The author seeks a balance between the protection of natural spaces and tourism promotion

By CAMERYN CASS
Capital News Service

LANSING – Humans, like all other animals, have an innate desire to find the right place, an ideal place.

A place that feels like home, a place that allows you to grow into better versions of yourself. And naturally, whether it’s selfishness or love, people will protect this place that they feel is part of them.

Tim Mulherin, the author of Sand, stars, wind and water (Mission Point Press, $16.95) found his sense of place in northwestern Lower Michigan during his first visit to the area 35 years ago. The natural beauty of the area immediately captivated him.

Mission Point Press

Every Sunday during the pandemic, while the rest of the world was in chaos, Mulherin wrote all day and returned her mind to her happy place in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, recalling and reliving her fondest memories.

“I’d put it on my head and come back up here,” he said.

The pandemic gave him the impetus he needed to write, an outlet he has used since his 20s.

While he’s happy to have written the book, Mulherin says he feels a bit of residual guilt for possibly helping more people visit northern Michigan to see its enchanting beauty, people who might not treat the area he venerates with respect.

On a recent visit to Good Harbor Beach, on the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake, Mulherin saw littered plastic, forgotten beach chairs and ashes from bonfires strewn across the sand.

But on the same beach, he and his wife Janet witnessed families watching the epic sand dunes melt on the shores of Lake Michigan for the first time, which brought a lot of joy, he said.

“I want people to love the region properly,” he said.

Also, after being in the area for so long, it’s easy to go places that no tourist will ever find, he said.

Having lived most of his life in Indiana, what he calls the greatest corn and soybean field in the world, these northern Michigan counties offer pristine nature to an outdoor enthusiast .

“I had fallen in love with Northwest Lower Michigan and wanted nothing more than to be one with the locals,” he wrote.

Tim Mulherin with a 6.5-pound brown trout in the Jordan River on opening day of trout season.

Courtesy photo

Tim Mulherin with a 6.5-pound brown trout in the Jordan River on opening day of trout season.

And while her home base remains in Indianapolis, a result of family ties, Mulherin will reside in her humble Cedar vacation home as she travels through Michigan, mostly upstate, as part of a tour to promote her book, he said.

“I’m on a gratitude tour,” he said.

While he’s certainly busy, Mulherin finds meaning in the work he does now, something he lacked in his previous job as a K-12 school administrator, especially when the pandemic forced schools into virtual learning, he said. to say.

Plus, working from Cedar allows you to enjoy the area’s natural beauty while hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, and rock hunting.

He finds that his enjoyment increases when these activities are done alone, he said.

As he wrote, “I need miles of open woods and trails that are largely free of beings like myself. I need to be able to walk quietly with the company of one or two favorite people who appreciate solitude and what nature has to offer “.

He likens his jubilant attitude to being in the North to that of a child, and credits the region with inspiring this childish game that adults often repress and engage in for a living, he said.

Mulherin is grateful to no longer have to compromise, his “mind no longer terrorized by trivial pursuits,” he wrote.

Now, she’s working on a new book that addresses the impact of tourism, climate change and the pandemic on Northwest Michigan in an accessible way through her own stories, colored by the voices of experts and residents of the region, he said.

“The older I get, the more freely I speak,” he said.

And speak freely he will.

Mulherin admitted that many of the conversations he’s had so far about the kind of change the region is facing are scary and worrisome. Already, sour cherry growers are unable to meet quotas and food processors are resupplying elsewhere in places like Turkey with more favorable growing conditions.

And those who know the area know how important cherries are to its identity and economy.

In fact, the week-long National Cherry Festival was the peak of what Mulherin calls “the annual tourist invasion.” Each year, more than 500,000 tourists flock to Traverse City, the cherry capital of the world, to enjoy beers, live music, art and cherries imported largely from Washington, as the region is in full cherry picking season .

Held on the outskirts of downtown, in what locals call “the open space” on Grand Traverse Bay, it effectively concentrates tourists in a singular area and allows more experienced visitors, like Mulherin, to go there where there is no one else.

Tim Mulherin at a fruit stand along the Good Harbor Bay Trail.

Courtesy photo

Tim Mulherin at a fruit stand along the Good Harbor Bay Trail.

“It’s like a fly trap,” he said.

While many area residents fear the offensiveness and chaos of the influx of visitors, local businesses depend on tourism to survive, especially during the long winter months, he said.

With that understanding, Mulherin and local residents hope tourists can love the region while minimizing damage.

“You’re welcome, but please be nice,” he said.

Aside from the cherries, another major draw is the scenic 117-mile stretch of M-22, which effectively markets the area with stickers, hats and hoodies featuring the road’s black-and-white sign, he said.

“I don’t think you should brand this region with a logo. It’s bigger than that,” he said. “M-22 really is a state of mind.”

It’s a state of mind that reconnects with nature through active participation in the outdoors. It’s about respecting the planet we share and paying attention to how miraculous it is, he said.

“Being present in nature and trying to understand our place in it and respect it seems to escape a few too many of us these days,” he said.

“We were born to love the planet.”

And so it is not selfishness but love that drives him to protect his quintessential place in northern Michigan. That’s why he calls one of his favorite spots “Anonymous Lake” and leaves some of his most cherished trails unnamed in the book.

Once you find a place that feels like home, protect and respect it. And if you haven’t found it yet, “keep looking. One day you will find your own special lake,” she wrote. “A place where you too will want to keep it all to yourself. Trust me.”

Cameryn Cass Great Lakes Echo writers.

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