What an Astonishing October! A Weekend of Kayaking, Cycling and Hiking… and More to Come!

Liz glides her kayak across Spider Lake on a windless October day
Liz glides her kayak across Spider Lake on a windless October day


OK, so far this has been an AMAZING October! And since I had a couple of vacation days to burn before the end of the year, I’ve been taking complete advantage of all this warm, sunny fall weather. Lucky me!

On Thursday, for instance, my daughter Liz and I took the kayaks up to Spider Lake, just south of town. We do a fair amount of deepwater kayaking on the Bay and some river-running here and there, but I wanted Liz to experience the quieter joys of a fall day on a calm and sheltered body of water. Spider Lake is perfect for this because it’s full of long winding coves and little islands, so you can do lots of exploring. And the day was perfect – the water was like a mirror, and the colors were just starting to pop out here and there.

Cycling near Bingham on the Leelanau Trail
Cycling near Bingham on the Leelanau Trail

Liz had to work on Friday, so since I was on my own I saddled up my bike and headed up the Leelanau Trail to Suttons Bay and back – a trip of about 30 miles along an old railroad right of way through some of the prettiest farmland in this region. (I wasn’t the only one, either – there were lots of cyclists and walkers on the trail.) The colors along the trail were spectacular — and since this is fruit country, the air was rich with the smell of ripe apples and pears.

Saturday was a beach day at home; Karen and I just enjoyed ourselves in the sun at Old Mission – we didn’t swim, but there were lots of braver people out in the water and a fair amount of shrieking as kids splashed each other. On Sunday the three of us piled into the car after church and drove to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. As usual, the dunes were breathtaking – although I have to confess that the fall color over there isn’t up to its usual standards. They must not have gotten enough rain or something, because it’s all very burned-looking and dull. There’s much better color closer to Grand Traverse Bay.

A lone hiker on the Cottonwood Trail, above Glen Lake.
A lone hiker on the Cottonwood Trail, above Glen Lake.

We did take advantage of the trip to hike the Cottonwood Trail, which I’d never done before. The nice thing about this trail is that you start out in the high country – near one of the lookouts on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive – so you don’t have to do a lot of climbing. Instead, you can just amble along through a landscape of low sandhills and cottonwood groves until you find yourself at the top of the famous dune climb.  A great hike!

Liz and Karen on the Cottonwood Trail at Sleeping Bear
Liz and Karen on the Cottonwood Trail at Sleeping Bear

I think we’re reaching peak fall color about now – though as usual it varies widely from one place to another. Over at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, they seem to be pulling out the stops to make it as fun as possible for people to take in all the beauty of autumn; on Saturday afternoon  they’re putting on a “Fall Festival Celebration” with chairlift rides to the top of Schuss Mountain, a farmer’s market, arts and craft vendors, pumpkin decorating, live entertainment and an outdoor BBQ. And all next week, it seems, they’ll be offering Fall Color Golf Cart Tours where they’ll lead leaf-peeping expeditions to the top of the hill (a great use for those carts in the off-season, I think!)

Another way to enjoy the beauty of fall is with a little wine-tasting. Last year the folks over at Brys Estate Winery on Old Mission Peninsula started their own Harvest Celebration, and it proved so successful that they’re going to make it an annual event. Every Saturday this month, you can stop in there for a series of four food and wine pairings created by the sweet and gracious Eileen Brys herself – including her famous dark chocolate brownies. (And if you haven’t ever tried their pinot noir paired with chocolate, you’re in for a treat.) By the way, Brys is the latest Old Mission winery to add an outdoor patio to their tasting room, and it’s a lovely place to spend some time on a sunny fall day!

Enough of this. I’m going to start planning my next series of fall adventures. Stay tuned!

About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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