Out and About: Cross-Country Skiing is Uniquely Delicious in Gaylord

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | TREETOPS RESORT

Historic Gaylord brings a bit of whimsical intrigue to Northern Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The area is renowned for breathtaking beauty among stands of pines, aspens, and red maples – home to such diverse wildlife as owls, bobcats, black bear, and a few more mythical beings. This terrain is terrific for cross-country skiing, and Treetops Resort offers a truly delicious way to enjoy this winter sport: The Skiable Feast.

Part of the Treetops Culinary Adventure Series, the Skiable Feast is a 6K cross-country ski excursion augmented by gourmet food and drink stations along the trails. Treetops rents equipment for the intermediate-level trek. Groups of friends and family can traverse the trail at their own pace.

Back by popular demand for its fifth season, the schedule includes outings on February 10, 17, 24, and March 3.  The excursions depart at 10:00 a.m. and take four to five hours.

“Skiable Feast is a really cool outdoor adventure that blends some of the things and people we hold near and dear to our hearts. We enjoy an outdoor activity that allows us to eat and drink ‘guilt-free,’ because we think we’re burning off the calories. We joke that our feasts are the only way we can exercise for hours and still gain weight,” states Barry Owens, general manager.

The landscape offers breathtaking vistas amid snow-covered trees and historic buildings on the Sturgeon River.  Adding to the adventure is the lighthearted curiosity of traversing the property of the mysterious wildlife adventure park that was dubbed “Project Nature” many years ago.

A developer attempted to open an amusement park for viewing stocked animals – elk, bison, axis deer, sika deer, chocolate fallow deer, bighorn sheep, and different species of goats.

Following an informational movie, guests would board a tram, each with a driver and a narrator that circled the park. The tram visited trout ponds, an observation point, and the Pavilion Restaurant, which had an elevated observation deck with telescopes on railings to watch animals.

Visitors could also take the tram to the river cabin, a hunting ranch across the street, to view llamas, giraffes, and an ostrich, and could stay and pay to hunt exotic animals from all around the world.

The developer assured the county that he had no plans to introduce any carnivorous animals like bears or large cats to the collection. Firearms were not allowed to be discharged within the park, so the only predators – black bears and other wild animals – lurked outside the fortified fencing, and the protected animals’ populations grew. The whole endeavor failed within a year. Locals speculate that the offspring of 350 unusual species still roam the woods today.

While spying an unusual creature is unlikely, delicious food and drink will be abundant at the following Food Stations:

Station 1: Birch Room (Lodge) Main Lodge – Western Scramble Bake, Greek Yogurt Bar, Fresh Cut Fruit, Mimosas, Coffee, Juice, and Water

Station 2: Ticket Booth – Miniature Shepherd’s Pies, Hot Toddies, and Water

Station 3: River Cabin – Seafood Creole, Dirty Rice, and Assorted Craft Beer

Station 4: Windows – Hearty House-made White Chicken Chili, Assorted Craft Beer & Wine, and Bottled Water

Station 5: The Wilderness Cabin – Pan-Fried Cod Sliders, Assorted Cheeses, Fresh Fruit Salad, Greek Pasta Salad, Assorted Confections, Craft Beer & Wine, and Bottled Water

The price is $89, including tax and gratuity. Special lodging packages are also available.

Treetops Resort’s Culinary Series also includes Wilderness Sleigh Ride Dinners for groups of up to 32 adults.

Described as a “magical winter adventure” on the website, the evenings start with a trip to the infamous Project Nature property, where a fire and hot drink await, followed by a 25-minute sleigh ride through the woods to the Wilderness Cabin, where a four-course meal awaits, accompanied by beer and wine.

This spring, the excursions take place February 10, 14, 16, 17, 18, 24, and March 3. (The Valentine’s Day Sleigh Ride Dinner is exceptional, with a champagne greeting, chocolate-covered strawberries, and roses).

The menu includes Lobster Bisque, Wedge Salad, Grilled Beef Filet with Onion Straws, Grilled Shrimp Skewer, Cheddar-Chive Mashed Potatoes, and Sautéed Vegetables. Crème Brulée completes the evening, which costs $119 per person, according to the website.

With over 180 inches of annual snowfall, Gaylord is the perfect destination for outdoor adventures at Treetops Resort!

Treetops Resort 3962 Wilkinson Road, Gaylord MI 49735 l (866) 348-5249 l Treetops.com