Tuesday’s Gone – A Midweek Dune Climb

It was tough to tell on Tuesday who was more restless: me or Petey. For some reason he was a friskopotamus, and I was having trouble sitting still because it was warm (slightly above freezing) and dazzlingly sunny. Eventually we decided it would be best for all of us if we took a hike. Half an hour later, we were on our way to a trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes that we hadn’t hiked before, though we had hiked near it to a shipwreck. Of course, half an hour later, unpredicted clouds had also besmirched my bluebird skies. You win some, you lose some.

Again, as on previous winter hikes, we parked on a road and then trudged through snow to get to the trailhead. There had been enough snowshoers ahead of us, though, that the walk in wasn’t too bad – especially considering the half a foot of snow we had just gotten. I can’t say that I prefer the clouds, but at least they were the kind that brings interest instead of flat, featureless grey (that’s what we had yesterday, so I can say this with certainty).

See? Look at that drama

We crested a dune – which are far easier to scale when frozen than when the sands are sliding beneath your toes – and were astonished at sweeping view. I took pictures, but didn’t keep any of them, because every stitch of water in the vista was frozen and capped with snow – a good reason to go back :) Still, Tony and I happily took in the view while Petey happily ignored it any the wildlife cavorting in the distance. He was taken by the grasses poking up directly beside the trail.

We followed the snowshoe path down through a valley to the shore…where the view wasn’t much different than from above. We climbed out a short distance onto the ice, but the earlier sun had melted some of the fresh snow, and it had puddled.

Above and inside an ice cave


The upshot is that the view of the shore was pretty cool, and one we don’t often get a chance to see.
pano

Deciding that we didn’t want to wander on the ice – a combination of possible hidden puddles and other potential dangers hidden under the snow – we began the ascent back up the dune.

Though the hike was enjoyable, it felt a bit stunted. After we emerged from the snow-pack, we walked along the road simply enjoying the ease of movement on the cleared pavement before we began our drive back home.

Since it’s on the way, we stopped in Empire for a glimpse at the sunset. Tony and Petey stayed in the car, while I traipsed about with the camera. Cautious because of the sun and heat, I stayed on ice over water I knew wasn’t deep. I was exceedingly glad I did. After I finished taking the last photo in the gallery below, I set my sites on the beach, and began making my way there. As I climbed over a small ice mound, I slipped, and my foot punched through the snow into one of those cold puddles I feared. I pulled it out, re-situated myself, and promptly repeated the fun with my other foot. Though my heart was racing and my feet were soaked and freezing I wasn’t panicking. But I was exceptionally glad that I was only over water that would be up to my knees even in the summer. Phew. Hope you have a warm, dry week :)

Adventure and Routine – A Restorative Weekend

I meant to write this last night, but since I was feeling so mellow from the weekend, it didn’t happen. We didn’t have the kind of weekend where you stay in and bury yourselves in books, but we also didn’t have the kind of weekend where you explore 15 new places. Instead, we did a little exploring, a little winter routine, and none of it on a schedule. By the time Sunday evening arrived, I was feeling refreshed and ready for Monday (or “today” if you’re on this side of the world).

Saturday afternoon we roused ourselves for a hike. We settled on Pyramid Point, because it has a nice view, and we hadn’t been since July. The road situation is a bit different in the area this time of year. Last time I drove my sister’s little front-wheel drive car down a two-track with no problem (well, except that we had to take said two-track because I briefly got us lost). The other day, I could only spot the road because the top foot or so of the road-marker pokes out of piled and drifted snow.

We parked at the bottom of the road the trail is on, and hiked up to the trailhead…to begin our hike. I knelt in the snow for a close-up of some dried Queen Anne’s Lace, convinced it was the only decent shot I’d get for the day thanks to dense cloud cover and intermittent swirling snow.

After the short climb, we reached the Lake Michigan overlook, and though the view isn’t what I’ve come to expect, it was spectacular in its way.

Guess which one was from July – even though it was 57 and raining that day :(


Fine snow poured through our duration at the top (admittedly brief) so that we never did glimpse the horizon. What you can see in the left image is a break in the ice, which now coats nearly 50% of the lake’s surface.

Back in the warm confines of our car, I noted that sunset is now happening at nearly 6:00, and that we had time for some beach exploration if Tony and Petey were game. They were.

Considering the impending sunset, we knew our time on the ice would be short. Since it’s such a novel world though, every find is unique and exciting, making even a quick trip worth the effort. With the shore in this condition, I feel like I’m visiting a polar region. Icebergs sit perched and cracked on top of yet more ice, some of which you can see Lake Michigan’s teal through, and some of which expands out in little white pancakes toward the horizon.


Ice caves yawn at the west toward previously incoming waves, their savage maws nonetheless inviting you in. I answer their call. Eventually, the sky darkens enough that we call it a night before someone breaks an ankle (again).

