Michigan’s Seven Best Paddling Trips

Guest blogger Jennifer Hamilton of the Awesome Mitten shares seven of the best destinations for paddling in Michigan. Read from her below and find more places to visit on michigan.org.

Summer may be rapidly coming to a close, but there is still plenty of time for a kayak trip in one of Michigan’s famous bodies of water. Whether you are seeking lakes or rivers, I have had the pleasure of polling fellow Awesome Mitten writers and compiling a list of Michigan’s favorite waterways.

1) Onekama to Arcadia via Lake Michigan – This is probably one of the most peaceful waterway treks in our Great Lakes State. Travelers have the opportunity to view Arcadia Bluffs from the water as they paddle by and scope out potential golfing opportunities. Since this area is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there are great dune adventures to have at almost every point along the way if you want to stop and picnic.

2) The Backwaters at Tippy Dam – The Backwaters at Tippy Dam are for the adventurous hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Great fishing is available here if you are seeking walleye or small-mouthed bass. Experienced fishermen say that the panfish are abundant as well. Due to the wooded surroundings, there is a good chance that visitors will spot at least one eagle during their adventure. The peacefulness of these Backwaters is great for an escape from civilization and to truly get a Northern Michigan experience.

3) Canals of Detroit – While Detroit may not be the first place you think of to enjoy a water-filled experience; one particular Awesome Mitten-er offers a unique perspective on its waterways. Ms. Joanna Dueweke swears by touring Detroit’s canals via kayak or stand-up paddleboard. It’s a great way to enjoy the historical buildings and homes from a completely different point of view than the general public. Some of the best and most convenient places to launch are at Alter Road, St. Jean, or Belle Isle.

Turnip Rock, photographed by Lars Jensen

4) Turnip Rock Port Austin – If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing Turnip Rock via Lake Huron, I insist that you head there immediately. This enormous rock received its turnip connotation from thousands of years of erosion from storm waves. Now, it is an island with a few trees and little other vegetation. The land nearby is all privately owned, so the only way to view it is by waterway or trekking across a frozen Lake Huron in the winter. It is quite the comedic, awe-inspiring landmark, located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb.

5) The Platte River – The Platte River is a personal favorite and though it may not be a secret, it is worth a mention to remind you to traverse its calm, strangely warm waters. The Platte is a great place to take families as it is easy to navigate and always warm enough to tube if kayaks are not readily available. As part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it is no surprise that the Platte River is absolutely stunning. Its ending pours out into Lake Michigan with a mini peninsula jutting out between the two, dividing the playful river and the wild waves.

6) Huron River near Ann Arbor – This is the only state-designated Country Scenic Natural River in Southeast Michigan. It is a huge river that covers five counties, with each portion being strikingly worthwhile. During various portions of the river, floaters can expect to come across an abundance of dams; there are 96 total, to be exact. Many of these dams were built for mill or hydroelectric power, making them fairly large. Due to the size of these dams, many new lakes have formed along the Huron River, making for exciting sites to see almost every portion of the way.

7) Two Hearted River, Eastern Upper Peninsula – Any river that has a beer named after it clearly needs to be traversed. It is a fairly short river that empties into Lake Superior, and it does a great job of capturing the Upper Peninsula’s natural beauty. At the mouth of the river, travelers can see a Michigan Historic Marker; formally known as the Two-Hearted Life Saving Station, which then became part of the United States Coast Guard in 1915. The Two-Hearted River is exceptionally famous for a great place to leisurely fish, probably while enjoying a nice Two-Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery.

Jennifer Hamilton is a feature writer for The Awesome Mitten. Jennifer lives in Traverse City where she works for Addiction Treatment Services and is earning her Master of Social Work and Master of Arts in Alcohol and Drug Addiction.

Do you have a favorite Michigan paddling trip that’s not on the list? Share with us below!

