Four Years In, Discovering New Places

After living in and exploring northern Michigan for the past four years, you’d think we’d have found all the cool local public access places. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t think that, but I would. Or I would if we didn’t keep finding “new” ones. This weekend, in a bid to continue our reclusivity, Tony looked for some nearby coastal green on Google Maps – you know, that indicator on a map identifying a public place. Thus, we discovered the Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Nature Preserve. Rolls right off the tongue ;)

This 41-acre preserve sits just north of Elk Rapids, and features a lovely stretch of sandy shoreline. On a less windy day, or on a year with lower lake water levels, the beach might be a great place to spread a blanket and enjoy the afternoon. Instead, since there are no amenities beyond the boardwalk at the entrance, it simply makes a great place to hang for a while. Probably for the best as far as conservation is concerned.

Some of the details I enjoyed. You can choose your favorite, or not. I won’t judge.

We stuck to the trails and beach as requested, but we did let Petey off-leash (shame on us) for some water time. I think we were still within the spirit of conservation and respect: there was no one else at the preserve, and he only left the sandy shores to fetch his stick out of the bay.

Energizer Petey eventually tired of fetch, so we leashed him and hiked out. To satisfy our pizza craving. For a second dinner. Hey, I didn’t judge you earlier, so you just be kind ;)

Fourth of July in Pictures…and a Rant

Independence Day is a big celebration Up North. Not that it isn’t everywhere, but the weekend of July 4th really marks the true beginning of Tourist Season. Thankfully, this worst part of the season lasts just a few days. I nearly put worst in quotation marks above, but then thought more honestly about it.

Warning: I’m going to be all crankipants for a moment, so if you’d like, just skip to the next bit below. Although I am somewhat of a hermit, I genuinely don’t hate tourists. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I am not sure what happens to people on this weekend each year, but it’s deeply unpleasant. Our sleepy, ultra-rural area turns into something akin to Panama City Beach during spring break. The roads around the south end of Torch Lake are lined in both direction with cars, and throngs of mostly young drunk people roam in the road barefoot carrying coolers. And if they just partied and kept mostly to themselves, I wouldn’t even do much more than roll my eyes (because I just cannot relate). But they don’t. Every year, I pick up piles and piles of garbage…and there are trash cans at every single public access point (where I find the litter). Sadly, it’s not just confined to the Torch River Bridge. You should see the photos of the Traverse City beaches. It looks like a garbage truck spilled over. I will just never, never, ever understand how a person can vacation at a place like this, where it must be the natural beauty that draws one here, only to behave in a way that is detrimental to its continued existence. Sigh. I will be helping with clean-up efforts, and will continue to pick up after folks who lack good sense.

Rant over.

In an effort to avoid The Fourth crowds, we headed farther north on Friday. We hiked a couple miles at the Headlands Dark Sky Park, and were nearly run off by mosquitoes. Well, I guess we were kinda run off. About a mile in, we gave up and headed back for the car (the hike we were on was optional) before rejoining the lake. The beach was open, and the winds kept the bugs at bay, so we stayed for a bit before landing on a nearly empty beach on the outskirts of Mackinaw City.

The scenery was stunning: clear skies, smooth stones, a few boulders, and copious crashing waves. Petey met a few other dogs, and splashed around in the clear water. We didn’t end up having a very close view of fireworks over the Mackinac Bridge, but the serenity and sunset more than made up for any shortcomings – which admittedly would have come from unfounded preconceived notions.

For the record: we left only footprints and took only pictures. (More of which I’ll be adding to my photography site and Facebook over the coming days)

Peachy Beach Time

Tonight after work, we were all itching for some outside time. We’ve stayed very near to home recently, making a concerted effort to cut back on thoughtless miles. (We’ll always be vagabonds to an extent, so don’t worry that we’ve suddenly become shut-ins!) Last night we took a looong walk in a nearby park, so when we considered where we might go, that was off the list. And with the clouds of marauding mosquitoes this year, the Seven Bridges were out too. Maple Bay is always a nice place, though, and it’s been a while since we were last there, so we headed thataway.


The beach is at the end of a short hike through the woods, and is normally quite pleasant. Tonight, we swatted mosquitoes the entire time, and ended up nearly running despite being in flip flops. Thankfully, they preferred the closeness of the forest to the fresh air and breezes on the beach.


Other than a couple of ladies and two children who were leaving as we arrived, we had the entire area to ourselves (which is about 3/4 of a mile according to Google Earth estimates). We waited until we left to read the signs asking you to keep your pet on a leash, and we let Petey roam. He never wandered far enough that we felt like we had to go get him, and when he meandered near private property, he listened when we called him back. He did not, however, play in the water very much. Even though we happily splashed along ankle-deep, he tried his best to keep his paws in dry sand.

