Treasures Along the Little Traverse Wheelway

On a girls-only trip to Petoskey, Hannah Agran, Midwest Living®assistant travel editor, and her mom rent bicycles to explore a portion of the Little Traverse Wheelway.

While on vacation, my mom and I prefer to explore on foot or bicycle (and let the car take a break), so staying at the century-old Stafford’s Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey’s historic Gaslight District was perfect for us. We could walk out the door to shopping, dining and spectacular sunset views of Lake Michigan.  

Less than two blocks from the hotel, we discover North Country Cycle Sport, a bike shop that also rents gear (bicycles, helmets and locks). We pedal a few blocks west to the Little Traverse History Museum and pick up the Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile paved trail running along Lake Michigan’s shore from Charlevoix through Petoskey to Harbor Springs.

On a spectacular warm weekday, we encounter only a couple of other people on the flat trail as we head south. Magnus Park beach is empty except for a couple hunting for speckled Petoskey stones. It’s not a destination beach, so it’s relatively unknown to tourists. Cutting through woods and residential areas, riders know they’re still on the well-maintained path because of the large signs. Dedicated overlooks invite pulling off for photos, and the occasional stairway makes it easy to dip your toes in the lake. (Don’t forget to secure your bike with a lock!)

North of Petoskey, the trail reminds us of Chicago’s Lakeshore Path, with sailboats, lots of green space, benches, a marina and a concession stand. The Waterfall Area is a gem, and a few families enjoy a picnic lunch as we ride by. The large falls flow into a pretty creek. Warning: Past the falls, the trail runs parallel to the highway. We thought it would be great to ride to Petoskey State Park area, but traffic noise and cars entering the highway made for a less scenic ride. Still, we savored our hard-earned picnic on Petoskey State Park’s wide sand beach.

The Little Traverse Wheelway is a fabulous opportunity to take in what makes Michigan beautiful—the lake, the parks and the wonderful people you enjoy it with.

Hannah Agran has worked at Midwest Living since 2006, traveling to spots around Michigan. She visited the Petoskey area on a girls’ getaway with her mom, and a year later, they’re both still talking about it!

How Did Michigan Cities Get Their Names? Part 2

Last week, we shared the first part in our series explaining how Michigan cities were named. This week, check out part two, which shares the story of how five more states were named.

How the name of Michigan’s capital city came to be is a fun story. In the 1830s, two brothers from New York tried to scam their fellow statesman by going to Lansing, New York, and trying to sell plots of land in an area of Michigan that was underwater most of the year. When men who bought plots of land realized they had been scammed, they settled in the area that is now metropolitan Lansing and renamed the area “Lansing Township” as an homage to their home village in New York. In 1847, the state constitution required that the capital of Michigan be moved out of Detroit. Lansing Township was chosen out of frustration with the process.  In 1848, the area was eventually given the name of Lansing. From November 9 – 17, check out the Lansing Film Festival, which will feature foreign films, documentaries and student productions from around the world.

Ann Arbor:
There are a couple theories about the origin of Ann Arbor, but the most agreed-upon theory revolves around two men named John Allen and Elisha Ramsey, two pioneers who were part of a group of settlers who set up a community by the Huron River in 1824. Both Rumsey and Allen’s wives were named Ann, and the word “arbor” means “a leafy, shady recess formed by tree branches, shrubs, etc.,” which perfectly describes the landscape of the area in 1824. Explore this city that does things a little bit differently:

Surrounded in mystery and legend, Petoskey is said to be named after the son of a French fur trader and Ottawa princess. He was named Petosegay. The translation of the name is “rising sun,” “rays of dawn,” or “sunbeams of promise” due to the bright light that shone on his face near the Kalamazoo river when he was born. He was a successful merchant and trader, who also married an Ottawa princess. It’s said a small settlement was started on his land just a north of Bear Creek and was named Petoskey (an English translation) after him. Petoskey is known for its bike trails, including Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile stretch that follows the shoreline from Charlevoix north to Harbor Springs.

Bad Axe
While surveying Huron County in 1861, Rudolph Papst and George Willis Pack made camp and found a badly damaged axe at the site. The camp became known as Bad Axe Camp after a sign Papst placed at the camp and near a trail. When he returned from the Civil War in 1870, he founded a small city in the place of the camp. It was called Bad Axe.

Sault Sainte Marie:
The origin of the name of the oldest city in Michigan goes back to the 1600s, when French missionaries and fur traders went into the area, calling it Sault du Gastogne. In 1668, Fr. Jacques Marquette, who you may remember from the story of Ludington’s history in part one,  renamed the settlement Sault Ste. Marie, in honor of the Virgin Mary—the first “city” in the Great Lakes region.  Fun fact: Native Americans gathered here more than 2,000 years ago for the wealth of fish and fur and called the area “Bahweting,” or “The Gathering Place.” In February, check out the 44th Annual International I-500 Snowmobile Race, also nicknamed “NASCAR on Ice.”