Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Petoskey, Michigan - The Salmon Are Running and We're Bicycling

The salmon have started their annual migration up the river of their youth to spawn. And people around here are quite excited about that. According to a local fisherman, the salmon just started running last week so it's not all that busy yet. They'll run until October. You're allowed three fish that must be longer than 12 inches (but he's never seen one that small). The picture on the right is a row of evenly spaced fishermen in the Petoskey Harbor area at the mouth of a river. They line the river overpass, too. We were watching by the falls just beyond this overpass the other night and actually saw one leap out of the water in its attempt to get up the waterfall. It is so cool! This particular fish did not make it up the falls on its first attempt it also escaped the fisherman's line. While it is tempting to watch all day for one to make it up the river, Phil suspects that the fishermen don't appreciate it when Bernie roots the salmon on with her exhortations of "Jump, little salmon, jump!".

OK ... enough about fish. Let's talk about our latest bicycle conquest. If you've been a dedicated blog reader, you recall a few blogs ago that we mentioned a bike route called Tunnel of Trees that runs north of Harbor Springs up the coast for 20 or so miles to a place called Cross Village. As we'd heard from the vintner at Pleasantview Winery and various chamber of commerce staff, the route runs along M119 up hills and provides gorgeous views of the lake and Little Traverse Bay. We couldn't fit it in when we were in Harbor Springs so we decided to do that ride "next time we were in this area". Well, here we are again! And, really, it'd been two whole days since our last bike ride - an easy 30 mile route through Wilderness Park - and we were starting to feel a little sluggish. So on Sunday September 9, we had an energizing breakfast of omelets and oatmeal and set off for Cross Village. Oh, for the record, Petoskey is about ten miles from Harbor Springs (by land), which makes Cross Village about 30 miles away - one way. But it was a beautiful day so off we went. The first ten miles or so are a breeze - it's the flat stretch between Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Right outside of Harbor Springs is the first of many steep hills that take you up to altitudes of 900 feet (according to our GPS). But, you know the motto: You got 24 gears, use 'em.

And the views are so worth it! We could see all the way to Charlevoix looking south and out over Beaver Island and South Fox Island to the north and west. Along the way we saw a few other bicyclists, a lot of motorcyclists and a respectable number of wild turkey and deer doing the route. There were some cars - but not many.

The only stopping/resting area between Harbor Springs and Cross Village is a tiny town called Good Hart. But it has the essentials - a general store with restrooms, baked goods (brownies), and a deli. They also have an art gallery and an antique shop, but those weren't open. (The General Store has a rather detailed and interactive website.) Initially, we had thought about using Good Hart as the turnaround point for the bike trip but it didn't seem right to go back when we only had about ten more miles to get to Cross Village (where we'd heard there was a good restaurant that specialized in Polish Cuisine).

Tunnel of Trees is a perfect name for this route. The view really does look like this most of the way. It just got prettier as we went further up (Literally "up". The hills were getting a little less steep each time but more frequent.)

When we got to Cross Village, we immediately pedaled over to Legs Inn, which is the restaurant we'd heard about. We'd heard that the view and the food was great. But we hadn't heard the decor was the result of years of collecting driftwood and carving/assembling it into artistic creations. The original owner, Stanley Smolak, was Polish. So, in addition to great, authentic Polish food, there is also some Polish influence to the decor.

Knowing that we had already biked 30 miles and that we had that many to get back, we were not too concerned about ordering hearty lunches. Bernie had something called the Old World Sampler, which included polish sausage, pierogies, and bigos (a stew). Phil had the Polish Hearty Lunch (pierogies and golabki). And of course we had to have dessert -- we did have another 30+ miles of up and down hills to go! This is a Szarlotka, which has strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and apples ... so it's healthy ;)

The views back were just as spectacular as the views on the way up. It seemed to be a little easier but there were still two huge hills that consumed all our lunch calories to get up!

Bernie marked a momentous occasion on the return trip ... hitting the "50 mile in one day" club (Phil's done 50 miles in a day previously -- but not all that recently). We stopped to officially document her achievement.

There was a beautiful sunset waiting for us on our return to Petoskey.

And we were too tired to do anything else except shower and toast the sunset with some Pyrat Rum!

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