Rambling into Love in Ludington

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Stealing a few words from The Four Seasons, “Oh, what a night”…late May in 2014 (and day too)!  I spent a very short weekend in Ludington, Michigan to celebrate Chas and Ellen’s wedding, and Saturday was a big day!

I started out with a light breakfast at the Holiday Inn with my mom before we parted ways.  I ventured to Ludington State Park, located between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan.  The park offers a variety of trails, and I chose two different hikes after paying the $9 entry fee.

My first hike followed the 3 mile Lighthouse Trail, essentially an unpaved road that fit between the foredune and the forested backdune.  I chose this trail first as I felt its openness to the sun as it followed behind the dunes might be warm later in the day.  The foredune is created by pioneer grasses.  Marram grass slows the blowing sand thus building dunes.  Behind the foredune is a trough where water collects in small ponds.  Amazingly, there were not any mosquitoes as I searched for snakes, frogs, and dragonflies around the edges.

For the most part, I stuck to the unpaved road with exception of climbing over the dunes to the lake’s shore where a sign pointed to an old shipwreck.  I tried in vain to find remnants of this shipwreck, but it eluded me.  Instead I found sand art of a ship.  Maybe all the bad weather this winter blew sand over the excavated portion of the wreck.

Eventually I reached the lighthouse.  I believe it took me an hour to walk the quarter mile through the absolutely packed campground and the 1.5 miles along the trail. It would have been good to know the lighthouse doesn’t open until 10am and there is a $3 charge to climb to the top.  The Big Sable Point Lighthouse was built in 1867 after Congress appropriated $35,000 for its construction the prior year. The 112 foot tall lighthouse was important to the lumber industry as multiple ships sank in the area prior to the shoreline being well marked.

Upon completing the Lighthouse Trail, I rushed to the other side of the park to try out Lost Lake Trail.  The 1.5 mile path circles a watery cove off Hamlin Lake beneath a canopy of trees.  I thought the shade would be perfect for beginning shortly after 11am, though I knew I was giving up my opportunity to spot a significant amount of wildlife by starting later in the day.  Instead I watched park goers fish, canoe, and kayak around the lake.  Clearly, water sports is the popular choice in Michigan.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed following the footbridges from island to island as birds chirped all around me.  Robins, woodpeckers, and red winged blackbirds flitted from tree to tree, swans dunked their heads underwater in search of food, and a heron glided into shore.  A turtle sunned on a log in the tranquil water that offered marvelous reflections.  This wooded hike was lovely.

It was almost noon, and I had to be ready by 1:15 to drive out to Ellen’s parents ranch for the wedding ceremony.  As such, I zipped back to town, asked the waitress at House of Flavors if she could rush an order on a Reuben sandwich, and rewarded her with a healthy tip.  I say healthy, I gave her a whopping $2.50 instead of the customary 20% tip of $1.50, and with a smile she replied, “Thanks, are you sure?”  Really?  She totally hooked me up!  I had 45 minutes to prepare for the wedding.  Yes, I’m sure!  The hostess was great too.  The people of Ludington are very friendly!!

Twenty-three miles later and after Come to Me by the Goo Goo Dolls perfectly played on the radio, I arrived at “the Tank” near Manistee.  Villanova and Michigan State flags flew at the entrance of the driveway, pots of flowers lined the stone walls, and guests gathered in the shade of the towering trees.  We all meandered to the open, sunny area and found our seats complete with sunglasses stamped with Chas and Ellen’s special day.  What a sunny day it was!  Given all the cold, snowy, and wet weather around the country this winter and spring, sun was very welcome, but when I say it was scalding hot, I’m not exaggerating.  A family friend pointed to my chest later in the evening and asked, “where did you go to get so red?”  I pointed to the white chairs!  I suppose I should have remembered sunscreen. 🙂

The ceremony was lovely…both traditional and unique at the same time.  All the nieces and nephews participated.  The oldest was a groomsman and the rest held other duties.  Two passed out flowers, one young man carried the rings down the aisle in a wooden canoe (cute since Chas was a fishing guide for years), and another young boy pulled a wagon down the aisle carrying the youngest niece!  But that’s not all, with several artists in the family, two nieces held a banner letting Chas know that his lovely bride was about to arrive.

Ellen, donned in a beautiful white dress, wore giant smile as her father walked her to the alter.  Beige was the chosen color for the bridesmaids and groomsmen who looked quite handsome surrounding the happy couple.  The priest performed a full mass and offered some sage advice to the newly weds and congregation.  Upon completion of the ceremony, Chas’ best man, Travis, rowed the two down the river while the guests wandered the grounds.  There were a few hiking options through the woods and by the river.  I considered a short walk, but the swarm of mosquitoes at the trailhead turned me back to the bar, red barn that Chas painted with a brush this week, the house, and the dinner tent.

The dinner tables included runners and utensil holders handmade by a friend of Ellen’s family. The juicy, prime rib dinner buffet hit the spot.  The dessert table included sugar cookies, Rice Krispie treats (my favorite), cake and pies…a slight detour from the traditional!  The bride and groom danced their first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Chas Marsh.  Ellen danced with her dad and Chas with his mom.  Then the guests joined the dance floor to the live music.  The fun continued past nightfall.  This far north, it doesn’t turn dark until close to 10pm.  What a busy day and nice evening!  I’m so glad I got to celebrate Chas and Ellen’s joyous occasion. ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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