Along Lake Michigan

How much can you discover in one day? Joshua Nowicki, a St. Joseph local, recently found out as he explored the coast of Lake Michigan earlier this fall. Today, Joshua shares his experience with us.

Read about it below and let us know where your favorite place to take a day trip in Michigan is!

Kite surfer near Muskegon, Michigan

Michigan’s Great Lakes feature an astounding number of parks and nature preserves.  Equally amazing is how few of them I have had the opportunity to visit despite being a lifelong Michigander.

So often when I travel, I concern myself with the amount of time that it is going to take for me to get from Point A to Point B.  I have stubbornly ignored dozens of billboards and Pure Michigan signs encouraging me to “Stop, slow down, and enjoy Michigan’s beauty along the way.”

This has been a folly of mine, and this is a wrong that I intend to right.  I recently decided to start taking day trips that do not have set destinations and let the sun determine how far I travel.  I want to focus on all of the ‘places in between’ that I have overlooked in the past and gain a deeper appreciation for my home state.

Holland, Michigan

For my first trip, I wanted to find out how many parks and nature preserves I could visit along the coast of Lake Michigan in one day.  Between busy work days, I planned an adventure, part personal challenge and part scavenger hunt.  How many different locations along Lake Michigan could I photograph? 

I started in the early morning at the City Beach in New Buffalo and completed my journey with a beautiful sunset at Pioneer County Park in Muskegon.  Along the way I visited 24 additional locations, many of which I had never even heard of before.

A few highlights:

  • Enjoyed watching deer walk across foggy dunes at Warren Dunes State Park
  • Talked with fishermen on the pier at Silver Beach County Park while standing under the monumental sculpture ‘And You, Seas’ by Richard Hunt
  • Delighted at seeing the Friends Good Will Tall Ship in South Haven.  
  • Waded in the water and rested on the beach at Pier Cove Park.
  • Watched sailboats near Saugatuck.
  • Stood amazed by the breathtaking view of Lake Michigan from Tunnel Park.
  • Felt exhausted and accomplished after walking the trails at Rosy Mound Natural Area.
  • Marveled at the patterns in the windblown sands of P.J. Hoffmaster State Park.
  • Enjoyed the view of the autumn leaves and Lake Michigan from Muskegon State Park Blockhouse.
  • Stood in awe of the paddle and kite surfers at multiple locations throughout my trip.
  • Relaxed on the beach at the end of the day and enjoyed the sunset from Pioneer County Park.

    Pioneer County Park, Muskegon, Michigan

My trip was fun, beautiful and tiring.  I hiked miles through woodland trails, over sand dunes and climbed thousands of steps on boardwalks.  I intend to return to and spend more time hiking the trails, wading in the water and appreciating all of the new destinations I have newly ‘discovered’ close to home. 

I look forward to my next road trip along the Great Lakes in Pure Michigan… See you there!

Joshua Nowicki is the Director of Community Relations at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan and is a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Museums Association where he serves as the Vice President for Marketing.  Joshua’s interest in photography began while working for a museum in the Metro Detroit area, photographing artifacts, exhibits and events.  After moving to St. Joseph, Michigan in 2011, he started taking nature photographs to encourage his friends and relatives to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the area.  Joshua’s inspirations range from Lake Michigan and wildlife to sculpture and architecture.

Our 500th Blog Post: Let’s Take a Trip

Photo Credit - Chris AraceMichigan celebrated a big birthday in January, and this blog’s 500th post gives another great excuse for cake!  In honor of the milestone, we looked at roads less traveled and came up with a 500-mile (OK, 504 miles) “Top O’ The Mitten To Ya”  road trip that encompasses all the natural beauty and relaxation of Pure Michigan.

Start in Muskegon, home to Michigan’s Adventure Amusement and Waterpark.  If the season’s not right for the “Shivering Timbers” rollercoaster (or Muskegon’s 27 miles of beach), explore life as an old-timey lumber baron at the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.