Eight Ways to Spend a Long Weekend in Michigan

Memorial Day weekend starts tomorrow! If you’re still looking for ways to spend it, check out the ideas below from Erin Bernhard of The Awesome Mitten.

Grand Traverse Bay. Courtesy of The Awesome Mitten.

Memorial Day weekend often marks the beginning of summer in many Michigan towns. All over our great state, Michiganders spend the weekend putting in boats and docks, firing up grills, and finishing yard work. Memorial Day is also a patriotic holiday, commemorating lost soldiers and veterans who dedicated themselves to defending this country, so there are parades and American flags galore! We celebrate the end of a long, cold winter by breaking out shorts, sundresses and flip flops, crossing our fingers that it doesn’t snow in June (and knowing full well that it might). And the best part? Having an extra day off of work! Let us help you plan your long weekend with our top eight favorite ways to celebrate Memorial Day.

  1. Throw some shrimp on ‘the barbie.’ From Marquette to Milan, grill chefs will rejoice next weekend as they celebrate the beginning of barbeque season. Whether you’re of the charcoal or propane persuasion, you know that almost everything tastes better grilled. Hit your local farmer’s market and stock up on seasonal asparagus, rhubarb, and mixed greens to complement your choice of meat. Create a make-your-own burger bar with mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce and condiments OR throw together some shish kebobs with steak, chicken, bell peppers, pineapple, and cloves of garlic. Invite twenty of your closest friends to bring a dish or drinks to pass, pull your bocce ball and croquet sets out of the basement, and bam! You have yourself a party.
  2. Get outside. Generally, Michigan in late May is warm enough to go out and play. Whether you take a quick spin around the neighborhood on your freshly tuned bike or throw the kayaks on top of the car for a weekend-long adventure, make sure you enjoy the outdoors at some point this weekend. Pop over to the sunrise coast and hike somewhere off of historic US-23, or head up north to Keweenaw National Historical Park. There are plenty of outdoor treasures across the state; if you don’t feel like leaving home, you don’t have to look any further than your own backyard.
  3. Celebrate. Michigan has an incredible amount to offer and Memorial Day weekend is a great time to celebrate every little thing. In northwest Michigan, the cherry blossoms are blooming along M-22. Mackinac Island is preparing for the Lilac Festival that begins on June 7, and visiting over Memorial Day is a great way to beat the crowds. Recognize our military heritage by attending a parade in a new town or check out a festival that celebrates Michigan food, drink, nature, or history.
  4. Break out your orange and blue. This weekend, the Detroit Tigers face the Minnesota Twins at home in Comerica Park. Get tickets on Friday to check out the fireworks and Polish-American Heritage Night, or go on Sunday for Kids Day. If you’d rather be wearing red and white, the Red Wings face the Chicago Blackhawks in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs during Memorial Day weekend; get tickets for Monday’s game three at Joe Louis Arena to watch Datsyuk and Zetterberg up close.
  5. Chill out, but not literally. But what good is a long weekend if you don’t get to relax? If you’ve already finished the yard work, sometimes there’s nothing better than a hammock or blanket in the sunshine, a glass of ginger-mint lemonade, and a copy of The Great Lakes Book Project or anything by Jim Harrison, either of which will make you yearn for the lakes and land that are much closer than you think.
    Fishtown. Courtesy of Ken Scott Photography (facebook.com/KenScottPhotos).


