Summer Lovin’

Despite the weather being cooler than we’d like, our summer has progressed so smoothly, so easily this year that I can hardly believe we’re over halfway through August. By this point, we’ve usually had so many visitors that we feel like we run a bed-and-breakfast. This year, although we scheduled the normal full summer of visitors, we had a few cancellations so that the recent visit from my sister, mom, and nephews counts as the sum of our guests.

My sister and her boys – taken on our last trip to Ohio, because I wasn’t so quick with the camera while they were here, apparently!
Steph and boys

As we near the end of our fifth northern Michigan summer, we’re pretty good at playing tour guides. I think every trip the boys have come we’ve taken them to new places. Not all new places, but at least one new place each time. And this trip, we even found ourselves in a new place.

We spent the afternoon everyone arrived at the conservancy Tony and I recently discovered north of Elk Rapids. After a long day driving, it was nice to unwind on an empty beach. The boys – all three of them (I’m counting Petey) – splashed heartily in the water, while us sensible adults stayed nearer the shore, with gentle waves lapping at our ankles. On second thought, I think the boys had it right.

Again, slacking with the camera. This one is from our last trip there, though conditions were much the same.
Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Preserve beach

Friday afternoon we headed for the open water on Lake Michigan, along with everyone else in northern Michigan. The beach we had initially chosen was busier than we had ever seen it, so we relocated to another beach. It too was far busier than we’d seen it, so we decided just to park and walk in. Even when the parking lots are full, the expanse of beach available offers more than enough space to spread out. We strolled along the sand, built sand castles that washed away in errant waves, and played frisbee – all on a mostly isolated stretch of coast.


When the heat finally began to ebb out of the day, we headed to the dune climb, where I did actually take my camera out and play photographer for a bit.

The boys wanted to climb the 150-foot tall pile of sand, so I invited Petey to join us, and on the off-chance asked Mom if she wanted to give it a go. In short:

Three cheers for Mom! Your hard work is paying dividends!

Saturday morning, we all woke early to catch the ferry over to South Manitou Island. When Tony and I went last year, the ride was bumpy and splashy. This trip could not have been much different.

After the incredibly smooth boat ride to the island, we claimed a picnic table for a bite of lunch. Then, we set out for the four-mile round-trip hike to the Francisco Morazan shipwreck.


Only, the signpost about a tenth of a mile in said that the shipwreck was 2.8-miles away. I covered the sign, and we didn’t tell the boys that we had just added 1.6-miles to their legs ;)

The hungry mosquitoes (have you gathered that this a theme this year?) were about the only complaint on the entire journey. Well, aside from some tired feet. But we arrived back in plenty of time to play in the cool lake, which is the best antidote I’ve found for poor, sore paws.

South Manitou Island Lighthouse from water

We rounded out their trip with more beach time, ice cream, and pizza – the perfect Michigan vacation trio. The only thing I don’t understand is why the adults don’t want to join the boys for their visit in the winter…

Dog Days

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting anxiously to see how our evening turned out – you remember; we went on that beach hike where it was cloudy and windy the whole time only to have the sun pop out as we left for dinner? I thought you remembered.

bubbles and waves

Since the sun was still out after dinner, we all decided more time on the beach would be best. Isn’t it always? Our bare feet sifted through the cool sand while we basked in sun (finally) beating down through the ever-present breeze. The pups were oblivious to the things we enjoyed, but then I suspect we can’t quite discern the nuances that delight them.

We had no plans for the rest of the evening save appreciating it. Jim and Jess headed for the northern parts of the adjacent county, while Tony and I aimed to complete a hike that we had abandoned a year or so previously. It wasn’t in the cards; before we even stepped on the path, mosquitoes swarmed, and we simply weren’t in the mood.

Otter Creek

Instead, we opted to hang out a bit longer on a different beach – where the wind keeps the bugs at bay – and watch the sun set.

Petey sunset beach

driftwood sunset

In between beach visits and sunsets, and beach visits with sunsets, Tony and I have been driving ourselves crazy with house shopping. We know better than to get attached to any potential homes, but we’ve looked at a couple in person and find ourselves hoping they’ll be available when the time comes.

Petey on beach towel

We’re not really that hopeful, and all the shopping is helpful. Though we’d love to speed up the process, having time to sort through options is nice. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new home, and being forced to take it slow has allowed us to explore some vastly different choices.

WIlderness Petey

I’ll keep you posted on Operation Relocation, but in the meantime, don’t worry too much about us ;) We’re managing to find time to do things we love – you know, aside from poring over homes for sale and imagining the renovation potential!
through grass Petey

Out of the Storms and into the Other Storms

Since we last talked, Tony and I decided to sell our house, and we took a trip to Ohio. If you’re really interested in details, I’m happy to share, but the short version is: we want to live closer to where we seem to spend all of our time when we’re not inside the house. Obviously, working up to that decision and then prepping for selling has taken up much of the time that we weren’t visiting family in Ohio. So, that’s where I’ve been whilst neglecting this blog.

But you’re here for adventures, right? The weather has been rather stormy for summer in northern Michigan, with far more rainy days that we’re accustomed to. We’ve taken to scheduling outdoor activities during brief periods that we don’t expect inclement weather rather than just days of outdoor fun.

Initially, Saturday afternoon looked like a great time to take a trip up to Wilderness State Park with Jess, Jim, and Jackson. But then Saturday arrived, bringing a long string of storms to plague the Tip of the Mitt at least through the evening. Tossing that idea in File 13, Jess suggested we look south to a shipwreck we had both recently learned about.

Frankfort beach hike

We all arrived at the beach south of Frankfort to a lovely, sunny stretch of mostly empty beach. Winds blasted the shore, whipping Lake Michigan into an ocean-like fury – beautiful, but with lots of rip currents. Not great for swimming, but terrific for a beach hike.

Frankfort beach hike-2

Unfortunately, clouds darkened the sky just a couple minutes into our trek, threatening rain with each additional step. We were a determined group, though, so we pushed on. However, a few of us might have been wishing for less summery clothes.

Frankfort beach hike-3

Happily, the ship’s remains rested a short distance down the beach. We marveled at the size of the old boat, and wondered about its past.

Curiosity sated (well, only regarding the shipwreck’s appearance), we turned back north with hopes of returning to our cars before the weather really got ugly.

Frankfort beach hike-13

Jackson might say otherwise, but the hike back was more comfortable thanks to the wind on our backs instead of our faces.

I even took a few moments to linger with some exposed beach grass roots, appreciating their anti-erosion effects.

Frankfort beach hike-15As often is the case, the trek back seemed shorter than the journey there. Once more at our trailhead, we were all grateful for the warmth found a few steps up and away from the water – not least of all Jackson, who quickly returned to his happy, talkative self.

Not only did we make it safely back, but we also took the clouds away from the beach with us: the sun reappeared before we got back on the main highway. Such is life…and such is life Up North that we all stopped at a different beach after dinner to enjoy some funtime in the sunshine. And if I can get it together, I’ll share some photos from that soon :)

Edit: A quick Google search reveals some interesting info about the 1886 shipwreck of the Schooner Marinette.

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)