“Q” is for Quirky-Our ABC Adventure-Charlevoix

Have you ever dreamed of walking through Hobbiton featured in the Lord of the Rings?

Believe it or not, you don’t need to travel to New Zealand to find Hobbit houses, the USA has our own charming town which attracts tourists from around the world.

Charlevoix is a tiny Northern Michigan town located just 4 hours north of Detroit.

Self taught builder, Earl Young built the eleven homes during the depression era, these buildings are creatively known as Gnome Homes, Mushroom Houses, or Hobbit Houses and they stand ready to transport you to middle earth.

Earl Young’s houses feature his signature designs which include wide, wavy eaves, exposed rafter tails; cedar-shake roofs; and a horizontal emphasis in design.

As an architect, Young fashioned his structures, using indigenous materials. His works are made mostly of stone, using limestone, fieldstone, and boulders that he found throughout Northern Michigan.

In all, Earl Young designed 30 unique homes over a 54 year period, 28 buildings are still standing in Charlevoix and in recent years, visitors have been drawn to the area to take a tour of the unique structures.

The self guided tour allows for easy viewing of the homes and parking is readily available on the street.

It was in this way that we set off on our own Hobbit inspired adventure.

One of the first “mushroom houses” we came upon is called the Thatch House – Formerly called Sunset Villa (pictured above).  With its distinctive oversized thatched roof and lovely stonework, you can’t miss the impressive structure, located at 304 Park Avenue.

Thatched cottages are not common in the USA but with our roots in England, they are very familiar to us.  There is a certain comfort which comes with seeing this particular home, which reminds me so much of the English cottages, on a grander scale.

The home was significantly remodeled in 2015, to reflect a more “mushroom” like character but it was originally built by Mr. Young in 1918.  The new rendering was first drawn on a napkin.  When a passerby exclaimed, “wow that looks like a mushroom”, the new owner realized the mission had been achieved. The massive home now boasts 6 bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths as well as a media room. It is used as a vacation rental and is often the setting for weddings.

Located next to the the Thatch House is the Half House.

Half House-Charlevoix, Michigan

This lovely little home appears to have been cut in half. It is said that this home was built by the imaginative Earl Young as a wedding gift for his daughter. Can you imagine receiving such a charming gift?  Built in 1947, the half house remains the same as it was in its original design.


Earl Young’s Original Home

Although this house isn’t as impressive as the remodeled mushroom, it is a very large home.  Viewing the house from the back reveals terraced steps which lead down from the hill above.  The layers of stone have been carefully set to blend seamlessly with the landscape.  This house is located at 306 Park Avenue.

The eleven mushroom houses can be found along a triangular block in the Park Avenue area consisting of Grant Street, Clinton Street and Park Avenue.  This is a self guided walking tour.  Parking is available along any street.  The homes are now private residences, so care should be taken to respect the privacy of the owners but it is a great way to pass an hour or so.

I will leave the remaining homes for you to discover, but I’m guessing it will be easy to see why we chose “Q” as our letter to represent these “Quirky” homes.

Walking tour of the Mushroom Houses


“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.

“L” is for Logging Camp and Lumber-Grayling, Michigan

While on a whirlwind tour of Northern Michigan, we stopped at the Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, Michigan.  The White Pines, which once covered all of the state, have been protected within the 49 acres of the park.  It is one of the last stands of old growth trees in the USA.  Walking along the 1.5 miles of paths which meander among the towering trees it is easy to understand how logging became such an important part of Michigan history.

Nestled in the center of the forest is a replicated logging camp, now turned museum.  Built in the 1930’s the replicated logging camp represents life from the 1890’s. Here we were able to view  the equipment, tools, a  bunkhouse, food preparation area and an old sawmill.


