I love Michigan. I talk it up big to people who’ve never been here. And I know our government spends a lot of money ($13 million in 2013, in fact) to tell people in other parts of the country just how beautiful its lakes and rivers and forests and shoreline are with the seemingly boundless Pure Michigan campaign.
A few years ago I contemplated just how much of Michigan’s nearly 100,000 square miles (including water!) I’ve actually seen for myself, I realized I was missing out. So my partner and I are changing that.
At least once a year since 2010, we’ve planned one trip we call “Pure Michigan.” We spent one long weekend at the breathtakingly scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes, which had just been voted the most beautiful place in America. We put Holland in our sights, planned a day trip and had lunch at Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant, then went to the state park’s beach where we actually saw waterspouts over Lake Michigan.
Each time we venture out, our love for our state grows and we become better ambassadors.
This summer, we spent five days in the Upper Peninsula. My travel experiences to date in the U.P. had been limited to a brief visit to our friends’ cottage in Naubinway and we once took the ferry to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace. I had barely put a toe across the bridge.
For this trip, we checked out Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Marais, Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Marquette.
Wow. How had I not seen these beautiful, historic places that make Michigan what it is?
Even as August temperatures hovered around 55 and it drizzled much of the time, the Upper Peninsula was stunning. I was wowed by the majesty of Pictured Rocks. The size and power of Lake Superior – the largest body of fresh water in the world – was palpable and something I really never understood. Standing on its shores as the winds blew and the waves grew, felt as though the lake could grab hold of me. Instead, I grabbed a bag full of some amazing stones.
With no time-sensitive itinerary and no major highways on our route, we loved the chance to slow down and look at the scenery and stop for a picnic lunch as we went. Every scenic overlook offers some kind of hidden gem.
Marquette was a hip, fun delight that seemed to rise up out of the vast landscape as we approached it, and we loved that it boasts three breweries. Because this is Michigan, and we’re good at beer.
Our state is big. It’s got an impressive, diverse collection of geographic and geological features. Still, I think it’s so easy for us to overlook and not appreciate what’s right here in front of us. So now we’re making it a priority to pay attention and to learn.
You can, too. It’s easy. Pull out a map and see what lies even 30 minutes away from where you live. Go for an afternoon. Try a new restaurant. See some tourist-trappy kind of thing (like the time I demanded we visit the Mystery Spot).
With each experience, you’ll learn something and you’ll love our great state a little more too.