In the land of Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey Stones, Ernest Hemingway and the Underwater Crucifix. Last March, I made a long-time dream of moving to Northern Michigan a reality when I relocated to Traverse City (just north of Lake Ann). On March 28, I made the move further north to the charming community of Petoskey, about five miles north of town on the 333-acre Round Lake…to The Write House on Round Lake, to be more specific.
My first memorable visit to the Petoskey area would have been in 1997 or 1998, shortly after starting at the West Michigan Tourist Association. Stafford Smith of Stafford’s Hospitality was on our Board of Directors at the time and he hosted me for a couple days, showing me around the communities of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, as well as the historic Chautauqua of Bay View. I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide!
Stafford’s history in this community dates back prior to 1961, when he purchased the historic Bay View Inn. Over the years, he acquired The Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs, in 1970; the Weathervane Restaurant in Charlevoix, in 1986; the Perry Hotel in Petoskey, in 1989; the Gallery in Petoskey, in 2007; and most recently Stafford’s Crooked River Lodge in Alanson, in 2011. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing most of these properties at one time or another.
I remember specifically being intrigued by the Bay View Association—a community of more than 440 “cottages” and 30 community-owned buildings established in 1875 by Michigan Methodists as a retreat camp and founded “for intellectual and scientific culture and the promotion of the cause of religion and morality.”
Bay View quickly became a part of the Chautauqua Movement—a uniquely American institution committed to bringing the four pillars of Religion, Recreation, Education and the Performing Arts to a broad spectrum of the public. Bay View is listed with the Michigan Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark, noted as one of the best-preserved examples of the Methodist Camp Meeting movement.
Programs are offered at Bay View, May through October, and during the late fall, winter and early spring months, the residents of this community are not permitted to reside in their elaborate cottages. The only two buildings that remain open year-round are Stafford’s Bay View Inn and The Terrace Inn, built in 1911.
Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a better picture of he tried. This nearly 340-acre campus sits perched on a bluff that stretches out along US31 with tree lined streets and unparalleled views of Little Traverse Bay. A drive, bike ride or walk through Bay View is a must when visiting the area.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to exploring in my new town is the former haunts of noted author Ernest Hemingway. Although he was born in Oak Park, Illinois (July 21, 1899), Hemingway spent much of his first 22 summers with his family on Walloon Lake, just south of Petoskey.
I’ve casually been fascinated with Hemingway’s travels and ties to Northern Michigan but haven’t fully committed to the complete history. For years, I’ve talked about attending the Michigan Hemingway Society Fall Conference which is held in Petoskey—yet every year, something keeps me from attending (and I’ve missed some great themes including eating and drinking with Hemingway). This year, I’m hoping to FINALLY make this event.
Until then, I’m printing the self-guided Hemingway Tour brochure and will explore on my own the nearly dozen sites throughout the region where this legendary author once visited. Sites include the Pere Marquette Railroad Station and Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad Station; The Perry Hotel; McCarthy’s Barber Shop, Potter’s Rooming House, City Park Grill, Carnegie Library Building, Horton Bay General Store and more.
Speaking of the Carnegie Library, last summer I had the pleasure of presenting “Michigan’s Ghostly Beacons” in Petoskey’s Carnegie building…and I’ll be back with “Made in the Mitten” on Monday, July 27 (with food and beverage samples, made here in Michigan).
According to the Carnegie Corporation, “one of the most tangible examples of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy is the founding of 2,509 libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries throughout the English speaking world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Of these libraries, 1,679 of them were built here in the United States. Carnegie spent over $55 million of his wealth on libraries alone and he is often referred to as the ‘Patron Saint of Libraries.’”
Petoskey’s Carnegie Library was opened in November, 1909. When the new library was opened in 2004, this building was temporarily closed—opening again in September, 2005 as a community meeting room space. Following my presentation last year, I was amazed to learn of others who had spoken in that very building over its history—including Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Bill Cody and, of course, Hemingway.
Another thing I’m interested in discovering in my new neighborhood are all the unique nature areas under the auspices of the Little Traverse Conservancy. Since 1972, the Little Traverse Conservancy has evolved to become one of the most established and effective regional land trusts in the country—covering Chippewa, Mackinac, Emmet, Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties.
Within a short drive of my new home on Round Lake, I have eight nature preserves: Round Lake, South Round Lake, Fouchtman, Orchis Fen, Hailand, Halstrom, Huffy and Shumway. It is here I hope to enhance my knowledge of Michigan’s birds, flowers and general wildlife. Oh, and I’m also hoping to find a morel hotbed—I hear it’s going to be a banner year! I’m excited about the “Wild Edibles 101” program The Conservancy has planned for Saturday, May 30—ironically, my birthday!!
I’m now a stone’s throw from the North Western State Trail — a non-motorized linear trail that runs 32 miles from M-119 in Petoskey to the trailhead in downtown Mackinaw City. Luckily, the 7.5 mile stretch of paved trail is out my backdoor (and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get out on my bike this summer). This trail runs along the former Grand Rapids & Indiana Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (once known as “The Fishing Line”) that opened in 1882 and continued in some areas until 1992.
Just a short trip from home, is one of the 15 items on my 2015 Michigan Bucket List—the Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City (less than 45 minutes away). I’ve already printed off this year’s event schedule and am planning a visit over Mother’s Day Weekend with my mom and daughter to see first-hand this unique spot where the skies are so dark that the stars pop out of the sky. Perhaps we’ll even get lucky enough to see the Northern Lights during our visit.
Emmet County was awarded an International Dark Sky Park designation for the Headlands property in early May, 2011. It was just the sixth such park in the U.S. and the ninth in the world at the time (although a couple more have been named since). According to its website, “The Headlands is open 24 hours a day, every day, at no charge. Visitors are welcomed to stay out through the night for dark-sky viewing opportunities (camping units are not permitted). You may bring blankets, sleeping bags, chairs, food, beverages, etc. Plan accordingly and dress for temperatures 10 degrees below what you expect.”
If you have places for me to explore in the Little Traverse Area, jump over to the Promote Michigan Facebook page and share you suggestions!
For now, I’d like to thank my friends in the Petoskey area who have welcomed me with open arms to their town (my town)—with invitations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails. Networking has always been my favorite part of my job—so I am looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues and meeting new people with a passion for all things Michigan.
I also need to send out a HUGE thank you to my friends in TC, Manistee, Lake Ann, Charlevoix and Petoskey who took time out of their busy schedules to help me transition from one town to the next. I couldn’t have done it without you and I’m so thankful to have each of you in my life!
One question I still have about my new town…what’s up with the shooting of all these passenger pigeons in the 1800s? Guess it’s time for a visit to the Little Traverse Historical Museum for that story!