Where we stay in the Petoskey area is technically closer to Harbor Springs, an equally charming town. It is a condo in a wooded area that faces one of the many of the springfed streams and a cedar forest. The stream is a defining feature, it is a constant in the background, especially in the summer when the windows are open. Along with the sounds of the stream, there are always animals coming and going, including small birds, owls, turkey, trout in the stream on occasion in the fall, deer, eagles, and of course squirrels. It’s a chorus of sounds and sights.

The start of the tourist season in the area is the Zoo de Mack bike ride in May, a 50 mile ride from Petoskey to Mackinaw City. It’s a tradition that my parents started years ago and Ryan and I have completed a few times since. For the rest of the world, May is Spring or already starting to feel like Summer but up here it feels like early Spring and can be chilly. Flowers are just starting to come up and one in particular is in bloom in the woods, trillium. Part of the bike ride is through the famous M119 road that winds along the Lake Michigan coast. On one side you see the water below the cliffs we are on and on the other is woods. It is breathtaking to see the floor of the woods dotted with white trillium flowers, it matches perfectly with the fresh green leaves on the trees. Spring is my favorite season and because it is slower to start here it is like experiencing it all over again.

Summer is characterized by 4th of July celebrations, going to the beach, reading at the pool, going to the various art fairs, and bike riding. The 4th of July is always the most exciting time here, everyone comes and there is actually traffic around the bay. It looks like a postcard everywhere you go. The homes are decorated with red, white, and blue and the flowers that time of year are stunning. One of our 4th of July traditions is to go to the 3 mile run in Harbor Springs, the parade in the afternoon, and then to the beach for a party with friends. We would often grill on the beach, take over a few tables, and just hang out till the fireworks at night. As Kid Rock says in All Summer Long, “It was summertime in Northern Michigan.”

Another summer favorite is watching the sunset. My Dad loves to go to Round Bar at Bay Harbor since you have such a great view. It is an outside bar on the beach and you are on the other side of the bay with an open view of Lake Michigan. If we are not there watching the sunset, we can be found at Chief Petoskey, a statue in downtown Petoskey that looks out over the water near the Perry Hotel, or down by the light house. It is a must see event as most of the Summer it sets over the water. The colors are spectacular. There is something about the lighting here in general, very clear and crisp with the Northern air.

The fall is defined by the changing of the leaves. Everyone comes up again for the colors. On the drive from Detroit to Petoskey you can watch the progression of green to full fall colors in October. Walks in the woods behind us become crunchy and you can smell the leaves and fall in the air. The light also starts to change and becomes softer and more golden, it is like nature is trying to match the light with the color of the leaves. This is a great time of year to visit the local farms for fresh produce or cider and donuts too!  

Winter is a time for hibernating. The tourists leave and the locals either rejoice or mourn the loss.  You can now find a parking spot anywhere downtown and reservations are not required for restaurants. Petoskey and Harbor Springs are always festive for the holidays and each have a day in December where the downtown is closed to traffic and the shops are open late. It is a true holiday celebration with hot drinks, twinkling lights, falling snow, music, and warm fires. Often the Petoskey steel drum band plays at both and people are dancing to the music in the streets.

After the holidays it becomes quiet. While the skiers, snowmobilers, and other winter sport lovers come up, the holiday cheer has waned and winter is really setting in. Winter in Northern Michigan can be lonely, magical, quiet, vicious, stunning, and dirty depending on the day. It is already a small town and when people are staying in more during the winter it feels even smaller. Yet walks in the wood and along the beach are something to behold. You feel like the only person for miles around and with the leaves gone and grass covered with snow you notice the beautiful shape of the trees, the many shades of grey in the sky, the way the water changes colors and temperament, and the occasional sound of animals or wind in the woods. On days when it is storming, the wind whips through you and you feel the power of nature. The sky and water turn violent and you wonder how it’s the same place from a clear sunny day on the beach.

It is March right now and while we had 10 inches of snow the other day it is now sunny and starting to melt. This is the dirty phase of the year where sometimes it feels like winter and other days you see signs of spring everywhere. It is even more confusing when you make trips to Metro Detroit as it is sometimes a month difference in the season. Last time I was in Detroit you could see flowers coming up! It is clearly a time of transition and change.

I am looking forward to spring, enjoying the chirp of birds, warm sun on my face, smell of flowers blooming, greening of the trees and grass, and overall thawing. Here’s to life in full color and bloom again!