The State Park is open year round.  The logging museum is open

  • April 30 – May 27: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • May 28 – September 4: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • September 5 – October 30: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hartwick Pines State Park       4175 Hartwick Road    Grayling, MI 49738

“K” is for Kalkaska-Exploring Northern Michigan

It was pouring with rain the day we traveled through Kalkaska.  I needed a K for our alphabet tour as we made our way through several Northern Michigan towns, on a two day adventure.  As soon as I saw the giant 17 foot long fish, located near the old railroad depot now turned Nature Museum, I knew that I needed  this picture.  Truth be told, unless you count the gas station and convenience stores there weren’t many other options for exciting photos of this tiny town.

Taking this picture made me smile as imagined what people were thinking as they saw me standing in the pouring rain, holding a letter for no apparent reason.  It was likely the most entertainment in the town in a while. Curiosity generally gets people talking.  It is often the way we often start discussions about our ABC adventures. Although Kalkaska attracts many visitors, most people were smarter than us on this day and didn’t get out of their cars.

With a population of just over 2,000, Kalkaska is the kind of small town most people just drive through unless you know someone or are coming to explore the great natural beauty which surrounds the town.   Still, rain or shine, Alan and I don’t miss opportunities and now I have a picture with a giant fish to prove it!

These kinds of oversized oddeties exist all across the USA, there quirkiness is worth capturing as part of the fabric of our country.  Even though they seem out of place, there is often more than meets the eye and such was true for the giant fish which was dedicated in 1966.  It has become an icon to welcome people to the area.

The Kalkaska County website boasts that there are “561 square miles with 80 inland lakes and 275 miles of streams and rivers.  Kalkaska is well known for its wide open spaces and of course for its trout fishing.  It is so celebrated there is a festival which honors the Brook Trout, which also happens to be the state fish of Michigan.  The National Trout Festival is held the last week of April annually.  Earnest Hemmingway also frequented the area and I would have never realized that unless I had stopped to read the historical information located near the the giant fish.

Summer and fall are not the only time people come to play. With an annual average of 126 inches of snow per year, winter is also popular giving way to activities such as skiing, sled dog racing and snowmobiling.   It is no wonder that this area is described as natures playground.

Like the stories still to be told of the area, I hope the giant fish, which catches travelers and reels them in, holding them spellbound to enjoy the unspoilt beauty will be here for many generations.  If you find yourself wanting to slow down and take in a little more of the area, try Trout Town Tavern for fish and chips or smoked trout pate’ and be sure to grab a picture, you may only pass this way once!


“H” is for Harbor Springs, Michigan


Sometimes it is just important to get off the beaten path, which is how we discovered the quaint town of Harbor Springs.  I would like to say we took the road less traveled, but the popular scenic corridor along Highway 119 is located just north of Petoskey, Michigan and the pull of nature and beauty is great.

The waterfront community sits in a sheltered location on the North shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

Harbor Springs lies just 7 miles off US 31, yet feels like a step back in time as travelers seek the views of Lake Michigan and the many activities offered during all four seasons.  There is also an abundance of culinary and cultural attractions available in this area.

With a population of just 1200 people, some might be tempted to roll right through the sleepy little village of Harbor Springs. The tiny downtown area seems to have stood still in time but closer inspection reveals a thriving art community.  Benches scattered throughout town invite you to slow down and savor the moment.


The real treat is tucked quietly behind the main road, it is almost hidden and if you don’t allow yourself time to wander, you might just miss it.  A short walk reveals a beautiful waterfront area, complete with two beaches, a green space, picnic facilities and a dock to walk on.  Luxurious homes and huge yachts reveal there is more to this town than meets the eye.


“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

“F” is for “Finding a Fabulous Farm Market”-Petoskey, Michigan


Farmer’s Markets have always called to me.  I am not sure if it is the bright colors of the produce, the smell of earth, or the gratitude I have, knowing what it takes to get this food to a table.  Perhaps it is genetic, stemming from the deep farming roots which run through my father’s side of the family.

I don’t know why specifically I seek these attractions out, I just know that I could spend hours lost in the discovery of everything which a Farmer’s Market offers.  Fresh produce, herbs, flowers, jars of homemade produce, all seem to ground me a little, to the earth which they are grown.   It was no surprise then, that while researching things to do in the Petoskey area, I was drawn to “Bill’s Farm Market”.  It had been rated 17 of the top 37 things to see/do in this location. Sometimes small towns are limited in what they offer, so I didn’t have high expectations but we were determined to fulfill our alphabet goal on this trip, so we selected the “Farm Market” as our letter “F”.

