A Drive Up the Lake Michigan Shoreline


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Published: May 16th 2018
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St. Joseph, Michigan

Once again, the weather wasn’t cooperating. We woke up to occasional rain and completely overcast skies. Forecast wasn’t very good either, so it kind of put a damper on plans. We don’t like hiking in the rain - besides being uncomfortable when it is wet and cold, I think you also miss a lot because the colors are washed out and flora and fauna sort of retreat from the weather. We probably could have picked a museum in Chicago and gone in to do that, but after the Science Museum experience, we were feeling a bit urban gun-shy.

So our fun yesterday was something else Joan had on her rebellion list, a drive along the shore of Lake Michigan. There actually is an official Lake Michigan Circle Tour that uses a combination of highways to go all the way around the lake - more than 400 miles. We obviously weren’t going to tour the whole lake, especially not in one day, but we decided to head up the Eastern side of the lake because we hadn’t been there at all and weren’t planning on hitting that side later in the trip. That part of Michigan is in yet another ecological zone - more forested than down here in Indiana, but we will revisit that later in the trip.

The surprising thing was that this area is the corner where Michigan’s wineries are located, and, of course, we aren’t ones to turn down a wine tasting. So the day looked promising from that point of view. Seeing the lake, though, was not really a part of the experience. Turns out that the highways that make up the circle aren’t like 101 in California - they tend to be a mile or two inland. And even when they do come close to the shoreline, there was so much fog that we couldn’t see much of the lake at all. Clouds lifted by the end of the day, but by that time, we were tired and just wanted to get home.

First stop was just up the road a bit and is the easternmost site in the National Lake Shore. Mt. Baldy is the largest moving sand dune in the park. Bereft of vegetation, this mountain of sand is being blown inland around 10 feet per year. The park makes no attempt to stop it and you can see how it is overtaking the parking lots that used to be on its edge. They have also now banned any foot traffic on the mountain, partly for safety reasons, but also to prevent unnatural erosion. So you can’t climb it any more, but you can walk around it to the shoreline and get an appreciation of its immensity. We took the girls on this drive and Fleur, who loves sand piles, just went nuts at the size of this one. She was rolling and running and barking - so excited. Smooch wanted to get in the water, but we weren’t supposed to go all the way to the beach, so she didn’t get her swim in.

After Mt. Baldy, we proceeded up the coast, mostly in the fog. We decided to make our way to a town called St. Joseph, see what was there, and then return, possibly stopping at some wineries along the way. As we parked the car on the Main Street downtown, we found a delightful winery, the Lazy Ballerina. They were open for tasting, so we bellied up to the bar and sampled five of their wines. Two of them were surprisingly good,
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The Word Above Captures the Moment
I thought, not too sweet and with a lot of fruit flavor. After the tasting, we each bought a glass of what we liked and sat there watching the people go by.

After that, we were getting hungry and, although several restaurants were either not yet open for the season, or closed on Tuesdays, we found one that got good reviews at a hotel about a mile away. We drove there, but, because we were now in Eastern time, we found that it was in between lunch and dinner hours and not open yet. We settled at the bar and had another drink waiting for dinner.

The wine was good, but I have to say that the Pork Ribeye was about the best pork dish I’ve ever had - tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned, it was served on a more than ample bed of pan-fried vegetables including Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and cippolini mushrooms that had a balance of sweet, savory, and salty with all kinds of textures. Although not exactly cheap, this was a terrific meal. Whenever in St. Joseph, Michigan, eat a meal at the Plank Restaurant - you won’t regret it.

After all that
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Happy Amid the Wine Varieties
food and drink, the only thing we wanted to do was get home. So I retraced our steps and drove back. The sun finally came out while we were having dinner, and we got to see brief glimpses of the lake. It wasn’t a special day, but it was good enough


Additional photos below
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Joan had the Mussels at Plank
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There’s a Big Lake There Somewhere
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Harbor View Outside of Restaurant


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