The 21 or so summers that Ernest Hemingway spent in Northern Michigan shaped his literary trajectory. Visit the places in Petoskey, Boyne City and more that inspired an icon; Hemingway’s North.
“This is where the magic happened,” says Chris Struble, president of the Michigan Hemingway Society. He’s referring to Pulitzer-and Nobel-prize winning author Ernest Hemingway’s summer stomping grounds in the Horton Bay area, less than 15 miles southwest of Petoskey. Sixty years after the famed novelist passed away, his books and life are still admired—proven yet again by a recent Ken Burns documentary featuring voice actors Jeff Daniels and Meryl Streep.

The Michigan Hemingway Society has made it easy for readers to experience the author’s local hangouts, sharing a self-guided tour map at the Tour Hemingway’s Michigan website. As I make my way to each spot, I can almost picture Hemingway among the lands and waters that so defined his younger life: the family cottage, Windemere, that brought them North; the farm where he worked the fields; the places he hunted, fished and even got married for the first time. These places were so etched in his being, that they made their way into Hemingway’s writing—no matter where he was in the world. Visit, and you’ll feel the magic, too.

Nick Adams Nature Preserve

Named after Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical Nick Adams stories, the preserve is a 10-minute drive north of Horton Bay General Store (take Boyne City/Charlevoix Road west of the store, then turn north on Horton Creek Road). You may be as surprised, as I was, when the road turns into a sandy two-track with room for only one car. Overwhelmed by the beauty and isolation, I stopped to take pictures of the tunnel of trees—no, not that Tunnel of Trees—that cozied up around my car. Nothing but looming trunks with just a hint of dappled sunlight filtering through the leafy awning. Keep going until you reach a big wooden sign on your left indicating you’ve arrived.

There’s a sandy, car-sized pullover for parking. If I had been channeling my inner Hemingway, I would have worn waders, because the barely discernible path through
the forest to the creek is pretty swampy. Hemingway described this area in “Big Two-Hearted River,” and it’s where he fished as a young man. I almost turned back because of the dense trees and bushes. Is this really a path? Shouldn’t I have reached the creek by now? Before the jitters got me, I reached the water’s edge. The trail simply eased right into Horton Creek. I was mesmerized. And I wish I’d brought my rod.

Tip: There’s an easier way to visit Horton Creek, but the experience isn’t as Hemingway-esque. Head to 5408 Boyne City Rd., Horton Bay. There’s a sign for Rufus Teesdale Nature Preserve, a parking lot and a footpath to the creek. For more information, visit the Little Traverse Conservancy website.

Horton Bay General Store

Stop to eat, shop and gawk at the memorabilia in this Hemingway hangout. It’s been spiffed up since it opened in 1876, but the store and its surroundings still exude genuine character. Find a spot on the old front porch or the newer side patio to read “Up in Michigan” or “The Last Good Country,” two Hemingway stories in which the store is characterized. Imagine his wedding to Hadley Richardson in a church nearby, which has since been demolished. The old Red Fox Inn, once a boarding house and now a bookstore of sorts, still stands next door though. It’s filled with books and biographies, plus plenty of knickknacks and souvenir curios.

Horton Bay General Store | 05115 Boyne City Rd., Boyne City (in the village of Horton Bay).

Horton Bay General Store
Storefront in Horton Bay

Lake Street, Village of Horton Bay

Plan on being enchanted by a stroll down Lake Street toward Lake Charlevoix (a short walk and across the road from Horton Bay General Store). It will put you in the midst of the setting featured in “The End of Something,” “Summer People,” “On Writing” and “Up in Michigan.”Walk past Pinehurst Cottage and Shangri-La, the site of Hemingway’s first wedding reception/ breakfast. Hemingway occasionally bunked at Pinehurst, now privately owned (don’t go knocking), and the neighboring Shangri-La, today a seven-bedroom vacation rental. Continue your trek back in time as you get closer to the water. The view at the Lake Street pub- lic access and boat launch is breathtaking: the woodsy setting, the waters of Charlevoix Bay gently lapping against the beach and the serenity. Plan to sit awhile and soak it all in.

