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Great Lakes Road Trip Day 3 Part 2; M-22, the Leelanau Peninsula, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes

M-22 is a bit of soft spot for since my family has had a cabin up on the Leelanau Peninsula for years.  The route is largely considering to be the most scenic in Michigan and really I can't find any reason to disagreement with that statement.  M-22 is about 117 miles in length and travels north for about two thirds of it's length before switching cardinal direction southbound near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.  I started out from the very south end at US 31 in Manistee in the county bearing the same name.



The first village on M-22 is Onekama seven miles into the route.  Onekama is located on the eastern shore of Portage Lake and apparently has about 400 full-time residents.  Onekama was founded in 1845 and didn't have direct access to Lake Michigan until a channel was built from Portage Lake for a sawmill operation in the 1870s.  Apparently this action lowered the level of Portage Lake the town site moved to where it is presently located on the eastern short.  M-22 travels around the eastern end of Portage Lake before continuing north.





The next major settlement on M-22 is Arcadia nine miles to the north through rolling terrain close to the coast of Lake Michigan.





M-22 is co-signed now with US Bike Route 35.  This was the first US Bike Route signage I've seen out in the Mid-West.


Arcadia was settled in 1866, I'm to understand the village dates back to 1880.


North of Arcadia M-22 enters Benzie County and begins to climb a sand dune bluff which overlooks the area along the coast to the south.






M-22 enters the village of Elberta on the south shore of Betsie Lake before entering Frankfort.  I'm to understand that Elberta was established in 1855 a good four years after the first settlers arrived according to the highway sign.




Frankfort is a city and the largest settlement in Benzie County at only about 1,200 residents.  M-22 intersects the western terminus of M-115 on the eastern shore of Betsie Lake.  M-22 follows the north shore of the lake through Frankfort before making a ninety degree turn north out of downtown.  Frankfort was settled as a harbor back in the 1860s if I recall correctly.





M-22 travels the western shore of Crystal Lake until reaching Benzie County Route 704.  North of County Route 704 the highway enters the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.





Due to numerous sign thefts being stolen on M-22 MDOT is experimenting with painted M-22s on the asphalt in addition to "M-less" shields.  Personally I think both are hideous, I encountered this painted M-22 between Crystal Lake and Empire.


M-22 north enters Leelanau County and in Empire it intersects the western terminus of M-72.  Empire was founded in 1851 and believe is named after a ship that was marooned by ice in the village sometime in the 1860s.  Empire has about 300 residents and is the location for the visitor center for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.




The actual Sleeping Bear Dunes are up M-109 which loops to/from M-22.  The Sleeping Bear Dunes are named as such because they resembled a bear that fell asleep and was covered by sand.  The climb over the Dunes to Lake Michigan is approximately a five mile round trip and is deceptively difficult.  There are numerous inclines exceeding 25% in the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the sand is often very soft.  I would recommend using a good set of hiking shoes if you want to reach Lake Michigan, it will help get a wider footing in the sand.












Continuing back to M-22 the highway takes the eastern shore of Glen Lake and has a distant view of the Sleeping Bear Dunes to the west before entering Glen Arbor.





As I stated previously M-109 ends looping back to M-22 in Glen Arbor.  My understanding is that Glen Arbor began to be settled as far back as the 1840s, it currently has a population of about 700.  To the west there is a settlement that is now part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore known as Glen Haven which has been preserved as a historic port.  A lot of the M-22 businesses the Leelanau Peninsula is known for are located in Glen Arbor.



North out of Glen Arbor it is quite a ways to the next major settlement Leland.


South of Leland M-22 intersects M-204.  M-204 runs across the Leelanau Peninsula east/west and bisects Lake Leelanau down the middle.


Leland is located on the north shore of Lake Leelanau and was the original county seat of Leelanau County until it was moved to Suttons Bay in 2008.  The area began to be settled in the 1830s and a large saw mill operation was once located there.



Twelve miles north of Leland is Northport and the junction with M-201.  M-22 changes cardinal direction to the south along Grand Traverse Bay while M-201 continues through Northport to Leelanau State Park.  Northport dates back to the 1840s and was the largest town on the Leelanau Peninsula well into the 20th century.






Due south on M-22 Suttons Bay is twelve miles ahead and Traverse City is twenty eight miles.


Here is one of the new M-22 shield designs without the "M" in it.  Personally I don't like how it looks with the font MDOT uses.  I'm not sure how this is supposed to deter sign theft.


Before Suttons Bay M-22 enters Omena and Grand Traverse Bay can be seen in full.  The 45th Parallel is crossed at this point.  There was some rail track remains from the Manistique Railroad which used to run from Traverse City to North Point.





M-22 intersects the eastern side of M-204 in Suttons Bay.  As stated previously the county seat was moved to Suttons Bay in 2008 from Leland.  I'm to understand that Suttons Bay dates back to the 1850.



I stopped at the side of M-22 south of Suttons Bay to take a phone call, it became really apparent how much the Great Lakes have risen the last couple years.


M-22 intersects M-72 at the Grand Traverse County line and enters Traverse City.  For whatever reason M-22 is co-signed with M-72 another half mile roughly into Traverse City and ends at US 31/M-37.  I know that M-22 was part of the original 1917 Trunkline Highways while M-72 was created in 1919.  My thought is that M-22 was never truncated from the original alignment given it does a complete circuit of the Leelanau Peninsula and wouldn't if it was cut back to M-72.



I didn't stay on Leelanau but rather used M-72 to travel inland to a cheaper hotel in Kalkaska which also put me in good position to bypass the US 31 road closure to get to the Mackinac Bridge the next day.


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