Driving along the quiet lane, the popular city soon turned into the rolling fields of farmland, which surround the area. It was easy to imagine that we might have taken a wrong turn.  With just a touch of fall chill in the air, the fields glistened under the morning dew. Here, there was no traffic.  It was so peaceful and was proving to be a beautiful drive, along a yet another road we wouldn’t normally travel if it wasn’t for an ABC Adventure.

Still, I couldn’t imagine how this site had gained so much popularity, every review on a popular travel site had sung the praises, still I was a skeptic.  Surely this market, located nearly 8 miles away from any town, didn’t attract nearly the population which went out of the way to rave about it.  As we crested the final half mile, traffic came to a standstill.

F-TrafficI have been to many Farm Markets over the years.  I never imagined that we would find a traffic back up, waiting to enter the popular location, especially on a Monday!  I was like a child heading to an amusement park as we waited for a parking space to free up. This place promised to be something extraordinary! 

I had read that the high hoop tunnel, holding the market was directly attached to the farmhouse. “Bill” had taken it over in 1982.  He and his brother Don still reside in the home where they had been raised.  In fact, the farm has been in the family for over 100 years!


F-Flowers 003The market bustles with activity from June through December.  It quietly moves through the seasons as it offers over 20 varieties of fresh flowers, 10 kinds of herbs and too many varieties of foods to mention, all grown in front of the house and in the beautiful valley which wraps around like an embrace, dotted only by cows quietly grazing on the hills.





On this August day, the smell of fresh peaches mingles with the cow manure, drawing throngs of people into the covered high tunnel. I am transformed to student, determined to learn the secret of the super sized produce filling the bins.





I stand transfixed, marveling at the 20 varieties of fresh flowers recently picked from the farm.  Cow poop and clean air, I am told are the magic which makes this happen. Soon the fields will be full of pumpkins and gourds as the season moves into fall. 







F-Flowers 002

Perhaps we will take a fall drive to see the pumpkins and gourds which will soon fill the fields. A hay ride might just be the way to pass a few hours.   Or maybe, as the snow begins to turn this setting into a Currier and Ives postcard, we will return for a Christmas tree, wreath or sleigh ride.






F-FieldsWith a final glance out over the valley, which surrounds the farm, I imagine the snow beginning to fall here this winter, transforming the scene to a Currier and Ives postcard.   Each season offers its own unique adventure of food, flowers, hay rides, sleigh rides, wreathes and trees. For now, I will simply revel in  the beauty of this location, content to have discovered this fabulous place.

As I file my letter “F” away, this adventure now complete, “We will be back”, I whisper, to no one in particular.


Bill’s Farm Market  4450 East Mitchell Rd., Petoskey, MI 49770  (231)-347-6735

“D” is for “Discovering Delectible Delights” in “Delicious” Tiny “Doughnut” Bites-Traverse City, Michigan

Sometimes we don’t know where to begin an ABC adventure, so we will start by letting our fingers do the walking through a Google search.  This will often turn up a location to explore, or a great restaurant or shop to visit.  Such was how we “discovered” the “doughnut” shop in Traverse City, MI.  But which letter to assign to it?  Peace, Love and Little Donuts could give us a P, if we went with the name of the location, an E if we threw it together with all the other wonderful places we would eat along our 400 mile mini vacation, or a D for doughnuts.  We would photograph all three and decide later where this fit in with our overall journey. Whatever letter we chose, tiny doughnuts just sounded like a fun way to start a day! D-Donuts

Food is always a big part of our trips.  We couldn’t imagine how we had never heard of this tiny shop, after all, we live here!  We were very surprised to find that this hole in the wall business, is a franchise and there are actually two of them in the state of Michigan!  The other location is in Portage.

