It is a quandary. Early on in this cycling tour, we headed north on Michigan's lower peninsula along the Lake Michigan shore. It is the eastern shore of the lake, but the western coast of Michigan. So which is it? We found examples of both references, so the evidence is inconclusive. We're still not sure what to call it.
Now headed down the Lake Huron side, we are spared this confusion. This coast has clearly defined its identity in a manner that is unambiguous. We are cycling the “Sunrise Side.”
This is new territory for both of us. Like the Lake Michigan side, it has a single scenic highway running the length of the coast, at least as far as we are taking it. Both roads cling to the water's edge, as much as possible. Despite the popularity of the route, traffic is reasonable, the road is in good shape, and the shoulders generous. Nirvana for cyclists.
We were curious to see how different Lake Huron's shores would be. My initial reaction is that it has the same wonderful Great Lakes appeal, with the long water views and endless horizon. It feels more wild, somehow and less tamed than the Lake Michigan shore. It doesn't boast the same level of posh development. And it seems to host far more resorts that cater to the general population.
Where Lake Michigan has carved out long narrow peninsulas and frequent bays, Lake Huron's coastline feels straighter. There are no tall dunes, but plenty of sandy beaches. Homes, cabins and resorts claim much of the actual waterfront, and our views are limited to peering across yards to the water beyond. In place of sophisticated and picturesque villages, there are small, more ordinary towns. Fewer marinas. An abundance of lighthouses.
We also found other lakes nestled inland from the shores of the big lake. Grand Lake delivered a lovely little resort with peaceful water views.
Alpena had a lovely park and wildlife sanctuary, as well as an attractive harbor and lighthouse.
One sight was very familiar. We toured the retired Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw, which occasionally visited Duluth to assist in opening the port in spring. The best part was meeting a 10-year veteran crew member, who was there to tell us about the engine room. His real life experiences on board the ship were tales worth hearing.
It was unfortunate that we had mostly cloudy skies when we visited the Huron coast, which may have tainted our perspective. It certainly limited our propensity to take photos. But even so, it did live up to its name. The Sunrise Side.