Chet wordmark with orange bowtie Chet wordmark with orange bowtie

Up North

Another summer road trip is in the books. We escaped the enduring Western heat to explore Northern Michigan on a week-long excursion.

Grandfather and granddaughter, eating on the patio

Although I’d formerly worked in Western Michigan, my travels didn’t take me much further north than Traverse City. In Michigan-terms, there’s a lot of state north of TC. Our drive up was smooth and uneventful. We made great time, owing largely to the bigger children who, with each passing trip, gain a bit more endurance.

Hanging out in the backyard

Our first day was spent with family celebrating the Fourth of July. There was a parade and late night fireworks, only slightly dampened by passing summer showers. The children had never been up so late, but they enjoyed their time at the club, meeting friends and being dazzled.

Kids watching 4th of July parade

We established a base of operations in Cheboygan, home port of the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. After unloading quickly at the AirBnB, we drove over to the station to take a tour of the boat. The largest icebreaker on the Great Lakes, it’s a modern vessel with tons of technology. I particularly enjoyed the view from the bridge, probably because it was exactly like a control tower. We met the officers that work with my sister-in-law, and a few of the enlisted crew. I was struck, as I often am, by their youth. Entrusted with great responsibility, they rise to the occasion to operate a massive vessel safely, and keep commerce afloat.

View from the bridge of the CGC Mackinaw

Dinner was at a fan-favorite, Big Boy, followed by ice cream in town.

Day two was a trip to Mackinac Island, my third trip. My previous two trips were in off-season, which suited me very nicely. I don’t like to go places that are packed with people. We were at peak tourist season, but found refuge in the Fort. It was quiet up on the hill, and the park like environment was very relaxing. We had lunch on a deck overlooking the bluff, downtown, and the Straits of Mackinac. It was very relaxing.

Sadie's Ice Cream Parlor, The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI

We finished at the fort, walked around downtown, and took a horse-drawn carriage up to the Grand Hotel. Ice cream at Sadie’s was on order, enjoyed by all. We walked back into town to catch the ferry home. It was only nearing the shores of the lower peninsula that my youngest daughter finally succumbed to her tiredness and slept deeply all the way home.

Residences on Mackinac Island

Day three was a day of rest. After staying up late for the fireworks, a long drive, then a full day on Mackinac, everyone was ready for a break. I slept in, and the kids went to a local beach. I knocked out some of my projects that were on my list, with everyone regrouping at lunch. We drove to visit the Cross in the Woods, a local shrine this afternoon, for some quiet time, prayer, and meditation. Dinner was at home for the kids, and a local pub for the adults.

Daughter praying at Cross in the Woods

Day four was another excursion, this time to Sault Ste. Marie for a ride on the famous Soo Locks boat tour. Lake Superior and Lake Huron are connected by the Saint Mary’s rapids, which includes a serious change in elevation. In days of old, ships would be unloaded, pulled out of the water, and dragged over a mile down the street. A series of US and Canadian locks now make the transition between bodies of water much easier, and faster.

Inside the Soo Locks, with lock doors closing

The boat ride took us into Canadian territorial waters, and a waterfront tour of the Canadian coast. It was a pleasant day, certainly compared to our normal July experience. The pace of the boat was slow and smooth, very relaxing. We went through the Soo Locks twice, once being raised to Lake Superior, and another being lowered back to Lake Huron. The kids had a great time, and so did I, sitting on the deck in the shade, enjoying the fresh air.

Sailing away from the entrance to the Soo Locks

Lunch was at the Army Corps of Engineers park, located right next to the locks. There is a large observation tower for visitors to watch the mighty ships pass through. While eating, we saw a 500ft freighter and a 750ft ocean freighter move through, as well as a barge carrying a massive crane. We ate crepes from a local shop, a nice treat!

Picnic in the park next to the Soo Locks

It was a leisurely afternoon in the park before heading south. We picked up pasties at Lehto’s on our way home, eating them around the table. The kids were put down, and the trip began to wind down.

Our final day was a drive back south, before Mass and pizzas from a local favorite restaurant. We said goodnight and goodbye to our three older children, whose vacation would continue, while Alison and I returned home with our youngest so that we could get back to work.

We made our full drive home in a single day, the first time we’ve ever made a trip that distance without an overnight. It was a long day, although I never felt fatigued, just stiff from sitting all day.

It was another great Michigan summer vacation, exploring two new Great Lakes.

All Posts