This afternoon, Debbie and I headed north along the eastern shore of the Leelanau Peninsula which extends about 30 miles from the Lower Peninsula of Michigan into Lake Michigan. Leelanau County encompasses the entire peninsula. It is often referred to as the “little finger” of the mitten-shaped lower peninsula.
The steep terrain and large bodies of water produce a milder microclimate than the more temperate areas further inland. The Leelanau Peninsula AVA is known as one of the best Michigan wine regions and is an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The peninsula is also a productive fruit region growing apples and tart cherries.
Our first stop was in Greilickville, where we enjoyed lunch from a park near the unincorporated community’s jetty and lighthouse
and watched a two-masted schooner tack back-and-forth.
Driving further up the peninsula, we noticed that the private docks were unusually long
and moored boats further off shore than we might have expected.
Then we noticed the color of the water and realized the obvious … the water was extremely shallow until one got well off shore.
Continuing we spotted one of the unique driveway markers residents use to make locating their home easier to locate
and a “patriotic” barn
before arriving in Sutton Bay, another tourist destination with
The town is home to the county’s only movie theater, opened in 1946; its fare consisting of unique art house films, and occasionally the theater hosts plays and concerts. It also hosts a clothing store that has been owned by one family over four generations called “Bahles.” Suttons Bay is also home to one of the oldest continuously operated food establishments in the entire region. Since 1871, the restaurant has gone through several owners and is currently known as The V I Grill.
Next, we drove through the small WYSIWYG unincorporated communities of Pershawbestown
before again crossing the 45th Parallel for the 5th time on this trip
and finally arriving in the surprisingly busy town of Northport (population 526)
with several restaurants and quaint shops
and where several homes were beautifully decorated with floral gardens.
And, of course …
The airport was named after Clinton F. Woolsey, a Northport native son born in 1894. He was considered one of the nation’s best pilots in the Army Air Corps in the 1920s. Woolsey died a hero when he and his co-pilot, John W. Benton, were killed in a 1927 mid-air collision near Buenos Aires during the first-ever U.S. international goodwill flight to 23 Central and South American countries. The 22,000-mile tour was to take two months with Buenos Aires was the halfway mark. Woolsey probably could have parachuted to safety but apparently chose to ride his amphibian biplane down in an attempt to land because Benton was on the wing, without his chute, attempting to lower the landing gear by hand.
Half-dozen miles further on, we arrived at the Leelanau State Park and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse … sometimes referred to as the “Cat’s Head Point Light” … is one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and has guided ships in the Manitou Passage of Lake Michigan for close to 150 years. In 1852, the first light was built; a round brick tower and separate keeper’s quarters. Just six years later in 1858, these structures were razed and the present light was constructed.
Like the majority of Great Lakes lighthouses, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse was equipped (in 1870) with a fourth-order Fresnel lens … weighing 600 pounds and visible for up to 17 miles … which remained in use until the lighthouse was decommissioned in and replaced by an automated system in 1972.
The lighthouse keepers lived on the northern side of the lighthouse, which included a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bath and a half … on one instance this included the keeper, his wife and their seven children! The assistant keeper and his family lived in the other side of the house in slightly smaller quarters.
This building has been converted into a museum a with artifacts from the lighthouse’s past
as well as a pictorial and written history of the men and women who were its keepers. The first, David Moon, appointed in 1852 only to be replaced a year later. The reason for his short tenure remains shrouded until his son, David Moon, Jr., appeared on nearby Beaver Island. According to a newspaper account and journals of King Strang of Beaver Island, David, JR. and all of the other island natives were kicked off the island to the mainland when Strang and his Mormon followers took over the island. David, Jr’s wife, however, remained on the island and became part of King Strang’s family … to the dismay of David, Jr. Distraugh, David Jr. returned to Beaver Island and beat his wife with an axe … resulting in her demise. King Strang then retaliated against David, Jr. and murdered his father David Moon.
On the grounds of the lighthouse, there are two circular “crown” gardens,
Heading back “home” we first stopped at an “honor system” farm stand
The road wound past several small villages with stores and restaurants with clever names