Week 13: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Happy Monday! We are back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I am happy to say I’ve managed to check off a few more items from my bucket list. The Upper Peninsula is a beautiful part of the state, and we have enjoyed the Les Cheneaux area for many years. If you happen to be following along, you may know that I decided to add tackling visiting someplace we’ve not been before while on our up north vacation to my bucket list (#25). And, what the heck, why not tick off item # 17 (Go hiking) while we’re at it!

But what to do? I looked at a map and looked into what each area offered and I ended up deciding on a day trip to Munising, an area rich in beauty and hiking opportunities. Munising is roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes from our resort, Spring Lodge. We were on the road by 8am heading northwest. Since we are attempting to do things we’ve never done before, we chose to hit up a lunch spot that serves pasties. Despite our many vacations to the U.P., I’d never eaten a pasty (pronounced Pass-Tee). I honestly wasn’t so sure I would enjoy it. We stopped at a cute and quirky little place in Munising called Muldoons. My husband, Mike opted for beef (which according to Mike apparently requires gravy) and I chose veggie which we ate on one of the outdoor picnic tables. We ended our meal by sharing an apple pastie. They are delicious little bundles of goodness wrapped in a pastry crust. Two enthusiastic thumbs up here.

Muldoon also sells maple syrup, fudge and gift items. Plus who doesn’t love a good Bigfoot statue!

Instead of striking out on our own, we ventured into Munising to the Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center where we spoke with a park ranger to plan our visit. We were trying to decide between hiking or taking a boat or kayak along the shoreline. After a brief discussion, we opted to hike (next time we’ll try the boat). We headed up to the Miners Falls area to hike towards Mosquito beach which, despite its name, is perhaps one of the loveliest beaches I’ve seen. And guess what, no mosquitos! We walked along trails, taking in rock formations and waterfalls. After about a mile and a half hike, through both wide and narrow trails full of tree roots and ankle twisting opportunities, we happened upon a gorgeous white sandy beach framed by tall sandstone rocks in the distance. There were a few families there, dogs fetching sticks and children playing along the shoreline. The water was an unreal Caribbean blue. Mike was able to fly his drone a bit to get a better look at the rocks than the beach itself afforded.

Mike ready to hit the trail!
One of the rock formations of Pictured Rocks, called Miner’s Castle.
Wagner Falls
Rock formations in the distance.
Water is such beautiful shades of blues and blue-greens.
Mosquito beach, acres of soft white sand.
We found an awesome piece of driftwood to sit on and a willing photographer!
A piece of nature’s artistry sits at the shoreline.

After hiking back the mile and a half, we drove a little further westward along the coast and parked near Hurricane River for a 1.7 mile hike along the lake to the Au Sable Point Lighthouse. There is a dangerously shallow sandstone bottom that extends about a mile out into the lake which has led seamen to nickname this area Graveyard Coast. The lake has been at a record high and usually you can see remnants of shipwrecks from long ago along the shoreline, but because water levels were so high, there really wasn’t much to see. There was however some very lovely forested trails which provided cooling shade on this warm summer day.

My handsome hubby, camera in hand, heading towards the lighthouse.

We were lucky enough to arrive at the lighthouse at 4:30, in time to take the last tour of the day. The fee is $3 per person for ages 6 and over. The lighthouse has not been lived in since the 1950’s but was redecorated to the period of late 1800’s, when it was first erected. We were fortunate to climb the circular staircase up all 98 steps to the top where we heard a brief presentation and then were allowed out on the narrow upper ledge. It was a beautiful view and a really cool experience I think we’ll both remember. For any lighthouse afficionados, there used to be a kerosene lit lamp which acted as a beacon, though it was a steady light that did not blink or rotate. It had a 17 mile visibility. Today the beacon is electronic and blinks with a 14 mile visibility.

Au Sable Point Lighthouse.
The beacon is now electronic and is located outside of the lighthouse on the upper outer ledge.
View from the top. Photo credit: Mike Lanzetta
Looking down the circular staircase inside the lighthouse.
As a book lover, I found this really cool. There was a supply ship that would arrive every so often with supplies and a different batch of books. They would simply close up the book cabinet and return their books in exchange for new ones. If there was a bookmark in a book they would leave it in place because there was a lighthouse keeper somewhere waiting for that book to get back around to them. According to our docent, their schedules were pretty packed with chores, but they managed to squeeze in a game of cards or a board game in their down time. They were usually here with their families.

