Artist Fellowship | Features | Guest Stories

Calm at the Cabin: Getaway The Thumb

Growing up in the metro Detroit area, it wasn’t often we ventured up to “The Thumb” for vacation. Instead, we typically journeyed further north to the tip of “The Mitten” to spend time with family in the Grand Traverse Bay Area or with friends on the west side in Saugatuck, Holland, or Grand Haven. However, my wife, Courtney, and I had a different adventure planned for the holidays this year: A winter escape to Getaway The Thumb.

From our current home in Chicago, we’ve opted in the past to stay at the beautiful Getaway Barber Creek near South Haven. But this year we wanted a change of pace and a new-to-us experience on the east side of the state. Eager to escape the throes of winter in the city and take advantage of Michigan’s abundance of natural beauty, we were excited to spend a long weekend crafting inside our cozy Getaway cabin while also getting out to explore local hiking trails and towns in the area.

Getaway The Thumb is the newest community of Getaway cabins on Michigan’s east side. It’s only an hour and a half drive from my suburban hometown near Detroit and it’s also the perfect halfway point between my family in the metro area and my grandmother up in Saginaw – all of whom we needed to see over the holidays.

We hit the road from Chicago and drove about six hours before reaching our cabin, with quick pit stops including a beer at our friend’s brewery in Kalamazoo and the grocery store near downtown Lapeer. On our arrival, we were instantly smitten with the all-familiar Getaway cabin vibe and a scenic view of a dense forest right outside our window.

Simply put: Getaway suits our lifestyle. We’re homebodies at heart but take every opportunity we can to relax at a cabin in the woods – wherever that may be – and especially when we’re traveling. We love that everything we need is inside our Getaway cabin: A small kitchen for making breakfast and dinners, a table for two to play cribbage, a comfortable spot for soaking in forest views, and creature comforts like our own shower, bathroom, and a super comfy bed. 

Mornings at the Getaway cabin are calming. We start our mornings with coffee in hand and conversation in front of the wall-sized window. The afternoons are usually spent working on crafts or napping among the trees. For Christmas this year, Courtney bought me a linocut print-making kit, which I promptly broke into at the start of our trip. Courtney brought her portable loom, which fit perfectly on the mattress next to the giant window. The view is the perfect inspiration for our weaving and carving creations. After hours of cozy crafting – and a quick beer by the bonfire – we decided it was time to explore the area and embrace the cold for a nearby hike. 

Less than five minutes down the road from our cabin, we found a small nature preserve with an easy half-mile loop hiking trail. The trail at Hilton and Marjorie Tibbits Nature Sanctuary, a 66-acre green space donated to the Lapeer Land Conservancy (now Six Rivers Land Conservancy), meanders through evergreen forest, among tall grasses and native plants, and around surrounding wetlands.

On the trail, we kept an eye out for local wildlife like great blue heron, wood duck, red-winged blackbirds, and even osprey. These rare birds migrate from South and Central America, and often seek out habitats near water like here in the Midwest – the exact landscape you’ll find within the Tibbits Nature Sanctuary. While we didn’t see an osprey this time, we saw several ducks and birds throughout the preserve and admired the foliage among us.

Much of the pine forest was covered in a thin layer of water. We leaned in close to look at the glistening tips of pine needles, each with a delicate water drop precariously dangling off the tip. The deep hues of greens, burgundies, and tans in the forest popped against the dreary, gray winter sky. Vibrant, almost fluorescent, lime-colored moss lined most of the pathway on our short walk through the wilderness area. Despite being a cold December day, there was plenty of beauty to soak in.

Circling back to our car, we headed home to our cabin for a night in complete with homemade soup, cocktails, and cards – the perfect ending to the perfect weekend at Getaway The Thumb. 

“It’s so calming here,” Courtney says to me before taking a sip of her soup.

I couldn’t agree more.

Erica Zazo is a freelance journalist based in Chicago who writes about the outdoors. A Michigan native, Zazo is no stranger to adventures throughout The Fresh Coast. Her words, which can be found in Backpacker Magazine, CNN, The Outbound Collective, and more, inspire nature lovers and adventure-seekers to get out and explore lesser-known trails and towns across the Midwest. Follow her travels at @onecurioustrvlr.