Because education is such a part of all of our adventures, we diligently read the story of how this franchise had first begun.  Like many small business owners, success had been by accident.  It started with the purchase of a doughnut maker, which led to making the tiny treats for a hockey tournament.  The size of the doughnuts had been an accident, after a piece of equipment failed to produce full sized doughnuts.  The event had begun, so they were out of time.  Choosing to go with what they had, they decorated the mini doughnuts. The bite size was such a hit, that the idea for a small business had been born.  The shops are now spread across 14 states!


E-Our order


Alan was skeptical, feeling the doughnuts couldn’t be that good if we didn’t already know about them…the line out the door on a Sunday morning, at 9am, told a different story!  As I joined others, drooling over the 60+ options, I realized it would be hard to choose just one or two of the delectable delights. There are all manner of flavors to discover.  We needed to narrow it down to a dozen.  We each chose our favorites, Peanut Nutter and Salted Pretzel for me and Chocolate Chip and Oreo Cookie for Alan.  The rest, we agreed to split, so we could sample more.  With an employee dedicated to the frier, the doughnuts churned out almost as fast as they were ordered. A second team decorated them.     For less than $20, we left the shop to find a beach to “devour” our “delights”.  We headed to one of our favorites, Byrant Park.  The doughnuts were still warm!


D-DelectibleD-Delicious 2D-Decadent








After working our way through about 6 of the doughnuts, our favorite flavors remained our favorites, but we mutually agreed that the “drizzled”  Strawberry Shortcake doughnut was our combined favorite.










D-donut sign


We were quickly getting full.  I dared not start counting calories at this early stage of our trip.  I remembered a great sign hung in the shop.  Perhaps this was why it had been there!  All in all, we enjoyed this little shop.  We will be back to devour more of these “decadent” little treats!





Peace, Love and Little Donuts 441 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686  231-421-5255

“C” is For a “Calming Chapel in the Woods”-Grayling, Michigan

Chapel in the Woods

Hartwick Pines State Park is the only place in Michigan which still holds the towering White Pines, which once covered the entire state and built the wealth of countless lumber barons.  Today, there are just 49 acres of the  trees, in the entire state!  This area, was the third city along our 48 hour Michigan tour, which is why we dedicated the third letter of the alphabet, “C”,  to discovering the tiny “chapel” which sits in the middle of the forest.






The chapel quietly appears after a short walk through the towering pines. I was so excited to see this cabin-like structure, which was a big reason we had gone so far out of our way to include Grayling in our adventure.  The chapel was intended to be a place of spiritual reflection and meditation for “all who walk the trails of Hartwick Pines”.  The first thing I noticed was the beautiful curved glass, which makes up the window and forms a “cross”.








A brief history informed me that this is actually a fairly new structure, having been built and dedicated in 1953.







Making our way to the entrance of the church, the light filters through the window.  I imagine how spectacular this space might be in the morning, as the sun rises and floods the tiny chapel. I think of the married lives which might have begun here.  I can visualize the light washing over people, flooding them with warmth.   For now, the sun has already moved beyond the window so there is just enough light to see the pews.  I take my place amongst one of the tiny benches, which line both side of the chapel.  The chapel only holds 18 people.  I am the only person here at the moment, Alan waits outside as I spend a moment in silent meditation.



A plaque positioned under the window reads:

Our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is nature,
We humbly come to you in the midst of nature’s splendor,
To thank you that as Americans we are free
To worship as we please, work as we please,
And move about as we please to enjoy all that is nature:
Its mountains, its hills, its valleys, its lakes,
Its streams, and the living things that dwell therein;
We pray unto You that someday the world may be at peace
And all men be free to enjoy nature’s abundance.
We ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
That we be guided to protect this priceless heritage
Which we, in America, are privileged to enjoy. Amen.



Following the Covid outbreak, which has so divided this country, what a year (or two) it has been.  Uttering this small prayer of hope,  instantly fills me with a sense of “calm”.  I step from the chapel feeling just a bit lighter, as I return to the forest for the remainder of our walk in the woods.



