Tomorrow, we load up the car and head for home. We’re going to stop at a few places along the way as we make our way down Michigan’s west coast, so instead of taking a couple of days to cover the 900 miles, we’re going to take four. Along the way, we plan to stop and see the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; a few lighthouses, including the Little Sable Lighthouse near Silver Lake, MI (the childhood stomping grounds of a dear friend); Saugatuck, MI; and any other spot that strikes our fancy. Based on the research we’d done and the suggestions of friends who grew up here, there is no shortage of stops to pick from.
Looking back over what I’ve posted so far, I realize I’ve neglected a few spots I want to share with you in case you ever find yourself in these parts and need a little help winnowing down your options. In no particular order, consider the following:
Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary just outside of Copper Harbor, MI
Estivant Pines is a 571-acre sanctuary protecting the last stand of 500-plus-year-old white pines in Michigan. Over the last 40+ years, a citizen-led group of activists raised the money needed to buy the acreage from the companies that intended to log this section of land just as they had logged the surrounding 2,100 acres, clearing out the old-growth pines (along with everything else). According to the literature at the trailhead, one of the remaining pines “was determined to have germinated around 1695 after a wildfire swept the ridge.” How cool is that?
We thoroughly enjoyed and recommend both the 1-mile-long Cathedral Grove hike (where most of the biggest white pines are) and the 1.2-mile Bertha Daubendiek hike. Together they intersect to form a 2.5-mile figure-eight through this beautiful old-growth forest which includes maple and oak trees along with the pines. As an aside, if you typically hike with poles, bring them. The trail is full of tree roots and short, but steep slopes.
The Cut River Bridge Hike on Highway 2
The Cut River Bridge hike between Naubinway and Saint Ignace on Highway 2 is short (about a 2-mile loop), but beautiful. It’s a nice pitstop if you need a break as you’re driving along Highway 2. Actually, you’ve most likely stopped multiple times while driving along Highway 2 to take pictures of the jaw-dropping scenery. Still consider stopping at Cut River. It’s totally worth it. We started on the east side at the rest stop. The hike starts with a fairly significant descent down to the Cut River below.
At the bottom, the trail follows along the Cut River, under the suspension bridge, and then out to the shore of Lake Michigan. Piece of cake.
To get back up top, you have two options. One, you can walk back up the way you came. Pretty steep, but there are benches to rest on. Two, you can cross the little footbridge over the river and onto the west trail that starts with a 230+ step staircase and ends with a quarter mile of “less curated” dirt/mud trail that pops you out of the woods onto a loose-gravel walkway. The walkway hugs the 10 inches between the backside of the guardrail running along the highway and a drop-off that would put you right back down at the river in 10 seconds flat. Eventually, the narrow trail widens and you’re on the Cut River Bridge where you can breathe again and enjoy the incredible views in every direction.
Guess which option we chose :p
The Saint Ignace Library (a really terrific library) where Tom and I are currently getting our internet fix closes in a few minutes. As soon as I leave, I’ll be back in no-connection mode, so I need to stop here and get this ready to post.
I’ll be back the next chance I get because there’s so much more to share, and we aren’t even home yet. Are you packing your bags yet? Making plans to visit Michigan yet? It’s a no-brainer!
Not entirely convinced? How about this? Michigan (more specifically, Mackinac City) has what has got to be the largest weiner EVER! And yes, that red neon sign says, “Weinerlicious.” Really. Weinerlicious. In red neon. You can’t make this stuff up.