Magnus Park, Petoskey, MI

Magnus Park is located in the city of Petoskey, Michigan, and has more than 21 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline in the Northern Lower Peninsula. Magnus Park is located in Little Traverse Bay and is right on the Little Traverse Wheelway. This is a campground park that is also open for day use. There are modern amenities and a playground, and all of this is only four blocks from downtown Petoskey.

Magnus Park is located at 101 East Lake Street, off Route 31. The drive here from Harbor Springs to the north on M-119 is scenic, as is the drive west of here to Charlevoix, on US 31. Petoskey is very bike and pedestrian friendly, although visitors driving westward to reach this park may encounter construction on 31 near Bayfront Park. That project is expected to last until September 2019.

Welcome to Little Traverse Bay, the deepest harbor in Lake Michigan. This view looks due North, toward Harbor Point and Harbor Springs across the bay. Also shown in this image is a scenic section of the 26-mile Little Traverse Wheelway (LTW), which connects the towns of Charlevoix and Harbor Springs.

This section of the Little Traverse Wheelway has been dubbed “the Miracle Mile.” While the LTW had its beginnings in the 1880s, this 1.4-mile “Resort Bluffs” section was completed in 2008 and replaces the shared-use path on US 31. Neither snowmobiles nor horses are permitted, echoing back to old LTW arches proclaiming “no teaming or driving."

Magnus Park is a city park and is located next to a water treatment plant, and the Little Traverse Wheelway steams right past it. Again, this is part of the Miracle Mile section, and this view looks westward. As the camera moves forward, the landscape and the view is going to change considerably even though Lake Michigan is just steps away.

The asphalt trail here is wide and smooth, and is perfect for moving forward quickly or for stopping to enjoy the view. The afternoon of June 25, 2019, saw temperatures of 76 degrees Fahrenheit with barely a cloud in the sky. To the north is Harbor Point. The Little Traverse Lighthouse is there, but it is located in a private community.

These two cyclists may very well have just come from East Park, which is only a mile and a quarter west of Magnus Park along the Little Traverse Wheelway. There are various amenities along the LTW, which mirrors US 31. For instance, East Park, Magnus Park, Petoskey Bayfront Park, and Petoskey State Park all have multiple amenities, according to the LTW map that is put out by the Top of Michigan Trails Council.

This westerly view along the Wheelway has changed from lake and sky to a pathway through the pines. The sweet scent of Michigan pine is everywhere. There is also tall grass, and the occasional wildflower, although roadway noise and construction can still be heard along this section of the trail. East Park is nearby, and five miles after that comes West Park.

At various points along the Wheelway, local governments and homeowners have agreed to let this path go through private land for public enjoyment. About a mile west of Magnus, hikers and bikers reach that point. There is a large sign stating thusly, urging visitors to respect this arrangement and to keep moving. Nevertheless, there are many designated spots where people can stop if they’d like.

The Wheelway has so many Michigan environments to walk through and so many surprises along the way. Towering pine after towering pine yielded this young tree. Fully half of Michigan is covered by forest; with three types of conifer trees: Spruce, Fir, and Pine. There are also five types of pine: Austian, Eastern White, Jack, Red, and Scotch. A conifer tree is a cone-bearing tree.

About a half mile west of Magnus Park, an alert hiker would encounter this shortcut to the shoreline. It’s rough, rocky, and steep. Most of the rocks on this path are limestone and shale, which are used for making cement. A fisherman or woman might find trout and whitefish waiting for them on this shore, however. At about this time of day, the lake begins to sparkle.

This view looks east into Magnus Park, right after stepping off the Little Traverse Wheelway. Magnus doesn’t have a sandy swimming beach, as does Petoskey State Park. The stones here are not rough, but they are not friendly to bare feet. The woman gazing intently into the water is looking for only one thing: Petoskey stones.

Magnus Park is as good a place to hunt for Petoskey stones as any place in the Tip of the Mitt. They are best found in the shallowest water on a sunny day where the clear water can highlight the hexagonal rugose coral pattern. The scientific name for these fossil stones is Hexagonaria percarinata. A nice example of a Petoskey stone is the large grey stone in the lower left corner of this image. This image also contains two small examples of Charlevoix stones, one of which is directly below the Petoskey stone. The inset is the large stone, which was polished by hand.

