Picturesque City of Alpena Marina.

Picturesque City of Alpena Marina, picture courtesy Stephanie Collman.

What do you mean you are moving to Alpena? Where is Alpena?” So asked my Texan in-laws who grew ever more astonished as we showed them this tiny town we had simply found on a blog while searching the internet from our home in Fort Worth. Eight months later with our house sold, bags packed and trailer loaded, we moved to Alpena.

Now I must admit that I grew-up downstate in Michigan before moving south. For 14 years my husband and I had been escaping the Texas heat to spend two weeks in August visiting my family in the Upper Peninsula and along the western side of the state. We both loved the mature trees, endless waters and cooler summers but wanted to avoid the constant traffic and tourism that always greeted us upon our visits home. We kept hearing a faint and distant plea to “go east young man, go east.” So we did and found our own version of paradise on the shores of Lake Huron.

There is nothing like Alpena in the summertime. Cars are left behind as residents grab bikes, rollerblades, skateboards and tennis shoes to travel the sidewalks and bike paths that encircle the town all the while passing historic homes and quaint downtown shops festooned with flower boxes, bunting and the American flag. Kayaks, canoes and boats journey the calm river and endless lakes searching for wildlife, fish and the shipwrecks that lay just below the surface of Thunder Bay. Parks and beaches are alive with volleyball, basketball, softball, or tennis players and families soaking up the midday sun. Take to the forest and you can hike for miles among the fern and wildflowers. A short distance out of town are berry farms and orchards available for you to pick and enjoy the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches and apples or simply choose to gather your produce from the Farmers Market held downtown twice a week a block from the marina. One of our favorite events on summer evenings are found at the Bay View park pavilion where free concerts are performed each Thursday by the Alpena City Band and larger acts are available most Saturday nights throughout the summer. From sunrise to sunset there are over 14 hours of daylight to enjoy all that Alpena has to offer.

Having been introduced virtually to Alpena, I find that I am doing the same. I post daily pictures on Facebook, email or text to friends and family back in Texas. They are enthralled by this Norman Rockwell painting come to life or what my husband calls a “Charlie Brown Town.” The idea that children can jump on their trusty bikes and pedal freely to their favorite ice cream shops, parks and swimming holes is almost unheard of in Fort Worth, Texas. The pictures and stories have been so enticing that we are welcoming our first guests this year over the Fourth of July. The ability to spend a day at the parade, Maritime Festival, sandcastle contest, concert and fireworks display will certainly showcase Alpena at its finest.

We are entirely grateful that we happened upon the blog that brought us here. The friendly faces we have met and the family we have built have surely made our life here a most pleasant journey. So if you are reading this blog and deciding where you will find your splendor, perhaps you too will hear that same faint and distant plea that we did “go east young man, go east”……to Alpena.

Stephanie Collman is a guest Experience Writer for the Alpena Area CVB.