LANSING – It’s no surprise that Michigan summers are hot, extremely hot.
So when all of your family – barring the extended branches still living in Lebanon – are in Traverse City for a wedding, naturally the idea of a trip to a beach on Lake Michigan will be thrown around.
What’s surprising, however, is actually driving an additional 45 minutes from Traverse City to spend time at a beach when you have a wedding to attend early the next morning.
If you knew my family, you’d know that would be completely out of character.
But here I found myself weaving through the back roads of Leelanau County to Glen Haven Beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
It wasn’t until the car was parked that the beauty of Lake Michigan finally set in.
I had always heard stories of how seeing the lake for the first time was a “breathtaking experience,” and those stories admittedly left me doubtful.
Yet, as I stared out with nothing but the blue hue of the water facing me, I felt that all of those rumors turned out to be true.
Lake Michigan entranced me, so much so that attempts by family members to get my attention to help set up a spot on the beach went in one ear and out the other. I was almost hypnotized by the calls of seagulls and the splashing of the tide as I took in this serene view.
In an attempt to solidify my newfound love for this place, I walked to the beachhead.
The way I walked was almost like the scene in Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks runs across America. The beachhead itself was gorgeous, with Petoskey stones lining the sands of Glen Haven Beach.
Eventually, the heat of the day got to me, and that combined with a fear that I had lost my sense of direction, so I decided to regroup with the rest of my family.
What happened next could be the byproduct of anyone’s inner child coming out, a collective decision to swim in this vast lake.
On any other day, the water would have been classified as freezing, so much so that you would have wanted to immediately jump out for fear of numbness in your body. Yet, with the mid-August sun beaming down on us, the cold lake waters did little to deter our enjoyment of swimming.
However, like all things, our time at Glen Haven Beach had to come to an end. It was equal parts bittersweet and heart wrenching, but we were hungry and a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the nearest town awaited us.
As I returned to the world of technology, driving my car while Siri blared directions from its speaker, I wished I could’ve held onto that fleeting feeling of serenity while I looked out onto Lake Michigan a little while longer.
Those feelings of serenity somewhat returned, however, as the small town where we ate was a pretty accurate presentation of a “small Midwestern town.”
As we walked into the restaurant, trying to reason with the host to seat us at a table for 15, the collective decision by me and my similarly aged cousins was to order one of the most notorious menu items of our childhood: chicken tenders.
Maybe it was just a weird collective craving for one of the meals that epitomized our childhood, or – and, in my opinion, the more probable cause – was it was another way to cling to what remained of our childhood.
Being at Lake Michigan reminded us what it was like to let go of the stress-filled lifestyle that is adulthood. We all knew deep down that, when all was said and done after this trip to Traverse City, we had to go back to our colleges scattered across the state.
I will never forget that trip to Lake Michigan, not just because of the beauty that I was staring at, but also because it reminded me of what life is truly about.
Seizing moments like that made me act like I didn’t have a care in the world, and in a sense, that is what nature can do for all of us – if you let it.
Emile Rizk reports for Great Lakes Echo.
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