“O” is for Opportunities at Ostego Lake

On an ABC Adventure, it can be hard to represent each letter.  Such was the case with our letter “O”.

As we traveled through Northern Michigan,  on our 2 day adventure, we realized that we were passing through the county of Ostego.  Like with many of our challenging letter, we had left the “opportunity” to discover something new “open”.   It meant we just needed to be “observant” as we traveled, always looking for words which we could add to our list.

This is how we came upon the county of Ostego, which is where the town of Gaylord lies.  Gaylord had been one of our destinations.   With much Native American influence in this area, I researched the word Ostego.  There are actually a great many interpretations of origin.  One shows it meaning a “place of the rock”another means, “clear waters”.  The county is nestled in a glacial valley, filled with over 300 lakes, making both descriptions seem accurate.

Either way, we knew it would be worth a moment of our time as we  pulled into the Otsego State Park and just enjoyed a few minutes of exploration around the pristine beach along Ostego Lake.  It was the perfect excuse to get “outside” and breath.  It had been another “outstanding” moment along our path of discovery.

“G” is for “Gorgeous Gardens”-Gaylord, Michigan


Flowers and gardens are often part of our ABC Adventures.  As I researched things to do in the Gaylord area, I was more than just a little curious about the description of the Demonstration Gardens, since it had been described as having been created from a waste area.    I wondered if it would be worth a visit.  We had already explored the little town of Gaylord for our “G” but we had a little time available and the gardens are free, so we decided to add a little detour.  We asked several locals, but no one seemed to have heard of them.  Thank goodness for google maps.

We found the park at the edge of a very industrial area.  Concrete and asphalt seemed to be more abundant that flowers.   The small sign located at the edge of this area offered little inspiration for the beauty which lay beyond.  We followed a path which passed under an arch of orange berries, inviting us into the gardens.  This turned out to be a best kept secret type of adventure and I hope the locals will one day realize what a gem they have.


The three acre garden was developed to heal the land and “educate the public on the importance of native plants for preserving water quality and supporting ecosystems”.  Since replanting with natives was something I have been trying to do in my own gardens, we decided it was worth a few minutes exploration.

The city began removing refuse from an old dump site in 1997.  Over the years, the area was replaced with plants native to Michigan.  Native plants tend to need less care.  Their roots can grow up to several feet as they reach deep for water and nutrients.  Some people call them weeds but seeing a native garden in a structured format we are reminded how very beautiful these plants can be.  Native plants will always attract butterflies and wildlife as they work to create a full circle of life.

Visiting in the fall and toward the end of the day, we had the place to ourselves as we meandered through each of the 11 gardens.  With hoses strewn across the paths instead of in-ground sprinklers, in many ways it was like visiting a neighbors garden.  Unlike touring a Botanical Garden, the structure is loose but great care has actually been taken.  From songbirds, to hummingbirds, to butterflies many of the gardens have been planted specifically to support a particular type of wildlife.


Other gardens such as the herb garden and the Seed to Harvest garden have been planted to support a youth education program and grow foods for the less fortunate.  This area also features a home compost demonstration site geared toward educating people on how they can compost kitchen scraps and yard trimmings in their own backyard.  We had arrived at the end of the harvest season, so didn’t see a lot of the food which had been grown but the tender loving care given to each garden is apparent.

Some areas such as the Children’s Garden are planted to invite you to play in a riot of colors, smells and textures meant to stimulate the senses.  We embraced our youth as we hid from each other in the arborvitae maze.


We notice a stage set along a forest edge, we can only imagine the family memories waiting to made in this special place.  What a great setting for a picnic.

With the sun beginning to set, our adventure comes to a close.  As we head towards the car, we reflect on the beauty we had seen in the Demonstration Gardens.  This had been a terrific way to end the day.  The colors, patterns and variety had indeed made us pause and  play.

As I hold my husbands hand I  also reflect on taking time to do this activity, it would have been easy to skip it.  I am filled with “gratitude” for this man.  We have been married 38 years, marriage can grow very routine over time.  I marvel that Alan is so willing to play the alphabet game, to continue to explore and discover together.  I hope  there are still many memories to make.  We have both come to realize that every day can be an adventure, if we choose to make it that way.

