I’m writing today from the wild shores of Lake Michigan. Five foot waves are splashing onto the beach, driving me back to the grass covered Nordhouse Dunes for safety. I had no idea the Great Lakes could be so beautiful.Last week the story left off in Rochester, New York. We drove south from Rochester to Letchworth State Park. Letchworth is called the “Grand Canyon of the East” and was voted America’s “Best State Park” in 2015. The staff and amenities leave a bit to be desired, but Letchworth is a pretty place with a deep river canyon, impeccably built CCC structures, and big waterfalls. The leaves were beginning to turn.After Letchworth we made our way to the northern terminus of the Allegheny Mountains. Along the way we bumped into the cool little mountain town of Ellicottville. While Mike went on a mountain bike ride I explored downtown and the nearby ski resort. Like most mountain towns, Ellicottville felt like home.We could have enjoyed more time in the Alleghenys, but we had places to be. We took turns driving the long route along Lake Erie to Presque Isle. Months ago a Wild Places newsletter subscriber recommended Presque Isle and I’m glad he did. Presque Isle is “almost an island” in Lake Erie. It’s connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. The day was warm and sunny, so we shared the Isle with lots of other beach goers.Presque Isle has a plethora of sandy beaches, a few little lakes, and a extensive bike path trail system. We settled into a dog-friendly beach by the Presque Isle Lighthouse for a couple hours of reading and people watching. I laughed when one of our neighbors’ two dauchunds got their bellies stuck in the sand, and admired a stand up paddle boarder who had trained his dog to right shotgun on the board.We packed up and moved to a beach on the west side of the Isle for sunset. It was one of the last summer-like days and people seemed to know it. Families, lovers, swimmers, and old women with metal detectors made the most of the last bits of sunlight.

After a night in a nearby casino parking lot (not our favorite sleeping accomodations, but casino parking lots are usually patrolled by security and are generally safe) we stopped at my first Tim Hortons. Caffeinated, we drove five hours across northern Ohio to our friend Doug’s house.Doug welcomed the three of us into his home, where we stayed for four nights. He is a gracious host and we had an awesome time. We did a lot of talking, cooking, eating, and drank a few glasses of wine. Lemhi loved being in a house with a big back yard, and especially loved hanging out with Doug’s daughter.We spent a day in Detroit exploring the waterfront, downtown, and a hip neighborhood called West Canfield. It was great to tour Detroit with two locals, as they were able to paint a picture for us of how deserted the city was five years ago. Now it’s full of construction workers renovating old buildings and is attracting a lot of interest from technology firms. Mike and I both enjoyed Detroit, and can’t wait to see what it looks like next time we’re there.

We also spent time in Toledo, a smaller city south of Detroit and across the border in Ohio. It was pretty hip, too. I never had put Midwest and trendy together, but Doug showed me otherwise.While we were in southern Michigan the heat wave finally broke. We are making our way up the western coast of Michigan along the shores of Lake Michigan, with our sights set on the Upper Peninsula. More about the wild coast of Lake Michigan next week. For now, it’s time to go dip my toes in those crazy waves!

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Staci says:

    Beautiful photos as always. Have you found, after 9 full months of being on the road, that you find nature and city vibes to be more similar from state to state, or less similar, than you originally imagined?

    • Sara says:

      Great question. The vibe of how I feel in nature and cities remains mostly unchanged no matter where I am. Cities are exciting yet exhausting for me, and nature is relaxing yet full of wonder. What does change from city to city, and between natural spots, is who we meet and observe.

      For example in rural Virginia and Tennessee we met outdoors people who enjoyed ATVs, hunting, and building bonfires. In the Adirondacks we met hikers and kayakers, and in southern Utah we met mountain bikers and climbers. These are oversimplifications, of course. There are ATV lovers in Utah and climbers in the Adirondacks. The people we met all had loving the outdoors in common, but not necessarily much else.

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