Friday, September 16, 2016

Presque Isle: More than an Island

A view from Presque Isle
Presque Isle in Marquette is not an island. It's almost an island.

Or is it more than an island?

"Presque isle" means "almost and island" in French, and this peninsular park holds 323 acres of natural beauty. On a sunny Thursday morning, my family and I walked around the perimeter of the park. The park's road along the perimeter was closed to vehicular traffic, as it is for a few hours several times per week, so our daughters were safe to dart to and fro across the street without us worrying about cars.

Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse
We parked and began our walk near the Presque Isle breakwater and light, where we watched a couple of kayakers launch and a few people walk along the breakwater towards the lighthouse. The walk along the road is approximately two miles total, but we made frequent stops to appreciate the spectacular views of Lake Superior from the cliffs above the water.

The lighthouse in the distance

Friday, September 9, 2016

Running Marquette

Marquette Harbor Light
Sometimes the best way to see a city or new locale is to go for an early morning run. With only a few cars going by and almost no other pedestrians to get in your way, you can run through empty streets and paths absorbing your surroundings without distractions.

Sailboats in Marquette's harbor
Marquette is a great town to go for a run. It has multiple running paths in and near the city, including the Multi Use Path that follows Lake Superior's shoreline from Presque Isle through the city until it connects with the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

I took two morning runs while in Marquette. The first morning, I left our rented house near Northern Michigan University and ran north on Presque Isle Avenue toward Presque Isle Park. It started pouring about two minutes into my run, but I continued on and the rain slowed to a drizzle for most of my eight-mile run. A right turn onto Hawley Street brought me to a beautiful view of Presque Isle's breakwater and lighthouse.

Presque Isle breakwater and light at dawn

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Taste of Marquette

Downtown Marquette
I made my first visit to Marquette at the end of August and was impressed by this awesome city. Although it sits on the shores of Lake Superior and is surrounded by wilderness and amazing outdoor activities, Marquette offers great food, drink, and cultural attractions. This is not surprising since Marquette is the Upper Peninsula's largest city, with 21,000 residents, and it is the home of Northern Michigan University, the U.P.'s largest university.

One of the sculptures at NMU's sculpture walk
With so much to do, Marquette feels larger than it is. The areas near NMU and the downtown, with their residential streets, bars, restaurants, and shopping, reminded me of a hilly Ann Arbor. My family and I rented a small house on a residential street near NMU's campus. We could walk to the beach, downtown, the restaurants and bars on Third Street, and campus.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Les Cheneaux Views

Hills Point Docking's boathouse from the beach at Hills Point Resort
The Les Cheneaux Islands are one of my favorite spots in Michigan. This group of thirty-six islands just east of the Mackinac Bridge have long been an important place for my family. My dad vacationed there when he was young, then he and my mom took me and my siblings back every summer while we were growing up. Last year, I finally visited again for the first time in years, bringing my own kids along to experience the serenity and slow pace of these islands.

This year, we returned. We relaxed. We reveled in the beauty of our surroundings.

It's not just nostalgia and good times with family that bring me back. The tranquil waters and quiet shores bring peace to my soul and beckon my return.

Cedarville Bay
Blue skies and blue water
My dog keeping watch for ducks
Most of the islands are only accessible by boat, so boathouses act as garages for homes on the islands.

Wooden boathouses
Nice Front Yard!
The mornings are peaceful. I enjoyed morning runs on Hill Island and Island Number Eight and watching the sun slowly rise over the trees and water.

Sunrise over Flowers Bay
The end of Hill Island Road on a morning run
The islands provide some of my favorite sunsets in Michigan, whether I am on shore or on the water. The last sunset of my vacation was bittersweet because it will probably be at least a year before I can see these gorgeous skies again.

The sky at sunset (My 8-year-old daughter took this picture. Had to share)
Sunset reflecting off the water
Sunset on Hill Island
The southern end of the Islands with Lake Huron before us and the sun beginning to set

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Running the Kal-Haven Trail

Kal-Haven Trail
Before the advent of automobiles and highways, trains carried Michiganders and cargo across a system of rails connecting small towns, big cities, and Great Lakes ports. As cars and air travel became more popular, this rail system slowly became obsolete. Beginning in the 1960s, conservationists and outdoors enthusiasts around the country started a movement to convert these railroads to trails for public use. Michigan now has approximately 120 rail-trails totaling more than 2,000 miles.

On my recent trip to South Haven, I had the opportunity to run along the Kal-Haven Trail on the morning I left town. The trail is a 34.5 mile former railroad that connects Kalamazoo and South Haven. I started at the trailhead, which is about one mile northeast of downtown South Haven. I parked in the trailhead's lot, stretched, and began running.

A view of the Black River from the Kal-Haven Trail
I ran an out-and-back of approximately 15 miles, so I only saw about 7.5 miles of the trail. The first stretch of the trail is paved before it eventually turns into crushed limestone. The starting mile marker is probably about 0.2 miles into the trail. The trail has a mile marker every mile. I  questioned the accuracy of a couple of mile markers because twice I had a very quick (for me) split immediately followed by a slow split, and I don't think my pace was varying that much.