Ryan Trares: A grand adventure waits

Ryan Trares

Talk about setting the tone for the summer.

There were sand castles and popsicles, deep blue water and glowing bright sunsets, late-night musical performances and quiet early mornings on the front porch.

For five days recently, our family embarked on one of our favorite traditions — an annual trip up to Grand Haven, Michigan.

The small city on the Lake Michigan shoreline has become one of our favorite places. We discovered it by chance, just looking for a quick trip to take Anthony to when he was just a baby. From that initial introduction, we’ve fallen in love.

Every year since, the three of us have rented a house to stay at for a few days. Even during the pandemic summer of 2020, my wife and I took a small journey there to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. This year, my mom was able to join us.

The city itself is situated on the Grand River, a key waterway through central Michigan that brings fishing boats, pleasure yachts and massive ships past on the way to the lake. A short walk from downtown brings you to Grand Haven State Park, a swath of silky soft sand where we spent a good chunk of the trip.

Anthony had visions of flopping around in the water, exploring the underwater shallows with his goggles.

I warned him — the water would be cold. This time of year, Lake Michigan is about 60 degrees on a good day, and even if an unusual heat wave brought air temperatures up into the mid-80s, the water would take your breath away.

Anthony wanted to try anyway. Crouching into a sprinter’s stance, he took off down the sand and into the water. After a few steps, he stopped in his tracks, shrieked and yelled out, “Cold!”

We still frolicked in the lake — I even dunked my head under a few times, despite the heart-stopping chill — and made fun in other ways. Anthony constructed a sand castle complex with towers, houses, walls and a bridge to an adjoining island, before waves inevitably washed it away.

When we weren’t at the beach, we were taking advantage of shopping at the beach shops along the downtown corridor, stopping in for treats to beat the heat, and frequenting the two main breweries within walking distance.

There were souvenirs to be bought. Did Anthony walk away with a 5-foot-long stuffed toy python? Much to my wife’s chagrin, he did.

The little moments are the ones that stand out: Eating dinner on the deck overlooking the river while a flotilla of pleasure boats come back in from the lake; watching blue jays and black squirrels play among the trees from our porch; staying up late to watch Grand Haven’s famed Musical Fountain — where jets of water shimmy and shake to popular music under colored lights.

Anthony didn’t want to leave; none of us did. Walking to the iconic lighthouse jutting out into Lake Michigan the morning of our departure, he seemed on the verge of tears thinking about it.

But before he got too sad, I reminded him that we have a whole summer awaiting us. Grand Haven was the kickstart to adventure over the coming months — whetting our appetite for the fun we have to look forward to.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal in Franklin. Send comments to [email protected].