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What’s The Story Behind The Kalkaska Shoe Tree

John Mason/TSM
John Mason/TSM

Traveling to Mackinaw City on a Sunday morning I passed this oddity that made me turn around for a second look. 

Traveling on a motorcycle, you are more open and in tune with your surroundings. You’re more aware of the slightest little thing., So when you see a pair of shoes hanging from a tree you take notice. What if it’s a hundred pair? The hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you back for pictures.

Between Kalkaska and Mancelona on US-131 is one such tree. The sight of this tree while traveling to Mackinaw City on a motorcycle, made me stop for another look. I tried to research the tree to learn how it started.  Some sights try to tell you they are either shoes of lost or dead travelers or even from missing children, that some strange occurrence has happened near these trees. I think it’s more of a prank turned novelty. Michigan has many shoe trees through out the state but this was the first I have ever seen that was this well covered. describes the start of a shoe tree as,

 A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch. It usually end there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade. Soon, teens are gathering up their old Adidas and Sauconys, families are driving out after church with Dad’s Reeboks and grandma’s Keds. Many inscribe messages on the sneakers in permanent marker — greetings, love poems and life accomplishments.

Many of the shoes have either fallen or didn’t make it into the tree.See more of the tree here.

These shoe trees are definitely eye catchers, make the road trip less boring for the kids and are always free to see.

The shoe tree has become so popular, it is even featured on Foursquare
and has its own Facebook page, listing it as a footwear store.

Next: Remember When Michigan Almost Had An Official State Poem

BONUS VIDEO: Making Fudge At Kilwin’s – Mackinaw City, Michigan

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