Marine City Road Trip

There are so many great places still to explore in our state!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my state. I am a born and raised Michigan girl through and through! Sure, I enjoy visiting other states and tropical locations from time to time, but I am also still discovering parts of our own state I hadn’t been to before. So a couple times a year I like to grab my husband, Chad, or some friends and go on weekend a road trip!

Last summer, I was planning a weekend getaway with two couples from about 3 hours downstate of us. Often times they come up this way, because let’s face it-Northern Michigan is awesome, but this time to keep things fair, I was looking for someplace more in the middle. Typically we meet up in Frankenmuth, but I really wanted someplace new for this weekend. After a couple hours of research I came up with Marine City, located south of Port Huron on the St. Clair River. While it was actually a 3.5 hour drive from our part of the state, it seemed like it would be worth it.

We set off on a Friday morning in the Bronco, top down, and music blasting with classic rock songs we couldn’t help but sing along to. We took the scenic route which led us through the backroads and farm country of the Thumb area. We couldn’t have asked for better Michigan summer weather, mid-upper 70s and sunny.

We arrived at check in time. Another thing people that know me understand is that I will leave my house at 2am if that is what it takes to arrive AT check in time. I am getting my money’s worth, darn it! I definitely recommend The Inn on Water Street. The room was large and had a nice balcony overlooking the park across the street and the river beyond. We sat on the balcony, enjoying the warm breeze, and watching the freighters go by until the other couples got there. One of the things I really loved about the location of our hotel is that it is on the main strip in town, so you don’t have to take your car anywhere if you don’t want to. There are plenty of cool shops, restaurants and waterfront parks in walking distance. My favorites were Marine City Fish Company for dinner and Gord’s Bar that features a new rooftop bar for after dinner drinks. For shopping I’d suggest not missing The Mariner or MC Marketplace, both are on the main strip.

When we weren’t exploring town with our friends, my husband and I spent most of our time sitting in the shade by the water just enjoying being outside and watching the activity on the river. After a fun two days with our friends, Chad and I decided to take the long way home and take the coast the whole way. I had a couple more lighthouses to cross off my list! It ended up taking about 7 hours with stops and photo opps. We enjoyed a beautiful drive through Port Huron, Port Sanilac, Port Austin, Caseville, etc before finishing our fun weekend with a waterfront dinner at the Real Seafood Company in Bay City.

I haven’t planned our home state getaway yet for this summer so if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments.

The Mighty Au Sable River

These are a few of my favorite things…

This beautiful, 138 mile long river begins near Grayling and ends right here in Oscoda. There are beautiful trails to hike, overlooks to enjoy and paddling trips to take. Proximity to this river is one of the primary reasons why bought our home here. There is an annual canoe race on the river the last weekend of July and it’s something you need to witness to appreciate. The Mill Street bridge near Finish Line Park in downtown Oscoda closes to traffic and serves as the end point for the race. There is a live radio broadcast, medical tents for racers that may need a massage or medical attention, bleacher for bystanders, various vendors and sometimes a party at the Au Sable Inn, which is located next to the bridge.

The River Road Scenic Byway follows 22 miles of the river, from M-65 to downtown Oscoda, and is home to many scenic overlooks, ponds, boat launches, fishing holes and picnic areas. You’ll also find the Highbanks Trail here (which is 7-8 miles long depending on which map you use). Most of the trail is conveniently laid out in 2 mile sections between overlooks, which makes it very easy for even new hikers. I’ve hiked it in all four seasons and I will share that my least favorite time of year is summer. The gnats and flies can get pretty bad and the trees block the nice breeze you need on those hot, humid days. It is gorgeous in the winter but you will want your snowshoes or boots with clamps. The trail is well marked but in heavy snow it can be tricky to find the path, especially if no one before you has broken the trail!

One of my favorite Au Sable River activities is kayaking. I was able to go four times last year. There are several canoe rental shops along the river. My favorite is Oscoda Canoe Rental which is the closest one to my house. It’s just a couple miles from downtown Oscoda and they offer several different types of trips. You can opt for a single or double canoe or kayak and they offer tubing trips as well. They have different distance options depending on how long you want to be out on the water. They’ll drop you off with the equipment and you just make your way back down the river to their shop. The town of Glennie is further away for us, but offers beautiful trips on different sections of the river. I plan on doing at least one river trip up that way this summer!

The scenic overlooks along River Road hold a special place in my heart. The Foote Pond overlook is a favorite spot for watching a sunset or stargazing. Lumberman’s Monument is the biggest overlook with a gift shop, bathrooms, planned seasonal activities, interactive displays and nearly 300 steps that lead down to a replica of a floating store that visited lumber camps. Iargo Springs has a big platform overlooking the river, which is great for birdwatching. Optionally, you can go down the nearly 300 steps to view the springs, considered to have healing powers by Native Americans, and explore the paths that lead to more great bird viewing opportunities.

There are five, one hundred year old hydroelectric dams along the river that are owned by Consumers Energy. They also own about 12,000 acres of dedicated recreational property along the river that is used by the public, including two very popular campgrounds. Those dams formed ponds which are used by thousands of people every year. The leases on the dams start expiring in 2034 and CE is considering not renewing those leases. There have been a series of public meetings and questionnaires over the last several months looking for public feedback. The vast majority of people I’ve talked to do not want to see the dams removed. It would completely alter the flow, recreational use, and property values for those that own property on the river.

