Winging my way north to my “tar paper shack” that I adore so much there in the Superior country, I penetrated the air over the glistening blue below that is Traverse Bay. I am always struck by the beauty of this area as I make my hop to Beaver Island and then onshore at the southern terminus of the Upper Peninsula. Although I have seen it, boated it, swam in it and flown over it hundreds of times, I began to marvel at the sheer size of the lakes below. This all started me thinking about how many people have heard of the Great Lakes and have an idea of what they are, but perhaps, don’t really grasp the vastness of these fresh water bodies. Personally, I am reminded of flying in the Hawaiian Islands and the limitless Pacific every time I pass over the straits area with its endless gem like water, undulating sand bars, empty islands, and nearly endless horizon.
As the largest reserve of fresh water on the planet the Great Lakes are so large as to be unbelievable. I must admit, I take them for granted. With all water combined in the “Mitten” State, we are never more than 6 miles from a body of water here. And nowhere in the state can you be more than 85 miles from the shore of one of the great lakes. The number of miles of shoreline in this state is second only to the great state of Alaska.
With all this water and all these bays and islands, you might get the idea that the shoreline would be a never ending ribbon of weekend cottages, condos and motels; each allowing access to and use of these gigantic bodies of water. While there are numerous resort areas providing spectacular sunsets and plenty of access, the vast majority of the shoreline of these Great Lakes is remote, empty and absolutely gorgeous.
Boating remains a great endeavor on these crystal clear playgrounds but if you really want to see the enormity of the lakes, plan yourself an air tour. It is likely the best way to get a sense of the size of it all and allows you to view the vast empty beauty that surrounds us here in Michigan.
I did just that not so long ago. I took some time off to visit the beach in my state. I did what I typically do, I started by driving to the airport. What started out to be a few hours of pleasant aerial sightseeing from the pointy end of the Mooney, soon morphed into two days of aviation bliss as I explored the Straits of Mackinac and its islands and bays, and then turned northward to take in the wild Superior shoreline.
Come on along and be my co-pilot . . .
You’re going to have a great time!
Author: Tom Speerstra
Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and Pappy “the dog” Boyington.