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Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Blog, Travel |

Smitten with the Mitten: Highlights from Northern Michigan

After eight weeks in Northern Michigan, I too am ‘smitten with the mitten’! What’s not to love about fresh-picked cherries, wooded trails, and stunning sunsets over Lake Michigan? I went to Harbor Springs for work but found a few adventures along the way.

Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs

I’ll tell you where Harbor Springs is. Take your right hand and turn it towards you so your palm is facing you. Your hand makes the shape of lower Michigan. Harbor Springs is located at the top of your ring finger. Yeah, it’s up there.

Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs

“What the water wants is hurricanes and sailboats to ride on it’s back.”

~Sufjan Stevens

Life in Harbor Springs is shaped by Lake Michigan. Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing! Speaking of fish… I wrangled in a 25 lb King Salmon. I cooked it in lemon, butter and pepper and served it with fresh broccoli from my host’s garden. Talk about eating local!

King Salmon from Lake Michigan

King Salmon Caught in Lake Michigan

Fresh Caught Salmon with Veggies

Fresh Caught Salmon Dinner

Michigan Cherries

Michigan Cherries

Every Wednesday and Saturday I looked forward to the farmer’s market in Harbor Springs. With a scone from My Sister’s Bakery in hand and a quart of these red beauties, I was set for snacks.

Who knew Michigan had such beautiful beaches? I for one, did not. On this particular day, Jen and I brought our backpacks and set some long-term goals for our company. I think ‘goal-setting’ activities should be required to happen on beaches…

Sturgeon Bay Beach, Michigan

Sturgeon Bay Beach

I went on a day trip to Traverse City with Emma from the Every Last Morsel team at Coolhouse Labs (shout out to ELM…if you are a gardener, join their community of gardeners and sell your bounty!). The day was really a foodie’s delight interspersed with the wilds of the Leelanau Peninsula.

A Member of The Little Fleet, Food truck in Traverse City Michigan

A Member of The Little Fleet, Food truck in Traverse City Michigan

We started at The Little Fleet for food truck excellence. Why don’t all food trucks of the city unite and park beside a bar designed for food-truck dining? I did not have an EZ Cheesy meal, but the blackened chicken waffle with hot sauce was de-lish.

Tea Tasting at Light of Day Organic Tea Farm

Tea Tasting at Light of Day Organic Tea Farm

After a quick stop at Morsels for the best coffee I had all summer and an incredible bite-sized treat, Emma and I drove just out of Traverse City to the Light of Day Organic Tea Farm. After tasting cup after cup of tea and ‘high’ on antioxidants, we decided to take the matcha tea challenge. It’s an acquired taste and very green, but supplies a super-boost of energy (I think this is true, although I am unsure to what extent it is my expectation of energy that gives the kick!).

Next stop was the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the Leelanau Peninsula. This dune will defy your mind. The people silhouetted in the photo below are at the top of a steep sandy incline that many venture to climb. Emma broke her toe that week, so we simply enjoyed the view.

Looking out over Sleeping Bear Dune

Looking out over Sleeping Bear Dune

Climbing Sleeping Bear Dune

Climbing Sleeping Bear Dune

Nearly every night, the sun went out with a fiery bang in the sky. For me, this was the best summer in memory for stargazing. A group drove north to the Headlands to watch the meteor shower in the Dark Sky Park. Thank you to Kenny Wu from Novi Times for this incredible photo of that night.

Star Trails

Star Trails by Kenny Wu

There were so many great moments this summer but my host family, Jeff and Karen Ford, made Harbor Springs another home for me. Karen is a book whiz and her home-made granola, blueberry muffins, and jams never lasted more than a few days. Jeff made me laugh all summer with his mischievous comments made with a sparkle in his eye. He also builds beautiful homes. Check out Evening Star Joinery if you want some draw-dropping photos of houses he has built.

Evening Star Joinery of Harbor Springs Home

Home in Harbor Springs

The Ford’s four-year old granddaughter invited me into her enchanted world to play unicorns and hide and seek, which I recommend to anyone who needs a break from thinking about budget projections, market place value, and presentations. I’m already thinking about my next visit with the Fords. (Stay tuned for Staying with Strangers part II on host families during travel…)

My Host Family in Harbor Springs

My Host Family in Harbor Springs

My summer was mostly spent “at the lab” with Jen, the other four teams starting businesses, and the Coolhouse Labs staff. If you are as confused as I was before going into this program about what a startup accelerator is, it is like summer camp for startups. In other words, teams come from all over the country (and even world) to refine their business ideas with the guidance of mentors, teamwork, and pitch practice! That experience deserves its own post (#startupsummer), but I was happy to spend the long days in such a great space with dedicated people.

Coolhouse Labs Harbor Springs

Coolhouse Labs

Will I go back to Harbor Springs? Absolutely. Harbor Springs is now an important part of my life. If you find yourself in Michigan, drive a little farther north and see for yourself what a delight this little town is. I already miss Tom’s Mom’s Cookies, American Spoon, hiking in the woods behind the Ford’s house, and Pond Hill Farm with their farm-to-table food and inexplicably fun Squash Rocket! Wo-hoo!

A big thank you to the Fords, Coolhouse Labs, Jennifer Thomas (founder of Project Travel), and the Harbor Springs community for such a rich and memorable summer.

Squash Rocket at Pond Hill Farm Harbor Springs

Squash Rocket at Pond Hill Farm, Harbor Springs