The newspapers are looking for the greatest "wonders" of the state, ranging from natural beauty to man-made feats. It got me thinking for quite a while, what were the most impressive sights in the state?
Here's a list of mine I came up with, and they include several sights in the state's outdoors. It's not anything etched in stone: these are just some ideas I came up with in the last several days while thinking about this premise:
1. The Mackinac Bridge
|The "Mighty Mac," as many Michiganders refer to the|
It's an incredible feat, and save for a few accidents that take place on the bridge in recent years, it's a remarkable gateway to the north part of the state. I've crossed it more than a dozen times, and it's always a bit nerve-wracking crossing it.
It's a modern engineering feat, and is definitely one of the main symbols of the state people associated with Michigan. It's an easy No. 1.
2. Isle Royale National Park
This is my favorite place in the entire state, having spent a week there back in 2005. Remote, quiet and gorgeous, this is a national park that tops most of the others I've seen.
|Hiking along the Greenstone Trail back in 2005.|
island is a hikers paradise. Hiking along the Greenstone Ridge is the main means of moving along the island by foot, and many of the campsites provide ample shelter for travelers, Chicken Bone Lake excluded. That site was a miserable night in the sun.
The island was a hotbed of mining activity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and signs of that activity can still be seen in the form of mineshafts that dot the island. While hiking, one must be careful not to come too close to these mineshafts, or down you go.
Not only is the island a beautiful, tranquil place to spend some time, it also has the only place I've ever found on Lake Superior to be a warm location for swimming: Moskey Basin on the east side of the island.
3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
|Me pumping water from Lake Superior|
at Pictured Rocks back in 2006.
Another wonder of the state that lies within the Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks is a unique set of rocks along the shore of Lake Superior between Grand Marais and Munising. With about 15 miles of coastline with the picturesque rocks that give the park its name, it's a long hike between ends of the park, and a rewarding one.
I spent nearly a week at the park and hiked the entire Lakeshore Trail, which is part of the North Country Trail, which spans from New York to the Dakotas. The views near the both ends of the trail are breathtaking: the rocks, such as Miners Castle (even after one of the turrets fell shortly before I was there in 2006), and the sand dunes near Grand Marais, where loggers used the sand to run logs down to Lake Superior.
We backpacked the entire trail when I was wrapping up in the Boy Scouts, spending 5 days doing 50 miles. Definitely a challenging hike, but worth it. There are plenty of stops along the way, including a multitude of caves along the lakeshore.
While it's not as remote as Isle Royale, it's got some spots that are definitely worth seeing. There's a reason this is the national park that's going on Michigan's national park quarter in 2018.
4. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Yet another up north staple that is one of the wonders of Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore composes a lot of land. While the dunes are wonderful to visit and see, my favorite portion of the park has to be South Manitou Island.
|The shore of Lake Michigan along South Manitou Island.|
It's a gorgeous place to visit.
There are plenty of attractions to see on South Manitou Island, including the shipwreck Francisco Morazan, a freighter that wrecked off the coast of the island and is clearly visible above the water. A grove of giant oak trees is nearby, an impressive sight with some of the biggest oak trees you've ever seen.
The islands have history lessons as well: it was one of the best agricultural spots for growing crops such as wheat, and features of its agricultural past are all over the island.
The dunes are wonderful, no doubt, but I'm partial to the islands. I've yet to make it to North Manitou Island, but I hear it's just as good.
5. Michigan Stadium
I get away from a natural setting for wonder No. 5 for one of the biggest structures in the state. It's hard to think of many manmade items, such I lean toward the outdoors. But Michigan Stadium is quite the
sight and well deserving as a wonder of Michigan (the state, not the school).
|It's quite the view at Michigan Stadium on game day.|
It's an incredible scene, sitting in an area that has more people that the city the stadium resides in, Ann Arbor. The students get into it, and the city completely transforms on football Saturdays. It's one reason I always tried to avoid the city on game days when I worked in Washtenaw County.
A game at the stadium is worth going to. Be sure to make it to Ann Arbor this fall, I hear there's a chance for redemption later this month.
6. Grand Haven State Park beach
There are so many beaches in the state that could qualify on this list. The one down US-31, at Holland State Park, is a good one too. But there's just something about the the beach at Grand Haven that truly
|The pier is one of my favorite sights on the western side|
The state park on the beach is always packed, so I have no clue how anyone gets a reservation. It's got no shade, but the campsites lay right on the beach, so at least there's a breeze most days.
If you're looking for that nice, long pier walk, Grand Haven State Park is the right place to go.
7. National Shrine of Cross in the Woods
Here's a bit of a wild card, but I thought it was unique enough to add to the list. I visited this sight back in 2006 coming home from a camping trip in Indian River.
|The cross was labeled a national shrine back in 2006.|
The crucifix is the largest one in the world, with the figure of Jesus standing at 31 feet tall, cast in iron. It's nestled nicely among the greenery at the Catholic shrine, and is quite the sight.
Sculpted by the same man who did the Spirit of Detroit, Marshall Fredericks, it took him several years to form the sculpture before it was erected in Indian River. Now, it attracts people of all sects, including many non-Catholics. It's worth a visit just to see the shrine, and is a little bit different than the others on this list, but still worthy of being a wonder.
What other items deserve to be on this list? You can vote in the Free Press's or on the Observer and Eccentric's website until next week.