The final days of summer were ticking by. Quickly. August felt at once lazy-day-summery and jam-packed, thanks to my commitment to get to the beach as much as possible while tending to sports physical appointments, orthodontist visits, back-to-school shopping, work projects, running camp…you all know the drill. Shouldn’t August, our final month of too-short summer, be a little more low-key?

I realized with a start that we hadn’t yet gone on an up north family trip — a trek across the Bridge that’s become a summer tradition. One summer we’d even gone up to the U.P. three different times to camp (and race during a couple of these adventures).

It had just happened — the summer whizzed by. June and July had been amazing. We’d had spectacular weather and enjoyed hosting close friends for a week of serious paddling-swimming-dune climbing fun in northern lower Michigan. I couldn’t complain one bit.

And yet, I felt we could use something more before the crush of another school year got underway. Nothing elaborate or overly expensive (please no) but a little time away to connect and recharge together.

Here’s the “no, kidding, really?” embarrassing thing I will divulge: waiting until the midst of summer to find a place to stay is not so easy. We’d decided not to camp this time around and instead wanted to try to find a cute, little cabin. Preferably on the water somewhere. Didn’t have to be a Big Lake. Maybe a small inland lake or a river. Shouldn’t be too terribly hard, right? Ha.

I tackled my search like the daily news reporter I once was: I searched online extensively, places like VRBO.com and HomeAway.com and AirBNB.com, and asked any and all like-minded, U.P.-loving family and friends about their recent excursions to see if they had any leads (I stalked their FB photos, I won’t lie). I emailed and called countless resorts, hotels, cottages, cabins and visitors bureaus throughout — I swear — the entire Upper Peninsula. I even emailed said places via their Facebook pages, letting them know I realized just how ridiculous my inquiry might sound, that surely they would be booked (of course they were!), but to please let me know if they had by any small, tiny chance an opening or last-minute cancellation. For a family of six, by the way. So, you know, we needed something with some space.

Did I mention I was looking at Labor Day weekend? Yep. Only one of the busiest — the busiest? — weekends of the summer. And I was searching less than three weeks out.

I remained determined.

At one point in my search, as I lamented to Joe how frustrating this was and how I absolutely, positively would be planning way further ahead next year, he said, “Well, why don’t we just pack up, drive north and see where we land. We’ll find something.”

Um…who are you and what have you done with my uber-planned husband? Actually, I smiled sweetly (maybe chuckled a little…or a lot), and said that was nice, that I loved his spontaneity, but I didn’t think that would work. I’m the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person in our relationship and even I was not digging that idea. Maybe if it were just him and me. Maybe. But all of us? Nah.

And then, the miracle happened. I received a call back from the owner of several cabins in Curtis, northeast of Manistique. “Hi, Heather. It’s Scott from Southlake Cabins on South Manistique Lake,” I hear on my voice mail. “We had a cancellation and we can accommodate your family. Please give us a call.”

Cabin #1 - our spot at Southlake Cabins!

Cabin #1 – our spot at Southlake Cabins!

YES!

Not only did Scott totally hook us up — a two-bedroom cottage, with screened-in front porch and living room large enough to fit a rollaway bed, for the entire Labor Day weekend — his wife Laura immediately sent over photos so I could see both inside and outside views of the cabin and property. These housekeeping cabins, which are reasonably priced, are just 65 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge — this made for a just-long-enough ride from Traverse City when we left to head north Friday midday. There are seven cabins in all, located on the north shore of South Manistique Lake, which is a quarter mile west of Curtis. (Map)

Cabin view from one of the docks at Southlake Cabins in Curtis, Mich.

Cabin view from one of the docks at Southlake Cabins in Curtis, Mich.

The super-cute and cozy cabin we stayed in over Labor Day weekend 2016, on South Manistique Lake.

The super-cute and cozy cabin we stayed in over Labor Day weekend 2016, on South Manistique Lake.

Scott apologized for not having one of his three bedroom cabins available, but of course we were thrilled to have what he had available — and it worked perfectly. Most everything we needed was there: cooking utensils, dinnerware, refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, linens, picnic table, charcoal BBQ grill, lawn chairs. We just needed to pick up firewood (found a great spot just outside town) and bring bath and beach towels and paper products. We also had the use of an aluminum fishing boat, tied to the dock just steps from our cabin’s porch.

(From left) Alex, Andrew, Isaac (Emma's boyfriend), and Emma. I love this photo of these guys in front of our cabin!

(From left) Alex, Andrew, Isaac (Emma’s boyfriend), and Emma. I love this photo of these guys in front of our cabin!

While we’ve spent a lot of time in the U.P., we hadn’t before been to Curtis, which is a small village sandwiched between South Manistique Lake and Big Manistique Lake. One morning Emma and Andrew ran through the town (we also walked to the stores and restaurants, they’re that close) and another day I got up early to explore during a run. I traveled a dirt road that led me to the peaceful shores of Big Manistique Lake. It was beautiful.

img_6517This area is known for its ample recreation activities, year-round — I learned there are 20,000 acres of lakes within this area. {Curtis, Michigan and Upper Peninsula’s Largest Lake Complex the Manistique Lakes. The lake complex is made up of six major area lakes: North Manistique Lake, Big Manistique Lake, South Manistique lake, Milakokia Lake, Lake Ann Louise, and Millecoquins Lake. Visitors can expect world-class trophy fishing from these lakes. Vacationers are also centered within the Upper Peninsula’s two Great Lakes:  Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. – From the Curtis Chamber of Commerce site}

Not a bad spot for my morning coffee...ahhhh.

