A bit more than half-way there we passed right by William Mitchell State Park, which looked like a nice place to stop and stretch our legs with a walk. Its so wonderful that Michigan State parks are pet-friendly, it affords us the opportunity to walk in beautiful settings with our pups! Once again, the park did not disappoint: the nature trail was great, the trail well-groomed and marked, even had descriptive sign posted at the highlighted area. The campground was very nice as well, with many sites right along the canal that runs between Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac. It seemed many campers took full advantage of the recreational fishing, bringing along their boats that were tied up all along the canal.
Heading out on the 2 1/2 mile loop trail to see what we can find!
Benches provided strategic resting spots for wildlife observation. Unfortunately for us, the waterfowl must have had other plans for the day, as there were no signs of anyone home!
Water lilies in bloom
Crossing the marsh on the well-maintained boardwalks
A forested "island" within the marsh
Gee, I wonder what he could be looking for...again?!
Some very photogenic fungi on the side of a tree
Some of the wildflowers in summer bloom, with the busy bee perched atop. These bees were very strange, they sort of hovered in the air like little helicopters.
It was a really beautiful afternoon!
After leaving the park, we headed up towards Timber Ridge, with a pit stop at Culvers, home of the famous butter burgers and frozen custard. I know, I'm around ice cream all day, but I have to tell you, the Culver's fresh frozen custard concrete mixers are worth stopping for :-). Thus fortified, we continued on, even though "Samantha" (the GPS lady) took us on a very strange route to the campground! Once there, we checked in to our cabin:
It was cute, one bedroom/bathroom with a small kitchen and small sitting area, and an outside picnic table and fire pit. The campground was pretty busy, and had tons of stuff for kids to do. It looked like a really neat place if you had a family. We unpacked the truck, and headed out again, determined to drive up the Old Mission Peninsula area of Traverse City. It was only a 25 minute drive to the end from where we were, and it was a beautiful night. I was hoping to see a nice sunset :-).
Traverse City is a summer tourist town for sure. It has been rated in the top ten American beach towns, the only one not on an ocean. As we drove around the bay towards the peninsula, the road was lined with hotels, motels and condos along the beach side, and restaurants, gift shops and related tourist shops on the other side. It was very crowded also! But once we turned off onto the peninsula, it was as if the traffic and crowds melted away behind us. The peninsula was settled in 1839 by two missionaries, hence the name. It became the "Old Mission" when they moved their mission house across the bay to the Leelanau Peninsula. M-37 is the central road down the peninsula, 17.25 miles long, and was named a Scenic Heritage Route in 2007. And it certainly was beautiful! Acres of cherry orchards and vineyards surrounded us on both sides of the route, and there were many farmstands set up, but alas, they were closed for the evening :-(.
One picture to capture both the cherry trees and the grapevines!
We stopped here for some dinner, at the Old Mission General Store. The General Store has been here since the mid-1800's, and houses not only grocery items, candy, ice-cream and some grilled items, but also a collection of antique goods. It was very interesting to wander around in, but no photographs were allowed inside the building. Al ordered the fish and chips, and I had a hamburger and chips. They were both very good, and we had a nice picnic on the tables along side the building.
The Mission Point Lighthouse at the park at the end of the peninsula
You can just barely see Al and Chelsea headed out along the sandbars as I was dawdling taking pictures. I had to wait for people to move out of my picture space :-).
The lighthouse from the beach
The beach from the lighthouse...I thought these turned out pretty neat!
The scenery as I hurried to catch up. It was really a most interesting landscape here. The water was very shallow and rocky, with the sandbar stretching out quite far into the bay.
We had a feeling the sunset was not going to disappoint us tonight, so we settled in for the show. It was so quiet, there were only a few other people around and quite widely scattered around. The only annoying thing was with the night being so still, there was " a cloud of evil spawn of gnats" as Al put it hovering around our heads!
As we watched the sunset on the west, the moon was rising behind us in the east
The stillness of the shallows made for some great reflections of the pinks and oranges of the sunset
The fiery finale as the sun sank below the horizon
As we drove back down the peninsula, the pinks reflected beautifully here in the waters of Bowers Harbor
The final rays over the vineyards
It was now after 10:00pm, and we headed back to our cabin, to get some sleep and get ready for Thursday's adventure at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I hope you enjoyed this tour, and I'll be back tomorrow for the conclusion of our adventure!