My husband and I moved to Michigan from Florida, five years ago. What? Are we crazy? A few people questioned our sanity at the time. But we have never regretted our relocation north. For us, Michigan means four dramatic and distinct seasons, easy access to four of the stunning Great Lakes along with bountiful, beautiful and uncrowded beaches. A short drive brings us high atop some of the highest fresh water sand dunes in the world with magnificent views in every direction and not a mangy palm tree in site. Up and down the Michigan coast line, more than 100 lighthouses stand sentry. There are vast walkable areas of pristine wilderness to hike and thousands of lakes and rivers to kayak...with not a single alligator, Burmese python or snowbird in any of them.
Cherry and apple orchards, vineyards and wineries, green grassy hill sides and farm lands saturate the state with their colorful hues. You can pick fresh fruit right from the tree, go fishing in a cool stream, sit in a shady glade and get snookered on cherry wine...all in one afternoon. Of course, that would be on a summery afternoon. In cold weather, you can snow-shoe through silent, snow-covered forests, cross-country ski, zip about on a snowmobile, go sledding, build a snowman, cuddle by a cozy fire or...you can winter in Florida.
For us, our move north was all about nature, a better quality of life and being able to venture outdoors in the summer without having to change sweat-soaked underwear umpteen times a day. Up here, we can step out to retrieve the morning paper without melting into a pool of sticky, damp mush from the steamy, toxic humidity that zapped our energy in Florida. Now we actually feel healthier and we're much more active. Less traffic, less congestion, fewer but friendlier people. Wholesome Midwest values. Yes, there is abundant snow in the winter but we've learned to embrace it. Summer, fall and spring are glorious with very little humidity, clean fresh air, and we hardly ever have to turn on the A/C.
It's true that Michigan like many states, has been devastated by the disastrous economy. Detroit suffers from massive urban blight, drug violence and rampant crime. But Detroit does not define the entire state. In places like Grand Rapids not far from Lake Michigan, where we live, there exists a sense of vitality and enthusiasm. This is not intended to gloss over the problems Michigan shares with many areas of this country. There is much room for improvement and many people are suffering from economic hardships. On the other hand, cities like Grand Rapids stand out as vibrant, self-sufficient communities with residents who are hopeful, hard-working and entrepreneurial.
Whenever my husband and I explore the attributes that Michigan has to offer, we feel invigorated. Whether we're relaxing in a shady green space at a park under a sprawling canopy of genuine, hard-wood oaks and maples instead of a sliver of shade offered by a scrawny Florida palm tree...or standing on the peak of a mountainous sand dune bluff that overlooks miles and miles of the vast, cobalt majesty of Lake Michigan...we are amazed. We appreciate the awesome diversity of the seasons and the breath-taking beauty Mother Nature bestowed on the exquisite landscapes of this often overlooked state. Here's a sampling of some of our favorite spots.