We made it back to the resort around 9pm. Spring Lodge has a couple of unique offerings, one of which is yoga on the beach on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings. A few of us took the Monday morning class. We’ve done it the last few times we’ve stayed here as well. It is always a relaxing way to start the morning!

Family Favorite!
View of the boathouse.
Yoga on the beach

The resort also offers Happy Hour on Friday night which features one of our proprietors, Ernie, on drums. Because my brother-in-law also plays drums, Ernie has him sit in and uses this opportunity to play the horn; the man has talent!

Happy hour includes visitors who stop in or listen from their boats on the water. Carl did an amazing job on drums as always. The caliber of talent in this little town is astonishing! Fun time. They played everything from Bare Naked Ladies to Van Morrison.

We always find this vacation so relaxing. Ernie and Carla are fabulous hosts. If you want to find out more about the resort, here’s a link. http://springlodge.com Fun Fact: my husband created the video on their website during one of our past stays. He did a great job of covering the basics in less than a minute. Look for a few familiar faces in it.

Besides hanging out with family, we usually rent a pontoon boat and go out for sunset cruises. We’ll have lunch on the pontoon or take the kids into Hessel for ice-cream at Mertaugh’s in the marina. Sometimes the adults head in to Cedarville or Hessel for a cocktail. For a small town, there are several restaurant options, Snows Bar and Grill is even within walking distance. Hessel boasts the Les Cheneaux Culinary School which is a fabulous dining experience if you are looking to splurge. We didn’t make our reservations in time this year, so we missed out. Ang-ios is a family favorite. The newest kid on the block is the Les Cheneaux Distillery, try the Drummond Sunrise cocktail, you won’t be disappointed. In the spirit of trying new things, we decided to take the boat in to Hessel and have breakfast at the NibbleLungen, something we’d not done before. We went at Jenna’s suggestion and I hope this becomes one of our vacation traditions.

A little market that offers breakfast, ice cream and a nice selection of wine and cold beverages and other household necessities.

We continued our tradition of serving chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit and mimosas on the boat house deck for everyone. Family traditions are important, as our younger family members continue to remind us! I’m so glad.

But the highlight of our stay has always been the Antique Wooden Boat Show in Hessel. We’ve been attending this show for years. It’s always fun to see the boats heading out in the early morning to take their place in the show. After we’ve seen a few boats head down the channel, we start the day by attending a good old fashioned pancake breakfast in Mertaugh’s boat garage, benefitting the Lions Organization for the blind. The boat show itself features classic antique wooden boats. The amazing thing is that many of these boats are actually in regular use as transportation. They are just lovely! I’ll post photos of a few of my favorites. The Hessel marina also has an art show on site with art of all types available for purchase. This year I bought a beautiful hand carved wooden box for my family room and a pen carved from white tail deer antler. We started our day early so we could head back downstate sooner and hopefully miss some of the traffic. By 11 am we were happily headed back home with a heart full of new memories and a few more things checked off my bucket list.

Wooden boat heading down the channel. Notice the water level has this dock completely submerged!
So beautiful! They are like floating artwork!
These cool boats resemble cars with fins!
Well named boat

While we were up north, I also managed to squeeze in a LOT of reading. I finished Less and read the 688 page book Bella Poldark, the last in the 12 book Poldark series. It was such a luxury to read the whole book in just a couple of days! I also read The Wife Between Us, which was a good suspenseful read. So I’ve completed 46 of my 50 book goal. I’m 92% done and 16 books ahead of schedule. I may have to up my goal!

These are the last 6 books of the 12 book series. There is also a PBS show called Poldark based on these books. They were recommended to me by a friend and I highly recommend them. It was an investment of time, but it was time well-spent. I’ll miss reading about these characters!

In other milestones, my husband and I returned home to step over the threshold into our new reality, that of being empty nesters. Our youngest daughter moved to her first post-college apartment while we were gone. We’ve spent some of the last couple of days giving her a hand with getting settled. Having an empty nest was not an item on my bucket list. I’ve had a taste when the girls were in college and I thought I was ready for it. After all, it is a parenting milestone. I told myself that we’ve succeeded at raising two successful, independent daughters! YAY!! High five to us, and pass the Kleenex please. I held it together pretty well actually, just a little mist up. Hey, I am looking forward to having less housekeeping to do, less laundry and less grocery shopping, but I know we are going to miss her and our grand-kitty, Ollie, terribly. It’s already feeling a little emptier here. Oh well, I’m off to figure out what I’m going to do with that empty room. Have a happy week!

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