Aside from our Labor Day jaunt to Traverse City, I hadn’t been to northern Michigan since before our move to Connecticut in 2007. While I still have yet to make it over the bridge, we finally managed to get up to the Grayling area for a weekend of R&R with some friends.
My family owns a cabin in Frederic. If you happen to be a snowmobiler, there is a great chance that you know where Frederic is located. If you are not a snowmobiler, it is quite likely that you’ve never heard of it. Located between the thriving metropolises of Grayling and Gaylord, Frederic is a town consisting of a post office, a gas station, a bar, and a restaurant. And that’s pretty much it, aside from Sledheads of Frederic, a snowmobile shop owned by “Pete the Greek,” who, in addition to running the snowmobile shop, also dabbles in real estate and posts the daily snow and trail conditions. He also occasionally finds dead bodies and takes trips to Alaska. All of these delights can be found on his website.
The cabin is actually outside of the town center, making it pretty remote. However, it’s withing driving distance of some of the best Michigan downhill skiing (Shanty Creek, Boyne, Nub’s Nob), cross-country skiing (the trails at Hartwick Pines), and tourist delights such as the aforementioned Traverse City. It also boasts a halfway decent sledding hill. We never have trouble filling our winter hours at the cabin, because even when we’re not jamming them with activities, we’re holed up by the fireplace, drinking beer and playing cards, or maybe just relaxing.
We eased right back into our old MLK Weekend tradition, caravaning up on Friday night and meeting for a late dinner at Spike’s Keg O’ Nails in Grayling. The SpikeBurger ranks pretty highly on my list of favorite burgers, and it did not disappoint (although the fish fry, usually so crispy and delicious, was not up to par on this visit).
Post-Spike’s, we sat in the warm and toasty cabin, enjoying the fire and the growlers of Ypsi Gypsy and Red Snapper we’d hauled up from the Corner Brewery. We also surveyed the remarkable amount of food we had gathered to feed five people.
On Saturday, we drove through Kalkaska (stopping at Jack’s Sporting Goods for snowpants) and on to Traverse City. Lake Michigan in the winter is amazingly beautiful. We were treated to breathtaking views as we drove up the Old Mission Peninsula, stopping at several wineries along the way.
Our first winery stop was one of my personal favorites, 2 Lads. I was finally able to try their Pinot Noir, and I was knocked out by it. The minute I got a noseful of that damp, earthy smell (it smelled so FRENCH!) I knew I was a goner. I almost didn’t even need to taste it…but I did, of course, and was treated to the lovely cherry, plummy, flavor that seemed to have a little meat behind it. YUM.
Other stops were Chateau Chantal (blah) and Chateau Grand Traverse, which produces some fantastic Rieslings behind that touristy exterior. I also enjoyed the Gamay Noir, a cold-climate red that I have not encountered very often. It had some characteristics of a Cab Franc but was subtly different somehow.
I digress AGAIN.
We could have eaten dinner in TC – it is sort of a northern foodie paradise – but we had the meal to end all meals planned back at the cabin. Steve smoked up four racks of ribs. He marinated/mopped them in a couple different homemade concoctions, and we ate them with pimento cheese mac and cheese (an experiment by me to get rid of leftovers that was wondrously successful) and a salad that Sandi put together of fresh greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, dried cranberries, candied nuts, and feta.
We were still full at breakfast the next morning.
We spent most of Saturday night sledding (the difference between sledding as an adult and sledding as a child? Beer.) and all day Sunday on the slopes of Shuss Mountain at Shanty Creek. It snowed lightly but continuously the entire time we were up north, creating the perfect atmosphere.
What a wonderful way to get reacquainted with the northern part of the mitten. I already want to go back!