  6. Embrace the season. The last weekend in May is exciting for many reasons, but topping the list is the opening of seasonal shops and businesses and extension of hours for summertime. Because the sun sets later, restaurants and local shops are open longer to accommodate a higher level of patronage. You’ve waited all winter to walk to your corner ice cream shop at 8:30pm for a cone, and summer is the season for that. Small tourist towns like Leland’s Historic Fishtown and Saugatuck are open for business and ready to provide you with all the fudge, souvenirs, great food and drink, and goods you can handle.
  7. Raise a glass. Last week, Grand Rapids was named Beer City USA for the second year in a row. Michigan brewing is at a record high and Michiganders statewide are happy to help pick up the slack. Bell’s Oberon opening day, a state holiday, was March 25th but enjoying the ale has been somewhat lackluster this year, considering the influx of wintry weather over the last two months. Fear not! Memorial Day brings the promise of the type of wonderful weather that good summer ale will always compliment. So, crack open a cold one; cheers to craft brewing in Michigan.
  8. Predict the unpredictable. We all know the old adage: if you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes. For as much as we always hope for bright sunny days over Memorial Day weekend, all Michiganders know to prepare for rain. Not sure what to do if you can’t be outside? Watch a movie! Michigan has been featured in films for years, and there are plenty of made-in-Michigan films available for rental or purchase. Even if you can’t enjoy the great outdoors yourself, you can still get a glimpse through some wonderful films. 

This is only the beginning of ways to spend your long weekend. How do you do Memorial Day?

Erin Bernhard is the Managing Content Editor for The Awesome Mitten. She’s a northern Michigan twentysomething who loves good microbrews, great wine, summertime grillouts, and well-roasted coffee. She is also a dedicated yoga practitioner, social media and marketing enthusiast, reader and writer, local food junkie, and outdoors explorer–and she’s always adding to the list. She is located in Traverse City and loves helping to make her hometown shine. Follow her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/errnbrrn), connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/erin.bernhard) and feel free to email (erin@awesomemitten.com) her anytime!

Five Ways to Enjoy a Tigers’ Game

Baseball season is back! For those who can’t make it to Comerica Park in Detroit, Jake Cagle of The Awesome Mitten has rounded up a list of places to enjoy a Tigers game in other parts of the state.

It’s April, and Opening Day is upon us. Around the country, ballparks are coming alive with the sounds of summer.  Here in Michigan, we welcome back the chance to see our Detroit Tigers try and repeat as American League Champions, with the hopes that maybe they can take home the World Series trophy this year. 

The Major League Baseball season consists of 162 games played in around 180 days.  Of these games, half are played on a team’s home field.  For Tigers fans, this means there are 81 chances to spend a summer afternoon or evening at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit.  For all but the most hardcore of fans, there are just too many games to see all of them in person.  Most people don’t have the money or time.  Many don’t live close enough to make the nearly everyday trip down to the ballpark.  So what’s a loyal Tigers lover to do? 

Luckily, every game is scheduled to be broadcast on TV this season.  That means you can catch Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder, and the rest of the crew in full high definition, complete with the always entertaining commentary by Mario Impemba and Rod “I See You” Allen, anywhere there’s a cable box.  So we asked some of our writers at The Awesome Mitten, if you can’t make it to Comerica Park, where are you going to catch a Tigers’ game?

Here’s my answer…
Since I moved in to my cable-less apartment two years ago, watching a Tigers’ game usually means walking the mile into Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood to go to Mulligan’s Pub.  Whenever someone tags along, the first thing they notice is that Mulligan’s is not a sports bar.  It’s dark, rough around the edges, and every square inch of the place isn’t covered in TVs.  That’s okay with me; if I wanted a sports bar—and the subsequent feeling that I suffer from ADHD—I would go to a chain restaurant.  Instead, I go to Mulligan’s because it’s a neighborhood bar with cheap beer and no B.S.  If I’m going to have to sit and listen to someone babble about how “Ramon Santiago should be an everyday player,” it better be from someone who has seen nearly every game this season.  I can tolerate nonsense from a regular much easier than from some guy who has only seen three games this season and “just came here for the hot wings.”  So come this summer, where will you find me most evenings?  I’ll be down at Mulligan’s, drinking a beer, watching the Tigers, and listening to some guy tell me “We paid too much for Fielder!” with a smile on my face. 

