Hailing from California, a state synonymous with "beach life", I didn't know what to expect from the beaches in Northern Michigan. The beaches of San Francisco are mostly foggy and cold, while San Diego's boasts warm tans and great surf. During the week my family vacationed in MI, we tried to visit as many beaches as we could. We stayed in a small fishing town called Leland and loved having sandy shores within walking distance from our lodge. We watched many sunsets from Van's beach, which was very close to where we stayed. For some reason I anticipated warmer weather - like the kind in Lake Tahoe during the summer - but much to my dismay, the weather was moderate and not warm enough for swim wear. Like Lake Tahoe, the water was chilly. But seeing as parts of Lake Michigan were frozen just months ago, it was surprisingly bearable to wade in while looking for treasures, as long as I had a jacket!
Check out the awesome piece of driftwood I found! I'd be lying if I said I didn't debate the ways I could take it home with me, but ultimately decided it belonged in MI.
Speaking of taking things home, can you believe all those rocks? Nearly every beach we visited was covered with them - no shells here. They weren't all plain rocks though, some of them were fossils! Specifically, Petoskey stones, which are native to this part of Michigan. When dry, they look like ordinary rocks, but when wet you can see the distinctive pattern "of the six-sided coral fossil". Often pebble-shaped and greyish, they are (amazingly) fossilized pieces of coral, "formed as a result of glaciation, in which sheets of ice plucked stones form the bedrock, grinding off their rough edges and depositing them" near and around Michigan's lower peninsula (Thanks, Wikipedia). Read more about these new-to-me stones, here.
There's a Petoskey in the bottom right hand corner of the photo above! We only found a handful between the four of us the entire week we were there, and that was not for a lack of trying. Sadly, we didn't make the drive up to the city of Petoskey, where supposedly many more wash ashore.
Searching for Petoskeys and other unique rocks was so entertaining for each of us, as you can see in the photo above. Not every shore was as covered in stones as this one (close to Pyramid Point) was.
I tired to capture how different they look when wet vs. dry. It sure makes them trickier to spot amongst the sand and stones!
On our last afternoon, in search of a beach we could just hang out at, we ended up at Lake Michigan Beach Park in Empire. Every other visitor had the same idea we did, it was the most crowded beach we visited! We decided to walk down past the other beach goers, and strolled among the tide. My sister let me borrow her camera for the week, and I loved getting to shoot some landscape photos.
Melissa also taught us about the grass seen in the photo above. It's roots run deep and are covered in the sand from the beaches and the nearby dunes. I wish she was available to help me write this post. She knows so much about the area, being a camp counselor and outdoor education guide.
By the end of the week we had driven by or strolled on the beaches in Empire, Glen Arbor, Lake Leelanau, Leland, Northport, Sleeping Bear Dunes (more on that trip later), Suttons Bay and Omena.
As you can probably tell by now, my family has an affinity for beach days. My mom, especially, loves the sound of the tides, and how time sort of stands still when she's on the shore. It was important to each of us to spend time enjoying Michigan's natural beauty, near the water. I know these areas hold a lot of special memories for families who live close and vacation there often, and I'm glad our family is in on "the secret" now.
And I'm glad we'll have these pictures to help us remember.