Break east from the bustle of U.S. 31, and M-88 will reward you with the ultimate summer slowdown: a bob-n-weave country road that ambles past classic pastures. (spotted cows, baa-ing sheep, rambling old barns) and leads you to Central Lake, a quaint Up North town time hasn’t touched.

En route, brake for King Orchard’s (4620 N. M-88, 231-544-6479). The fresh sweet cherries won’t be ripe for the U-pickin’ until early July, but the orchard store’ll be stocked with their tart and Balaton brethren – dried, canned, frozen, chocolate-covered and juiced. Exotic elephant grass sunhats crafted by West African farmers are also for sale here. Don’t question why. Just crown your dome and continue down M-88 to downtown Central Lake.

Your link to the Chain of Lakes is The Crossings (7724 Old State Rd., 231-544-2407), which sits between Hanley and Intermediate Lakes and rents good old-fashioned fishing boats. Before you board, some essentials: poles and bait from Lakeside Corner Store (2410 Rushton Rd., 231-544-6121); a maritime pocket sundial from Adam’s Madams (2385 S. Main St., 231-544-2770); a book for when the fish aren’t biting from the Friendly Cottage Used Book Store (7973 North St.).

Should the lakes yield trout, pike or perch, clean ’em, cook ’em and chow down at the in-town Thurston Park (north end of Intermediate Lake, 231-544-6854). Find plates, picnic tablecloths, penny candy and proof of the store’s longtime slogan, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” at the 1942-opened Bachmann’s Store (2415 Main St., 231-544-2300).

No catch today? You’re guaranteed a good nibble and, with luck, a table on the front porch at Murphy’s Lamplight Inn (2535 N. Main St., 231-544-6443), where a sizeable and scrumptious seafood menu is served seven days a week.

Stay the Night

Thurston Park: Campsites on shores of Intermediate Lake, with fire pits, docks and swimming, mini-climbing walls and sheltered picnic area, 231-544-6854.

Moon Keeper B&B: 1890’s country home with lush gardens overlooking Hanley Lake, 231-544-3931,

Torch Lake Bed and Breakfast: High-end and high-tech amenities in home with outdoor hot tub overlooking Torch Lake, 231-599-3400,

Snug Harbor Cabins: Eight clean, cozy and classic log cabins on Intermediate Lake, rowboats, paddleboats and more, 231-544-8117.

Lynda Twardowski is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s

Note: This article was first published in June 2007, and was updated for the web February 2008.