Not a bad spot for my morning coffee…ahhhh.

Catching the sunrise outside our cabin door before a run on Saturday morning.

Catching the sunrise outside our cabin door before a run on Saturday morning.

We were happy to learn that the annual Art on the Lake art fair took place the second day we were there (Saturday of Labor Day weekend). It was an awesome event, with local artisans and food along the main drag through Curtis and on the big front lawn of the Erickson Center for the Arts.

 

At Art on the Lake in Curtis.

At Art on the Lake in Curtis.

Sunday’s plan: head north in the morning after breakfast to Munising and Marquette, two of our favorite places in the U.P. Catching some waterfalls, in Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area, and jumping off Black Rocks in Marquette were our two main goals.

We decided to get to Marquette first, grab lunch and take it to Presque Isle Park, home to the Black Rocks beach and probably the most popular and safest spot for people to give cliff jumping in the area a try. We stumbled upon the Marquette Food Co-Op for lunch — we’d been eyeing another eatery nearby but discovered it was closed — and we were so happy we did. Delicious, healthy food to go, plus a couple of cold ones for Joe and I to enjoy once we got to Presque Isle. (Had to pick up one of my favorites, Coconut Brown from Blackrocks Brewery!) The co-op reminded us of our hometown co-op, Oryana, and Emma, who has recently become a vegetarian, was really happy to find some awesome lunch options. We picked up fresh sandwiches and a couple of side salads.

Presque Isle Park, located off Marquette’s northeast shoreline, is simply gorgeous. It’s referred to as “The Island” and contains more than 323 acres of scenic park land, including pebble beaches, rocky cliffs, bogs and forests. You can drive around the park’s perimeter (it’s a one-way paved drive) or hike interior trails. “Presque Isle” is French for “almost an island” or “peninsula.”

We drove to Black Rocks beach (there’s really just a sliver of “beach,” made up of beautiful Lake Superior stones and rocks) and found a parking spot close to where we saw quite a few people climbing to the top of the Black Rocks, or cliffs overlooking Lake Superior. The weather was perfect — sunny and warm — and we figured Lake Superior was bound to be at her warmest (but probably still pretty cold; yep, refreshingly cold).

Isaac and Emma jumping off Black Rocks. This was a shorter jump, between 5-10 feet we estimated.

Joe and Alex, jumping off Black Rocks. This was a steeper section, maybe 10-15 feet up. Alex amazed us with his bravery — he jumped the most of all of us!

Labor Day weekend crowd at Black Rocks.

 

Here I go!

Here I go!

Isaac (catching some air!) and Emma.

Isaac (catching some air!) and Emma.

Overlooking Lake Superior.

Overlooking Lake Superior.

After several jumps — a scary-thrilling experience worth doing at least once! — we gathered up our stuff and headed to the car so we could head toward Munising.

Munising Falls, our first stop. (You can pick up maps and other great info here, at the visitors center)

Munising Falls, our first stop. (You can pick up maps and other great info here, at the visitors center)

Next stop: Miners Falls.

Next stop: Miners Falls.

Miners Falls

Miners Falls

Miners Castle

Miners Castle

Miners Beach, Lake Superior, at sunset. Breathtaking.

Miners Beach, Lake Superior, at sunset. Breathtaking.

We knew we had an hour’s drive ahead of us, and at this point we were all so happy-tired, we just wanted to be back at the cabin. We grabbed dinner in Munising, at 387 Restaurant and Beer Parlor, and got back to South Manistique Lake around 10 p.m. Talk about a full day.

A few more shots from this memorable family trip…

OH! I nearly forgot to share a stop we made on our way home — a little out of our way, but a detour SO worth the drive and this is a spot I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time, ever since Maia Turek, Michigan Department of Natural Resources statewide recreation programmer, talked about it on the Michigan Runner Girl podcast awhile back. Kitch-iti-kipi!

Two hundred feet across and 40-feet deep, Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. More than 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. It’s a sight to see!

img_6606 img_6611 img_6612 img_6623

 

Where to eat after your visit to Kitch-iti-kipi: Big Spring Inn, 1263 M-149. You’ll pass it on your way into Palms Book State Park, home to Kitch-iti-kipi (and also where M-149 dead ends). Great food, family-friendly, 20+ beers on tap, many of them Michigan craft beers.

There’s just something about the U.P., no matter the time of year. This Labor Day weekend trip is one I’ll be savoring for a long time.

Have you spent time in the Curtis area? Where did you stay, and what was your adventure like?

Have you jumped off Black Rocks? (Man, do I love Marquette…)

What’s your favorite waterfall in Munising?

How cool is Kitch-iti-kipi??

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