Heading north will lead you to the beaches, trails, lighthouses and dunes of beautiful Ludington, where you (and your car) can cruise Lake Michigan aboard a real steamship.  While a honey badger might not care, the S.S. Badger does.

Next, head northeast to Manistee – home to quaint Victorian shops, the world-class Arcadia Bluffs golf course and Little River Casino.  Manistee County is also one of the best places in the world for rainbow trout and salmon fishing.

Again heading north, stop in at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Natural Lakeshore.  Encompassing 35 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Sleeping Bear Lakeshore is also home to an 1871 lighthouse and an extensive rural historic farm district.

Now, head east, with a quick detour north to the wine country of Suttons Bay.  You won’t find a parking meter or stoplight, but you will find art, antiques and Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, owned by the family of a little-known entertainer by the name of Madonna.

Head south again for Traverse City.  Grand Traverse Bay is a four-season destination, featuring 180 miles of sugar sand shoreline and extensive snowmobile and ski trails.  Chances are good you’ll find cherry everything, among other delicious eats.

Continue northeast towards Charlevoix, where you can catch a ride on the Beaver Island Ferry and Petoskey, known for its fresh air, historic architecture and lending its name to Michigan’s state stone.

From Petoskey, head south towards the charming Alpine delights of Gaylord, and Grayling, for canoeing, kayaking, fishing on the AuSable and Manistee rivers, and snowboarding, sledding and ice skating in the winter.  Grayling is even a great place for downhill skiing.

Head southwest towards the Traverse City Forest, and on to Cadillac.  In the winter, Cadillac offers 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and 34 downhill ski runs with over 485 feet of vertical drop.  Year-round, Cadillac offers 90,000 acres of state and national forest.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and this trip winds down in Big Rapids.  One of Michigan’s better-kept secrets, Big Rapids offers swimming in the summer, gorgeous color in the fall, snowshoe trekking in the winter and lakefront picnic ground in the spring.

How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 3

Photo credit - Michigan Travel IdeasIn parts one and two of our series explaining how Michigan cities were named, we shared unique stories and history of various areas of our state. This week, check out how the five cities below got their names.

Kalamazoo:
Kalamazoo, the largest city in Southwest Michigan, was originally known as “Bronson,” after founder Titus Bronson. In the 1830s, the name was changed to the Native American word “Kalamazoo,” but there are several theories to its exact origin. Some say it means “the mirage of reflecting river,” while others say it means bubbling or boiling water. Another legend is that the image of “boiling water” referred to fog on the river as seen from the hills above the current downtown.

Grosse Pointe:
Grosse Pointe, sometimes called “the Pointes,” refers to a comprised area of five individual communities outside of Metro Detroit. The name “Grosse Pointe” derives from the size of the area and its projection into Lake St. Clair.

Frankenmuth:
Frankenmuth, often referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” was settled and named in 1845 by immigrants from Franconia (now part of Bavaria) in Germany. The German word “franken” represents the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, and the German word “mut” means courage, which makes the city name of Frankenmuth stand for “courage of the Franconians.” Families flock to Frankenmuth to enjoy Christmas celebrations yearlong, in addition to a number of other activities.

Albion:
The city of Albion was almost named “Peabodyville,” after Tenney Peabody, the first European-American settler to arrive in the area in 1833. The area remained nameless until 1835, when a man named Jesse Crowell formed a residence and land development company called the Albion Company. Peabody’s wife was then asked to name the settlement and while she considered using her husband’s name, she ultimately selected “Albion.” The name was appropriate, since “Albion” is an old and poetic name for England, and many of the early settlers were of English decent.

Muskegon:
Like many other cities in Michigan, Native American tribes inhabited what’s known as Muskegon during historic times. The word “Muskegon” is derived the Ottawa Native American term “Masquigon,” meaning “marshy river or swamp.” The “Masquigon” river was identifed on French maps dating back to the late 17th century, suggesting that French explorers had reached Michigan’s western coast by that time. Today, people enjoy the water and sand dunes in Muskegon every summer.