Shangri-La | 5738 Lake St., Boyne City.

Ernest Hemingway Cottage

Walloon Lake Public Access & Boat Launch

Head southeast of Horton Bay on Boyne City/Charlevoix Road for about one mile and turn east on Sumner Road. Once again, you’ll be surprised when the paved road turns into a sandy-dirt path surrounded by trees as you get closer to the lake. You’ll finally arrive at a dock and a bit of a sandy patch where you can take a dip in the waters where Hemingway swam most summer mornings. On the right, as you’re facing the lake, once stood 40 acres of Longfield Farm, owned by the Hemingway family and where Hemingway often worked in the fields—cutting hay, planting trees, tending and selling vegetables. This is the spot where he rowed his new bride Hadley across the lake to honeymoon at his family cottage, Windemere, and wrote about it in “Wedding Day.” The boat launch at the end of the road is not a swanky, hifalutin destination—just a spit hemmed in by wild woods. But from this mesmerizing spot, you’ll understand why Northern Michigan became Hemingway’s muse.

Perry Hotel & City Park Grill in Petoskey

After hanging out at Hemingway’s favorite outdoor spots, head to Petoskey to visit a couple of his indoor haunts. Check out (or check into) Stafford’s Perry Hotel, where Hemingway stayed in 1916 and where he was known to favor rum and brandy. He also hung out at City Park Grill—known as the Annex during the Hemingway era. It was a male-only billiard parlor (yes, he played) and it was just a short walk to the nearby park where he watched bare-knuckle boxing. If you listen to local lore, Hemingway loved to sit at the second barstool inside the entrance of City Park Grill. (Struble contends there were no seats at the bar during Heming- way’s days.) Nonetheless, he was a regular and may have bellied up in that exact spot. You’ll want to do so, too. Order a Hemingway Daiquiri and raise a toast.

Perry Hotel | 100 Lewis St., Petoskey, City Park Grill | 432 E. Lake St., Petoskey.

For more about Hemingway’s Michigan connections, visit the Michigan Hemingway Society website. Find a self-guided tour map on the Tour Hemingway’s Michigan website.

Ken Burns Hemingway Documentary

In April, award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick released a three-part, six-hour documentary series about the iconic literary figure. The series includes voice actor jeff daniels as Hemingway plus Meryl Streep, Keri Russell, Mary-Louise Parker and Patricia Clarkson as Hemingway’s four wives. The documentary also features historical photographs of Hemingway’s time spent in Northern Michigan provided by Michigan’s Clarke Historical Library. “Hemingway” is available on DVD and blu-ray, or WCMU passport members can stream it online.

A Hemingway Homecoming

The Village of Walloon Lake, nestled between Boyne City and Petoskey just off US-131, has planned a year’s worth of activities and special events honoring one-time summer resident Ernest Hemingway.

Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3–6, will be the primary Hemingway Homecoming celebration with the unveiling of historical installations downtown focused on Hemingway, as well as other aspects of the village’s development and growth at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as rail travel, hotels and resorts, boating and more.

On Sept. 3, the village is hosting a “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception” at the Talcott Center. The ticketed event, benefitting the Michigan Hemingway Society, will be held on the 100th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s wedding to Hadley Richardson. The evening includes a Hemingway-themed happy hour and a special dinner by Wine Guys Catering featuring a menu from Pinehurst Inn in Horton Bay (where the actual wedding reception was held). Throughout the night, guests will be invited to bid on a variety of unique Hemingway and Walloon Lake items and experiences with live auctioneer Scott Mackenzie of Boyne City.

In addition, several businesses, including Hotel Walloon, Walloon Lake Inn and Barrel Back restaurant, are showcasing foods and beverages throughout the year in honor of Hemingway’s passion for such things. Themed lodging packages are also available, based on activities that the Pulitzer-and Nobel Prize-winning author enjoyed, like fly fishing. For more on these events, visit the Walloon Lake website.

Photo(s) by Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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