Though not the flashiest or most spectacular, this week’s Friday favorite is my regular place to hike. It is less of a handsome tuxedo and more of a favorite autumn sweater. One summer in Traverse City, I hiked somewhere in this network of trails every day. I am talking about the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area, nestled in the old State Hospital grounds.
A perfect place to walk a dog, meet a friend, or test your new mountain bike, the Commons is just that – a common area for everyone to enjoy.
The sixth Great Lake – the groundwater that exists beneath our feet – is the unsung and unseen hero. We rely on groundwater for much of our daily use yet do not often see it, but every so often, we see it emerge as a spring.
When it comes to beautiful places, the Grand Traverse region has an embarrassment of riches. I hope to live to 100, so I can visit them all. One I have come to know well may be one of the most subtle. It’s practically in my back yard beside the Munson medical complex on the west side of Traverse City.
photos by The Watershed Center
Completed in 2013, it’s part of a much larger restoration project coordinated by The Watershed CenterGrand Traverse Bay. Directly across the street to the east from the Cowell Family Cancer Center, the Kids Creek Healing Garden has been fashioned from what was formerly asphalt and a strait-jacketed stretch of a tributary of Kids Creek. Built in cooperation with Munson Medical Center, it features native plantings, riffles and pools, a winding stream bed and the perpetual, reassuring sound of flowing water. A stretch of the Kids Creek trail meanders through the pocket park.
The environmental benefit is a major contribution to restoring a four-mile stretch of Kids Creek that is officially listed as impaired under provisions of the Clean Water Act. Along with other features, the restored stream area will reduce flood hazards, filter polluted runoff, and provide habitat for aquatic life.
Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor
The human benefit is the preservation and restoration of emotional and spiritual peace, an oasis in an urban world of traffic, noise, and profound stresses. Furnished with benches, it invites the visitor to sit, listen, watch, and contemplate.
The project proves that the abstract idea of “environmental compliance” can be addressed creatively, in a way that is cost-effective while beautifying not just the appearance, but the soul of a community.
Power Island in Grand Traverse Bay has always been a hometown favorite of mine. I have been visiting Power Island since I was a young boy and have always been fascinated about the stories my mother would tell me about how she would visit the island as a young girl, and how her parents attended extravagant parties at the dance hall that once inhabited the Island.
Power Island has a unique history that includes numerous names, presidential stays, private ownership by Henry Ford, and a host of other stories that make what is now known as Power Island an integral part of Traverse City’s historic identity. Besides this rich history, Power Island provides over two miles of pristine waterfront and over five miles of hiking trails that connect the now 10 campsites dispersed across the south side of the island, as well as the one-acre Basset Island that is connected via isthmus.
Julius Moss, Legal Intern
The Island is only a 6.5-mile boat ride from Clinch Park Marina in downtown Traverse City and only a 3.5-mile ride from Bower’s Harbor Marina on Old Mission peninsula. My favorite way to reach the island is by kayak. Although it is quite the paddle from downtown Traverse City, launching from Bower’s Harbor Marina makes the journey achievable. In fact, this week I was fortunate enough to spend a majestic evening on the island, and take a one of a kind commute across West Bay to the FLOW office the next morning.
Traverse City is very fortunate to have a destination like Power Island just minutes away. I encourage you all to boat or paddle over, so that you too can experience the wonders of island life in the Great Lakes.
Friday Favorites is our new series where we explore some of our favorite places in and around the Great Lakes.
The Mighty Mac, the Big Mac, the Mackinac Bridge.
One of the most iconic sights in the Great Lakes region, the Bridge has always been a source of wonder for me. My family took trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to go camping, and the best part of the car ride was the five miles over the Great Lakes. My brother and I would peer out the window down to see the water, then up to watch the enormous passing towers.
The structure itself amazed me, it still does today. Built just after the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits, the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957. There is often work being done to maintain the bridge, and we would wave to the workers as we drove past. They never waved back, too immersed in their work.
Nayt Boyt, Office Manager
While camping is not permitted on the bridge, people can “hike” it. The Mackinac Bridge Walk every Labor Day allows people to walk the length of the bridge and witness the grandeur of the bridge and the surrounding Great Lakes. I have done so with my family several times.
Over the years, the Mackinac Bridge has served not only as a path toward camping along beautiful Lake Superior, but as a destination in itself, an impressive and beautiful bridge that I will always consider part of my home.
Friday Favorites is our new series where we explore some of our favorite places to play in and around the Great Lakes.
Traverse City residents might be rolling their eyes at the suggestion of Pyramid Point as one of my favorite places in the Traverse City area, but hear me out. This (not so) secret trail has been a staple during my time in northern Michigan, always one of the first places I take my friends and family who come to visit. Every time I turn off M22, I grin like a kid who finally caught the ice cream truck, so excited to show off this awesome lakeshore some of us get to call home.
A favorite place doesn’t have to be the most secret, “locals only” spot that nobody else knows about. We all have those, where we go when we want to escape the craziness of summer festivals, need a quiet stroll without boisterous families, or just want to sit and watch the water roll in and out in peace.
Pyramid Point is none of those things. It is, unless you go early or in the off season, consistently full of dogs, kids, and visitors. The 0.6 mile climb up from the parking lot is mellow enough that I have brought friends and family from all areas of my life up there. We have meandered up the path, stopped to chat with folks on the way, raced to see who could make it up first, identified wildflowers, snowshoed in the winter, and trail run laps on the longer loop before heading into Glen Arbor for pizza.
Everyone’s face lights up when they first see the endless expanse of turquoise water. “Wait how is this not the ocean??” they demand, barely taking their eyes off the water to gauge my response. I usually shrug and point out the Manitou Islands, making a joke about lake sharks. Surrounded by kids snacking, dogs gulping water, and friends posing together for the perfect instagram, we wander across the dune face and down the trail for a bit of peace (and sandwiches).
Kaitlyn Bunting, Communications Coordinator
Last summer one of my best friends came to visit from New York. The weather had been rainy and freezing, but we were tired of being cooped up so we headed out to Pyramid Point. After booking it up the trail to get warm, we sat tucked into the dune, watching the sky change from gray to an ominous black. Huge raindrops and hail quickly made us question our choice, our conversation changing from Alaskan adventures to the current weather. After devouring every granola bar and all the hot coffee we’d brought, we raced back down the trail, laughing and shrieking all the way to the car like we used to when we were kids.
Sharing these magical places with my friends and family reminds me of how lucky we are to live here.
Hopefully this series inspires you to enjoy the public land and water we have in northern Michigan, and return to old favorites or check out somewhere new!