A good place to start–
It was 85 degrees and sunny. No humidity. Cool breeze. I may have gone crazy if I was forced to stay indoors watching my brother, Ezra play video games another minute. We finally hit the road. First stop: The Fort in Ponshewaing, between Alanson and Petoskey on U.S. 31. This little store is in an odd location, but has the best selection of craft beer I have found anywhere in Michigan. They have over 300 varieties of beer from all over the world, many of which are Michigan brews. Their website advertises, “beer for everyone”- hop lovers, stout enthusiasts, those who usually drink domestic, or anyone looking for something new. The main reason Ezra and I love to go there is because they offer a mix-your-own-6-pack option. This is somewhat expensive (ours cost $14), but is a really fun way to try out new beer without having to suffer through five extra bottles after the realization you don’t like the first one.
The Arbor Brewing Company Mackinac Island Fudge Stout we bought has a nice, dark color and I expected much more from it. Dark usually = thick, heavy and creamy. This beer ended up being slightly watery with one-dimensional flavor. There are notes of chocolate and burnt marshmallows, but I expected to be wowed with natural vanilla and buttery aromas– components of fudge. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think I would buy it again. If you’re big on chocolate and don’t mind a lighter stout, this might be a good beer for you.
We left Ponshewaing with a 6-pack and went disc golfing at River Road in Petoskey to waste time before Ezra’s girlfriend, Aubrey got out of work. By the time she was out, we were pretty hungry and decided to go to the Polish Kitchen in the harbor plaza by the Harbor Springs airport on our way out to Sturgeon Bay.
I’d never eaten there, but heard good things from several friends. Their recommendation: the pierogi reuben platter. I decided to be a cheapskate and get six meat pierogis off the kids menu (only $4.50!). It was really good, but I was still hungry and ate the rest of Aubrey’s pierogi reuben platter. It was amazing- sauerkraut, corned beef, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on top of the grilled pierogis.
Nowhere else I’d rather be–
Sturgeon Bay is about a 30 minute drive north of Harbor Springs just outside Cross Village on Lake Shore Drive. It is a wild, beautiful place with sand dunes on one side of the desolate road and mile after mile of uninhabited beach on the other. It can be surprisingly popular, despite the “hidden” location, with many Emmet County residents choosing to spend the day at Sturgeon Bay instead of the numerous other beaches available closer by. But even on the busiest days, there is still plenty of space and it doesn’t feel crowded. The beach is sandy, the water is cold and the sunsets are unforgettable.
Milky Way down yonder–
My last stop of the day was Leg’s Inn in Cross Village. I had been there for dinner, but hadn’t been late at night. I thought it would be quiet, with an older crowd. As it turns out, Sunday nights at Leg’s are a lot of fun with a wonderfully blended demographic. The Jelly Roll Blues Band was playing danceable blues and rock and the atmosphere was extremely friendly and open. People were milling around and open to striking up a friendly conversation with complete strangers (not always the case in northern Michigan). We hung out and listened to the band, then headed outside to the patio to relax at a table and talk.
The history of Leg’s Inn is a long and fascinating one. Here is a short description courtesy of their website: “Located in historic Cross Village, Michigan, Legs Inn is a ‘monument to nature.’ Built on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, it is unique and mysterious as seen in its architecture and decor. The fantasy-like atmosphere of this medieval looking stone, timber and driftwood landmark was created by one man, Polish immigrant, Stanley Smolak. He fell in love with Northern Michigan and its people, many of them Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and decided to settle in Cross Village in 1921.
A blend of Old World European and Indian cultures creates a memorable atmosphere. The entry foyer, tavern, game and dining rooms are all filled with an intriguing collection of nature and hand carved furniture — whimsical creations made of tree stumps, twisted limbs and roots, driftwood sculptures and massive field stone fireplaces.” (Source: legsinn.com)
At 2 a.m. we left the bar and walked down to the lake for one last swim. The sky was clear and the stars lit up and overwhelmed the expanse of dark water that surrounded us. The Milky Way put on a show and we sat in silence admiring the night. The water felt warm below the cool air and I was content. It was a perfect end to a perfect day. I was tired and satisfied and drunk on the beauty of life.
3 bottles of beer in Ponshewaing+ dinner at the Polish Kitchen+ firstname.lastname@example.org/gal.+ $5 cover for Legs Inn and a bottle of beer there = $40