Jurich: Road trippin’Written by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
The wandering part of “Wandering Roots” is that I am always traveling. If not literally, then I’m at least daydreaming, imagining weekend getaways, road trips and day excursions. The sound of a train on the tracks, or even being by the train station when I eat at San Marcos, makes me sigh with desire rooted in fond memories and a lust for romantic exploration. I am slightly overwhelmed by the prospects and possibilities of trips and activities this spring and summer, just within reach of Toledo. That doesn’t even include all the happenings in Toledo that could very well keep one content.
Toward the end of winter, I start checking Nelson Ledges Quarry Park’s website, to see if they have any festivals scheduled yet. They usually don’t at that point, but I still like to visit the site for tickles. Their homepage says, “The only spot in Ohio for; Scenic Camping, Swimming, Scuba, Hiking, Biking, Nature, Fishing, Honey Bees, Organic Gardens, Music Festivals, Arts & Crafts, Friends, Family, Sports, Sun, Fun … And much more.” This place truly is a hidden gem, located between Cleveland and Youngstown. You’re likely to see a horse and buggy as you near the park. Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is kid-friendly, has affordable music festivals throughout the summer (the stage is right next to the beach, which is awesome) and is also a great place to go just for camping, swimming and nature.
Traveling in the opposite direction, northwest of Toledo, is Michigan’s western coast, along the stunning shore of Lake Michigan. About three-and-a-half hours from home is Warren Dunes State Park (which is only 90 minutes from Chicago), a beautiful beach park in southern Michigan. From that beach, there are more than 250 miles of coast to travel to the north, with cute towns to stop in like South Haven, Saugatuck and Grand Haven.
Continuing north, by the time you get to Manistee and then Empire, the scenery becomes more rustic and heavily forested with Manistee National Forest which leads into Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Empire is just south of the Grand Traverse Bay (and home to Dunegrass Music Festival), a beautiful area for kayaking, hiking, camping, climbing sand dunes, swimming and being a beach bum.
If you want to stay real close to home, a great day trip is one down the Maumee River. River Lures in Grand Rapids, Ohio, rents canoes and kayaks for 6, 9, 11, 14 and 14+ mile trips.
Paddling down the Maumee River is perfect for beginners. It is quite scenic — wildlife includes egrets, blue heron, ducks, painted, snapping and soft-shell turtles, eagles and more. Don’t let the muddy brown river fool you; it’s not as dirty as you might imagine. While you’re in Grand Rapids for the canoe rental, you can grab lunch or ice cream, or spend the night camping in Mary Jane Thurston State Park.
Another close, and maybe more obvious day or weekend (or longer) getaway are the Lake Erie Islands. The Lake Erie Islands website says there are (debatably) 36 islands in Lake Erie, some of which are now connected to the mainland or uninhabited. Close to Toledo, there are several islands popular for travelers. Kelleys Island is the largest freshwater island in Lake Erie, and is home to Kelleys Island State Park, Kelleys Island Winery and Kelleys Island Brewery. Catawba Island has more than 3,000 residents and might be best known for Mon Ami Restaurant and Historic Winery.
There is a chain of “Bass” Islands, North, Middle and South Bass Islands. South Bass is where Put-in-Bay is located, if you are looking to hang with the “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” crowd or have your bachelor/bachelorette party. Beware of drunken golf cart drivers. However, on the other side of the island is the State Park, if you’re looking for a quieter evening with the family. Middle Bass Island receives fewer visitors than South and is perfect for bike riding (you can take bikes on the ferry or rent), fishing, kayaking and camping. It is home to Lonz Winery and Middle Bass State Park. The Lake Erie Islands offer plenty to explore with an intriguing history and rich ecosystem. Ferries to the islands leave regularly from Port Clinton and Marblehead.
Toledo is the crossroads for the east/west turnpike and north/south interstate, home to an Amtrak and Greyhound station, and we can’t forget our special little airport. Once you save a few pennies, it’s easy (and fun) to get away.