DC & Midwest Trip | August 2019 | Days 6 & 7
Over the course of our 6 years of traveling together, our most-driven route has been between Eastern Iowa and Western Michigan. We’ve done our best to change it up rather than driving I-80 all the time, but by this point we have to go pretty far out of our way to get new counties. One thing we’ve always talked about doing is taking the long route — up North to Michigan’s upper peninsula and then South to Iowa. Normally we decide against it in order to spend more time with our families, but this year we had a good reason to go for it: Curtis’ older sister’s family now lives in Northern Minnesota!
With this in mind, Curtis started doing research on everything we could do along this new route. And there turned out to be a LOT. The last time we were in this part of the country was for our Honeymoon in 2013. Right away we knew two things: we weren’t going to have enough time to do it all this trip, and we were definitely going to do this drive again in the future!
When making plans, we threw out the idea of going up to Sleeping Bear Dunes to Curtis’ family while we were visiting with them, and they happily obliged. Not only that, but they happened to have a relative in that area that was able to host us since most campgrounds were already booked. After a morning spent at their home, we began our drive North.
Our first stop was to visit Curtis’ grandparents and his Aunt Ruth who was in town. After catching up, sharing stories and maps, we continued driving up the coastal counties, stopping for letterboxes along the way. We arrived in Bear Lake that evening and spent some time chatting with our hosts.
The next day was our only full day in the area, so we packed it full of hiking, letterboxing, and scenic drives. We woke up relatively early and headed out to Point Betsie Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. We looked for Petoskey Stones and found a few fragments before continuing North to Empire where we got our National Park Cancellation Stamps and started our first hike to Empire Bluff.
The hike was about a mile and a half, and while it was quite busy we enjoyed the easy trek out to the bluff with our first good views of the lake and the continuation of the bluffs to the North. You can see our AllTrails recording here. After we got down from the hike we continued driving North to the Pierce Stocking Loop Drive for some light hiking and letterboxing. While we letterboxed with Curtis’ parents, Joel and Claire went further North to the ‘Dune Climb,’ which we all didn’t mind skipping. We still got some of the intensity of a dune climb through our shorter letterbox hikes.
Once finished with the scenic drive, we met up with Joel and Claire and continued on to Glen Arbor. We had a late lunch at the Good Harbor Grill, then walked around town a little. The highlight (possibly of the entire day 😉 ) was checking out the Cherry Republic. We thoroughly enjoyed sampling all the different cherry products, followed by a wine tasting next door.
For our last hike of the day, we climbed up the mile long round-trip trail to Pyramid Point for some more pretty lake views and views of the Manitou islands. We finished our day by watching the sunset and skipping rocks into the lake.
The next morning began our last day together. We made our way North and West to Traverse City and stopped at Moomers Ice Cream — the perfect mid-morning snack! We then went for our last letterboxing hike in the trails around the Historic Barns Park in Traverse City.
We said our goodbyes after noon, and went our separate ways — Curtis’ family back South, and us continuing North. We’re thankful for this time together with them and getting to enjoy an area together that they hadn’t visited in a while, and I had never been. Hopefully this new ability to drive around the UP between family in Michigan and Minnesota will open up the potential for more fun adventures just like this in the future!