Visiting the Les Cheneuax Islands: AI vs. Sue's AI (a.k.a. Sue's Awesome Insights)

Not that long ago, some friends decided to "make" my day by forwarding a link to a travel blog from Only In Your State that was touting the Les Cheneaux area as "The Perfect Outdoor Adventure." Although I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, the blog left me wanting for several reasons:

  1. There is no way the "author" has ever been to the Les Cheneaux Islands, Hessel, or Cedarville
  2. The recommendations were as vague as what a JoAnn's coupon will actually apply toward
  3. The language itself is missing "color" — zero descriptions, adjectives, humor
  4. Several of the regular area highlights were completely absent (Les Cheneaux Culinary School restaurant and Les Cheneaux Distillers) (although these are arguably "indoor activities"...but people need to eat! Picnic lunches can easily be assembled by visiting the local Cedarville Foods grocery store or take-out from restaurants) 
  5. The images were gleaned by scraping the web, and were uninspiring travel photos devoid of people, boats, kayaks, or anything of interest.
  6. The blog had simple errors — who wants to visit "Hassel?"

But before you work yourself into a huff, realize that the author — unlike you — can never visit because I'm betting an Oxford comma that this travel article was written predominantly by AI (artificial intelligence) and then never edited or fact-checked. If this travel blog has a real author hiding behind their use of ChatGPT, Google, and Wikipedia, I encourage you to make the trek and learn "for realsies" why the Les Cheneaux Islands are indeed the perfect outdoor adventure.

The article starts out innocently (and blandly) enough, but then you come to this first error, "...but only one pair of islands is accessible by car: Hill Island." Although it is true that Hill Island is accessible by motorized vehicles traveling over a causeway, the missing "pair" is Island #8. And as any local would inform you, randomly driving to these two islands will be pretty boring unless you're into perusing mailboxes, looking for real estate "for sale" signs, or into counting deer. Hill and Island 8 are where people live, not tourist destinations or even a scenic drive. The causeway however is a good spot for bird watching as eagles, herons, waterfowl, and ducks are very common in Flower's Bay — and if you want to skip the busy Labor Day Mackinac Bridge walk you could choose to walk across either the causeway or the bridge between Hill and #8 (locally known as Kissing Bridge). You can fish from the causeway and Kissing Bridge (and from the docks/wall in Hessel Marina) too.

The article then tells you that there is an airport, however don't expect Detroit Metro (DTW). It's an airstrip. If you're well-to-do enough to own a private plane, you don't need this article telling you to come to the LCI or that you'd still need a car — your personal assistant will have made all the arrangements already. ;-) But if you are looking to arrive via commercial air service, you can fly into Chippewa International Airport (CIU) which is about 40 minutes from Hessel and Cedarville and is served daily by Delta Air Lines (once each daily to/from Detroit and Minneapolis (MSP); may vary throughout the year).

Next up is a picture that, although the shoreline is similar to parts of the Les Cheneaux, I have no idea where it is...maybe someone can enlighten me? I can tell you it's not how I'd choose to showcase the area (follow us on Instagram: @woods.and.waters). The author follows the picture with this brilliant statement: "You’ll quickly notice that the rocky shoreline of Lake Huron differs substantially from the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. However, this allows visitors a prime opportunity to search for Michigan’s prehistoric wonder–petoskey stones." Hard NO. Although there is a tiny chance of finding a Petoskey stone in our area (maybe some joker tossed one on the shore for you), Petoskey stones originate from fossilized coral beds that existed, you guessed it, closer to Petoskey (and all the way south and west from there, including the entire Traverse City/Leland area down toward Manistee). (If you want more specifics on where to find Petoskey Stones, this whole sentence is a link to a helpful article.) What you may find around here is a different type of fossilized coral: chain coral. And oodles of limestone. And more limestone (we do however have alvar which the northwest lower peninsula has none of). And here's the next bit of shocking news — we do have sandy beaches!

Readers are next told: "There are also a few public beaches in the towns that gatekeep the islands." Although I'm not even sure what gatekeeping the islands is supposed to mean, I can tell you that there is only one public beach in the Les Cheneaux officially — and that is Hessel Beach which is managed by Clark Township. It's a lovely little sandy beach that looks out on Hessel Bay with well-kept public bathrooms, picnic tables, and a non-motorized boat launch. The beach does not have life guards. In the winter months it is the main place for ice fishermen to get their shanties and snowmobiles out onto Hessel Bay. Heading east along M-134 toward DeTour there are several public beaches that are sandy — including The Nature Conservancy's Gerstacker Preserve at Dudley Bay and an MDOT roadside park. You can even find a sandy beach by hiking part of the Narnia Trail from the Woollam Preserve parking lot on M-134 just east of McKay Bay. The Hiawatha National Forest's Search Bay complex just west of Hessel also has sandy Lake Huron access. It is true that the eastern upper peninsula does not have the massive dunes of western Lake Michigan.

