When we started to make our way up the coast of Lake Michigan I figured it’d be nice. What I wasn’t ready for was just how pretty, and how wild, this coastline is. I’m a little bit in love.Our first Lake Michigan stop was in Free Soil, a tiny town attached to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. Free Soil was named after a small political party opposed to expanding slavery to the western territories in the 1800’s. There isn’t much to the town itself but the Nordhouse Dunes, covered in a forest of trees, curves along the edge of Lake Michigan (and has excellent free camping).We arrived too late to explore our first night, but loved the area so much we stayed an extra day. It was windy, producing big waves on the lake, and giving us the shore to ourselves. We did a hike through the Dunes and ran from the waves on the small beaches.

It’s getting chilly at night, and our second morning in Free Soil I awoke to 38 degrees and a dog nestled firmly into my side for warmth. We leisurely made our way north to Sleeping Bear National Seashore. At Sleeping Bear we hiked the Empire Trail, made our way through a scenic loop drive, and decided to spend a night at the NPS campground near Glen Haven. Glen Haven is a historic port with cool little exhibits. I imagine this place is hopping in the summer.The next morning we drove to nearby Glen Arbor for breakfast then hiked the Dune Trail before moving on. Sleeping Bear is a cool spot, but I’m coming to realize I prefer the quiet, unpopulated parks (like Nordhouse Dunes) to an amenity rich park like Sleeping Bear.Mike and I made a stop in Traverse City to check out the rumors of it being a hipster haven. There was a lot of flannel, and a fair amount of young, hip adults lingering about. We went to a cider bar for flights of cider and listened to a passing tourist play excellent jazz on a public piano on the sidewalk.

Next on our way up the shore were the towns of Charlevoix and Petoskey. Because he seems to follow us wherever we go, I wasn’t too surprised to learn that Ernest Hemingway used to spend summer vacations on Lake Charlevoix and married his first wife, Hadley, there. We passed a day basking in the sun at the marina and checking out Earl Young’s “mushroom houses.Mike did a long bike ride around Lake Charlevoix that included taking a ferry. Though I was jealous, I stayed put in Hobbes and read No Ordinary Time. The book is about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and I’ve been meaning to read it since visiting Campobello Island in June. I finally found a copy at a used book store in Detroit.

After leaving Petoskey we finally crossed into the Upper Peninsula. We weren’t sure whether we’d make it to the Upper Peninsula on this road trip as, let’s be honest, it’s way the heck up here. But I’m so happy with the decision to make the journey. We crossed over impressive Mackinac Bridge and have been hanging out in Saint Ignace as I wrap up my work week. The Upper Peninsula may be heavy on beauty, but it’s light on cell reception.So far we’ve walked the Huron Boardwalk and checked out Saint Ignace’s lighthouse, laughed at Lemhi’s attempts to chase Canadian geese, eaten pasties at Bessie’s, and seen some great sunsets. We met a young couple traveling full time in a converted Sprinter van who had only been on the road three days. They were so adorable and full of energy. I felt like a grizzled, un-showered veteran next to their wide eyed enthusiasm.Soon we’ll make our way to the edge of Lake Superior to check out Painted Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls, and the cool town of Marquette.

We plan to stay in the northern United States as long as the weather will allow us to. Oh, and have I told you we’re headed to Idaho to spend a month of downtime before heading out for another nine months? More on that soon.

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