Great Lakes Ranch is tucked away in what is known as the Bohemian Valley in Leelanau County, bordering Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore in northwest lower Michigan and is home to Brad and Jandy Sprouse, their children, and their herds of Suri Alpacas and Tibetan Yak.
Bordered by the more than 70,000 acres of pine and hardwood forests, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and the 35 miles of the pristine Lake Michigan shoreline of a national park, it is the setting of a truly idyllic lifestyle.
Their location has been not only a wonderful place to raise a family and run a business of raising livestock, but also a perfect base for them to pursue their many passions in life. Family comes first in their hearts and souls and they are fortunate enough to have been able to raise a family with deep-seated roots to “home” and revel in the gift that all of their children love “this place” and hold it dear enough to their hearts that time spent here will always be a priority.
The lakes provide the perfect venue for them to pursue their passion for one-design sailboat racing, and on any given weekend in the summer you can count on them being off the ranch, after chores are done, and out in force as a family, trimming sails and racing against each other in what is one of their favorite pastimes.
They come home from the beauty of the Caribbean-like colors of spring-fed lakes, to dig in gardens, head into the park for a hike, mountain bike ride or gather for a “beach” picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan, just down the road, languishing around a fire as the sun dips into the bay and the sky becomes a starry masterpiece.
Summertime finds them, taking full advantage of long days, working on the list of projects around the ranch: building barns, creating new pastures, renovating old buildings, putting up hay and generally enjoying the day-to-day tasks of raising livestock, but not without taking full advantage of the natural playground that surrounds them.
Summer slips into fall and the spring and summer babies feel a crispness in the air, pronging and racing and playing tag as the temperatures start to change and the valley turns into an impressionist’s paintbox. A few more layers of clothing are added for the long hikes and scouting that takes the place of sailboat racing, bathing suits and flip-flops. Whitetail deer and elk become the focus of the fall season’s adventures as the leaves turn and fall, and the first snow flies. Freezers are filled back up with the bounty of summer gardens and hunting successes, and ranch projects turn to “battening down the hatches” and preparing for the first major snowstorm.
Winter, at Great Lakes Ranch, is all about the quiet beauty of the calm left after all the tourists and summer people have gone home. Brad and Jandy find themselves out in the national park, cross country skiing or hiking with Bayla, soaking up the beauty and peacefulness of quiet reflection, in places that are heartfelt favorites with views that fill the soul. There is usually an annual trip out west to enjoy the mountains, downhill ski, and connect with friends and family. Many years have been spent following their boys around the mid-west, supporting their ski racing and enjoying the the extended family of winter friends at races. Brad spends time in his wood stove-heated shop “creating” and sculpting many beautiful and interesting pieces from the piles of collected treasures gathered from hikes on the beaches and travel throughout the year, that adorn their house, barns and out buildings.
Spring brings a quickened pace around the ranch as preparations for show season get underway and the days get longer. Travel shortly turns to business, but not ahead of a family trip that gets squeezed in before the trailer is loaded and Brad and Jandy head out to reconnect with friends in the alpaca world. Rugged hiking trips in both northern and southern Patagonia have been favorite expeditions, but Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica have been equally enjoyed. Reconnecting with the south American people, who inspired the idyllic lifestyle that the Sprouses have enjoyed for over 30 years, has been a meaningful way of renewing their fascination and commitment for what they do and the blessings they enjoy daily.
Updated November 21, 2013