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Unique Nordic Adventures
This issue of Trail Mix is focused on unusual cross-country ski destinations in Michigan. But are you headed to Alaska? Thinking about an Alaskan adventure? Ever dream about visiting Alaska? We're overstocked with Alaska, the Lonely Planet guidebook to the state by Jim DuFresne, so we’re slashing the price. Normally $23, we’ve pricing it at $12 in our e-shop. It’s an affordable first step to that lifelong dream of seeing the Final Frontier.
Heading to Isle Royale National Park? Jim DuFresne will be giving his presentation, The Island & The Lady: Exploring Isle Royale National Park during the 19th annual Quiet Water Symposium, Saturday, March 1 at the Michigan State University Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. DuFresne will be speaking at 12:30 p.m. For more information visit www.quietwatersymposium.org.
Skiing From Vineyard to Vineyard
By Mike Norton and Jim DuFresne
Some of us ski for exercise, some of us ski for competition and some of us ski for the scenery. If you're in the last group and are tired of striding across golf courses or just want to break out of the woods one weekend, Michigan has some unusual Nordic alternatives.
As winter snows cover the rolling hills of Northern Michigan’s wine country, several wineries on the scenic Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City have responded with a new approach to touring and tasting: a vineyard-to-vineyard ski and snowshoe trail.
The 7.5-mile groomed trail connects three wineries in the center of the peninsula: Blustone Vineyards and Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery near the village of Lake Leelanau and Tandem Ciders north of Suttons Bay, winding through a landscape of snow-blanketed vineyards and orchards about 15 miles from Traverse City.
“It’s a really cool idea,” says Nick Wierzba of Suttons Bay Bikes, who rents skis and snowshoes to users of the new trail. “You can get out and explore the vineyards, then go inside to warm up by the fire and taste some wine, and move on to the next place. We’re getting a lot of calls from people and groups who want to find out about it.”
Thanks to the cool blue depths of nearby Grand Traverse Bay (and a mile-high glacier that plowed through the area 10,000 years ago) the area’s unique combination of climate, topography and soils produce grapes that are sweeter and more flavorful than those grown farther south. But it’s also a stunningly beautiful place for touring, thanks to abundance of lake-effect snow. This winter the region has already received 124 inches of the powdery stuff.
Other Unique Nordic Destinations
Click on the map to the bottom right to view a larger version or print.
Here are other unique ski outings to squeeze in before the spring thaw:
Skiing With Ghosts: Fayette was a company iron smelting town in the Upper Peninsula that in its heyday in 1880s boosted 500 residents, a hotel, company store, an opera house and the blast furnaces and kilns needed to turn ore into pig iron. When the furnaces closed in 1891, the town quickly died and a century later more than 20 buildings are still standing.
Today the town is preserved as Fayette State Park and during the summer is teeming with tourists and guides in period customs. But in the winter this spot on the Garden Peninsula is so desolate...it's ghost-like. The 750-acre park has a network of trails that are wide, level and for the most part wind through a forest of maple and birch.
An excellent seven-mile tour begins by leaving your vehicle at the park headquarters, the only parking area plowed in the winter. Across the street is the trailhead for the Overlook Trail, a 2.2 mile loop that skirts the edge of a towering limestone bluff where there are three views of the townsite from across Snail Shell Harbor.
The tour continues through the woods, a deserted campground and then follows the Big Bay De Noc shoreline to emerge in ghostown Fayette, where you can ski past the hotel, lime kilns, even a opera house and the superintendent's impressive home.
Victorian Winter: Historic Bay View is a resort community overlooking Little Traverse Bay between Petoskey and Harbor Springs. It began in 1875 as a Chautauqua camp and by the 1880s most of the 463 summer homes found here had been built. During the winter the roads are not plowed and become avenues for cross country skiers who kick and glide their way between rows of century-old cottages.
You can book a room at the Terrace Inn, a year-round hotel in the heart of Bay View, for an unusual ski weekend that allows you to totally escape into the charm of a Victorian winter.
Big Wheels & Loggers: At 9,762-acres Hartwick Pines is the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula and has almost 25 kilometers of cross country trails with names like Deer Run Trail or Aspen Trail.
You know, woodsy stuff.
But its most unusual ski is the Old Growth Forest Trail, a mile-long loop through the park's famous virgin pines. You not only ski pass impressive white pines and hemlocks, some 300 years old, but also through a logging camp with bunkhouses, camp kitchen, Big Wheels and other tools the lumberjacks used.
Cultural Ski: Cars are banned from Presque Isle, Marquette's island park, in the winter and its roads are groomed as 5-kilometer network of ski trails. With its deep snow, the park makes for a scenic outing as you skirt high bluffs overlooking the rugged Lake Superior shoreline.
But for a really unusual ski, arrive during the Glacier Glide Art Festival held annually in February. This is your basic outdoor art fair except it's only 10 above, the artists are bundled up and the patrons of the arts are skiing from one exhibit to the next with newly purchased pottery in their fanny packs.
Ski and snowshoe rentals for the vineyard-to-vineyard trail is available at Suttons Bay Bikes (231-421-6815; www.suttonsbaybikes.com). Winter lodging and dining in Bay View is available at the Terrace Inn (231-347-2410).
You can pick up the vineyard-to-vineyard ski trail at Forty-Five North Vineyard Winery located at 8580 E Horn Rd, just north of M-204 near Lake Leelanau. Hartwick Pines State Park is just north of Grayling on M-93 and reached from I-75 by departing at exit 259. Bay View is between Petoskey and Harbor Springs with the Terrace Inn posted along US-31 while Fayette State Park is reached by heading south of US-2 at Garden Corners and following M-183 for 18 miles.
For lodging and more skiing opportunities in the Petoskey region contact the Petoskey Visitors Bureau (800-845-2828; www.petoskeyarea.com/) or Terrace Inn (800-530-9898; www.theterraceinn.com). For more on the vineyard-to-vineyard ski trail contact Traverse City Tourism (800-TRAVERSE; www.traversecity.com/) or Sutton Bay Bikes (231-421-6815; www.suttonsbaybikes.com). For information on Old Growth Forest Trail contact Hartwick Pines State Park Logging Museum (989-348-2537; www.michigan.gov/loggingmuseum). Finally for the Upper Peninsula destinations contact Fayette State Park (906-643-8620) or Lake Superior Art Association (marquetteartontherocks.com/glacier-glide).