I love the collection of driftwood here!


Petey trotted along busying his nose, Tony traipsed along scouting Petoskey stones, and I trekked along shooting my camera. It was incredibly peaceful and pleasant – a perfect way to relax post-work. (Can you tell I’m a touch delirious and having too much fun with alliteration?)


As sunset neared, we headed back to the car, again braving running from the mosquitoes. We’d have stayed at Maple Bay, but really didn’t want to venture through the woods in the dark. But Elk Rapids is a short drive up the road, and on our way home, so we stopped off at the Dam Beach for sunset.

We stood on the sand, waves lapping around our feet as the sun dipped below the horizon.

After the sun was gone, the sky really lit up, as it often does. And as is sometimes the case, the action was not where you’d think to look for it.
Elk River sunset

Charlotte’s Webs

Early this morning – before 6:30 – I did an odd thing. I woke up. I do this often, but this morning, this view greeted me out the upstairs window.

fog layer in pasture

I’ve been looking forward to a foggy morning for about two months now, but it has been so dry. It’s been just about perfect weather otherwise…lots of sun and comfortably warm temperatures…but it’s been dry. And dry does not make fog, even in the morning. If I lived closer to one of the big lakes around here, I’m sure it would have been different. But I don’t. And I live at the top of the hill, so double-whammy.

But, like I said: this morning it was foggy when I awoke two-and-a-half hours before I had planned. My excitement drove me downstairs to the camera, and then out to the pasture. In the short time I was out, the fog had mostly dissipated. No worries. Remember? I live on the top of a hill. I was sure there would be fog down in the valley. In my PJs (don’t worry – I was still “decent”), I took off in search of foggy memories.

light rays through fog

What I found was Charlotte. And her web. And her children’s and cousins’ and nieces’ and nephews’ webs. It was webby out there this morning, and all their diaphanous filaments glistened with pearly dewdrops.

So pull up a chair, and pour a drink. Enjoy a visit with Charlotte and her family. Even if you don’t like spiders, I think you’ll have fun ;)

A Beautiful Day in This Small World

Yesterday Tony and Petey and I left the house, on the way to somewhere. We didn’t know where we were going, just that we’d get there eventually. Twenty minutes later as we entered Traverse City, we settled on an area south of town where we had previously hiked, but only briefly. After a couple wrong turns – we didn’t consult a map, though we had our phones – we arrived at the Boardman River.

The trail was prettier than we had expected, with a lush canopy above and multiple access points to the clear, swift water below. (The mosquitoes weren’t even bad!) Petey was hesitant to wander much deeper than his elbows, until we let him off his leash to play with a dog (Bronna) who kept visiting us from around the bend. Bronna’s mom apologized for her wayward pup, and we returned the favor with an apology for the sand Petey contributed to their beach blanket.

We chatted on the banks to Bronna’s mom and grandma for several minutes as the dogs raced around, in and out of the water. We talked about where we all lived, and learned that they were immediate relatives of a neighbor who lives on our road, just over a mile away. After the dogs settled down a bit, we peeled Petey away to continue exploring the trails.

The path meandered through the woods and along grassy meadows (thanks, pollen, for the itchy eyes, etc), always near enough to hear the flowing water.

Wildflowers abounded, and I half-wished for a field identification book so that I could accurately name what we spotted. I know we saw irises (yellow) right along the river banks, purple vetch, and locust. There were lots of different little yellow flowers, and a similar number of white ones.

There were several butterflies, too, including a pretty iridescent one with hints of blue. I don’t know what it was either. At least I know that the one that sat for me was a monarch, so I’m not entirely hopeless ;)

After three hours on the trails and in the river, we loaded our tired selves into the car. Petey napped in the shade while Tony and I grabbed dinner, and then we stopped at the pet store to get some wipes for his tummy. (We’re pretty sure he’s allergic to the tall grasses that he so loves to use for exploration and potty time.) On our way out of the store, a couple and their daughter eyed Petey, and remarked how similar he was to their female pit bull. As dog folks like to do (see – I’m doing it right now!), we started talking about our furry ones. We mentioned that our puppy was a shelter boy, and then exchanged dog names (she’s Tilly). The guy then, exclaimed: “I know this dog!” He asked if we happened to get him from the Benzonia shelter (we did), and then the real excitement ensued. He filmed the Dog Man movies, and filmed part of Dog Man 2 at the shelter, and was there while Petey was…and Petey is apparently in the film. They had seriously considered adopting Petey, and were thrilled to see him in his happy life.

We all returned home, tired and happy – me with little happy tears, grateful for the day in this small world.