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…

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? ;)

Icy Shoreline Explorations

Friday night dropped a bit of freezing rain on our packed snow roads, meaning that Saturday we were housebound. For most of the day, the roads were so slippery I didn’t even feel safe walking on them, YakTrax or no. We lazed the day pleasantly away with books and video games, but come Sunday – after some much-needed grit had been applied to the roads, plus a fresh coat of grippy snow – we were ready to get out. I wasn’t kidding; that cabin-fever thing happens quickly ’round these parts!

Like good parents, we gathered all our puppy paraphernalia and loaded it along with Petey into the car before taking off. Because it’s been a while since we last visited, we aimed for the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, specifically to the beach surrounding the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

Even in the summer it’s not much of a beach. It’s more like a shallow grave for glacier-tumbled granite remains. In the winter…well:

Which is not to say we were disappointed; obviously, the place was ripe with photo opportunities. We just didn’t set any records for Most Distance Walked on a beach outing.

After the camera had had its fill, we skittered back over the ice into the car, and aimed for the open waters at Peterson Park. For a fairly sedate day – low winds, pretty but not amazing sunset – the shoreline was dramatic. Deep pink tinged the sky to the south as the lemony sun sunk behind the clouds. And I never tire of the turquoise waters.
Peterson Park in Winter-3

Ice mountains, volcanoes and caves littered the build-up along the shore. While Tony and Petey chased down smelly things (nothing too smelly – just rocks and hidden treats) closer to the treeline, I ventured out onto the ice, as you knew I would.

Occasionally, an errant wave threatened with overspray. I was lucky, managing to miss any freezing drops.

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The camera was still hungry, but the sun had set and I was still wearing my sunglasses (“I wear my sunglasses at night!”), so before it got too dark we climbed the stairs back to the top. Then we began making our way up the snowy hill where we had left the car.

Sprawling birches and cactus-shaped pines requested I take their photographs. I obliged. While Petey enjoyed a snack, I grabbed the camera for one last snap, because I really liked the texture of the snow and the contrast the car’s headlights provided. Once Petey, the camera, and myself were all sated, we buckled up, and headed back home.

We’re expecting more freezing rain tonight, and then more snow, so I’m not sure what my next adventure will be. How about you?

A Big Day with Little Temps

It seems like everywhere in the country was cold yesterday, including Texas and Hawaii. Here was no exception. Regardless of the 15-degree temps and 3-degree windchill (-9 and -16C), Petey still needed and wanted to walk, so I layered us both up, and off we went. I know it sounds pretty bad to many of you, but really, once we got going, we were plenty warm. Cold is still cold, though, and after an hour out walking in it, there was only one solution: Polish food.

Sunrays spill over Elk Lake
Elk Lake

We decided to make an afternoon of it, considering our favorite Polish place is a few miles up the road in Petoskey. Some light lake effect snow had blown in, creating dramatic skies and reasons to stop at multiple places along the coast for photos.

Barnes Park – bigger panorama here.

While I examined the ice shelf, Tony and Petey explored the beach. I hear Petey discovered a nice salmon skeleton. I thought about going to find it myself so I could show you, but my fingers had already broken off from the frostbite. You’re lucky it was so cold on the lakeshore. ;)

I had originally planned to photograph some Christmas lights in Petoskey during the blue hour, but those plans got dashed upon the icy rocks in Charlevoix. It was nearing sunset as we drove through town, and the low, broken clouds promised beauty.

The weatherman said that the winds were only blowing at 3-mph in Charlevoix, and I say that he obviously imbibed too much eggnog. As I shuffled my way around the icy pier, those brutal winds blew tears onto my cheeks. I’m just thankful they didn’t freeze on my eyelashes. And I’m thankful we waited – the sunset was pretty…even if I almost missed it while taking photos of the waves on the rocks, and Tony had to shout 10 times over the wind to get my attention about what was going on in the sky behind me ;)

After the brief show ended, we packed the shivering Petey and our chilly selves back into the car to continue the trek to dinner. Tony had goulash over potato dumplings, and I had a rueben fusion dish: pierogies covered with corned beef and sauerkraut, topped with melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing. I told you: it’s the perfect antidote to freezing weather!

After dinner, we strolled around Petoskey, pretending it wasn’t too cold for aimless traipsing. I grabbed a few shots of the lights in Petoskey, and then we grabbed some coffee before doing a bit of Christmas shopping on our way home.

Now that my fingers have grown back, I think we’re going to bundle up for another hike. The tundra isn’t going to take pictures of itself ;)


….On a side note, I entered this photo in a contest to be featured on the cover of Michigan Wine Country magazine. There are two contest winners: a judge’s choice and a people’s choice. Voting runs through the 20th, so if you’d like to cast a vote in my direction, I’ll take all the help I can get :) You can vote daily if you’re feeling really generous!

Finding a Happy Place – or Two

The busiest Up North weekend of the year has passed, and we have survived with our sanity in tact. Or what passes for sanity. Cherry Festival, which was all of last week in Traverse City, brings huge crowds of vacationers who are mostly well-behaved, if oblivious to other people sharing sidewalks. Independence Day, though, brings a much less well-behaved crowd right to our backyard on the Torch Lake sandbar. And by much less well-behaved I mean very poorly behaved, but I’m over being negative so you’ll just have to take my word for it. ;)

Anyway, like I said, we survived. Heck, we even prospered. It was hot (high 80s/low 90s) over the weekend, and since it’s the busiest one of the year, we decided to stay off the water – but not out of it. This is our fourth summer up here, and we’re glad to have spent so much time exploring our playground. This year, it meant that on a sunny, hot Saturday, we were able to stretch out on a large expanse of beach all by ourselves.

Because it’s my favorite time of year (you know, because it’s a season, and they’re all my favorites ;) ), I walked about 15 miles this weekend in daily laps around the “block” getting in outdoors time. Tony’s recovering from a summer cold – he really doesn’t feel great – but he did join me a couple of times, sharing his phone-camera for the pastoral shot, and taking the lovely one of me. (That one’s just for you, Mom. That’s the goatsbeard/salsify I told you about while we were “walking” together.)

Thanks to the superb location of our friends’ new house (three blocks from the water!), we spent even more time on the beach right in Traverse City. They’ve discovered a sandy spit that’s perfect to splash through even as the sun dips low on the horizon. Just ask this dog, who fetched incessantly for well over an hour.

Or these fledgling geese (and also the ducks), who were obviously not playing with the dog…(The two right-most small pics are worth looking at bigger-er)

Or don’t play in the water. Just watch the passing boats like I did.

We relaxed on that little sandbar Saturday evening – not quite alone, but amazingly close to it – until after 11pm. We’d have left sooner, but if you looked closely at that last boat photo, you might have noticed the barge laden with explosives :)

Traverse City awaiting fireworks in lovely light
Traverse City before the fireworks

Gallery of but a subset of pictures I took Saturday night. Click for the rest (which I put into a separate blog post) if you’re interested –> fireworks pictures

Traverse City (and the Cherry Festival Midway) in the smoky aftermath
Traverse City after

I hope you found your happy place – even if it was simply on your couch – this weekend. We surely did!