By Christy Walcott
Gaylord is my hometown and while I do enjoy venturing out and seeing what other communities have to offer, it goes without saying that my heart is always at home. I make it a priority to take some time off during our perfect northern Michigan summers, but instead of venturing north, south, east or west, I have found my happy place with the “staycation.”
I realized that my staycation would make a pretty awesome vacation for someone visiting the Gaylord area, so I thought I would give you a rundown of what makes Gaylord THE best place to visit!
Day 1 – Just take it all in
Most vacations start out with a day where you treat yourself to some casual exploration, and even though I’ve lived here for my entire life, I can still spend a day rediscovering Gaylord.
After my husband, Andy, and I strolled along Main Street, popping in and out of each shop and buying the cutest piece of art from Lady Latte, we stopped at the Iron Pig Smokehouse for my favorite summer beverage – strawberry “adult” lemonade. After cocktails, we wandered over to Alpine Tavern and enjoyed lunch on their spacious patio. A mid-day, gourmet salad hit the spot and was ever-so refreshing!
Bavarian Falls Park seemed to be beckoning to us, so next we tried our luck at putt-putt golf. This quaint course with its roaring waterfall has a fun design with a few challenges for the novice putt-putter (are there professionals in putt-putt?).
Day 2 – Seek adventure
Snorkeling is one of my favorite activities, and while inland sinkhole lakes may not be the first thing that comes to mind, I highly recommend giving them a try! The view above Section 4 Lake in the Pigeon River Country State Forest showcases a gleaming turquoise pond, lined heavily with trees. The water along the shoreline is crystal clear, giving you a glimpse of northern Michigan’s underwater world that is so often overlooked. Wispy plants reach up from the sandy bottom, mimicking fan corals I’ve seen in faraway places.
While the water may be cooler and the fish less plentiful than what most would look for in snorkeling, swimming along a floating log, watching trout dart about below you is truly breathtaking.
Day 3 – Happy Trails
Hiking with Andy and my fur babies leaves me feeling rejuvenated, so of course, I have to take advantage of it every chance I get! Day 3 of vacation was spent along one of my favorite stretches of woodlands – the Jordan River Pathway. We packed a picnic lunch, sat along the breathtaking view of Deadman’s Hill, then ventured out on this approximately 3 mile loop.
Be ready for the elevation change and remember that once you go down to the bottom of the valley, you do have to go back up! If you’re traveling with pups, let them get lots of fresh water from the creek and be prepared for muddy paws!
Day 4 – Island Hopping
One of the many benefits of the Gaylord area is its central location. You can get anywhere in northern Michigan almost effortlessly, with many one-of-a-kind attractions only an hour away. Andy and I haven’t been anywhere tropical recently, so we felt the need to put ourselves on “island time,” Beaver Island time, in fact.
After a scenic 45-minute drive to Charlevoix and then a 15-minute jaunt in the smallest aircraft I have ever been in (also the smoothest flight I’ve ever had!), we found ourselves off the grid on Beaver Island. Captain Kevin from Indigo Guide Services met us at the airport and whisked us off on his fishing boat for a day of flatwater sight fishing.
We sped around Lake Michigan, viewing a variety of smaller islands and hearing of their past settlers. Not generally a history buff, I was so intrigued by the rich past of these previously unknown islands right in my home state (you’ll have to do your research if you want to find out!).
But, we were there to fish. So we FISHED. From the back of the boat, Captain Kevin guided us right where to cast, when to reel in and when to start over again. Whether you fly fish or prefer a traditional rod and reel, this is the tour for you.
Day 5 – Relax and Renew
As the final days of my vacation were drawing near, I knew it was time to simply kick back and relax. While the Otsego Lake State Park may be a busy stretch of sand, there is plenty of room for everyone. I laid out my beach towel, turned on iTunes and just basked in the sunlight for most of the day. Ahhh…bliss.
Since I knew I would most likely start my post-vacation diet in the near future, I treated myself to one last gastronomic splurge and ate dessert first at Tap Room 32. I have three words for you – chocolate lava cake. You will not be disappointed.
All good things must come to an end, and vacations are no exception. I’ve always heard you should live in a place you would travel to and I’ve found both in my hometown of Gaylord.