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Sunday, December 28, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2004

One lovely part of Michigan is becoming a hot spot for the rich

For a few days, we see what it's like to be well-to-do in Michigan

We're in the Philip A. Hart Center in Empire, Michigan. It's the park headquarters for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, to which admission is $5 per person.

But now, as a venerable senior, I'm qualified to purchase a Golden Passport for just $10 which allows me, my vehicle, and all its contents, unlimited entry into any of the nation's 380 national parks. Forever. Is that cool or what?

The pass, however, is nontransferable and loses its validity upon the death of the owner. But, as the nice ranger man laughingly said, "It could also be buried with you, if you like!"

Now that would be seminal indeed.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes invariably elicit rave reviews, and justifiably so. After watching a beautifully executed introductory slide show, we followed some rangerly advice and hiked the 1 1/2-mile round trip Empire Bluffs Trail.

Through forests of birch and maple, past several sights of interest, to a lookout deck high above the dunes, from where we could see right along the magnificent 35-mile and the two uninhabited Manitou Islands and Glen Lake.

It was a crystal clear day. The Lake Michigan waters sparkled blue and silver, the air was fresh and scented pine, and we marveled once again at yet another incredible spot of beauty so close to our own doorstep.

Next up was the seven-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive through the heart of the park, named for a local lumberjack who developed it in the '60s as a private attraction.

We put our Golden Passport to immediate use and were waved through on the "fast lane" - past a long line of sightseeing cars. Oh, age does have its privileges!

It was a hot August weekend, however, and the overlooks and picnic sights were all terribly busy. So while we oohed and ahhed with everyone else, and took pictures of vistas that our camera could never do justice to, we opted for a quiet lunch in Glen Arbor rather than attacking the infamous 150-foot Dunes Climb.

Better to leave that to the younger set. Or to another visit, in the off-season, perhaps.

Then it was off to Northport. Well, north of Northport, actually, to the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, where some good friends have a cottage by the lake. The Big One, that is.

Their place, which they bought 10 years ago, overlooks Grand Traverse Bay, and Mission Point, and if you stretch a bit, Charlevoix.

It's a part of Michigan that's becoming the province of the rich, looking for a piece of heaven. Acre lots go for a cool half million, and Lake Michigan frontage is at $7,000 a foot!

Just two lots down, for example, pony-tailed TV chef Mario Batali has a nice place. He waved at us from his docked sailboat as we rode by in a new plastic pedalo out on its christening run.

Northport itself, is a relaxed and gentile lakeside arbor. With a marina, of course, and a bandstand on a grassy knoll where we took a picnic one evening and listened to a band called Chico strut its stuff, while we sipped some good Michigan wine.

The village itself has a small market; a neat eclectic bookstore, The Dog's Ear; several art galleries, and a bakery called Barb's, which makes the best doughnuts and where locals congregate of a Sunday morning.

For a couple of peaceful days we were a part of this up-market Northport set, and enjoyed it all immensely before returning to the peace and seclusion of our own little cabin in the big woods.

Contact Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at: rogerholliday@wcnet.org or 419-352-8096.



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