Nick Nerbonne (@nicknerbonne) says…
Beer and baseball go hand-in-hand, so when I get together with friends to watch the Tigers in Traverse City, my go-to spot is 7 Monks Taproom. The folks at 7 Monks are big supporters of Michigan sports teams, so the Tigers are always on at least one of the flat screen TVs above the bar, or others near the booths and tables if you have a bigger group.

But make no mistake, 7 Monks is all about the beer. The ever-changing lineup of craft brews on 7 Monks’ 45+ taps (and plenty more in bottles) offers selections from throughout Michigan and beyond, keeping even the most diehard craft beer enthusiast happy. The atmosphere is low-key and friendly, and the conversation often centers around the latest release from Bell’s, Short’s, or Founders as much as it does Justin Verlander’s latest outing. If you enjoy a good beer while watching a ballgame, this downtown TC favorite is a home run.

John Kalmar (@johnkalmar) says…
I like to think of myself as an old soul. I enjoy sporting cardigans, yelling at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn and listening to baseball on the radio (only two of those are true). So when it comes to the question of “Where’s your favorite place to watch a Tigers game?” I’m going to throw a curveball here (topical, am I right?) and say my backyard with a trusty transistor radio by my side. 

My preference of radio over TV for most Tigers games really took place last summer while I was working nights at newspaper. I could easily pull up the radio stream of the games and listen to it in the background while I worked my nights away as a newsie. It became such a daily routine for me to listen them and shut off the outside world at night that I began to refer to Tigers’ radio broadcasters Dan Dickerson and Jim Price as my only friends that summer (I’m half joking). There truly is something romantic and timeless about listening to a ballgame on the radio. No high definition images, slow-mo replays or flashy graphics (I really am making myself look like an old curmudgeon): it’s just you and the broadcaster. So this summer, you can find me in my lawn chair with a bottle of Oberon, listening to Jim Price discuss the art of pitching and hearing Dan Dickerson instruct me to “watch it fly” after each Tigers homerun.  

Kristin Coppens (@kristinmcoppens) says…

Mitten Brewing Co. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Esler)

What better place to watch the Tigers games than at a brewery dedicated to the very team? In Grand Rapids, The Mitten Brewing Co. has hit a home run as it took the best aspects of a sports bar and turned it into a neighborhood craft brewery located on Grand Rapids’ West Side. With only a few TVs, the Mitten Brewing Co. is a nice alternative to a chain restaurant and sports bar.

My favorite part of The Mitten Brewing Co. is their ability to spin simplicity into ingenuity. Each classic craft beer style has been modified by the owners’ and brewers’ personal innovation—like the ’84 Double IPA and the Peanuts and Cracker Jack Porter. The brewery also serves homemade gourmet pizzas and breadsticks on their menu. A true example of ‘don’t mess with a good thing,’ The Mitten Brewing Co. revolves around pizza, craft beer, baseball, and a local, neighborhood feel. What more could you ask for?

Come join me to cheer on our Navy and Orange, grab a beer, and throw some peanuts on the floor at The Mitten Brewing Co. Go Tigers!

Kati Bethuy (@MrsKayTeeBee) says…
Every summer, I would try my hardest to get tickets for Tigers games. Sometimes, though, I just couldn’t afford it. So what’s the next best thing? Going over to Hockeytown and taking in the game from their roof. From up there you can see into Comerica Park and hear the bats crack with every hit. Listen to the roar of the crowd and get sucked into all the energy oozing out of the park all while enjoying an ice cold beer and some delicious food, much better and cheaper than the stuff served in the park. If you want to feel like you’re part of the game but you lack the tickets to get in, Hockeytown is where it’s at.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a Tigers’ game? Share in the comments section below!

Jake Cagle (@jake_cagle) is a feature writer for The Awesome Mitten. Born in Adrian, Michigan, Jake currently resides in Grand Rapids. He graduated from Grand Valley State University. Jake’s work has also been featured on MittenBrew.com and Visit Detroit Blog.