July 22, 2016


“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake.”  Wallace Stevens

Carol writes:  The Great Lakes were once ancient river valleys that were carved into lakes by retreating glaciers of the last ice age approximately 11,800 years ago.  Our next stop along the shore of America’s largest lake, Lake Michigan (the other Great Lakes are shared with Canada), was in lovely Frankfort,

a small Michigan town oozing with charm and a picture-perfect beach.

The small-town atmosphere appealed to us as an ideal location to take in some Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Michigan. 

We felt fortunate to discover a dedicated bike trail that we were able to pick up at the Frankfort marina. 

Marshy area wildflowers were in full bloom along the Betsie Valley Trail.

We were so impressed with the totally natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Somehow, rampant over-development with high-rise hotels and condos has never found a niche here, and many small Lake Michigan communities are all the better for it.

This was quite evident up at the Point Betsie Lighthouse where the waves on this windy day were crashing spectacularly into the seawall at the base of the lighthouse.

The coastline of rolling grass-covered sand dunes was outstanding.

The iconic sand dune of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a navigational landmark on Lake Michigan.  According to Native American legend, this dominant solitary dune represents Mother Bear who waits for her cubs who have drowned at sea, and are now represented by North and South Manitou Islands, 12 and 16 miles offshore in the sparkling clear waters of Lake Michigan.

Since Sleeping Bear Dunes was the main reason for our decision to stay in Frankfort, we paid close attention to the Weather Bug app for a day that seemed most ideal for a visit.  The federal lands set aside for the National Lakeshore encompassed a wide expanse of land interspersed with privately owned parcels, so we chose the Pierce Stocking 7-mile scenic drive as the best way to appreciate this unique setting.  The scenery was indeed beautiful…

It was with great anticipation that we approached the stop along the drive that would lead us to the very summit of the biggest dune 400 feet above Lake Michigan.  The parking lot was mobbed and we actually had to wait for a parking space to open up.  As soon as we found a parking spot, within a span of about 5 minutes, we saw visitors come flooding out of the short path to the top of the dunes, each looking a little worse for wear.  A fierce wind had blown in from the lake and conditions at the top had suddenly deteriorated into a sandstorm.  One man seriously advised me, “Don’t go out there!”  However, we both had hats, wraparound sunglasses and our trusty bandannas, so after a picnic lunch in the car we decided to give it a try.

My camera is still acting a little funky and probably needs a cleaning from all the blowing sand, but we did get to the top of the dunes for our customary “I was there” photo.

Picture-taking was challenging and the blowing sand stung our skin, but the view was superb!  An inconvenient sandstorm just made enticing Sleeping Bear Dunes all the more unforgettable.

During our 2-week stay in Frankfort, a major summer event called the National Cherry Festival was in full swing up in Traverse City.  A visit to the Cherry Festival had been recommended to us by many people we had spoken to over the past few weeks, so we set out for Traverse City to see what it was all about.

What we found was typical carny rides, a tasty choice of food, and numerous vendors with a creative variety of cherry products...but not much else.

The cherries themselves were quite pricey—$5 for a cup!  A few days later we found a quart of cherries at a farmers’ market selling for half the price demanded by the sellers at the Cherry Festival. Traverse City itself was attractive in a cutesy way, but parking was a huge issue, stores were crowded, and lines for ice cream were long, so we called it an early day.  I still don’t understand the draw of the Cherry Festival itself, but as for Michigan sweet cherries... they really are delicious!

We much preferred our day trip south to the small town of Manistee.  

The neatest thing the city of Manistee had going for it was the hour-long historic trolley tour that took us down to the beach

along the former streetcar system through neighborhoods that had beautifully restored Victorian-era homes from the time of the lumber barons. 

The storefronts in the shopping district were over a hundred years old and were nicely restored. 

We found the Democratic Party headquarters all by ourselves.

What has tickled me since the day our travels brought us to the Midwest is the use of the term “growler” for a container of fresh beer, a word I remember clearly from my childhood in the Cincinnati area.  When one of my parents wanted a refill on their nightly glass of beer, we would be asked to “rush the growler.”  For me, it is amusing to find that the word “growler” is alive and well.

“A lake that is noisy cannot reflect anything.”  Robert Adams

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