MAPLE CITY — Streets in this Leelanau County town are piled high with snow, some so tall that houses behind them are hidden.
At the downtown center, bigger buildings rise above the snow banks, and locals seem unburdened by the snow and pack themselves into Pegtown Station, a favored restaurant.
“The ice and snowstorms haven’t hurt us. It’s definitely been busy,” said Pegtown owner Mary MacDonald. “It feels like my husband is snow-blowing every other minute, but we walk to work so it hasn’t really affected us that badly.”
It's been a harsh winter, to many a good, old-fashioned Up North winter. But perhaps no mainland Michiganders have taken the brunt of it more so than the people of Maple City. The unincorporated community recorded the highest snowfall in lower Michigan this year, said David Lawrence, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
A total of 217 inches of snow has fallen on Maple City thus far this winter, according to NWS records.
Maple City is surrounded by Lake Michigan on three sides, and can get lake-effect snow from the south to the northeast. Usually, the wind blows from one of those directions.
Local businesses don’t seem to mind. The area marks the end of a snowmobile trail, and Winter 2013-14's constant snow translated into a steady stream of riders.
Many stop for fuel at the Mobil station before heading to Gabe’s Country Market to grab jerky or sandwiches.
“It’s perfect for putting in a backpack and just going,” said Mike Gabourie Jr., whose family runs the business.
Locals also frequent the store more often when bad weather keeps them closer to home, Gabourie said.
“It does make a difference in where you go. You maybe wouldn’t hop in and drive to Traverse City. You might change plans a bit, especially when the winds on 72 can be so strong,” said Paul Christiansen, a Maple City resident who had breakfast at Pegtown Station on a recent morning.
Christiansen probably deserved a hearty breakfast: so far he's had to snow-blow his driveway 43 times this winter, more than twice as often as usual.
“There was that one week where we’d have to blow the driveway so we could get out and blow it so we could get in,” Christiansen said.
Don Miller, a Glen Arbor resident who joined Christiansen for a bite, said a snowy winter is the best part of life up north.
“When you live here year-round, you roll with it and you don’t panic,” Miller said. “Locals are smart enough to get prepared and then they’re not in panic-mode all winter. They just enjoy it.”
All the snow has been accompanied by unusually cold temperatures, which get under people’s skin more than the snow.
“I could deal with the snow if it hadn’t been for the wind chill,” said Maple City resident Barb Duperon. “I feel cooped up, and it does get depressing.”
The weather forced an unusually high number of snow days for students.
Martha Raymond, a Glen Arbor resident, said it’s been a challenge to keep her kids, 8 and 11, entertained when it’s too cold to go outdoors. She’s taken to websites like Pinterest for inspiration, and has made Playdough, baked, and played board and card games.
Snow cancellations are much easier to handle with a plan in hand, she said.
“When they can go out and there’s a ton of snow, they build snow forts and there’s lots more outdoor time for me,” Raymond said.
On the flipside, many residents complained that the snow is so high they have to dig out paths for their dogs, no matter what size.
Kerry Luedtke, owner of Kerby’s Bar & Grill, said clearing all three sidewalks around his restaurant is really taking a toll.
“Something’s got to be done almost every morning. That takes two to three hours every day,” Luedtke said. “You’re behind in your regular work, doing your orders, getting your kitchens, the preparation, everything that needs to be prepared before you open your doors.”
Shelley Dunkin, a Cedar resident who owns horses, said the cold prevented her from spending time outside with the animals.
“When it’s that cold I can’t be out with them. It’s just brutal chores after chores after chores,” Dunkin said. “Our electric bills are huge, our fuel oil consumption is huge and we’re spending all kinds of money on diesel to plow and snow-blow constantly. It’s been a lot of financial and physical work.”
Most locals love the snow, regardless of the difficulties.
“Because it snows almost every day, the snow always looks fresh and clean,” said Trish Vanderploeg of Glen Arbor. “It looks pretty almost all the time.”