Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Traverse City, Michigan

Driving up the coast of Lake Michigan we traveled to Traverse City in the greater Northern Michigan region. The city is the main inland port of the Grand Traverse Bay. It is a long natural harbor separated from the waters of Lake Michigan by the Leelanau Peninsula (on the left) and divided in the center by a narrow strip called the Old Mission Peninsula.

Traverse City is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States. Near the time of cherry harvest the city hosts a week long cherry festival that attracts approximately 500,000 people.  Having spent eight days in the Traverse City area, I can't even imagine where they put all the visitors!  But that is just one of the many crops they grow in the region.  The area is also known for its vineyards and wineries nestled on both peninsulas.

Situated below the Grand Traverse Bay, going though Traverse City is the major route taken to reach either of the peninsulas.  The highway is four lanes most of the way but then becomes two lane with many roads intersecting so traffic can be difficult.  We reached Shore Drive and took some photos of the bay.  The weather was cool and rainy and the water choppy.     

Many of the homes were right on the water.

We decided to visit both of the peninsulas and check out some of the wineries. With unique glacial soils, there are thousands of acres of vineyards planted along the coast of Lake Michigan offering diverse and unique varieties of red and white wines.  In fact, Michigan ranks third in the United States as a wine producer following California and New York.  That surprised us!  The wine tastings are reasonably priced, three to five dollars for six or seven tastes, and the wines were excellent.  Most vineyards offered a discount or took off the price of the tasting if you bought several bottles.  While some of the wines were expensive, most were reasonably priced, and we wound up bringing back several cases to enjoy.
This winery had a unique dining area with wine kegs nearby.

Some of the wineries had very fancy tasting rooms while others were very basic.

Many had porches overlooking views of their vineyards.
This winery is called Peninsula Cellars Vineyard and is located in a converted 1890's schoolhouse.

One of the walls had this blackboard on it!  Detention was also the name of one of their wines.
Another winery had this very visible sign displayed.

The reason we spent eight days in Traverse City was to let the Captain fly out to Montana for a few days to see his mom and attend his class reunion.  Well, Michigan had a very bad winter and this summer the weather has also been challenging. I stayed behind in the rig to take care of the pups and spent most of the days wearing jeans and several shirt layers to stay warm while the weather in Helena was in the 80's and sunny.  Now what's wrong with that picture!  So before we arrived here, the Captain researched the area and told me that Traverse City had an outlet mall to help amuse me while he was away.  We took a quick drive down there and, guess what, it was out of business.  What can I say, things were starting to get grim.  Luckily (for both of us) we found several stores nearby, and they were having some really great sales, so I was able to entertain myself while he was gone :)    

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located on the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan and is a must see if you are in the area.  

With miles of sandy beach, bluffs 450 feet above Lake Michigan, and forests and lakes within the park, it is a great place to spend the day.

A covered bridge as part of the park drive.

Beautiful lake views with lots of trees.

Some of the trees have been here for a long, long time.

This one has many roots exposed but is still hanging on.

Little Glen Lake in the front is only 12 feet deep while Big Glen Lake in the background reaches 130 feet deep.

Closer to Lake Michigan the greenery ends and the sand begins. 

There are many trails in the park so we took the pups on a 4-mile hike.

This was the first sand dune we came across and many people were climbing on it.
From one of the bluffs you could see a private farm that is still in operation.  

This is the main sand dune by the edge of Lake Michigan.  It is 450 feet above the lake and when you walk out to the edge it looks like you will fall off.

This sign greets all visitors to this area.

See how small the boat is from up here.

This overlook gives an even better view.

Some of the younger men raced down the sand hill.  Once they got going they couldn't slow down.  

Coming back up most did the crawl and it took them a long time with several stops to catch their breath along the way.

Most impressive was the father and two young sons who took the challenge while we were there.  The father is in the right front and he made it back up in 12.35 minutes.  He's also a triathlete.

This view says it all!  450 feet down to a blue Lake Michigan.

Standing on the edge.  The Captain chose not to take the dune challenge because he didn't want to show up the triathlete :)

While we were in the area we stopped at a town called Glen Haven.  David Henry Day came to Glen Haven in the mid-1800's as agent for the Northern Transportation Company.  Ten years later he purchased the company, the town, and 5000 acres of adjacent timberland.  He instituted a variety of sustainable forestry and logging practices that are still in use today.  He was one of the first people to plant fruit trees in the area. Northern Michigan continues to produce a wide variety of fruit including cherries, apples, peaches, apricots, pears, and grapes.  Since the 1970's the town has been purchased and preserved by the National Park Service.

With the decline of the lumber business, Day looked for a new way to use Glen Haven's location and resources.  He developed the Glen Haven Canning Company and purchased fresh fruit from the area's many orchards.  Trucks dropped off fresh fruit and picked up cases of canned fruit for shipment to Chicago and other Great Lakes cities.  Local women worked long days in the steamy cannery, starting at 8:00 in the morning and sometimes working until midnight with only breaks for lunch and dinner.  Sometimes, on long days, the company would send over sandwiches from the Sleeping Bear Inn.
This was the Sleeping Bear Inn he built for travelers.

He also built a multi-car garage to house the chauffeurs, maids, and additional staff as well as the guest's automobiles.

The country store still has many preserved relics.

The store office.

This pricing sheet was inside the store office.

We finished up the day by letting the pups swim in Lake Michigan before we headed back to Traverse City.

It was a beautiful sunny day.

Wow!  This sand feels good.

Time to leave Traverse City and head up to the Straits of Mackinac.  This was a neat town with many things to see and do.  We have found Michigan is a very beautiful and friendly state.  Peace!

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