Ryan Trares: A different kind of spring break

When that first wet snowflake hit the windshield, we knew this was going to be a different kind of spring break.

The Trares family hit the road last week for a bit of rest and relaxation. Anthony had a few days of break left, and we decided to take a trip to one of our all-time favorite places — Grand Haven, Michigan.

We had been coming to the sleepy Lake Michigan vacation town for the past six years. It was a discovery made when my wife and I were still relatively new parents, and Anthony was only 2 years old. We didn’t have a big vacation planned, but wanted to do something fun as a family.

I researched places that had a beach, fun shops and was within reasonable driving distance. Grand Haven seemed like a fit.

And what a fit it’s been. That first trip was filled with beach time, ice cream shops, good food and, of course, souvenirs. We’d been almost every year since.

But here’s the thing: Normally, we head up for a few days in June. The weather is pleasant but not too hot; those kinds of late spring days when the sun is warm on your skin, but neither humidity nor bugs have taken over. At that time of year, we sit at the beach, but the lake is so cold you go numb in a matter of seconds.

What would Michigan in early April look like? We weren’t sure, but we were going to find out.

That first day driving up gave us sort of an answer. Blustery winds and a snow/rain mix greeted us as we pulled onto the main drag and found our rental. Still, we were all smiles.

The next three days were a greatest-hits collection of our favorite things. We woke up late for authentic diner breakfasts — Anthony stuffing himself on silver-dollar pancakes and scrambled eggs. We walked from shop to shop, browsing locally made art, boutique finds, and, let’s be honest, toys, without dealing with crowds. We took a walk on the pier out to the lighthouse and peered at the waves breaking over the lake.

My wife and I stopped in our favorite breweries, loading up Michigan beers to bring back with us — our adult souvenirs.

Even the weather cooperated. After the first cold day, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperatures warmed up into the 40s and lower 50s. Florida it wasn’t, but it made walking around much more bearable.

Better yet, without the lure of the beach, we were free to discover places we’d never been. Just a short drive away was a county park where we traversed a wooden boardwalk through a towering forest of eastern hemlock trees, over marshy patches of just-emerging skunk cabbage and along the Pigeon River. We listened for woodpeckers and peered into the crystal clear water for fish.

By the time we left on Sunday morning, we were packed with memories that not even the tinge of sadness of leaving could overwhelm. And we didn’t even need a beach.

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