When you stay at Hearthside Grove Luxury RV Resort this awesome overlooked Michigan road trip is a must do!
The day trip from Petoskey to the wildlife centers of Curtis and Manistique in the Upper Peninsula takes you over the Mighty Mac and points you west on U.S. 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, where sprawling sand dunes rise up against the sky and drop down to provide glimpses of the sun-gilt water and lonely pines. Here you’ll find a highway reminiscent of California’s famous coastal Highway 101 that snakes through towering cedars and the hardwood groves north of San Francisco. Our own highway showcases the natural beauty surrounding Lake Michigan, the second largest of the Great Lakes by volume and the third largest by surface area, behind Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
You’ll be driving through the eastern Upper Peninsula, where the towns of Curtis and Manistique display their proud lumbering heritage, and where Curtis now invites sportsmen to play in local lakes and streams, and politicians to solicit contributions from well-heeled retirees who know where to find the good life.
Your guide for today, a retired newsman, once greeted U.S. Senator Carl Levin when he stopped at Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn in Curtis, north of U.S. 2 by some 15 miles, and drew dozens of folks to alively reception. Over 120 years ago, the inn was a railroad passenger hotel before it was moved to its current site on a bluff overlooking Big Manistique Lake. The inn has a 10-foot stone fireplace downstairs and 11 refurbished guestrooms upstairs. Its owner, Bud Chamberlin, celebrates almost any occasion, including Halloween, with an often-rollicking party. Return to the inn to take one in if you can. Often with wild costumes, Bud’s parties may spotlight the great Michigan keyboard musician, Doc Woodward, who has yet to be stumped by a partygoer’s request for a song. Take in a whitefish lunch, a pint of suds, and some good afternoon conversation about the area attractions, which include the Seney Wildlife Refuge, Blaney Park, Erickson Center for the Arts, Nature’s Kennel Dog Sleds and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, all nearby and worth your time.
Located between the North, South and Big Manistique Lakes, and near the Manistique and Fox Rivers, Curtis is known for boating, fishing and canoeing. Even within the confines of a day trip, you’ll have time to take the seven-mile marshland drive through Seney to see swans, geese, ducks, eagles, osprey, and by chance a moose.
When you’re ready to head home, return to U.S. 2 and, from the town of Gulliver, pay a memorable visit to Seul Choix Light, pride of the native keepers and one of the finest lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Be sure to catch the fascinating historical video, shown in the theater and available to purchase in the excellent gift house. The lighthouse, located some 14 miles east of Manistique and still fully operational, has two fully furnished kitchens, a tower, family quarters, a steam fog signal and boiler house, stable, boathouse, two docks, two oil houses, brick outhouse, paint shed, and a tramway, which was used to transport supplies from the boats up the slope to the light.
According to lore, hundreds of years ago Native Americans and French fur traders traveled in canoes across the rough waters of Lake Michigan. On one occasion, a group of French sailors was caught in a terrifying storm, which forced them to seek shelter. They landed on the rocky shore of a harbor and found refuge in the bay while waiting out the storm. Before leaving, they named the harbor “Seul Choix,” which translates as “Only Choice.”
By the way, if you pronounce Seul Choix in the proper local fashion as “sis-shwa” you’ll be welcomed almost as a native Yooper. “Sis-shwa” is assumed to be the common name used by both the French Voyageurs and the Native Americans with whom they traded furs. Try pronouncing it any other way, even in proper French, and you will be misunderstood and probably labeled a snob. Or worse, a foreigner.
Be warned that the lighthouse is said to be haunted by one of its former keepers, Joseph Willie Townsend, who lived there from 1902 to 1910 and died in an upstairs bedroom. Author Dave Wobster Townsend wrote that Townsend was a cigar smoker in life, but his wife refused to let him smoke in the house.
“Now cigar smoke is often smelled in the house, as if Townsend now enjoys what his wife forbade,” Wobster wrote. Evidence indeed of the haunting of the house!
Credits: Article written by Fred Gray. Fred is a freelance writer and photographer in Northern Michigan.
Get Featured: Want to be a featured writer, then contact us today!