Michigan Summer Road Trip

February 12, 2021

If anyone knows me well they know that I take my kids to Michigan to visit my parents a few times a year. When we go in the spring and summer I make sure that we have a road trip planned, especially now that my kids are old enough to enjoy seeing new things. Unfortunately in 2020 we missed our spring visit due to the quarantine so we had an especially great time exploring in August. 

If you know me you also know my love of analog film photography. For the past couple years I have exclusively brought my 35mm film camera only to document our vacations. All of these pictures were taken on my Canon 1n with Fuji 400h film and processed and scanned by Boutique Film Lab in TN. 

What isn't pictured on this blog post is the day I was able to spend alone with my parents while one of my best friends offered to keep my kids so we could do something without little ones (thanks Melissa!). It was a great day spent in northern Michigan Amish country checking out some delicious bakeries and unique stores. The weather was perfect, warm with a slight breeze blowing across the green rolling fields. 

We also spent a lot of time on my Dad's new-to-him pontoon boat fishing on my parent's lake at their home. We were able to see some beautiful sunsets night after night on the lake and I made my first large catch which tasted delicious later on that night. 

What IS pictured below is a day trip to the Leelanau Peninsula on Michigan's upper left side of the lower peninsula where we explored the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in the Leelanau State Park and the peninsula's charming lakeside towns. We also made a second day trip on Michigan's upper right side of the lower Peninsula to some of the dams on the AuSable River and Lumberman's Monument ending our day with an evening at Tawas City's Gateway Park. 

Grand Traverse Lighthouse is typically open as a museum to visitors if you come on the right day but unfortunately the day we were there they were closed for Covid 19 cleaning. We still enjoyed the grounds and spent time just sitting and looking out at the beautiful view. The Lighthouse is located at the very top of the peninsula within the state park so admission to the park is required to visit. If you would like to learn more about this historic lighthouse you can click here to go to their website. 


While driving up to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse we passed by this interesting structure and had to stop and check it out on the way back. It is Woolsey Memorial Airport, erected and dedicated in 1935 to Clinton Woolsey, a pilot who tragically lost his life while flying a goodwill mission to South America. Half of the land for the airport was given by Woolsey's father and the WPA converted his farm's milk creamery into the airport terminal. This information came from a local newspaper's story on the airport and you can read more about Woolsey and the airport in the article here. The airport is still in use in this rural area and is an obvious tourist attraction for passersby like us. 


After traveling up the east side of the Leelanau Peninsula and enjoying all the quaint towns and the views of the many orchards along the way we  made our way back down the west side and to the town of Leland, MI. We enjoyed checking out the historic shops in Fishtown and had ice cream along the shores of the Leland River and watched the pleasure boats go by. 

We ended our night by swimming at a local public park in the huge 8,600 acre Lake Leelanau. I sat on the sand and watched the kids swim and play in the clear blue green water and just enjoyed the beauty of a Michigan summer evening.



Michigan was once densely covered by large hardwoods and pine forests until the second half of the 19th century when logging destructively made way for stump laden farm fields. The AuSable River in the northeast portion of Michigan's lower peninsula was a main way of transportation for many of the logs on their way to sawmills. The logs would be rolled down the high banks of the river and then floated down river. To read more about Michigan's logging history, click here

The AuSable River is also home to five historic hydroelectric dams, three of which are pictured in the following series of images. 


River Road, which follows the AuSable River, is a National Scenic Byway with multiple overlooks and interesting stops. One of the stops along the way is Lumberman's Monument Visitor's Center which features educational exhibits about the past logging industry and also walking trails with access to the AuSable River. 


An overlook on one of the trails that shows a birds eye view of the AuSable River. 



A view of one of the rollaways that lumbermen would roll logs down into the river. For scale, those are two large pontoon boats anchored at the base of the sand cliff. 



There was a natural spring in this first and third picture where the river grass has collected. It was quite frigid compared to the temperate summer river water. 



Cooke Hydroelectric Dam built in 1912. All of the dams are popular locations for fishermen.



Another stop on River Rd is the Foote Pond Overlook and Champagne Hill. I didn't let the kids go any further than that because I didn't want to have them fall down the hill and me have to climb back up!



Foote Dam across the river. 



We ended our road trip in Tawas City, MI at Gateway Park which is on the shores of Lake Huron. They have multiple parks along the lake but the kids had never been to this one. I remember playing here as a child and I loved it but it was not as well maintained at that point and until recently this park had looked pretty rough. The girls loved the large play structures and obviously no one wanted to leave as there are pictures of the kids throwing rocks into the lake with the moon in the pretty pink sky. 


January (3) February (1) March April (2) May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April (3) May June July August (1) September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January (3) February (1) March April May (2) June (5) July August September (2) October (1) November December
January February (2) March April (2) May June (1) July August September October November December
January (1) February (1) March April May June July August (1) September October November December
January (1) February (1) March April May June July August September (2) October November December