Yesterday (I’m sure because we had gone adventuring on a cloudy day) dawned bright and blue, so we geared up for a morning of skiing. Though fiercely cold, the groomed trails were a blast, and I hope it stays just a touch warmer so we can get out more often. After a late lunch at the best brew-pub in existence, we returned home for a little snow shoveling followed by an afternoon walk. Most of our route was beautiful and sedate, with the exception of the biting winds when we faced west.

Oh yes, we also saw a veritable herd of turkeys…nearly four dozen!


And though only a few crepuscular rays shone through in the west as the sun set, the east held a lovely pink tinge, a gentle ending for a gentle weekend.

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? ;)

Quick Trip to Maple Bay

About a month ago, Tony and I tried to take Petey for a walk at Maple Bay, but were stymied by snow drifts that reached partly up the car doors. Having learned that lesson previously, we went elsewhere. However, we’d driven by recently, and I thought the drive looked plowed. I decided to give it another go today.

When I arrived, the drive was cleared down to the pebbles – perfectly safe for a gal and her pup. We pawed our way down the treacherous snow path that descends toward the beach. (Aside for those unfamiliar with snowpack: sure, it all looks roughly the same, but it’s not. When the snow is fresh, it can have all kinds of different textures ranging from slippery/oily to dry and fluffy. After it piles up significantly, it packs in and get denser. Following a couple of warm days, the surface melts and refreezes, leaving behind an icy shell of varying thickness that is as slippery as you’d think. This is what we were walking on toward the beach :( ) But the trail isn’t long, and soon we were on flatter grounds.

Maple Bay

Shortly after we alit onto the beach, the predicted snow arrived, hastening our departure. We meandered a little. I just wanted to see if the beach was walkable (yes, depending on your standards), and get the dog out for a bit. Besides, we’d just spent all afternoon on icy beaches. Also, I know a bad omen when I see one. The algae were cool in their own way – looking like overblown bacteria. But the fish – two carcasses, actually, with the one’s head as big as my hand – signaled that it was officially (o-fish-ally?) time to go.

Okay, so I don’t really believe in bad omens and such. I’m just not superstitious. Are you?

A Snowy Hike and a Surprise Thanksgiving

With our family 500 miles south, Tony and I planned to spend our Thanksgiving day together, with our fuzzies. Giving consideration to weekend busy-ness (What a joke – like trails up here are busy in the winter!), we opted to re-visit the Dune Drive on Thanksgiving rather than the official weekend. With our recent lake effect pummeling, we figured the trek would paint quite a different picture that it did at the beginning of the month.

We awoke this morning to a bit more snow than we had yesterday, with a couple more inches forecast through the evening. Where we were headed was expecting four to six additional inches. Interesting. Off we went :)
driving in a snowstorm

The roads weren’t great, but not terrible either – just typical roads for winter Up North. In due time, we parked at the trailhead and packed on our gear: ski pants, coats, gloves, hats, boots, and camera. I had a scarf, too, but I ditched it shortly after we started walking.

We followed in another hiker’s tracks from earlier in the day, beside some cross-country ski tracks. The snow fell lightly at times, and poured down at others – typical for winter Up North.

The hush as we walked was palpable, broken only by the occasional chattering of the naked trees, and the swish of our pants. We made good time, and drew upon the first stop in our tour quicker than we’d expected. As predicted, it looked a bit different than it did on November 3.
North Bar overlook

With not much besides a whole bunch of snow to look at, we didn’t linger long. But we also weren’t undeterred. Even if the next overlook was buried under falling snow (likely, but there are also unexpected breaks in lake effect bands sometimes, so you never know), it would be worth the visit.

Okay, so no break in the clouds, but there’s something awe-inspiring knowing what’s just over the precipice…and not being able to see it for the wall of falling flakes.
sweeping Lake Michigan overlook-2
I’m still gobsmacked that we had this place to ourselves – twice in one month!


We meandered in the snow and sand long enough for my fingers to freeze, and then continued along the drive. Previously, we hiked the trip in an out-and-back fashion, but decided to make a loop of it yesterday. Fortunately, enough snow topped the steep icy road, about which we had been a tad trepidatious, that it was no longer slippery. Down we trekked, and then turned off on a short-cut through the woods.

Back at the car, we munched on almond butter and dried mangoes (which will result in me getting diabetes if I don’t rein it in!) while Petey chowed kibble. Tummies sated, we piled into the car, and aimed homeward.

A quick stop in Traverse City on our way back

Which is almost the end of the story, but not quite. You see, we had planned to be alone on Thanksgiving, and we were okay with that. We had already shared loving messages with friends and family, and were prepped for a happy day. But our neighbors. We have the best, kindest neighbors who knew we were going to be alone, and so they invited us to their family Thanksgiving celebration. I won’t lie and say I didn’t get a little weepy at their consideration; I did. We joined their gathering after we returned from our snowy hike, rounding out our day in the most appropriate way possible – full of gratitude and love (and wonderful food!).