Today we had gained a greater appreciation for what others call weeds.  I guess it is all in the way you look at the world. Marriage and relationships are like gardens, they must be nurtured and tended.  Some will see weeds, others will find beauty, it is all perspective.

Holding hands, we pass under the berry arch on our way back to the car.  We are once again thrown into the reality of urbanization but like these gardens, I realize it is up to us to always strive to remove the toxins from our lives and replace them with beauty.  We need only to plant the seeds.



The gardens may be found at:

Corner of Cross St. and Livingston Blvd.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gaylord, MI 49735                                                                                                                                                                             (989) 732-4021

“A” is for “Addictive Alpine Chocolate”-Gaylord, Michigan

Renowned for its distinctly German heritage, Gaylord is a small town with big charm.  As I researched “what to do” in the area, I came upon the business “Alpine Chocolate”.  It was the word chocolate which had my attention, which could have easily steered me to the letter C.  Instead I assigned it the letter A, intent on making it my first stop.  My addiction for chocolate began long before I needed to fulfill the letters on our most recent exploration!

Opening the door to the area business, my senses were in overdrive. Giddy with anticipation, I felt like Charlie in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory”!  What to explore first?  Should I sample the famous chocolate covered potato chips, or the chocolate covered strawberries?   As I moved carefully up the curving paths, meant to steer me towards every single temptation, the visual feast of handmade chocolates lining glass filled cases had me as giddy as the day I shopped for my wedding ring!  Samples were offered  at each location, meant to ensure I slow down and savor the confections.  I can tell you that caramel corn takes on a whole new meaning when drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter!

From the friendly staff to the blue, Tiffany style box used to package your confections, everything about this business is deliberate.  Chocolatemeister, Bruce Brown was the son of a factory worker.  After decades of tinkering to find the perfect chocolate blend, he has now opened several of these stores, located throughout Michigan.  They can be found in Boyne City, Plymouth and Sault St. Marie.  His grand vision of covering us with sweetness, is evidenced in his attention to detail.  I can’t wait to visit the other locations but for now I will be content to enjoy my Chocolate covered rice crispy treats and specialty chocolates.  Alan has found his favorite too, in the form of Sea Foam, the closest he has come to his beloved Crunchies from England.  Knowing these goodies are homemade makes them that much more special.  We will savor the treats and the memories made today.

Alpine Chocolate House  208 W. Main Street Gaylord, MI (989) 732-1077

“G” is for Gaylord, Michigan-An ABC List to Discover This Town



This Alpine themed, “Up North” city is central to everything you could want from a  Northern Michigan adventure.  Situated on the 45th parallel, the Bavarian influence is everywhere in this tiny town.  Of course there are plenty of forests and lakes surrounding the area, after all, this unspoiled haven is what most people flock to the north to discover.

The area had first been named Okkaddo, which was later changed to Otsego which means “clear water”.  There are also top-notch galleries, music festivals and unique shops to discover. There is also a large convention center all strategically positioned in the heart of the state.  Design your own adventure as you explore this beautiful location.


Here are a few ideas to help you create your own ABC Adventure:

A-Aspen Park, Alpine Chocolates, Antique Shows, Alpenfest (Festival), Alpine Traveler and Eatery (Eat, Dine), Active (ATV, golf, ski, snowmobile)

B-Beach, Bennethum’s Northern Inn (Eat, Dine), Brewery/Brew Pub, Big bottle (fun photo op)

C-Claude Shannon Park, Call of the Wild Museum

D-Doumas Park, Dine, Downtown, Demonstration Garden

E-Elk Park, Eat, elk herd

F-Farmers Markets, Festivals (see-Alpenfest), Freel Park

G-Gobblers of Gaylord (Eat, Dine), Golf


I-Irontone Spring, Ice skate

J-Joseph N. Hale Park



M-Mary’s Tavern (see also Brewery)


O-Otsego Lake State Park, Otsego Sports Complex

P-Pavilion on Court, Parks



S-Ski, Snowmobile, Shop, Snowbelt Brewery

T-Tavern (see also Brewery), The Rusty Pelican (Shop)







Check back often, I will keep building this list as we discover more fun things to add to it!