By Bob Gilbert
COVID-19 certainly has affected many lives. Debbie and I are no exception. Rather than head south in the winter like many of our Leelanau pals, we head west to the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho. We were scheduled to return to our beloved Leelanau Peninsula in April, when it became apparent that the virus made the trip problematic. It was either a three-flight, four-airport plane trip or a 2,000-mile drive through states that had closed their rest areas. And the flights were cancelled in any event. So we are trapped in Sun Valley until a vaccine or effective treatment materializes.
When we have expressed our preference to be in Northern Michigan to our friends and neighbors in Sun Valley the usual reaction is surprise and disbelief. After all, this is the playground for the rich and famous (as well as for plain old skiers like us). Many have flocked here to avoid the pandemic, and just about everyone we know is from the East and West Coasts. To them, Michigan is “fly-over” territory. So these poor souls have never had experiences like this:
– Viewing the always different, always fabulous sunsets over the Manitous from the Lake Michigan shore.
– Walking the boardwalk through the beautiful cedar forest in the Swanson Preserve.
– Hiking to the platforms at Clay Cliffs or the Whaleback and taking in the beauty of the Manitou Passage.
– Hiking the Ridge Trail in the Krumwiede Forest Reserve in the fall and looking across the valley to the brilliant scarlet maple trees in the Palmer Woods Preserve.
– Paddling through the incredible Cedar River Preserve and picturing yourself in the Everglades, minus the alligators.
– Driving or cycling on a back road and being stunned by the beauty of a cherry farm in bloom, or tidy rows of grape vines on a rolling hillside, often with the blue of Lake Michigan or Grand Traverse Bay in the distance.
– Savoring the harvest season which brings to market wonderful cherries and apples, and the pies and ciders which are made from them. Not to mention fresh sweet corn.
– Touring our wineries and sampling some of the nicest white wines produced anywhere, winners of national and international gold medals.
– Watching a thunderstorm moving majestically across Lake Michigan from the west.
– Swimming, playing and body-surfing in fresh water with a firm sand bottom and an absence of worrisome things like sharks and Portugese man ‘o war.
– Hiking through a forest filled with trillium at Clay Cliffs and elsewhere.
– Cycling the Heritage and Leelanau trails with their constantly changing and often stunning views.
– Hiking the exquisite Kehl Lake trail.
– Savoring a meal of Carlson’s fresh caught fish.
Need I also mention the delights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?
So, dear friends, we long for our sweet peninsula and realize once again why its preservation is so worth fighting for. And we are mightily grateful that you do too.
Bob Gilbert served as Leelanau Conservancy’s President from October 2019 to October 2020.