Are you lucky enough to be spending the night in the area? The author helpfully tells you "I can’t imagine a better way to start the morning than with a warm cup of coffee and this view." (which is a view of an empty dock — and personally I prefer a HOT cup of coffee!) Well, a better way may be by enjoying some local java roasted and brewed by Les Cheneaux Coffee (they also make homemade cinnamon rolls) or Little Buoy Bakery (which serves coffee and many items worthy of getting up early for – try the buoy buns). Even Mertaugh's in Hessel has coffee as part of Liberty Bay Baking Co. for those liking to sleep in a little bit. Full breakfasts can be found on weekends at some restaurants as well (Snow's Bar & Grill, Ang-Gios, and Nibblelungen). Or wait until late morning and just start with ice cream! Being a small community with many seasonal businesses, it is wise to verify ahead of time the hours of the establishments you are wanting to patronize — some breakfast offerings will only be during the summer season. And verify the place you're staying either has a coffee maker, beans, or coffee service if you don't want to leave where you are to go get coffee!

The article continues, "the only way this could be any better is if you’re actually on the water. That’s a real possibility since you can rent boats and kayaks in advance for a sunrise or sunset cruise." Partially true...but dear reader, they don't tell you from whom. Woods & Waters loves doing guided tours for sunrise, sunset, and everything in between! We even offer a private Perfect Day trip with a chef-prepared lunch (if you're wondering why you'd want a guided tour instead of renting, here's a great article answering that very question)You can also rent gear from us and have it delivered to the cottage you've rented for the week (this whole sentence is an article about that). Motorized boats, including PWCs, are available from Hills Point Resort (I suppose one reason to drive to Hill Island [and yes, you may have found a place to stay out here]).

The author next smartly tells you that Les Cheneaux Golf shuts down for the snowy winters (Homer Simpson "d'oh" moment here) but fails to tell you about the popular Hessel Ridge golf course across the street from the "airport." Moving on, "Hassel is one of the two 170-year-old communities on the mainland. It’s known for hosting the largest antique boat show in the world. This summer festival attracts roughly 10,000 visitors and more than 150 boaters." We sell a sticker at our shop that says "No Hassle in Hessel"...maybe we should change it?

It's also worth knowing that the Antique Wooden Boat Show & Festival of Arts is always the second Saturday in August and runs officially from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, but there is an awesome fundraiser pancake breakfast you can attend beginning at 8:00. (FYI: No dogs allowed at boat show!) It is not the largest show in the world, but it is one of the largest and typically has around 150 boats (not boaters — this isn't a beauty pageant) on display (each year features a type of boat or era — like run about, utility, or lapstrake). 

To close out this "amazing" article, readers are told "While most people imagine having summertime fun at the Les Chaneaux Islands, winter opens its own world of possibilities. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are two popular activities when the water freezes over."

I guess you should ignore all the other places you can do these activities along with the cross-country skiing at the Les Cheneaux Golf Course, Northwoods Christian Camp, or the Peek-A-Boo Trail — and snowmobiling miles of mainland trail managed by the DNR and the Les Cheneaux Snowmobile Club. And if the water has indeed frozen over thick enough, ice fishing is a very popular activity for perch (spear fishing for northern pike too!). I'll also add the the Les Cheneaux area has an annual SnowsFest weekend in mid-February with fireworks, a lantern-lit hike, hot cocoa crawl, fat tire bike demos, chili cook-off, a poker run, ice fishing derby, cardboard sled races, and more.

You are also welcome to visit the Les Cheneaux area in the spring and fall — wildflowers, duck hunting, deer hunting, other fishing derbies, leaf peeping, gravel bike riding, and sometimes special dinners put on by the Les Cheneaux Culinary School — are just some of the other perfect things you can do.

I truly hope Sue's awesome insights (AI) have convinced you that the Les Cheneaux really are the perfect outdoor adventure destination. We look forward to seeing you soon. Please add any other favorite intel in the comments.


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