By Jelane A. Kennedy
When I think about the places that are home for me, top on the list is Michigan where I grew up. I love the lakes both large and small. The rolling hills of farmland that seem to go on and on with a variety of crops: wheat, soybean, corn, potatoes, etc. Then there are the orchards with peaches, apples, pears, etc. Plus there are berry farms with strawberries, blueberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, etc. It is very easy to take a drive in late summer and find multiple farm stands with fresh produce to buy with an honor can to slip your money into. Then there are the areas of forest and sand dunes. Yes I said sand dunes, most people only think of sand dunes at the ocean.
For me there is also something special about the Upper Peninsula or the UP as we call it. Maybe it’s because it was my Dad’s favorite place but it holds a special place in my heart. When I arrive at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge on the Lower Peninsula side my anticipation starts. I love crossing the bridge, it’s like I am entering a portal to another dimension. The bridge is just over 5 miles long spanning the straits of Mackinac. The bridge opened to traffic in 1957. It is currently the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. With it’s two big towers it looks similar to the Golden Gate Bridge but the towers are white rather than red. As you look below it is not unusual to see sailboats, large cruisers and freighters crossing between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. If you are on the shore at night, seeing the bridge lit up between the straits is breathtaking. One of my favorite State campgrounds is in St. Ignace where you can camp at the lake shore.
When Eileen asked me one time to try and describe the Upper Peninsula before our first trip, the best I could do was to say it was a cross between Cape Cod and the Adirondacks. The sands of three Great Lakes, Michigan, Huron and Superior create the edges of the UP. When you hit Lake Superior on a hot summer day, the winds bring a cool/cold air off the lake. It’s like someone left the air conditioning on. I had never seen the ocean until my mid-twenties and thought how the ocean looked so much like the Great Lakes I grew up around only salty. Salt air smells so different than fresh lake water air. Plus the sand for each of the Great Lakes seems to have a different kind of coarseness.
I consider my second home as the Adirondacks of New York State. I first experienced the Adirondacks in the mid-1990’s when my friend Judy brought me there to go canoe camping on Long Lake. She was on a quest to re-connect with her home. For me it was a new experience to canoe camp and since I loved camping I was a willing companion. Little would I know that just about a year later I would be living with in about an hour drive of the Adirondacks?
My transformation takes place just beyond Lake George. It begins while driving on I-87 I first glimpse the sign that we are “Entering the Adirondack Park”. Within minutes of moving beyond the Lake George area my heart rate drops, and I begin to breathe with deeper breathes, as though to pull in the clean mountain air and replace the stale city air of Albany. Within minutes I usually become aware of the sweet smell of Pine trees and my eyes are memorized by the look of all the tree’s of different kinds before me, the Oaks, Maples, Birches all mixed with the Pines to make the forest unfold. As Fall arrives it is fun to watch the trees begin to change colors, with
first this hesitancy as the process starts and then over time the trees come into full bold color, celebrating the Fall. As the drive continues I can feel the slight increase in elevation and notice the bumps of the tree covered mountains as they come more into view.
There is a rural landscape with open spaces that reminds me of my home in Michigan. Hidden between the mountains and trees are the beautiful fresh water lakes that dot the Park. The Adirondack Park is the largest Park in the United States and is larger than any of the National Parks. The Park is made of State, private and wilderness
lands. Most people when they talk about the Park they think of the 46 High Peaks, which are beautiful as they roll along silhouetted each behind the other along with a variety of less peaks. The 46 High Peaks are 46 mountains that each reach at least 4,000 feet and are nestled together in the Adirondack Park. But for me it is the lakes that I glimpse, large and small that I love seeing when I climb the mountains or the paths I make take that lead me to a lake or pond surrounded by the mountains.
I know when I arrive that I am home and the next few hours or days will be one that rejuvenates my soul and fills my sense. Whether it is hiking on a mountain path or playing in the water of a lake.
(c) 2013 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran