On good boating days there is nothing we love more than piling in the ski boat and making the short, 15 minute ride to Grass River. We kill the wake and drift slowly down the river, keeping our eyes peeled for all the creatures that call this magical place home. On our first trip to the nature preserve we saw two loons no more than 15 feet from the boat, a pair of swans with a trail of fluffy little babes, and a turtle sunning himself on a log. My dad bought the boys little fishing nets and they troll off the bow of the boat for minnows, surprising us all by catching a few every now and then. Blind luck, I suppose!
Spending our summers in Northern Michigan is one of the biggest gifts I am able to give my children. It is that quintessential summer of running wild and free, catching frogs and minnows, biking up and down the dirt road with a whole pack of kids, coming home only for a quick bite to eat then back out to play and explore. My kids get “unsupervised” play here, and by that I mean I don’t have to watch their every move. On the rare occasion a car comes down, it is traveling no more than 5 miles an hour, and from the kitchen, I can look out and see them at play. Every now and then I have to intervene and wipe away a tear, or mediate a dispute over scooters, but other than that, the kids get to PLAY and learn to work things out with both older and younger playmates. I think it is the best thing ever.
On rainy days, we can still head to Grass River and spend time in the nature center visiting the rescue snake, and playing around with the pelts and bones they have collected over time. It is a very cool place, and if you’re in the area with young kids who are nature lovers, it is an absolute must. As we’re here enjoying all of this I can’t help but wonder if I would be as enamored with the area if we lived here year round. I wonder what the winters would be like, and if eventually, it would feel just like any other place. Would it lose its summertime magic? I’d love to hear from any Northern Michigan readers- what is year-round life like here? I’m really feeling a pull.