“B” is for “Beautiful Boyne City”, Michigan

BWhen Alan and I take on an ABC Adventure, we don’t limit ourselves to doing the letters in any particular order.  By the time we got to the letter B, on our 48 hour mini trip, we had already visited Kalkaska, Grayling and Gaylord!  We had explored many new places, tasted several fun foods and immersed ourselves in nature.  The letter B might have also been utilized at the “bakery” as we filled up for donuts at “breakfast”.  We might have used the letter when we went to the “beach” to eat that breakfast, or as we explored many of the “buildings” we had already seen along our journey.  Instead, we had safely guarded our letter “B”, knowing that we would soon arrive in “Boyne City” where there are only a few specialty stores, a couple of amazing restaurants and a number of condominiums.  In this seemingly tiny town, which appears to spring up from nowhere, the beautiful Lake Charlevoix takes center stage.   This area has been attracting people to its shores for many years.  From skiing in the winter, to the Morel Festival in the spring, sailing in the summer and enjoying the colors of fall, there is something to explore here year round.  In fact, 3500 people call this place their permanent home.  The population swells in the warmer months as people flock to the natural beauty of the area.

B-Boyne flowers B-Boyne Fish

I don’t know what intrigues me the most, the waterfront, or the flowers. The old and the new   combines seamlessly.  Everywhere I look radiates a personal pride in the area.  Even the little log cabin, which has served as the visitor center since the 1940’s, is awash in carefully tended flowers.


Sadly, I am unable to find out anything about this little building but the careful preservation has ensured its safety  as industry develops around it.

B-Boyne-my baby

More flowers are planted along the riverfront.  These are carefully tended by volunteers, providing me a fun place to play with my photography.

B-Boyne riverfront B-Boyne-flowers













As we make our way down Main Street, which is really no more than a few businesses, we are pleased to see that it is enough to attract plenty of shoppers and people looking for a great waterside meal.

B-Boyne downtown B-Boyne development









The Sunset Park was a great place to end our adventures for this day.  We purchased an ice cream, then sat upon a “bench” to enjoy the “beauty” of “Boyne City”.  It had been a “busy” day of exploration!

ABC Adventure-Sault Saint Marie, Michigan-An ABC List to Discover This Town

Every city, town or village can be turned into an ABC adventure!  If visiting for a day, choose one letter, or see if you can complete the whole alphabet.  If you return to this location  you can always choose a new letter or change up the way you choose to see things.  The options are as endless as your imagination.  Here is an example of how we have explored the Sault Saint Marie area over a period of years and decades.  How will you plan your adventure?

A-Agawa Train Tour                                                                                                                                                                        This is a beautiful, scenic journey which should be made at least once in a lifetime.  At 9-10 hours long, it is a full day of adventure.  The train travels along waterways and through the beautiful Agawa canyon.  At the end of the line, passengers may disembark to explore the unspoiled beauty for about 90 minutes before the 4 1/2 hour return journey.   This area is only accessible by train.  We have done this journey a couple of times in different seasons.     https://agawatrain.com/


Other A themed ideas might include getting active (hike, bike, golf, snowboard, ski etc)/ Alpine Chocolate/architecture/Alberta House (art displays)/Alford Park/Ashmun Creek Nature Trail

B-Boat Tour                                                                                                                                               The best way to experience the locks is to sail through them!  Boat tours of the locks have been sailing since 1934.  It was 1994 before we had the chance to experience them in this way.   Our sons were still quite young when we did the tour, but this was a great way to sneak in a little education while having fun.      https://www.originalsoolocktours.com

Other B themed ideas: Bishop Baraga House/ Bridge (International)/Bird’s Eye Outfitters (kayak through the locks)/Blue Heron Charters (fishing)/Bailey Lagerstrom Nature Preserve/BARmuda Triangle (brew pubs)

C-Chippewa County Courthouse                                                                        Built in 1877 for the astronomical sum of $20,000 this building was a huge investment in a thriving community. It was designated as a historic building on the National Registry of Deeds in 1987, making this one of the oldest buildings in the state of Michigan.  The walls are two feet thick!  The memorial stone on the lawn of the Courthouse is in memory of Reverend Abel Bingham, Baptist Missionary to the Indians and forerunner of the First Baptist Church founded in 1855 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Other C themed ideas:  Cultures (specifically Ojibway and Cherokee)/Church ( Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church)/Charter Fishing

