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Berries, Beaches and the Beauty of a Simple Summer

You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Yeah, they often go awry. Throw small kids into the mix? Well, you can be virtually certain that things won’t go according to plan. When it comes to planning an Up North adventure, you have to be flexible.

This past weekend we had big ambitions for our family. Then one of our daughters got sick on Friday and we had to scale things back considerably. Since we had little ones in tow who were lacking a bit of their usual spunk and energy, we ended up engaging in activity that centered more around food and play than it did rugged adventure.

There was a time after we first had kids that this would have bothered us. After all, we spent a lot of time crafting our weekend plans, and having them derailed was a bit disappointing at first. But as is often the case, what resulted from the unexpected was a wonderful weekend full of fun and spontaneity. The simplicity of our day made it a perfect summer adventure.

As with most things in life, we find that when it comes to weekend family time, it’s all about setting expectations – for our kids and ourselves. It’s great to set high expectations and get everybody pumped up about what’s ahead. But it’s also important to prepare everyone for the chance (eventuality?) that things won’t go as expected. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and after enough experience cancelling, altering and scrapping plans, we’ve come to learn that the flow can be wonderful.

Berries, Art, Play and Lunch in Charming Elk Rapids

One of the best places to spend a little time with a four year old who’s a bit under the weather is the car. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found that it’s often the only spot that you can get a four year old to sleep during the day! So we decided that our spontaneous weekend adventure was going to be low-key, and also involve some driving.

We love exploring the many small lakefront towns near Traverse City. We often end up in Glen Arbor, Leland or Suttons Bay, hitting the beaches and finding trails. On Saturday we decided to head east to charming Elk Rapids.

Our first stop on the way out of town was to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in downtown Traverse City. It’s an awesome market experience, although on this day we were just stopping by to pick up our CSA share from the great folks at Providence Organic Farm.

Our farm experience was just beginning, however, as we were headed to the Guntzviller Berry Farm, a multi-generational farm in Elk Rapids, to pick strawberries with the girls. We go strawberry picking every summer, but this is the first time we’ve been to Guntzviller. We were not disappointed.

As soon as we got to the farm we were directed to the u-pick patch, and once we got among the strawberry plants we were greeted with tons of huge, red berries, ripe for the picking. Each of us got a container and began hunting for the best berries to bring home (and, of course, trying a few samples along the way!). It didn’t take long before our baskets were brimming with beautiful sweet berries.

Guntzviller is a great farm run by a wonderful family. We highly recommend it as a place to visit for a u-pick experience. Don’t wait too long, however, as strawberry season won’t be around for too much longer. But if you do miss the strawberry crop, don’t despair as fresh raspberries will be ready to pick at Guntzviller Berry Farm before you know it. We’ll be back for sure!

With lunchtime approaching, we decided to head to downtown Elk Rapids for food and art. It was the final weekend of Art Rapids!, a 15-day long exhibition of creative artwork in and around Elk Rapids. We perused the art as we strolled down to the Elk Rapids beach and playground with the girls for a bit of playtime before lunch.

Elk Rapids beach is a wonderful spot to visit with little ones, as it has a relatively shallow river that flows into East Grand Traverse Bay that’s perfect for splashing and exploring. It also features a little trail system among the vegetation on the river bank that served as our girls’ “secret spot” for the day.

We then headed to one of our favorite restaurants in the region, Siren Hall, to refuel. It was a perfect afternoon to enjoy a meal on Siren Hall’s beautiful patio.

A Sweet Treat to Cap Off the Weekend

By Sunday night, with the kids clean and tucked into bed, Heather and I were faced with a big question as we stared at our kitchen island: What the heck to do with all of these strawberries?

Last summer we tried jam. That didn’t work out so well. So rather than try for a sequel, Heather decided to tackle a more decadent treat: Homemade strawberry ice cream.

The only problem is that we don’t have an ice cream maker, so this was going to have to be done the old-fashioned way. So on Monday, Heather pulled together the ingredients, and had the girls slice up strawberries from our haul. The end result turned out great!

Here’s an easy recipe if you’re looking to make ice cream with your family.

See you next week. In the meantime, pick some fresh berries. Visit a small town. Have an Up North adventure this weekend no matter where you live!