look about you. This is Michigan’s state motto. Obviously everyone knows that Michigan consists of two separate peninsulas, the Upper and the Lower. But, unless one has lived in Michigan or has vacationed here, you may not know that even the peninsulas have peninsulas. There’s the beautifully primitive Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper (U.P.), then you have the Thumb region and the scenic Leelanau Peninsula of the Lower. And, there are Michiganders that don’t even realize that there exists yet a third promontory in the Lower, its Old Mission Peninsula.
Old Mission is a favorite haunt of ours and we make it a point to revisit it every time we are in northern Michigan. Since we will be getting back on the road again soon, we made Old Mission our last hurrah. We did have a specific place in mind when the three of us headed out but we chose to take a circuitous meandering route as the scenery and breathtaking water vistas along the way are just as inviting as our destination.
The peninsula is a narrow finger of land that juts out into Grand Traverse Bay, dividing it into the East Bay and the West Bay. This strip of land is only about a mile wide but extends 22 miles into the surrounding water. In our youth the peninsula was mainly family farms, cherry orchards, and forests. It’s changed plenty over the years. The orchards are still there, after all this is the Cherry Capitol of the World, but the farmland has given way to a multitude of vineyards and hops growing operations and one lone lavender farm. We traversed the entire stretch of land to where the road dead ends at Lighthouse Park, our stopping place.
When the water level is down in Lake Michigan, Old Mission Point Beach looks like this. Normally this is underwater all the way up to the lighhouse steps.
Lighthouse Park is a good starting point to learn a bit of the peninsula’s history. For starters there’s the historic Hessler Log Cabin, originally built in the 1850’s. It offers a view of what pioneer life was like back when the area was first being settled. Just across from the cabin sits Old Mission Lighthouse. Erected in 1870 after a ship hit a shallow reef and sank off the point where the lighthouse now sits. It was used to guide Mariners through West Grand Traverse Bay until it was decommissioned in 1933. It sat empty until 1948 when the few peninsula residents took up a collection in order to purchase and care for the historic light. Today it is open to the public for self guided tours. For a small fee, you can climb the tower that once housed a 5th Order Fresnal Lens. Another interesting fact about this lighthouse is that it sits at the 45th Parallel, exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. One other bonus is the wide dog friendly beach with its shallow Caribbean blue tinted water. A favorite of Beau’s. We’re not sure if it’s swimming in the cool refreshing water or the attention from all the children that he likes best here.
Other points of interest on the peninsula are The Log Church, a replica of the original Mission that was used to school the local Chippewa children, from whence the peninsula took its name. The Old Mission General Store is another favorite of ours. It’s one of Michigan’s oldest general stores dating back to the mid 1800’s. One look inside and you find it hasn’t changed much over the years. There’s also nine wineries and one micro brewery open for tours and tasting. We stopped at one before departing, Black Star Farms, for a couple of bottles of their award winning cherry wine.
Top left is St. Joseph Lighthouse, beneath is Round Island Light in the Straits of Mackinac, on right is Grand Island East Channel Light, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Since I’m on the subject of lighthouses, here’s a few fascinating facts. Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state except Alaska. Just how many? The information available is conflicting depending on how many were built, how many are still in use, the condition of the lighthouse, etc. but suffice it say the number is still over 100 existing beacons dotted around both Upper and Lower Michigan today.
I also thought this post would be a good one to add photos of a few other natural and man made Michigan attractions for any of my followers who may be inclined to visit our state of birth in the future. Many of these pics will include water, hard to get away from it when four of the five Great Lakes abut Michigan. When no matter where you are within the state, you are never more than six miles from a body of water AND never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. And I’m sure y’all have heard that Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, well Michigan has it beat with more than 11,000. One of which is Torch Lake, named the world’s third most beautiful lake by National Geographic. Michigan has 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and for all of you waterfall aficionados, nearly 200 waterfalls, most of which are located in the Upper.
Frankenmuth in central Lower Michigan is a must see. A great place to take a stroll or horse drawn carriage ride. Take in the architecture, dine at Zehnder’s & do a little shopping at Bronner’s.
I hope today’s post inspires you to come and explore America’s 26th state. Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….