Yesterday I had the ability to take a quick trip to Michigan with a friend willing to drive/endure the sheer Michigander-ness of it all. It ended up being a great trip, and one I recommend to anyone within a days drive who wants to experience the Great Lakes State.
Yes, there are equally and even MORE great parts of Michigan further upstate, especially around Mackinac, the UP, Sleeping Bear, Traverse, etc.
But for a quick trip that’s never far from Interstate 94 – here’s the prescription:
1. Exit 39 off I-94 – Coloma – This is your first stop. Awesome fruit stand with all the traditional Michigan produce you’d want and plenty of free samples. Drive up the road a bit, and visit Grandpa’s Cider Mill. You can see their whole production line behind a giant glass wall. They’re in action from Sept 9th until around Dec. 15th this year. Grab a hot cinnamon donut, and a frozen gallon for the road.Then head a block down that road and visit the Chocolate Garden. Sure, it’s almost $6 for two truffles. But seriously. Try at least one. Don’t get addicted, or you’ll go broke. But everyone needs to spoil their taste buds like this occasionally.
2. Get back on I-94 and head south-west again. Exit 16 – Bridgman. Your going to Warren Dunes State Park. Odd how the only advertising is a small brown sign provided by the Gubment. Because this hidden experience is pretty stinkin’ cool. Hike Tower Hill (give yourself plenty of time, and take it slow so you don’t die on the way up.) and plan on chillin’ out at the top (over 260 feet above ground). Bring a bottle of water, cause you’ll be ridiculously thirsty up there. Enjoy a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan and the dunes.Then run down, jumping down the steep sand like a skiier on fresh powder, and head towards the Lake. But don’t forget to look down. Petoskey stones (the Michigan State Stone) are hiding, even here in South-Western Michigan beaches.
What’s a Petoskey Stone, you ask? Well, it’s like this grey stone here – only it has rings….oh wait. This IS a Petoskey Stone! (seriously, that happened yesterday, here’s the proof:)
Enjoy the beach. I know, it’s cold…but you get used to it after a few minutes – promise. And if you’re brave, walk up the small stream nearby to the natural source of clay. Cover your skin from head to toe, and walk back downstream toward the Lake. (although apparently this is discouraged now, due to its affect on nature in the area, oops) Wash off, enjoy the beach, and then head over Mikey’s Drive-In restaurant for my wife’s favorite – Olive Burger.
Breathe deep, you’ve just had a day in the life of a Michigander.
Repeat as necessary.