Cool Stories

Where are we going today?

With the eastern sun dancing through our windows, the dogs are roused and we are prodded and pawed into starting our day. It’s early. Our two pups know a new day brings a new adventure and they can’t wait. Northern Michigan couldn’t be a better host to some fifty-ish go-getters with a zest for exploration.

That’s us, the fifty-ish go-getters! 

Every weekend brings new opportunities, sometimes a re-do of favorites, many places on a list of to-dos carried over from weekend after weekend. I mean, there are only so many hours in the day!

"Where did we go today?" is the question I am asked most often by friends and family hoping to assemble their own adventure. I hope my enthusiasm spills over to these pages to help you plan where you will go today!

It’s 4th of July weekend, so there’s a lot to do around Traverse City. The annual Cherry Festival is obvious!

There’s so much buzz around town, with literal buzz from the Blue Angels making their return to TC after a long hiatus. Before we could even get down to West Bay to see their practice days, the planes soared just above our house at what seemed like inches from the tree lines. Woooshhhh! I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by their strength and coordination. I stood motionless, a mix of energy and patriotism. If you haven’t caught a Blue Angels show, you’re missing out! Especially over the West Bay in TC, the show is beyond impressive!

A year ago, I never would have thought I’d become a hiker, climbing trails through woods, fields, dunes, valleys, hills. But here we are! I knew about options for hiking in Northern Michigan. I knew the names of trails, where they were, had heard about their natural beauty, but I’m a little bit of a wimp when it comes to wildlife, so hiking was never high on my list. Spend enough time in Northern Michigan and you realize if you’re not utilizing the trails, you’re missing out. I mentioned ‘trying’ Empire Bluff in Empire as a first step. Off we went last summer, me in a dress and my trusty Sorel sandals, hubby dressed a bit more appropriately!

A hike to remember! For a first hike, it was captivating! It’s short: 3/4 mile up and 3/4 mile back. This trail is an out and back.  And, it’s uphill on the way out. But the path is wide and obvious; tree roots form natural steps in places. The terrain is solid and navigable. Climbing though the woods, coming across people of all ages, truly, anticipating the top of the trail is exhilarating. I couldn’t get over it! My Dad, a naturalist before it was cool, would be so proud of me! First glimpse of what’s to come is an overhead view of South Bar Lake. It’s stunning! Use the little bench at this lookout for a selfie!

A little further up the trail and things start to unfold: hard packed dirt and tree roots roll into sand, a narrow boardwalk and the smell of water. And, there it is! The top of Empire Bluff explodes into a panoramic view of Lake Michigan, Manitou Islands, sand dunes lining the coast, bright blue water! It couldn’t be more spectacular!

I was hooked. I mean, really hooked! This is hiking, I said? I was so delighted with myself for giving it a try and I wanted more!

If you haven’t been bitten by the hiking bug, think about giving it a try. Empire Bluff is a great first hike- it’s a little challenging, but doable, you can move at your own pace and the payoff at the top is so worth it. 

After hike bonus in Empire: Don’t miss Grocers Daughter Chocolate. Grab a fudgcicle bar from the freezer or a mocha made in house. There’s even cold brew in a can that you can pack in a cooler for a boost post hike. The chocolate is amazing! Sometimes we grab a bar of their dark chocolate bark, sometimes a box of truffles (especially the honey caramel!). Oh, and a chocolate chip cookie! 

Lunch at Shipwreck can’t be beat – the sandwiches are over the top! You can get breakfast or lunch sammies, pizza, soup and snacks. Top off your lunch with a cookie from Grocer’s Daughter and you have a meal to remember!

Joe’s Friendly Tavern is a favorite, too. We’ve been for breakfast and lunch, but dinner is an option, too. You’ve got options in this quaint little town!

One thing about us: when we plan where we will go today, it always includes food!

We started our 4th of July weekend hiking. Empire Bluff has become a favorite we return to again and again. This particular weekend, after hike, we headed into Glen Arbor stopping first at Inn and Trail for a cold brew and a slice of quiche. Their cooler holds pre-made sandwiches that are tasty, and they have baked goods from 9 Bean Rows Bakery.  They also have their own version of the Grocer’s Daughter chocolate chip cookie! Grab one to go and head out on the quaint streets of Glen Arbor.

Where will you go today?