The nooks, the crannies, the incredibly perfect ways to spend part of your vacation in Torch Lake Township

Posted on July 25, 2008

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We all have a picture in our minds of the Perfect Vacation. The one where the car doesn’t break down, the kids don’t get poison ivy, Mom and Dad don’t get sunburned, and all the Amazing Attractions really are amazing. Here are some really good things to do in and around Torch Lake Township.  I won’t promise perfection, but it’s all great stuff, and some of it might even help when your vacation is not going as planned.  (Um – the car thing?  I recommend Bruce Merrifield, Certified Mechanic, over on Farrell Road.)

  • Follow the Parks and Trails links over in the right-hand column for the best places in Torch Lake Township to swim, launch your boat, or take a short hike.  (Barnes Park is really special.)  I wrote about lots of other good places to play outdoors in a post for Our Town: Antrim County, the Record-Eagle blog I’ve been sadly neglecting this summer. 
  • If you want to make a longish daytrip of it, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore over in Empire is on my personal peak experiences list, and I’ll tell you all about that sometime but not now.  It’s a good story, though – and you’ll make your own good story there if you go.
  • Put on your most comfortable clothes, grab a blanket or some sand chairs, and find a good spot to watch a sunset. Barnes Park or the Torch Bay Nature Preserve on Grand Traverse Bay, and the tiny park at the boat launch in Alden on the east side of Torch Lake spring to mind.
  • OK, so it’s raining. Go indoors for adventure. Good options even if it’s a nice day:
    • Raven Hill Discovery Center between East Jordan and Boyne City (“where science, art and history connect”)
    • Guntzviller Taxidermy and Spirit of the Woods Museum on US 31 south of Elk Rapids (look for the the giant bear), where you will find dioramas of the animals of Michigan, traditional Native American crafts, and an array of nature guides for children and adults
    • The Music House Museum on US-31 in Acme, where there are music-making machines from tiny music boxes to an enormous Belgian dance organ. They have a player piano with a roll of the Rhapsody in Blue recorded by George Gershwin himself. I did not expect to care for this place – I went because I thought a visiting organist would enjoy it. And so she did. And so did I. And so will you. Trust me on this.
    • Dennos Museum in Traverse City (where US-31 turns into Munson Avenue). The Dennos has an exceptional collection of Inuit art, a whole roomful of hands-on perception tools to delight every age group, and a gift shop that must be magic, because it holds way too many fascinating things to fit into the tiny space.
    • Buy the Camp Board Game – created in Eastport and available at gift shops, bookstores and outfitters all over the north – and play it at the cottage while the rain comes down. Build a fire. Make cocoa. Tell family stories all over again.
  • Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Buffalo burgers. Elk sausage. Venison jerky.  Whitefish pate. Between Sonny’s Torch Lake Market and the Eastport Market IGA, you can find all those things without having to leave Torch Lake Township.  Heaven knows what you’ll find if you venture further.  Let me know.
  • Pick your own cherries, apricots, blueberries, peaches – the U-Pick signs all up and down US-31 and M-88 will guide you.  (There’s also a terrific guide to local growers and producers, available online and on counters all around the area: Taste the Local Difference.)
  • Listen to Interlochen Public Radio (Classical music on WIAA 88.7 FM, News and features on 91.5 FM) or the Ron Jolly Show (WTCM 580 AM-7-10am weekdays) or Sunny Country (WLDR 101.0 FM) – pick something you’d NEVER listen to at home.
  • Meander along M-88 to Central Lake.  Visit Bachmann’s General Store, where you can find anything you really need.  Turn east on Old State Road and pull in at Thurston Park.  Let the kids play on the play structure while you watch the river flow by.  It will come to you that you have not been fishing in a very long time, and that you would like to go again.  Look over there by the bridge.  See the Corner Store?  You can buy a fishing license and cold beverages there.  See The Crossings Bait Shop?  You can rent a boat and Personal Flotation Devices there.  You can buy an inexpensive fishing pole and some bait. Go ahead.  Take a kid fishing – even if it’s the kid in you. 
  • if you’re a night person, get up at dawn and listen to the birds – watch the morning mist rise from the lake or from the low areas of the meadows. Notice how vivid the colors of the wildflowers are in the early morning.  Go over to the IGA and buy a cup of coffee from Russ – he’ll be there at 7:00 – and say good morning to him for me. 
  • If you’re a day person, stay up late and camp out on the beach. Look at the stars. Listen for owls, coyotes, the sound of the waves. Go for a swim. Notice how warm the water feels as the air cools.
  • Do something you’re afraid of. Pet a big snake at Raven Hill Discovery Center. Swim in water that’s over your head. Get up and recite a poem at Stone Circle. Ride your bike up and down the drumlins.
  • Do something you love that you never seem to have time for when you’re at home. Read a book all the way through. Take a nap out on the deck. Play silly games with the kids.
  • Shop in places where the person behind the counter chose the merchandise. Stuff ‘n’ Such and Nifty Things in Elk Rapids are personal favorites, along with Adams Madams, Tributaries Gallery and Bachmann’s in Central Lake, and the Behr Gallery [Ed: Bier Gallery!  I knew that.  Embarrassing.] It’s in the red schoolhouse on US-31 between Eastport and Charlevoix.  You’ll find your own favorites – the ones that have just what you like to wear in just your size, or the ones that have gadgets you never knew you needed . . .   
  • If you really love to shop, you will love Elk Rapids, Alden, Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs.  It exhausts me to think about all the possibilities.  I will go take a nap on the deck now.