The Essence of Leelanau
Leelanau! Leelanau! "Land of Delight"!
Majestic are her hills, her land.
Surrounded by water,
Touching her shores of sand.
one first enters this Leelanau, this "Land of Delight,"
no matter what the season, the usual first impression is awe. As
time and distance encompass one, the appreciation builds to a near
reverence of this lovely spot, the "little finger" of
Michigan's mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. Michigan's motto is especially
true of the Leelanau peninsula: "If you seek a lovely peninsula
just look around you."
on her lakes are many various shades of blues and greens, sometimes
gentle and quiet and at other times windswept and awesome in their
The land is sculpted with many
hills, some so steep that the skies look like mountains behind them.
Others are more rolling, many planted with cherries--oh, the cherries,
so lovingly cultivated for so many generations and seasons past
and seasons to come.
There are the Leelanau's
massive dune areas, windswept and also changing with each season.
These are a sacred ground, something to be deeply respected for
the fragility of this land and for the power the dunes evoke.
The sunrises and sunsets that claim Leelanau
are a beautiful rite of their own. On the peninsula one gets the
delight of wakening to a sunrise and the pleasure of a sunset over
Sunrise touches Grand Traverse
Bay before the hills are gently wakened. One notices a lightening
in the east, which gradually turns into a pinkish hue, and then--sunrise.
A vast ball of crimson begins to blaze over the waters and land,
the beginning of a new day.
can be described only as majestic and thought provoking as one watches
this fiery ball slip deeper and deeper into Lake Michigan's horizon.
As one travels through the gentle hills and valleys at sunset, one
is bathed in an immense golden glow, which slowly gives way to evening's
Each season of the Leelanau
is fresh, offering both the visitor and resident something new to
discover, experience, or explore. From the start of early spring,
snow still amassed on her beaches and hills, there is memorable
spring skiing, for both the cross-country and downhill skiers. Getting
off the beaten track, although none is so civilized as to be overused,
you can find private vistas over her bays and the Great Lake, where
it takes your breath away.
are in abundance in this area, producing the sweet sap to turn into
maple syrup. Wildflowers, too, are found everywhere. In spring there
are masses of trilliums in the wooded areas. At first their lovely
white petals are tinged with green in their veins. Later some turn
a salmon pink. They are definitely worth a stop to admire. But please
do not pick; they are on the ever-growing list of protected species.
In the wetter areas of the county, bogs are filled with swamp marigolds
on display in their brilliant yellow. Morels, too, can be found
here; the county some years has an abundance of this delectable
The cherry trees, acres and
acres of them, begin their show sometime in late spring depending
on the weather. Their blossoms look like balls of snowflakes perched
on their branches. The sight and fragrance of the cherry blossoms
in bloom is unforgettable as fresh spring air mixes with the clean
westerly breezes off Lake Michigan. Soon one finds the trees loaded
down with little red cherries, a sharp contrast to the pointed green
leaves and the heavenly blue skies above. They make up handsomely
for the lost sight of the blossoms. Soon the tastes of tarts and
sweets will tempt the palate, and roadside stands everywhere will
beckon the passerby with signs that read Cherries, Cherries.
Early June is a quiet time as the beaches
lie silent awaiting the first bare feet to dare the waters. The
local tall ships have been sailing for some time now, filled with
eager students and visitors savoring the cool waters and breezes
while aboard. On shore the distant admirer watches the tall ships
as they silently and ever so majestically glide over the waters,
while smaller fishing boats dot the poetic scene.
towns across the peninsula are still waking from the winter past.
Many stores are just opening, and those that have been open all
winter are eager for the summer visitors and festivals soon to advance
upon them. But the quiet time now is also something to enjoy, for
it will not be experienced again until nearly hunting season.
As summer arrives the tempo and the warmth
of the waters rise steadily, together welcoming the visitors, who
come from everywhere and gently fill this quiet, clean land. The
migrant workers and their families have arrived, mostly from Texas
and Florida, a part of the cherry industry for so many seasons past
and seasons to come.
brings a softness and a quietness to the Leelanau. Even the air
seems to change to an often smoky haze over her hills, waters, and
lakes, this even before fall's majestic dance of colors begin their
parade. It is a wonderful time to come and explore; the beaches
lie quiet, still yearning for company, solitary walks provide an
escape rare in these times. Shopkeepers are now taking a breather,
but still anxious for the visitors before the long winter sets in
with her seal. It is a great time to shop; lots of bargains make
way for a new season, a new year.
then October. What a sight to behold in the Leelanau! Michigan,
so well known for her color spectacular in autumn, has given the
peninsula a great share in this display. Hike the National Lakeshore
by woods or field. Drive past the apple orchards dripping heavily
with several kinds of apple species. See the rolling hills draped
with such beautiful extravaganza. See the azure blues of her bays,
lakes, and the power of Lake Michigan. Often you will glimpse freighters
camped in Suttons Bay, taking refuge from November's rath and Lake
Michigan's changing fury. Canoe the Crystal River, admire her gentleness.
Yes, fall is a great time in the Leelanau.
first snow can sometimes be a surprise. Drivers must relearn their
"snow sense" and the plows must ready for their work ahead.
The clouds hang long and deep and gray over the peninsula. Sometimes
a foot of snow will drop in early November, as it often does, but
the skiers, always ready, are anxious and already out to christen
a new winter season. Though the warm earth usually melts the first
snows, soon the county is covered in a white fairyland surrounded
by beautiful blue waters to gaze at and admire.
The Essence of Timing . . .
Trilliums blossom: Early to mid-May.
Cherry blossoms: Early to mid-May.
of trees: Mid-May.
Lake Michigan reaches
seventy degrees: Late July to August.
showers: Mid-August (most years).
returns to rivers: September.
Peak of fall
colors: Second week of October.
Varies from early November to mid-December.
. . . and
perhaps you can add some of your own "essence" between
Whatever the season, the
Leelanau is a most special part of the earth we share, an area to
be guarded, appreciated, and loved.
From Seasons of the Leelanau, by Sandra Serra Bradshaw.
Copyright © 1994
by Sandra Serra Bradshaw.
All Rights Reserved.
Trillium blossom drawn by Mary Bain.