D-Dine & Drink                                                                                           There are many great places to eat in Sault St. Marie.  Here are our top 3 recommendations:

Karl’s Cuisine, Winery and Brewery- “A taste of the good life”.  A great place for fish dishes.  https://www.karlscuisine.com/menus

Lock View Restaurant-Across from the locks. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with some of the freshest fish in the area! https://www.thelockviewrestaurant.net/menu

Wicked Sister-The Wicked Sister is sort of like a backward mullet: Party in the front, business in in the back. Our mission is to be playful & fun, but we’re always serious about delicious, creative food using fresh ingredients and made from scratch dishes. With such a talented crew (in the front & back), we get to have fun without taking ourselves too seriously.  Lots of interesting food items, but they specialize in burgers.  www.https://www.wickedsistersault.com/menu

Other D themed ideas:

E-Established                                                                                                                                             There are several memorial stones on Courthouse lawn which demonstrate the establishment of the area.  On the steps of the courthouse there is a marker representing the original construction at1877.  A second stone dated 1904 was placed at the site following construction on the building. The “time capsule” inside held bonds dated 1876, pictures, business cards of each elected officer, a bottle of champagne, a 1904 Evening News, a Marquette Mining Journal, a Lake Superior News, a Northern Tribune, the Sault Star, and coins. The original plan was rectangular, the addition turned it into a T shape.  The entire structure was completely renovated and refreshed with new paint,  doors and windows in 1980.  At that time the clock face was also repaired.

F-Find the Freighters     From big to small, the boats and ships must pass through the locks to move between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.  They bypass the rapids of the St. Lawrence river, where the water falls 21 feet (6.4 m). The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year, despite being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes.   Hoping to spot one of the 1,000 foot freighters?  You can track them here.    https://www.saultstemarie.com/things-to-do/finding-freighters/

Other F themed ideas: Fort Brady

G-George Kemp Marina                                                                                                                  Located within walking distance of downtown, this is a great place to dock if you are arriving by boat,  The tidy marina is situated just east of the downtown area and  offers a nice little green space if you just want to do some boat watching.

Other G themed ideas: Great Lakes/Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (Canadian side)/golf

H-Hydroelectric Plant

The Edison Hydroelectric Plant was once the second largest power generator in the USA!  Operational since 1902, this is one of the oldest hydroelectric plants in the United States. This century (+) plant combines historic architecture with modern technology to successfully generate 25 to 30 MW of electricity when operating at full load.  Now recognized as a historic landmark in Sault Ste. Marie, the beautiful sandstone building was crafted more than a century ago by Italian masons who used the stone from the canal, which they began excavating to build the locks in 1885. At peak operation, the plant discharges approximately 30,000 cfs of water, which is equivalent to about 13.5 million gallons per minute.

Other H themed ideas: Hiawatha National Forest/Historic Homes/Henry Rowe Schoolcraft Office

International  Bridge                                                                                                                   Opened in 1962, the three-arch Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Mary’s River, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  The bridge is the only fixed link crossing between the two countries within 1,000 kilometers and it is an important trade route between key American and Canadian markets via Interstate 75 and the Trans-Canada Highway. On average, about 1,900 million vehicles cross the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge every year.

Other I themed ideas:  Ice Cream/ Iva Biggen Charters (Charter fishing)

J-John Johnston House                                                                                      Visitors can tour the home of John Johnston, one of the first European settlers to the area. John Johnston, a native of Ireland, immigrated to Canada in 1785 and made a very successful living in the fur trade.

He was married in 1793 to Ozhahguscodaywayquay, daughter of Waubojeeg, the leader of the Chippewa. The couple moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1793 where they constructed a home, part of which is currently on display. See Ozhahguscodaywayquay’s statue in her beloved garden beside the Johnston home.