There are many different environments at Magnus Park, each offering a slightly different beach experience at this urban oasis. The very east end of the shoreline becomes a dune-like environment. With the exception of the construction crane (in the middle of the photo) and a little distant traffic, it was quiet here. Wind and water can build up loose sand, where it may accumulate around an obstacle like a tree trunk. Plant succession is evident here: sand to grass to shrubs to trees.

Magnus Park has 76 sites for tents, pulled campers and motorhomes, which have both full-service and limited-service hookups. The 2019 season runs from April 20 through October 14, with peak season running July 1 through August 31, by the day or month. There is no charge to come for the day. A peak, full-service site runs $40.00 per day, and a limited site runs $35.00 per day. The sanitary station and showers are free to campers with only a minimal charge to day-use visitors.

The shower house has separate washrooms for men and women. Going inside, the washrooms were well stocked with the necessities and well-kept. Between the washrooms and the shower partition is a Pepsi machine and a thermometer, showing 78 degrees F for the day. There are three super-clean showers on the right (free for campers, $1 for day visitors). Each is behind a sturdy lockable door with a slip-grip mat, vinyl curtain, plus a 4 x 4 foot changing area with a bench and clothes hooks.

The playground is centrally located near the washrooms. There are benches for parents plus a sandpit for digging. The sign at the entrance says that the structures here are designed for kids between the ages of 2 and 5 and that adult supervision is required. (Ed. Note: All the kids were at the beach.) There is a “mutt-mitt station” here at the park as well to help dog owners stay neat and tidy, and the sanitary camping station is just to right of the playground.

The rock-hunting guidelines at Magnus Park are pretty loose, as there aren’t any. In addition to Petoskey stones and Charlie Stones, there are quartz stones, granite stones, and rugose horned coral, whole specimens and pieces. Rugose means wrinkled, which describes the walls of these fossils. State parks and National parks have different rock-hound regulations.

Sunset will come to Petoskey, Michigan, in another four hours and two minutes, and the waves here are full-on sparkling at 5:30. What makes Lake Michigan so blue? This from NASA: The blue in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is sediment brought to the surface when strong winds churn the lakes, especially during the spring and fall.” But now, it's time to head into town for dinner.

City Park Grill is located just over a mile east of Magnus Park at 432 East Lake Street. This eatery has been here since 1875, first as a men’s-only pool hall, but now has fresh, local, and often house-made food with decor that evokes writer Ernest Hemingway’s time here. This establishment has changed hands many times since Prohibition, but City Park has been under its current ownership and chef since 1997.

When City Park Grill was known as the Annex, which was between 1888 through the 1920s, 20th century American author Ernest Hemingway used to sit at this bar to write his novels and short stories. This 32-foot solid mahogany bar was where Hemingway and other American writers put a sunset on florid Victorian prose. In fact, the short story, A Man of the World, mentions the Annex. Hemingway came back to northern Michigan to recuperate after his injuries in World War I.

The bread rolls at City Park are delicious. Looking around at the decor here, there are a lot of 19th and 20th century details. One interesting decorating tidbit gleaned from the restaurant’s web site is that there were no first floor windows during this establishment’s early years, so gas lighting was used to lighten things up. To keep the fun flowing during early Prohibition, then-owner Frank Fochtman created tunnels to other nearby speak-easy’s, but this place was raided anyway.

There is marinade flavor packed into every bite of this grilled flank steak with white truffle potatoes and green beans. This entree came priced at $21.95 and was partnered with a City Park salad at $6.25. That salad had cranberries and bleu cheese crumbles. The CPG Club sandwich, which was also ordered during this visit, was $13.95 and stacked with the best club meats.

The flavorful meatball linguine at $15.95 was partnered with the Southwest Caesar salad at $6.25. Salads are a few dollars cheaper if you order a sandwich or an entree. This salad had fresh corn kernels, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. The garden salad, a true garden-variety salad, was also delicious.

This house-made chocolate cake comes in at $6.95 to round out a great dinner at City Park Grill. The total bill for two sodas, two entrees, one well-stacked club sandwich, three fancy salads, and this slice of cake, plus tax, was $88.00. Plus a $13 tip put it at $101. The next time we’re in Petoskey, we’ll come back, having dinner here and looking for Ernest Hemingway at the bar.

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