This loop begins and ends in the charming village of Harbor Springs, then winds north through the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 through Good Hart and Cross Village. This area is also known as L’Arbre Croche, or Crooked Tree. At Cross Village, it turns inland and rolls over hills, past expansive farmland, fallow fields, fecund marshes, and well-known ski resorts. It’s a long, hilly ride, for those with a high level of fitness. For those who don’t want to tackle the whole thing, a short out and back along M-119 to get a taste of the Tunnel of Trees area would be a nice outing.
Give yourself plenty of time to poke around Harbor Springs. For such a small town there’s a lot to explore. There is the town proper, with all the shops, restaurants, cafes and museums, situated above the harbor on Little Traverse Bay. There’s the tier above town on Bluff Drive, particularly the eastern end in the neighborhoods with a park that has a majestic view over the town and the bay. There are the docks with all kinds of boats bobbing about in the water. There’s the loop around Glenn Drive and 2nd Street at the far western end of town, a quiet neighborhood with a couple of the area’s ubiquitous nature preserves snuck in.
There’s the ride around Beach Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue on the eastern end of the town in the area of the West Wequetonsing Nature Preserve. This area has some attractive old resort homes facing one another in a series of greenswards that open out on the water.
Farther east, on a ride that leads from Pennsylvania Avenue onto Beach Road, get in touch with your true nature preserve self and savor the natural world. I’m not sure how it all unfolded, but much of it is contiguous land that looks to have been granted to the Little Traverse Conservancy in small parcels. It all adds up to a nice stretch of quiet natural landscape to ride through. It will eventually lead you back out to M-119, then down to the Petoskey State Park, a great place to walk the beach if you’re looking to get your toes out of bike shoes and into some soft sand.
Nature preserves are a major focus in this region. There are over forty within or around this loop alone. There’s a strong desire in this area to retain the natural surroundings for plants, animals and people. It is a great draw to the region and it focuses on a broad mission toward land stewardship. Nearly 30% of the land in Emmet County is in public ownership.
Head north on M-119 along a curvaceous coastal roadway lined with the famous Tunnel of Trees that winds through the area known as L’Arbre Croche, or Crooked Tree. This area is a historic Odawa Native American gathering place. The tree (long since removed), thought to once be near Good Hart, represents a physical object with many levels of meaning. It locates a place where tribes traded and worked out differences. It’s also a signifier of homeland and a spiritual icon.
The county, once known by the Native American name Tonedagana, was eventually named for the Irish patriot Robert Emmet, who was hanged in Ireland as a traitor to the British government at the age of 23. This renaming was due to the strong Irish American presence in the mid-1800s.
On the northern end of the route, Cross Village is one of the oldest settlements in Michigan and today is known for its ties to the Odawa tribe, as well as a strong connection to the the early missionaries in the area. The town’s name comes from a large white cross reputed to have been originally erected by Father Marquette. Legs Inn, built in the 20s and still run by the original Smolak family, is a unique architectural wonder built of native stone and wood, with driftwood accents.
Robinson Road drops dramatically down to a rich and diverse marsh on both sides. The Maple River flows through it.
NOTE: This ride is for those who are in good physical condition. It’s not only long, but it’s also very hilly. The ride through the Tunnel of Tree area on M-119 is often over gently rolling hills, some do get more challenging here and there.
An optional Shortcut is shown on the map that cuts east/west across Stutsmanville Road. Be aware that, like much of inland Emmet County, this is a very hilly crossover. Even as a shorter route option, it’s still quite a challenge and you should be in good physical condition to handle it.
For a nice historic profile of the county and more maps, go to emmetcounty.org.