Going up north – A Michigan tradition

Thanks to Matt Eder, co-creator of MichiganDads.com, for sharing his experiences from his recent family trip to Oscoda.

The water was cool but the sand was warm. The birds happily chirped as the squirrels scampered around the lush trees and green grass looking for food. Sure, it rained a bit – seems like it does every year – but it was brief and could not dampen the spirits of our surroundings. My two-and-a-half-year-old son squealed with joy as Lake Huron nipped at his toes. Even six-month-old Anabelle seemed happier breathing in the fresh “up north” air.

For many Michiganians, the trek up north is steeped in tradition. Maybe it was summers at the family cottage on Houghton Lake or winter weekends snowmobiling in Munising. When talking about taking trips up north the final destination and activity was almost irrelevant - the only thing that mattered was the departure date.

I spent plenty of time up north as a younger lad, but over the last 10 years or so, my wife and I have made an annual canoe trip with her family to Oscoda. We would lazily canoe (float) down the Au Sable River for the better part of an afternoon drinking, munching and enjoying the views. Our getaway weekend often coincided with the longest, non-stop canoe-only race in North America, the Au Sable Canoe Marathon, which starts in Grayling and finishes in Oscoda. Now that we have young kids we’ve unfortunately had to forgo the canoe portion of the trip, but fun still abounds.

For the past two years we’ve rented cabins from Perfect Landing. The cabins are on Lake Huron just north of downtown Oscoda. They are clean, well maintained and full of the amenities that make you feel right at home (cable TV, washer/dryer, full kitchen, grills, fireplace, etc.). Plus, the price is reasonable so I see no reason why we won’t be back again next year.

With a grill, fire pit, Lake Huron and plenty of seating in the backyard, cooking for ourselves has become the favored option for meals. The kitchen is serviceable, so breakfasts, brunches or lunches are easy enough to prepare. And who doesn’t enjoy a bonfire with barbeque and s’mores at night? When we do venture out for a meal, it’s usually to Bavarian Bakery & Restaurant for breakfast or Au Sable Inn for the all-you-can-eat perch or cod dinner (I prefer the lake perch). Oscoda is not a foodie town, but both of these places offer quality food at reasonable prices. Add in a dose of kid-friendliness and decent service and you’ve had a good meal and an enjoyable experience. Plus, someone else washes the dishes!

If playing in the backyard and swimming in the lake isn’t your cup of tea, Oscoda has plenty of fun activities to keep you entertained. Canoeing and tubing down the Au Sable River rank at the top of my list and Oscoda Canoe Rental has always served us well. If floating down the river sounds like too much work, you can also tour the Au Sable River from the cozy confines of the Ausable River Queen. And of course, there are gems to be found exploring quaint downtown Oscoda in addition to up north staples like putt-putt golf (or real golf if you’re lucky enough) and various museums like the Oscoda Historical Museum or the Wurtsmith Yankee Air Force Museum.

The museums sound interesting but I can’t vouch for them because I haven’t been able to pry my son away from the sand and water. And to be honest, I haven’t wanted to. Being barefoot in the sand and splashing in the waves provides a release for me like nothing else can. Maybe it’s being outdoors and enjoying the company or, maybe it’s being on the same emotional and intellectual level as a two-year-old for a change. Maybe it’s a combination. Either way, it’s Pure Michigan and I love it.

Our trip home wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Big Red Barn, a well-known Oscoda gift shop that sells every imaginable sort of nick-nack.  From there it’s US-23 South to I-75 South back to reality. During the car ride home my son said, “Daddy, maybe we go back to cabin up north soon?” He is already hooked on northern Michigan and he’s not even three yet. I am certain it won’t be long before our daughter is expressing the same feelings. The tradition continues.

What are some of your favorite up north destinations? Do you have any fun, unique up north traditions? Please share them with us in the comments section.
Matt Eder is a lifelong Michigan resident who is passionate about his family and his home state.  He works on marketing and branding issues for a Michigan-based manufacturing company by day, spends evenings and weekends with his family and devotes the rest of his waking hours to making MichiganDads.com another home-grown success story.