August 30 2019
Lake Michigan is the best-kept secret, in my opinion, when it comes to summer destinations. It’s far off the list of most who seek the salty oceans or tropical vibe of Florida. And while those places are enchanting, Michigan has its own kind of magic.
Michigan is a freshwater lake, which means your fear of sharks isn’t a problem. The biggest thing you might encounter closer to shore where you are swimming is a fish the size of your forearm- and even then I’ve only ever seen minnows in the shallows.
The wind and currents change every day, leaving you with a variety of waves. Sometimes the lake is a sheet of glass. Other times it’s rolling with waves that are ready to be jumped. Sometimes the water is warmer when the winds blow from the south, but mostly there is a refreshing chill to keep you cool after laying on the beach. Which Michigan does have, by the way.
Despite popular belief, it does get hot on the shores of Michigan. In July and early August, the temperature can reach up to mid-80’s. Aka the perfect beach weather. The nights are cool and in the low-70’s, inviting enough for a fire and a sweatshirt, they sky a portfolio of stars that burn bright when the moon sets at midnight (because you are so far north.)
Michigan roads are where you turn the radio up and put the windows down. Farmland runs for miles each direction, with a two-lane road cutting the fields in half. There are hardly any cars out here, and hardly any people, until you hit the shores. Farmers markets dot the side of streets, showing off corn, berries, and jams. It’s the idyllic middle-of-nowhere you would expect from the middle of the states instead of the northern tip. Old barns and waving stalks of wheat meet the blue sky on clear days, and you can see for miles, great pine forests rising as you take a turn.
We used to rent an old white cottage down near Grand Haven. The cottage used to be an all-girls camp and was over 100 years old when we encountered it. We proceeded to rent it out for the next seven years, which encompassed most of my childhood.
Down the lane, there was a small pink guest cottage called The Shrimp, and beyond that, a dune that slid down into the waters of the lake. We used to haul our small television with a cassette tape player up in our old Villeger green van. In the early mornings, we would watch Where the Red Fern Grows, Pollyanna, and Little Princess until the rest of the house had awoken to feed us breakfast.
We would set up base-camp at the beach, complete with a set of walk-talkies that connected up to the main house. Through it we would demand goods, such as PB & J’s, watermelon, and a father to come and push us around on the blow-up canoe.
Michigan isn’t like the Outer Banks or Nagshead or Sarasota. Michigan is something else entirely; a lake consumed by evergreens and white sand beaches, and great, sleeping dunes.