I recently had the opportunity to visit Northern Michigan for a weekend. Saturday was gray and gloomy, but Sunday was the perfect day for a drive to the Michigan Legacy Art Park.
About an hour's drive southwest of Traverse City, this creative trail is nestled in the heart of Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.
Crystal Mountain is a ski & spa resort with other year-round activities such as swimming and golf. I didn't know that's where the art park was when I first planned my trip. I expected the trail to be hidden off an obscure little road, when in fact, it's a huge resort.
[The strange thing about my arrival was that when I first turned into the complex, I realized that I had been there before. Many years ago, I traveled there for a radio station broadcast. I remember not actually exploring the resort at the time, due to time restrictions. I arrived, did my broadcast, went to bed, then went home. So it was nice to take my time this time and explore.]
I'll admit some disappointment when I saw that I'd be surrounded by skiers on my little trek, but that quickly subsided when I found that once on the trail, it seemed like I was in the middle of nowhere.
[click on each photo to embiggen]
At the beginning of the trail, there is a little rack of walking sticks. Grab one. This trail is hilly.
99 out of 100 doctors (that I didn't really ask) say that an out-of-shape asthmatic climbing hills alone in the middle of winter might be a Bad Idea. This thought occurred to me as I ascended the first incline walkingstick-less. But I had my snacks and my water, and with plenty of benches on which to rest, I really had no problem.
The air was crisp and clean, and the sun shone down on me as I took in the sights. Most of the photos on the park's website were taken in a sunny green forest. I was there seeing it in a different way. The leafless trees allowed me to see all the way across the mountain, and the sun hit all the art straight on. A summer trip would be a completely different experience.
For example, the piece Fallen Comrade (a tribute, in part, to the Tuskegee Airmen) is mostly painted white, and almost invisible in the snow. It would really stand out in the summer. [see pic below]
I am not in shape.
I did get a nice look out from the rest stop/information kiosk nearby. I sat there for a long while, taking in a beautiful view of a wide valley. It struck me that during a summer visit, this view might not exist. If the foliage was lush and full, I'd simply be looking at trees.
The park is dedicated to educating as well as entertaining. Teachers bring field trips to start conversations about art, history, conservation and more. There's even a small amphitheater available to accommodate a larger group activity.
Next time you're in Northern Michigan, make plans to visit. There are events planned year-round, or just walk it on your own. Take an hour or two, and spend time with some beautiful art hidden in one of Michigan's nicest trails. The Michigan Legacy Art Park is a wonderful, inexpensive way to spend an afternoon.