My 2020 birthday was among the best I’ve ever had. It started with a knock on my hotel room door at 7 a.m. Standing in the hall of the lovely Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island was my oldest son, exclaiming, “Birthday ride time!” Although it was early, how could I turn down that kind of invitation? In just a few minutes, the two of us were spinning along Mackinac Island’s eight-mile shoreline loop, taking in a sunrise highlighted by slivers of tangerine and swathes of violet. The quiet Straits of Mackinac gleamed in shades of lilac and deep navy as we pedaled along.
This was the fourth morning of a biking adventure my family and friends were enjoying. Planned every August by my husband, last year’s trek started in Gaylord, cruised along the gorgeous North Central State Trail through Wolverine, and headed on to Cheboygan and Mackinac Island before hitting Petoskey. We would end in Boyne City.
After leaving the island on that glorious morning, the riders (my good friend and I weren’t biking, as we served as support drivers and chefs) pointed their bikes in the direction of Petoskey, along another converted rails-to-trails route — the North Western State Trail. By noon, they had pulled into their designated lunch destination, where my friend and I had set out a picnic lunch for the whole entourage. This was a favorite stop. Alongside the Maple River in Pellston, a gently moving ribbon of ice-cold water meandered past our picnic chairs and flowed beneath the bridge the cyclists would soon be on as they made their way to Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Cruising along the rails-to-trails was truly idyllic. Birdsong, evergreens, hardwoods, silvery-white birches, and signs of yesteryear were abundant. In Brutus, for example, a quaint vacant shack just off the path had aging red-and-black-painted letters on the side that read Post Office, Brutus.
My friend and I joined the bikers in Petoskey, and at dinnertime our group indulged in a delicious dockside meal at Stafford’s Pier Restaurant in Harbor Springs. The Champagne (thanks, friends!) went down smooth, in the same way the sailboats glided past us on the water. The mussels-and-clams appetizer, served with garlic toast, was the best I’d tasted in a long time — and isn’t everything better outdoors, especially when you’re looking out to a beautiful view? An after-dinner wander through Harbor Springs (those charming Victorian houses — architectural jewels!) led us past puffy peppermint-pink hydrangeas and lemon-yellow and raspberry-hued dahlias, as well as flower-filled window boxes. Then my husband, sons, and I were off to the boardwalk in Petoskey’s Spring Lake Park, across from our hotel. An early evening birthday saunter led us past water lilies, great blue herons, yellow warblers, darting fish, and wavy green grasses, and put me in heaven. If I were to see an eagle, my birthday would be the most memorable yet, I thought. Just seconds later, my younger son pointed to the still-cerulean blue sky. “An eagle!” he whispered. And I made a birthday wish.
A jaunt over to a beach near Bay View delivered the most perfect Lake Michigan sunset. The action-packed day had come full circle, and I stood on the rocks with my two sons, taking in the sky’s tangerines, violets, and golds, which illuminated the calm waters of Little Traverse Bay.
Just about anywhere outdoors in Michigan is a good place to be on your birthday, especially if it’s on water. For me, being with my guys in that Petoskey-area paradise was the icing on the cake.