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…

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.

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.

Quick Trip to the Sand Lakes

This evening after work and dinner, Tony, Petey and I dropped by the Sand Lakes Quiet Area for a short hike. Petey had never been, and it’s been since October that Tony and I were there. The North Country Trail runs through the area, so if we wanted to, we could park the car and then just hike for days and days. Mother Nature hasn’t decided to just let it warm up already, so we only walked to the closest lake – “Sand Lake 1.” Creative, I know.

Sand Lake 1

Aside from a few rounds in the back yard, Petey has been an on-leash boy. He has trekked many, many miles with us at this point, but he’s still a pup so we haven’t pushed it. Tonight, ours was the only car in the lot in a very remote location, so we tied his leash up to his pack to see how he’d do. He wasn’t perfect – he seems a bit deaf to “Petey, come!” if something smells good – but he did pretty well. We’re proud “parents.”
Petey
He stayed near, resisted the (strong) urge to chase little critters that flitted away, and waited patiently for us at any forks in the trail. Accordingly, he got lots of treat nibbles and the chance to flex his developing (haha!) jaw muscles while racing after and chewing sticks.


I was hoping to see a wildflower to two, but I had to settle for fall’s remnants.
Wildflower remains
And since spring is tardy to the Sand Lakes, I sated my desire for greenery in the extensive variety of mosses (and lichen) strewn about.

As the sun waned, and whatever passed for warmth ebbed out of the day, we decided not to linger. We plied the Petey-Puppy away from the lake and its smells with the promise of a delicious stick, and headed back. Many tosses later, we neared the car with a tired, happy dog. Not a bad way to wrap up a Monday! I hope your week’s off to a good start, too :)
Petey-2

Petey-3

The Myth of Spring

They say March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. Around these parts, March roared like a lion for four solid weeks, and then toyed around with the idea of bleating softly for about three days at the end of the month. Since then, Mother Nature has been felinishly fickle – taunting us because we’re the prey she knows can’t escape.

Sure, we know it’s spring, and that this winter will end, but some days it just does not feel like it. Days like yesterday – when we had lake effect snow all day – and today – when the temperature was supposed to rise into the mid-40’s (~8C) but did not.

The sun shone brilliantly all day, I tricked myself into believing it was as toasty as it appeared. I even promised Petey we’d go on a hike after work, because who wouldn’t want to? Us, as it turns out. By which I mean Tony and me, because Petey was all about the sniffing. It must’ve been the smelliest trail he’s walked on. We didn’t notice. We were cold. The silver lining? The woods are showing some spring progress. 1 – No signs of snow :) 2 – Leeks are sprouting and other photosynthetic varieties are reaching sunward. Still, we took the short path, choosing not to meander onto exposed hilltops.

After cutting our walk short, we decided to hop over to the marina to see if Torch Lake had visibly melted since our last viewing. Driving by the south end yesterday, we noted quite a bit of liquid expanse and were hopeful for similar exposure nearby.
Torch under ice
No luck. In Alden, the ice still clings. And it’s not just a skim coat, in case you were wondering. Yesterday’s 17mph NNW winds pushed some ice up onto the rocks, so we can see just how thick it is floating on top of our precious turquoise lake.

Thick. Looks like winter is determined not to relinquish its icy grip yet, even though May is just around the corner. Still, our grass gets greener by the day, and our snow drifts shrink. Hope remains :)
ice and leaf