This historic home has been preserved to  offer a glimpse into the lives of the early fur traders and settlers.  Many items were originally from the Johnson family.

Other J themed ideas:

K-Kemp Coal Dock Office                                                                           

The Kemp Coal Dock Office Building was built in 1904 by Sault businessman George Kemp. He owned all of the waterfront property between the Cloverland power house and the Coast Guard Station. In 1917 Kemp turned his coal business over to his sons and the building became the office for Kemp Brothers Coal Company, which operated in the Sault until 1959.

In 1960 the property was given the City of Sault Ste. Marie and developed for a variety of tourist related businesses. In 2007 the Coal Company office building was opened as the Kemp Industrial Museum.

Drawn by the natural resources of the region, access to transformation and energy (from the Cloverland power house) the Union Carbide, Northwestern Leather Company, Soo Woolen Mil and Cadillac-Soo Lumber Company became the major employers of the Sault.

AS Local resources grew scarce and the processing and product demands changed the Sault’s major industries were no longer viable. All had shut down by the early 1960’s. It is these industries that are remembered in the Kemp Industrial Museum.

Other K themed ideas: Kewadin Casino (nearby but not in Sault Ste Marie)



Other L themed ideas:  Lake Superior State University-Cisler Center/Lockside Mini Golf/Lynn Trail System

M-Museum Ship Valley Camp

Other M themed ideas:  Monocle Lake Hiking Path


Other N themed ideas:  Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures/Nicolet Shores Charter Fishing/North Country Trail/Naomikong Overlook/Northwind Fishing Charters

O-Ojibway Learning Center and Library

P-Point Iroquois Lighthouse                                                                               Just a short drive westward from Sault Ste. Marie. This historic Lake Superior beacon isn’t just a must-stop attraction during the summer, it is also  a great winter attraction.


R-River of History  Museum                                                                                                               This is a small museum dedicated to the history of the Saint Mary’s river.  Development of Sault Saint Marie is covered from the glacial period to the present day.  Information on the French, Native American, fur trading, lumbering and fishing is offered through short videos and hands on exhibits.      531 Ashmun Street, Sault St. Marie, Michigan      (906) 632-1999    http://riverofhistory.org/

Other R themed ideas: Rotary Island Park/Round Island Point Nature Preserve

S-Statues-There are many amazing statues to see scattered throughout the town.   Many represent the history and/or connection to the Native American culture.                                                                                                                    Since we were only there for a short time, we only had the ability to take in two.  These are located in front of the Courthouse.

The Crane of the Sault-The statue depicts the Chippewa Legend of two young brothers who fled their wicked mother, who was pursuing them with the intent to kill them. When they reached the north shore of the St. Marys Rapids they were met by a crane, who, after hearing their story, carried them to the south shore of the rapids. The Crane then met the mother on the north shore and agreed to transport her to the other side. Instead, the crane dropped the mother in the rapids. When she hit the stones below, the mother’s skull cracked open and her brains became the whitefish that inhabit the rapids to this day. The crane adopted the boys and one of them remained in the area, married the daughter of the crane, and founded Bahweting.

The Wolf of Rome

Other S Themed ideas:  Sault Seal Recreation Area/Shopping/Sherman Park/Sault Tribe of Chiippewa Indians Interpretive Center/Soo Fishing Charters/Soo Locks Park/Spirit Stone Trail

T-Tower of History                                                                                                                  This is a great place to get a birds eye view of the area.  Towering 250 feet, the building is a prominent feature of the area.  Originally built in 1968 by the Catholic church, the building was intended to be a shrine to the Missionaries which served here.  Eventually the project was discarded and the tower was turned over to the city in 1980.  Today it serves as a museum for both local and Native history.

Other T themed ideas:  Theater (Soo Theater Project)/Trout Lake Pathway/True North Guide Service (fly fishing)

U-US Weather Bureau

V-Veterans Memorial

Other V themed ideas:  Voyageur Island

W-Water Street Historic Block (Walking Tour)

Other W themed ideas:  Winery


Y-Yooper                                                                                                            A native or resident of the Upper Peninsula

Z-Zak and Mac’s Chocolate Haus                                                                                                                                As you finish your tour, indulge your sweet tooth with a scoop or two of ice cream. There are over 30 flavors to choose from!  If fudge, popcorn or taffy are more to your liking, you can find that here also.  This delightful business has been around since the 1960’s.

