Jaunts: It’s blossom time

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If there’s a good-natured rivalry between Door County, Wis., and Traverse City, it’s likely because one sees itself so closely in the other — particularly come May. Hillsides of cherry trees bloom, seemingly overnight, into fleeting fields of billowing white or pink as cherries — on both sides of the lake — star in concoctions from pies to wine, muffins to microbrews.

Door County once claimed the title of nation’s cherry king (or queen), with some 1 million trees in the 1950s. Michigan zoomed ahead, now boasting 2.5 million trees in the Traverse City area alone. Where Lake Michigan has on both coasts provided such perfect growing conditions, it also has Instagram-worthy scenery and, by extension, tourism amenities like thriving art and food scenes. Take a jaunt to both, using the S.S. Badger ferry as your transport between, and just be sure your agenda includes:

Classic ritual

Door County’s Fish Boil is tied to blossom season by dessert. Cherry pie tops a simple meal of boiled fish, potatoes and onions made more decadent by mounds of melted butter. The real fun is in the show as the fire is lit, sea yarns are spun and the pot boils over for feast time to begin. Pie also is the cherry on top of Traverse City’s timeless blessing of the blossoms. The actual blessing of orchards by a local pastor is now a minor player in a weekend that features sips and pairings at vineyards that share the landscape with orchards, but the event started the National Cherry Festival, now held in early July.

Tour on two wheels

Zip your segway between rows of cherry trees (when working machinery isn’t in the way) or just enjoy the fun ups and downs with frequent lake views coupled with intimate trips past trillium-filled woods on special blossom-time segway tours with Segway the Door. Or use human power on Leelanau’s trip parallel, taking the 17-mile paved Leelanau Trail through the center of forests, farms, vineyards and lakes. Or get a guide here, too. Leelanau Wine Tours leads a fun two-wheeled tasting tour of ciders and wines, past orchards in bloom. Just be ready for the thirst-inducing hills.

‘Pit spit’ 

Ask for a tutorial at Orchard Country Winery and Cider Mill, and you’ll learn that the key to getting the pit on the measuring board is in the way you puff out your cheeks — or was it the follow through? After enjoying the license to spit, sip award-winning wines or wander particularly stunning fields of blossoms, on your own or a guided orchard history tour. Traverse City’s not to be outdone, either. Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor (with a spinoff store in downtown Traverse City) recently added a “Olympic-sized pit spitting arena” to a complex featuring more than 100 products (salsas, mustards, coffees and much more) crafted from cherries.

Tasty goodness

Creative young chefs have crafted locally grown and foraged food into something well beyond the basic farm to table movement at Door County’s Chives, located on the peninsula’s eastern edge in the town of Baileys Harbor. You’ll find Door County cherries in a homemade ice cream trio but also just-picked fiddlehead ferns, ramps and morels in creamy pesto over homemade pappardelle. Tiny Traverse City culinary newcomer Alliance earned a New York Times review for the way it expertly combines Michigan produce with culinary traditions of the world. Or just stick wholly with the theme and binge on cherry crumb pie — the official pie of the Cherry Festival — at Traverse City’s Grand Traverse Pie Company or cherry stuffed french toast at the White Gull Inn. It won best breakfast in Good Morning America’s best breakfast in America challenge.


Kim Schneider

The author, Kim Schneider, was named Mark Twain Travel Writer of the Year by the Midwest Travel Writers Association. A University of Michigan graduate, she writes from a home base in Traverse City.