Tag Archives: lake

Twin Valley Lake

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We returned to Governor Dodge State Park for the first time since last June, when 2 tornados rolled through these valleys, and we had to hide in a cave. It was Father’s Day, and the main area at Cox Hollow Lake was jammed.

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Instead we headed over to Twin Valley Lake, for some mother / daughter tubing while I napped on the grass.

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Ancient Giants of the Northwoods

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Etta and I enjoy visiting beautiful parts of the country and going on day hikes.

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Even when these hikes are only a couple miles long, I panic and begin to despair towards the back half.

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So it’s important that we find the right mix of natural beauty and for my sanity’s sake, brevity.

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Fallison Lake Nature Trail is a 2.5-mile loop trail rolls through rich birding terrain.

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The lake is surrounded by a mixed coniferous/deciduous forest of balsam fir, hemlock, red pine, white pine, sugar maple, white birch, and large-toothed and trembling aspen.

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The trail crosses bogs and a hemlock glade. Some of these ancient giants of the Northwoods are hundreds of years old.

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The longest loop of the trail goes all the way around 50-acre Fallison Lake: we took a shortcut and skipped the final bog to cut down on my whining!

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Black’s Cliff Resort

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The Northwoods is one of my favorite places in the country, and I’ve stayed at a few places in both summer and winter. Black’s Cliff Resort is by far the gem amongst the many other good options.

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I have to give the credit to Etta who found the place, and also the time of year, first week of June, it was so quiet and peaceful.

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We stayed in the Birchwood cabin, right next door to the resort keepers place, home to the resort dog a regal golden retriever who seems to be doing very well in his professional role.

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The cabin was amazing, with a fireplace inside, stocked with local firewood, and a backyard fire pit.

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A breezeway overlooking the lake with a bed hanging from the ceiling was the perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon snooze after the drive up from Chicago.

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Later in the evening, after dinner, I noticed the light fading and wandered down the stairs to one of the most thrilling sunsets I have witnessed.

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I was the solo witness because not a soul was stirring on that lake in early June, and evening chill negated Etta’s interest in the natural beauty.

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That night, on the soft bed, I had the best night’s sleep in at least a year.

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I didn’t want to say goodbye to this guy!

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Van’s Beach

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Etta read me the story of a visitor to the Leelanau Peninsula who found the beauty of the setting sun over Lake Michigan so overwhelming they broke down in tears.

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I have seen a lot of beautiful sunsets over the lake in my days as a visitor, but I think they may be on to something. Of all the photos of Michigan sunsets, I took my favorite ones at Van’s Beach on the autumnal equinox.

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This public beach is located at the end of Cedar St., just off the main drag. Van’s Autobody is where you make the turn, but if you are parked in town, it is close enough to walk.

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There water is shallow and the sand is soft and fine. In one direction lies the natural vista of sand and water, and in other, Fishtown’s pier.

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200 Year Old White Cedar

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I really felt far out there when I visited the Leelanau State Park.

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On the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, the historic Grand Traverse Lighthouse a beacon for many years to those entering the bay…

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…this is about as far from Chicago and the civilized world, about as far back in time, as its possible to journey on Lake Michigan.

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The light, mid transition summer to fall, was so dramatic…

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…Etta and I stayed out along the shore for over an hour taking photographs…

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of the seagrass and stones as they slowly turned colors.

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Christmas Cove

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Etta and I arrived at the small town beach called Christmas Cove by complete mistake. GPS had gone down on my smart phone, and at a crucial fork in the road, I turned left, blindly following a sign promising 10,000 antique Coca Cola bottles. Instead of the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, we ended up at Christmas Cove, just south of Cat Head Point.\

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At the end of Island View Dr there is a parking lot and a 200 foot town beach. The waters of the lake were a color blue I have never seen before. The color seemed to permeate even the texture of the water.

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There is not much mention of this place on the internet. Christmas Cove must be one of the Leelanlau Peninsula’s many hidden gems.

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Carlson’s Fishery

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Carlson’s Fishery has been in the hands of the Carlson family for generations. The owner, one of the brothers of the current generation, talked to me for a minute about the volume of fish that comes through their doors. He and his brother had been out on Lake Michigan that very morning at 4AM.

The fishery itself is spotless clean, and right behind the counter is where the action happens. Even though we were there in late afternoon, after any catch had come in, I could still feel the energy of the facility. I really like the idea of buying some fillets while fish are being filleted right there.

The products were top notch. I had never had whitefish pate before, but we ate a whole container in just a couple days. The smoked fish sausage was also a first for me, and it was delicious, a must-try. The beef jerky was really tasty too, although it gave Etta smoky jerky breath for a few hours.

On a nerdier, restaurant-business insider note, I appreciate the way Carlson’s has taken steps to modernize the family brand. The fish logo, and presence on instagram, shows that the owners get it.

I posted a photo of Fishtown online and my friend from growing up in CT, Dave Stender, who I haven’t really talked to in about a decade, commented, “Obviously you got the smoked salmon and white fish!” Carlon’s is legendary.

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Fishtown

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Fishtown is one of those places that are hard to imagine unless you actually visit them. This is a historic fishing site on the Leelanlau Peninsula, that has been preserved for hundreds of years.

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The local businesses along the pier include a sandwich shop, fish market and craft gifts. Fishtown is one of the places my aunt would love to visit on Lake Michigan. Small, historic, quiet, with quality food and shopping.

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Mission Table

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We rolled up the dirt driveway and parked next to a Chevelle from the sixties. The parking lot sits directly next to wine vineyards. I imagined the old muscle car belonging to one of the Old Mission wine barons.

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Mission Table, housed in a historic, sprawling building that renowned Michigan breweryJolly Pumpkin calls home as well, could not have been more cozy. There were comfortable chairs beside a roaring fire. The dining room had its own fireplace, and windows on the lake.

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Etta and I loved the food here, one of the best meals I have had in Michigan. Mission Table pairs classic technique with local ingredients, and the resulting dishes are high quality and flavorful.

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We had lake trout in a light, acidic tomato broth, and steak in a rich sauce of beef shortribs. The locally grown vegetables were shining, at this time of harvest. My girlfriend enjoyed her cocktail. An interesting part of the restaurant is that they make all their own beer (Jolly Pumpkin), wine and spirits.

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Right before the entrees arrived, the sun burst through the grey pall blanket of clouds on its descent. The bottoms of the clouds caught pink reflections. The resulting contrast was so surprisingly beautiful many of the diners, including me, stopped eating to step outside and see.

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Old Mission State Park, Part 2

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Old Mission and Leelanau are two of the most beautiful peninsulas in the United States. Together, they make up as much coastline as Cape Cod or Door County, and yet they fly much lower under the radar than either of those two destinations.

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When I first stopped in Traverse City, on our circle tour around Lake Michigan, we drove out to the Old Mission State Park to watch the sunset. This year, we spent a weekend just exploring both peninsulas. Again, we found ourselves out on the tip.

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It was a chilly September Sunday evening. The lake was at it highest level in several years. With the wind blowing, and green leaves turning yellow, and summer retreating, the historic Old Mission Lighthouse was oddly reassuring.

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On the drive out of the state park to dinner, we pulled over and watched two swans. They were feeding in rough water, their white bodies bobbing up and down in the swells, with waves breaking over their backs. The water was warmer than the air.

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