GTPulse: A Perfect Summer Day in Northern Michigan

A spring spent in quarantine has left me obsessing over how I’ll spend the summer. With any extensive travel off the books, my sunshine streaked daydreams have meandered through Northern Michigan. Day trips filled with clear skies and charming local shops blur together with trails that reward a little bit of sweat with breathtaking views. I’m choosing to greet this summer the same way I would an old, favorite book. With comfortable familiarity, excitement, and knowing that I’ll fall in love with a part of it that I’ve never noticed before. Every day, in some small way, will be perfect.

What does a perfect day in Northern Michigan look like? 10 people will give you 10 different answers, but I know exactly who I’d ask every time.

“It could go different ways. A friend asking me as someone without kids is different than a friend with kids and a family asking me.”

Marissa Wege is a born and raised Northern Michigan girl and I’ve yet to meet someone who gives local recommendations like she does. She authored the Northern Migration Field Guide, a guidebook and journal that leads travelers and locals to all the best destinations in the region. For selfish reasons, I asked for a blueprint of the perfect summer day sans kids.

Marissa and her family have been quarantined in Lake Leelanau, so her current perfect day has been based around there.

“My favorite Saturday right now without kids starts with a run. I have to do something with at least a little physical activity, only because I am going to eat pastries later. My favorite run right now ends at Lake Leelanau, so I jump in.”

The run will set the pace for the rest of the day.

“You have your exercise in, so now you can drive directly to 9 Bean. Everything they do is incredible, I know it’s all about the butter but it is delicious. I love cream cheese croissants, my kids like the chocolate ones. If I were doing this with a friend, I would pick four and then go sit at the picnic tables outside. It’s set up perfectly so you have personal space. You can see what they’re growing to your right, you can see chickens to your left.”

For me, nothing ruins food like thinking the entire time. Not about the food, just about everything else. It’s hard to ruin pastries, but it’s impossible to do so while looking at a pretty view. 

“The other day my girlfriend and I drove up M-22 like we were headed up to Northport, and we just pulled off at one of the little lookouts and we got out. I had a rug in the back of my car, we pulled the rug out, sat there, and ate all of these pastries.”

A perfect day in Leelanau is incomplete without mention of the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland, and despite what I’ve heard, it’s not all about the pretzel bread.

“I’m a huge cheese curd person, they’re the best. I remember when I was little I had this favorite uncle who would take us all to Leland. Back in the day, there was a park where the harbor is and we’d go there. He’d buy a full baguette, cheese curds and a bottle of wine. We’d just sit there with my grandma and spend the day picnicking.” 

She would take her picnic elsewhere now, not because she doesn’t love Leland, but because she’s found more beaches through the years exploring.

“I’ve really become a fan of Bohemia Beach. You just take 22 down further. Let’s say you’ve gone all the way to Northport, picked up your cheese curds at the Cheese Shanty and then you keep going down 22, and it’s just a beautiful beach. Sometimes there are people there but not many. You can usually find your own space. What I find is as I drive down there are these wetlands that are so beautiful. If you’re there late afternoon, the way the sun hits these wetlands…”

The wetlands inspire Marissa’s artistic side and adds a big component to what makes a perfect day here; creative expression. 

“I’ve came back home to grab my drawing stuff to go back and draw because it was so beautiful. That’s another fun thing. I’m not an artist but I love art and I’m an aspiring artist. I love to draw and that would be something I would do with a friend. I find it really cleansing, it’s a meditation.”

Dinner, of course, would be local takeout eaten outside if possible and the day would end with flowers. 

“If I were coming back from Traverse City I would head back in through Cedar and I would stop at Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers. Every time I go into town I think, ‘oh, I should stop and get flowers for so-and-so.’ Her stems are really long and that makes them really easy to play with, and they last. Whatever she’s doing, she’s doing it right.”

Northern Migration Field Guide is sold out as of right now, but Marissa Wege is working with local creatives Nick Loud and Em Randall on updating it to be better than ever. What does your perfect day in Northern Michigan look like? Wherever you end up this summer, remember to have a blanket or a rug in the trunk.

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Categories: GTPulse