I am hoping that the dams remain and the river I have come to know and love so much since moving here doesn’t change. It would be devastating for the businesses and communities that depend on the tourism money that our summer visitors bring. I have attended the meetings, filled out the questionnaires and signed the petitions but the rest is out of my hands. All I can do now is wait and see what happens. Nothing much should change for at least the next ten years and I plan to fully enjoy everything the river has to offer while I can!

Loud Dam/Five Channels
Sunset at Foote Pond overlook
An eagle at Iargo Springs
This is one of the eastern most overlooks and is a favorite of fly fishermen
Iargo Springs
Lumberman’s Monument
Highbanks Trail
Highbanks Trail

Women’s Retreats

Taking time for reflection, new experiences and making connections.

I went on my first ever Women’s Self Care Retreat in May of 2021. I wasn’t sure what to expect. “Meditation, yoga on the beach, chanting, journaling, vision boards, etc.” It sounded way out of my comfort zone so naturally, I convinced a friend to come with me and share in the experience! We shared a cute little cabin overlooking Lake Huron that had 2 small bedrooms, living room, kitchen/dining and bathroom.

The retreat started with a welcome circle. There was an altar in the center and we had been instructed ahead of time to bring a little something personal to put there. It was at that moment that I wondered (for the first time) what the hell I had gotten myself into! It was very awkward to sit there, surrounded by strangers and my friend who was also probably wondering what the hell I had gotten her into! I took a deep breath and reminded myself that the reason I was doing this was to open up my mind to new experiences and step out of my comfort zone. I looked around the circle and realized that I probably wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to expect. That made me feel more relaxed and I felt myself opening up. In fact, at one of our workshops I felt myself opening up way more than I had anticipated. I found myself crying while talking about my mom, twice! There were still awkward moments, have you ever chanted around a bonfire for what felt like hours with 8 mostly strangers? It felt very weird at first but I didn’t run back to my cabin. I stayed and tried it. That weekend we shared meals, trusted each other with our deepest feelings, made vision boards and did sunrise meditation. By the time I left on Sunday, I felt more in touch with myself that I had in a long time. Not the wife or the mother side of me, but just me. We forget as we travel through life that it is a solo journey. While we dearly love our family and friends, in the end we need to have that connection with ourselves too. I also felt a sisterhood with these women. With ALL women. It was empowering.

I knew I wanted to go back the next year and I had a friend who had been going through a lot of things and thought she could use a weekend away. A weekend to connect with herself and hopefully experience the same things I had. She said yes right away and we booked our cabin, my favorite one overlooking the lake. Some of the workshops were different this year. We still did yoga and chanting (which didn’t feel quite as weird this time), but we also did a workshop with sculpting clay, a session talking about our spirituality background and I even tried a reflexology session that turned out to be amazing. By opening myself up, I find myself more accepting of other points of view and new possibilities. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with us that weekend. At one point during a circle time, we were all sitting under two pop up tents in the cold rain, huddled under blankets, periodically pushing on the top of the tent to knock off the pooling water. I remember watching the prayer flags we had made getting battered by the wind, water dripping off of them, yet they hung in there. Their words and meaning didn’t fade just because they faced adversity. The words representing what we hoped to achieve that weekend were still clear; balance, harmony, connection, peace. It was at that moment I realized how easily your thoughts can drift when you spend a weekend doing self reflection and everyone in the circle was waiting for my response to the question that had been asked! Rain and wandering thoughts aside, it was a great weekend. That was a very special group of women and I still keep in touch with many of them today.

The next retreat is coming up in just a few months and I am already looking forward to it. This year’s focus is the Full Moon and Lake Huron. We’ll be using crystals and stones, making drums and jumping in the lake during a full moon ceremony. None of that is familiar to me and that’s ok. It’s so easy to fall back into our comfortable routines and what feels familiar. I look forward to this annual reminder that it’s powerful to experience new things, especially things are a little uncomfortable. I’m excited to relax, let go, and hopefully see some of my retreat friends as well.

Better Late than Never?

9 months is a perfectly acceptable length of time between posts, right? Sigh. So many times I have wanted to start writing but then something else comes up and before I know it, another month has gone by. When my annual renewal for this site came up last December, I questioned the wisdom of keeping it. Why continue to pay for something that I don’t seem to have the time to commit to? Did I need the added pressure?

In the end though, I had to ask myself WHY I started this in the first place. When I was a kid, I was an avid diary writer. I loved taking the time to sit at my desk or lay on my bed and just write down whatever was in my mind at that moment. What I wouldn’t give to be able to read them now as an adult! I wanted to recreate that with this blog. Have a record of how I was feeling and what was going on in my life. Something I could share with friends and family. Social media is nice, but there is just something about a journal/diary/blog that just FEELS good.

So I decided to renew for another year and here we are. I am vowing to do better with keeping this up. It really IS important to me. There have been a lot of things that have happened since my last post that I would love to write about. It may take me awhile to catch up, but I do love a challenge. I hope you’ll hang in there with me.