“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

M is for Magical Michigan-An Alphabetical List of Michigan Cities

When we first began our ABC Adventures, we chose to explore the cities in our state.  Whether it was tiny or a major metropolis, we discovered so much about where we live.   Find your next adventure by starting with a city, town or village to see what you might discover.





Battle Creek


Big Rapids

Boyne City









Elk Rapids

Fife Lake



Glen Arbor

Grand Haven

Grand Rapids



Higgins Lake


Houghton Lake

Indian River


Iron Mountain



Lake Ann






Maple City

Mount Pleasant


North Manitou Island




Presque Isle



Rogers City

Sault Saint Marie

Silver Lake

St. Johns

Suttons Bay

Tawas City


Traverse City









“A” is for “Anniversary at Aonach Mor”!-Harbor Springs, Michigan


Thirty years is a long time to be married.  We wanted to do something different for this special anniversary.  Since our wedding date falls on January 8th, we are often at a loss for how to celebrate during the peak of Michigan’s winter weather.  We had booked a beautiful room in Harbor Springs, Michigan for the weekend.  As part of our Anniversary package, we were given $150 resort credit, to be used at any of the nearby Boyne Resorts.  I scanned the opportunities.  There was skiing, tubing, dog sled pulls, horse drawn sleigh rides and something called the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner.  Since we were on an “A” themed adventure, this caught my eye.

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A is for Amazing Alden

P7047772 It was a hot summer day, as we set off to explore our first Michigan city. Barely a pinprick on a map, Alden is tiny.   Alan and I had often passed right through on our way to somewhere seemingly more exciting. With a population of just 125 people, it is easy to believe that there is not much there.  Opening the atlas we decided this was the nearest “A” themed location, to our home. Determined to find something of interest in this sleepy little town we traveled for nearly an hour, specifically to see it. Entering the four block long town, colorful signs announce that you have arrived, but blink and you will have traveled beyond the few stores and restaurants that reside in the restored buildings, dating from the 1800’s.

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B Is For Burgers and Baskets



Some nineteen years ago, around the time our youngest son turned two, we had committed to a weekly or bi-weekly date night.  When our children were young, I didn’t like to leave them.  Occasionally we hired a sitter but mostly we just made time for each other at home.  We learned from early on in our marriage, that time was the most precious thing we could give each other.   During those early years,  Alan worked 90-120 hours a week, trying to establish our new company.  Continue reading

A is for Agawa Train Tour-Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada

Our mission for the first alphabet adventure was to begin working our way through the alphabet, from A-Z, in order.  Unintentionally, we seemed to be starting with the letter “B” for blizzard!  As our windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the storm, I was concerned that we would have to turn around and forfeit our tickets for the “Agawa Canyon Train Tour”.  We didn’t have this luxury though, because during the winter, there is only a single trip each week, which takes place on Saturdays.  Since it was Friday, we decided to press on, hoping to make our pre-arranged departure time, scheduled for the following day.  Alan is an excellent driver and conditions like this are not unusual for those of us that reside in Michigan.  Thankfully, it was a brief and localized storm which “abated” about an hour out-of-town.   Finally we began utilizing our “A” themed words!

A challenging start to our adventure.

A challenging start to our adventure.

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A is for “Anytime. anyplace, or anything” a great way to begin our ABC adventures.



One of our first adventures was to explore the town of Alden, MI.  You can read about it here.

Each state has its own list of cities and towns.  Every location offers its own unique flare.   Find out what to do there, then set your course for a new adventure.  If you live in Michigan, like we do,  you could also visit Acme, Adrian, Albion, Algonac, Allendale, Allen Park, Alma, Alpena,  Ann Arbor, Arcadia or Auburn Hills to begin  your alphabet journey.