Shuttle diplomacy – to the U.P. – for two Michigan ambassadors

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.

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Sun, 09/21/2014 - 12:35pm
Robin, A couple of years ago my family took a trip to South Dakota to see the Bad Lands, Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Black Hills. As beautiful as it was, I recall that as we entered the UP and saw Lake Michigan come into view for the first time in two weeks, why Michigan remains the most beautiful state in the country - at least for me. May I recommend for your next trip the Keweenaw Peninsula and Copper Harbor, Porcupine Mountains State Park, and go back to Pictured Rocks for a hike along the North Country Trail and a visit to one or more of its amazing beaches - you'll see the "Rocks" from a whole new and amazing point of view.
Mon, 09/22/2014 - 12:59pm
And check out Fayette Historic State Park in the U.P. It is a historic town, frozen in time. Not to be missed. A bit off the beaten path, but isn't that the idea?!
Wed, 09/24/2014 - 8:39am
Find a copy of Hunt's Highlights of Michigan (out of print) and tour the east coast of the thumb. Small, pocketbook museums there speaking of life and death: a postoffice whose cubbyholes still have mailed sent from the East to family in Michigan, wondering if they'd survived the forest fires. Lighthouses with lifesaving equipment--many ships wrecked during storms, sometimes impossible to save the passengers even if they could be seen from shore. Somewhere I saw a chair that had been thrown into a well during one of the fires; it's warped and cracked--but the point is that people also jumped into wells, and died for lack of oxygen as the fire swept overhead.