“Do you know where that is?” he asked pointing to a photo on his computer screen saver.
“Of course! Tahquamenon Falls,” I answered.
Then my optometrist went on to tell me all about his trip to the Upper Peninsula with his family last summer. It was their first visit to the U.P. For the next several minutes we talked about the places they visited.
Until that moment our conversations hadn’t extend much beyond, “Is one better or two? Three or four?” But now I recognized the excitement and awe in the doctor’s voice, the surprise of discovering the virtues of Michigan’s least known region, the wistfulness to see more of it. Like myself and so many others, he’d fallen in love with the sparkling blue water and rugged wilderness.
It’s an affair that’s often love-at-first-sight as you drive across the grand Mackinac Bridge, the water of The Straits swirling and churning beneath you. The beauty leaves you breathless and a little dizzy.
You’re courted by the carriages, graceful Victorian homes and sweet bicycles of Mackinac Island. The ferry ride to and from the island is exhilarating. Especially if you cross on a windy day while the waves swell around the boat.
St. Ignace is quaint. Sea Shell City, Castle Rock and the Mystery Spot charm you with their humorous kitsch. Then the drive along Lake Michigan on U.S. 2. leaves you smitten. Suddenly your heart swells with an overwhelming urge to see what lies beyond the tourist trappings.
You want to explore every part of this wild place whose enormous lakes have the heartbeat of an ocean. You find yourself day dreaming of seeing it again. You make up reasons and create plans to return to it. There are so many layers to peel back: beaches, lighthouses, waterfalls, rivers, pristine forests, islands, freighters, abandoned mines.
At its heart are the small towns and their residents. The quiet streets remind you of the little town where you grew up. And the people. They treat you like a neighbor even though you’ve just met. There’s an authenticity about everyone and everything in the U.P.
Eventually, you have to tear yourself away, but a piece of you heart stays there.
The eye doctor and I ended our conversation comparing U.P Bucket Lists, all the places we still wanted to see, all the things we still wanted to do. They were extensive lists. The Upper Peninsula is long-term relationship material.
Go U.P. I know you’ll fall in love too.