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

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.