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

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Because it’s the weekend and we can, Tony (and Petey) and I decided we’d go for another beach-combing adventure this afternoon. Sure, the skies were grey and it was cold – single digits again plus wind – but we could still have fun.

Knowing we’d be traipsing through snow and on the coast exposed to unmitigated gusts, we dressed in our ski clothes. We laughed along the way at the height of the snow drifts. We noticed one mailbox completely encrusted in snow; it had literally been dug out of a drift, with at least four feet piled above it. And at least one place had drifts that were a couple feet higher than the roof of the car.

Driving conditions that typified the afternoon. These are relatively low drifts…
driving

It was all silly “Hahaha, isn’t life Up North funny sometimes?” until we got to the beach. And couldn’t see the horizon at all because the snow had so intensified.

Icebergs and icy pilings in Glen Haven – contrast exaggerated so you can see the horizon

If there were a decent trail, we might have stayed to explore, but with such a downpour Petey kept shaking to clear his head, and the photos are all littered with white blurs. While we were out, though, Petey had a good time chasing balls of ice. He’d have stayed gnawing on his catch, but we knew it was time to go when his hind legs began shivering.


Ah well. You win some, you lose some. We had a few good days earlier in the week (I’ll share photos and details at some point!), and we’re all still healthy and happy (relatively – Dominique is having a dental issue…), so for now, Life is Good :)

Avoiding Cabin Fever

I’ve mentioned before how cabin fever sets in quickly for me. We have a very cold (I haven’t heard anyone trot out the now-infamous “polar vortex” terminology, but it’s that cold again) week, with very little by way of direct sunlight. I’m not sure what we’re going to do to avoid my rapid-onset cabin fever. Perhaps some variation of the weekend.

We didn’t do anything extravagant, beyond making excuses to eat Polish food. But if you’ve had good Polish food, you’ll understand that even though it takes an hour in the car to get there, it doesn’t take a strong excuse to pull us away from home. This time, we tacked shopping for Petey onto the to-do list, and headed north.

I’m not sure why Traverse City doesn’t have a specialty pet shop. It has a PetSmart, but you’d think that there’d be a shop here with hand-dyed organic fiber dog clothes and vegan treats. Or something. But we had to go to Petoskey for such a treasure. And yes, I’m making fun of a place that I’m grateful exists. Because we got Petey a winter coat at PetSmart, and I’ve already had to use fabric glue to hold it together, and he only uses it on tame leash-walks. So. New coat from the very nice folks (seriously, the owner fed Petey a treat that he was holding between his teeth!) at a snooty pet shop – check :)

Being that the food and coat were the sole items on outhe long walkr agenda, we aimed back home after a brief walk about town. On our way, we stopped at the north end of Torch Lake to check out the ice – plenty of it, but it’s not frozen over yet. And since there’s that whole cabin fever thing, we drove across the street the other way to check out the beach at the end of Traverse Bay road.

The plowed portion of the road ended abruptly and the rest was passable only for foot traffic and snowmobiles. We hitched up our pants and decided to give Petey’s new threads a spin. Half a mile later and we were at the beach. Or “beach,” since the shore is a chain of ice mountains and ice volcanoes, and even the occasional iceberg. But, I am happy to report, this beach – a rock hound’s dream – boasted some exposed stones, including a few petoskeys.


It also boasted an inordinate number of crawfish parts along with a dead bird or so tossed in for variety. Petey couldn’t care less about the blue exoskeletons, but he was mesmerized by the gull remains – which we of course wouldn’t let him explore. He probably thought I was far too into the little crabby things. Fair’s fair.

The sun knifed its way through a split in the clouds, adding some drama to an otherwise flat landscape. And though it was brief, it was a pleasant reminder that the sun is still up there, behind all those snow-making clouds.

Traverse Bay winter beach panorama

Yesterday was a similar story. We lazed around the house until after lunch, and then made the trek into Traverse City for groceries and a dinner date with a friend. We padded along the icy pier at Clinch Marina, again grateful for a sun that we never actually saw.
Clinch Marina - Traverse City

Clinch Marina - Traverse City-2

Isn’t it interesting that even in the winter the beach can be so restorative? We didn’t spend much time at the water’s edge, but felt refreshed for having visited. And doesn’t Petey look dashing digging in his new coat? ;)