Hiking and biking are popular along Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes area and I did a little of each during our stay there. I loved the view from the Bluff Trail that I talked about in a previous post and I found another hike with a different view at the top of Alligator Hill. The blue waters of Lake Michigan surrounded by what looked like tropical greenery took my breath away.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has a paved biking trail that goes through much of the Park traveling through forests, the historic village of Glen Haven and past the Dune Climb area. I liked my day biking this path, but my favorite was the Betsie Valley Trail located a 30 minute drive away near the town of Frankfort. This rail trail goes 22 miles and I was lucky to find a bike rental shop right next to the trail in the small village of Elberta. This is a one stop kind of place where you can eat at the cafe, shop for souvenirs or specialty food items, rent a bike, kayak or even get your bike repaired. The place also has a catchy name, “Conundrum” Cafe.
I rode through the historic town of Frankfort on Lake Michigan where I saw the sandy dunes, a popular beach and a view of Frankfort Light located on the breakwater. The trail continued under lots of tree cover passing the Betsie River and on to Crystal Lake, the best part of this trip. Like most lakes I have seen in Michigan it is a beauty and as crystal clear as its name. I couldn’t resist riding off the trail close to the lake shore to admire the water’s clarity. Although there are areas of the Lake open to the public, I passed a number of homes with private lake front property. There were boat docks, lawns and sandy beaches where people had put out chairs, tables, fire pits and volleyball courts. It was a beautiful setting to ride next to – there are some lucky individuals who have this watery paradise to vacation next to and enjoy.
After my ride I drove to the Point Betsie Lighthouse which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. At 3,288 miles, Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline in the lower 48 states. So it is not surprising that with around 140, it has the most lighthouses of any state. Since I really enjoy seeing lighthouses, I think it would be fun to travel around the state and see as many as possible, but alas, we didn’t have that kind of time to spend.
Point Betsie completed in 1858 is a popular lighthouse and people enjoy not only touring the light but also playing at the adjacent beach. I like the setting of this lighthouse but I think the black retaining wall (bottom left of photo below) takes away some from the natural beauty. I think the building is lovely though. I didn’t have time to tour inside so I enjoyed the views from the outside.
One day Mark and I took a drive up the Leelanau Peninsula which is north of Traverse City. At the town of Leland we stopped to explore the historic Fishtown district. Situated on the Leland River are small fishing shanties and other gray weatherbeaten buildings which now are eateries and shops. It is an atmospheric place and the river was so high that it lapped over the walk ways and decks of some of the buildings. A family of ducks had even made a nest against one of the buildings. There were several boats docked as fishing is still a popular pastime here. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant with a view of the river and a small dam spillway.
We drove to the tip of the Peninsula where we found Grand Traverse Lighthouse built in 1858. I visited the museum inside but did not venture up the stairs to the tower. Those winding, open lighthouse stairs continue to not be good for those of us afraid of heights. The level of Lake Michigan is high and there was was no beach to be found near the lighthouse, just clumps of bushes standing in the water at the rocky shoreline.
On the way down the Peninsula we stopped at the Ruby Ellen farm, homesteaded in 1865 and owned by the same family for 146 years. It has 15 buildings that you can wander around and look at like this barn and silo pictured below. Since we arrived late afternoon, we were the only ones there and even when the small gift shop closed and volunteer staff left for the day, they didn’t seem to care that we stayed to explore. In 2003 a film called “Barn Red” was shot here which starred the famous actor Ernest Borgnine as a farmer in danger of losing his farm to developers.
Back at our campsite we found our bird feeder which has a protected case to discourage chipmunks and squirrels was not quite as protective as we hoped. This little guy got the top off and made himself at home amongst the seeds.
In the next post we leave Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and head for the Upper, also called the land of the Yooper!