Going the Extra Mile

Exceptional experiences often call for a bit of courage and a few extra miles. // Photography by Bill Thompson
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Chair of the Kinesiology Department at Hope College in Holland, Kirk Brumels, Ph.d., grew up cultivating the wonders of good walks alongside his grandfather. “Enough blackberries for a pie or two were collected from bushes found close to the road,” he shares (page 34), “but Grandpa Weller’s favorite Michigan low-bush huckleberries were more remote… requiring a prickly journey through oppressive undergrowth and across adjacent hillsides.”

Exceptional experiences — rewards of the route less traveled — often require uncommon measures of effort, Brumels learned at a young age. But they are always worth it.

BLUE’s second special annual Travel & Adventure Issue spotlights some personal “highs” and fun discoveries of extraordinary excursions across the state for those willing to go the extra mile.

Or, 306 extra miles.

Running west from St. Ignace to Ironwood along the lower southern portion of the Upper Peninsula, U.S. Highway 2 “is pristine,” notes travel blogger Elizabeth Seward (gadling.com). “This stretch of road is so relatively far out of the way that its untouched beauty is its main attraction.”

While state-designated heritage routes, historic bridges, a segment of the Great Lakes Circle Tour, two national and two state forests are part of this trek’s package, the most memorable perk is nearly 45 miles of sparkling right-there proximity to majestic Lake Michigan, just beyond the Bridge (page 46).

“As you enter the U.P., your heart will suddenly feel freer. Adventurous. Happy,” expresses the Michigan Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association (uptravel.com). “Cross the Straits…and stir your soul.”

You can rouse it up pretty good, too, being released between 3,000 and 5,000 feet in a motor-free sailplane above twin Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell (page 16), whooshing 120 miles per hour in a tandem freefall “from a perfectly good airplane” (page 20) or plunging into Piers Gorge, the Midwest’s fiercest stretch of whitewater rapids, in a raft that’s “safe enough for families but wild enough to be unforgettable” (page 30). Less dramatic but no less difference-making experiences of a lifetime can be discovered through any one of Michigan’s myriad adventure clubs (page 40).

From fresh-air excursions to challenges leading to a new grip on life, such outdoor groups are bringing members of varying ages and goals together, including the 100-plus member, Kalamazoo-area Great Lakes Adventure Club, largely comprised of empty nesters age 50-something who inspire each other to try different things, from cycling and paddling to hiking and even scuba diving.

“When I was a kid I wanted a life of adventure…but I had the wrong idea about it,” reflects BLUE columnist (and Piers Gorge brave heart) Jerry Dennis. “I thought you had to risk your life…I didn’t know that ordinary moments can be adventures, too.”

Swinging easy on a golf getaway with friends (page 54), waking up to views of blue in a grand Victorian (page 25) or uncovering epicurean delights in the River City (page 82) are other ways to enhance and enliven these last few warm-weather weeks in the Great Lakes State. You’ll find a diverse, exciting and inviting mix of others in this Travel & Adventure issue’s Excursions section, starting on page 62.

Regardless of the road or route you choose to take, here’s to making every step of going that extra mile memorable.

With heartfelt thanks for reading,

Lisa M. Jensen, Editor, Michigan BLUE Magazine

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