corner where I know there are other lovely spots. 

Friday we're back across the bridge with a longer-than-usual drive to spend a few days with a couple of dear friends we can't wait to get caught up with!!

Penelope and Reese enjoy building together.

M&M loving some beach time.