Discovering ‘Pure Michigan’ on North Manitou Island

Sometimes spending a few days with nature, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, is the perfect way to de-stress and unwind. Today, guest blogger 16-yr old Catherine Lilek tell us how she did just that on a memorable summer trip to North Manitou Island. 

I believe that this summer I found Michigan at it’s finest at North Manitou Island – an uninhabited island, still classified as “wilderness.” North Manitou Island is on Lake Michigan, off the shore of Leland, with an hour long ferry ride out to the Island.

Once you get to the island, there is a small village where you get off of the ferry. It has a water spigot, picnic tables, a few designated camp sites, and the ranger station. The rest of the island is just pure forests and beaches.

The hiking is not terribly difficult, although some areas on the island are harder than others. Hiking on the trails simply has a way of making all your stress and worries melt away. As you observe unique trees, wildlife, and wonderful glimpses of the lake, you may even get to come up quite close to some white tailed deer, as I was lucky enough to experience.

The beaches on the island are perfect. Normally, a trip to the beach may be crowded and loud and full of other people. Here on the North Manitou Island, you will find yourself alone. There is something peaceful and calming in that. Sitting on the big open beach, grilling burgers for dinner or watching the sunset are truly some of life’s most simple and wonderful things.

I won’t embellish and say that it’s a luxury trip. There bathrooms and showers are not plentiful and you may need to filter your own drinking water, but it is simply Pure Michigan at it’s finest. It’s relaxing; a chance to escape from technology and busy everyday life. You learn to be self reliant and as I found, you learn you are stronger and tougher than you thought. You learn willpower. You see nature in a simple, undisturbed setting. You learn to view the world in a completely different way. You find joy in laying in your tent at night and instead of falling asleep to the sound of cars going by, you fall asleep to the chorus of crickets. You wake up to the sounds of birds singing.

I would strongly recommend taking a trip to North Manitou Island. Make sure to bring plenty of bug spray, sunscreen, and of course trail mix!  You can hike and camp all around the island, or stay in the main village. No matter how you experience North Manitou, you will still find yourself amidst the solitude and beauty of this island and truly experience Pure Michigan for yourself. If you do go, be sure to get up early enough to watch the sunrise one morning. Take your sleeping bag down to the beach and enjoy it. It’s an experience you will not soon forget.

Catherine Lilek is a 16-year old student, runner and an avid writer with a true love for the outdoors.  

Delicious Fall Desserts in the Upper Peninsula

Fall is a great time to indulge in some delicious desserts! Today, guest blogger Jesse Land of Things to Do in the U.P. tells us about some sensational sweet treats in the Upper Peninsula. 

Autumn is harvest time and as we all know, along with the harvest comes delicious fall desserts. I caught up with a few of the Upper Peninsula’s best bakers this month to highlight some of their fall inspired favorites.

Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie – Joe’s Cakes

Joe’s cakes within the historic Landmark Inn in Marquette is a standout Upper Peninsula bakery, and Joe’s sour cream apple walnut pie is one of his most popular desserts. When Joe Heck’s grandmother immigrated from Cuba, in his words “she couldn’t bake a pie or a cake to save her life.” But she found a book in the library with the recipe for this dessert translated into spanish and the rest is history.

Joe makes this pie with Michigan apples mixed with sour cream, fresh ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. The topping is made from house made molasses, brown sugar, walnut flour and chunks of walnuts. All of that goes into a traditional pie crust and gets baked “really slow, so the acid comes out of the apples and turns the sour cream into custard. In the end it’s really a spiced apple custard pie,” says Joe.

I had a few bites of this one at the Landmark and it was awesome. I then took the rest home for my wife to try and it was gone in seconds!

Pumpkin Pie Fudge – Donckers

Photo courtesy of Donckers

Candy chef Akasha from Donckers in Marquette makes an awesome pumpkin pie fudge. I’d never had pumpkin fudge until I tried it at Donckers, but I can imagine how the candied walnut crust on this dessert improves an already delicious treat.

Donckers also had some crazy good looking caramel apples on display. They’re “candy coated and caramel drenched honey crisp apples,” according to Donckers, and they also happen to be the best looking caramel apples I’ve ever seen.

Apple Pie – Upper Crust Deli

Linda Smith from the Upper Crust Bakery and Deli in Manistique makes a mean apple pie. She says it’s a simple apple pie that’s just thrown together, but she always uses Idared apples. I say that next to my mom’s, apple pie it’s one of the best I’ve had. Linda also makes an amazing chocolate pecan pie, the recipe for which came from her Grandma’s church cookbook. I’m seeing a theme with the Grandmas, here.

Pumpkin Everything! – Midtown Bakery

I didn’t get a chance to stop in the Midtown Bakery in Negaunee for “research” this time around, but Marybeth Kurz’s desserts are locally famous. Here’s what she had to say about her fall desserts:

“We are in full blown Pumpkin mode! We have ten different pumpkin cheesecakes, from plain pumpkin to pumpkin cranberry and almond, or pumpkin and buttered pecan. Our pumpkin spice cookie that has cinnamon chips, poached raisins and spices and rolled in coarse sanding sugar and more cinnamon has been a new big hot seller for us, too. Our Muffins featuring pumpkin are the first to fly off the shelf in the mornings!”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. There are dozens of great restaurants and bakeries in the Upper Peninsula that serve up delicious fall desserts, so consider this just an introduction!

How about you? What’s one of your favorite fall desserts?

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the Upper Peninsula travel site “Things to do in the U.P.”