A Sometimes Early Riser

It’s not often that I’m the early bird. Night owl, absolutely. But when you stay up late like we do, you don’t tend to race the sun in the morning. When I do happen to be awake early in the morning, it’s almost always because we’ve got early plans…or I woke up early and found the sights out our upstairs windows too inspirational not to grab the camera.

Last night, I knew we had a chance of northern lights, so I was watching my online feeds to see if I should venture out with my camera. Around midnight, we started the bedtime routine with our furry house companions, and decided we’d let our text messaging service alert us if the solar storm ramped up. After all, we had plans for some routine maintenance on the car in Traverse City around 10:00, so our usual 9:00am wake time wasn’t going to cut it.

Sometime shortly after 4:00 Tony’s phone rang. He didn’t recognize the number, but it woke us up enough to check on the aurora alerts. As luck would have it, the storm was expected to surge in about 50 minutes. I grabbed all my gear – including layers because it was 45-degrees! – and headed for Torch Lake.

I huddled on a bench on the south end of Torch for over an hour, capturing over 100 images of the dancing northern lights. Normally I’d be disappointed in any cloud cover, but I actually quite like the little bit of color the Alden light pollution adds (Alden is the little town on the right side of the image whose marina lights are painting the photo orange). As the storm wound down, I packed my gear, and headed back to bed.

One of the first photos I shot
aurora 8-28 beginning

A photo about halfway through the set
aurora 8-28 middle

The last photo before I called it quits
aurora 8-28 end

And while I very much enjoy these aurora photos, I can’t help but wish I had played my usual night owl; despite the storm intensity being greater around 5:00am, there was more of a light display in the hours I slept through. I’m still happy with these. These are enough :)

15-second time-lapse. Please ignore the way oversaturated image that youtube created for this. Link to the same video on Flickr follows for those who can’t view youtube. Enjoy!

Satisfactory

It rained yesterday. Not very long, but heavily. Piles of sand and detritus litter the erosion-prone parts of the hillside out back. More of the roadside washed away, but I don’t think the county intends to beef up the pavement on that stretch of road.

A Walk in the Park-pano

Before the storms rolled through the air hung thick with humidity and the continuous groan of distant thunder. After, they felt much the same, only hotter with the addition of afternoon sun. How did we ever live in Miami? I wondered. Where every day in the summer was at least ten degrees warmer, but with the same humidity and sunshowers. But then, how do I live here now, with our relatively cool summers and everlasting winters?

By the time evening arrived, some of the air’s moisture had soaked into the ground, and the temperature dropped back into my (current) comfort level. Even as we strolled sedately around the park under vivid skies, I lamented not having my camera perched over the lake.

Are we humans ever satisfied? Sometimes I think not, but I’m working on it, this recognizing when I have enough :)

A Quick Kayak

Something about the weather this summer has just not been inspiring for kayak trips. We’ve talked a few times about going out, but changed our minds for various reasons. The other morning after I dropped Petey off for puppy day camp (What? Who’s spoiled?), I stopped by the beach in Elk Rapids. It was early enough in the morning that the water was still, and the beach was entirely empty. I really wished I didn’t have to return home for work, but I did. At least I had my few peaceful moments on the sand before my work day began.

 


The morning remained calm long after I arrived home. And as we finished lunch, the sun was shining, and things still looked entirely pleasant out. I checked the forecast, and the weather report indicated wind speeds at a max of 5MPH – not too shabby. So before we picked Petey up, we decided to squeeze in an hour on the lake.

kayaking Elk Rapids-7

I’m not sure about the whole 5MPH thing. The air didn’t seem particularly breezy, but the lake surface was quite choppy (I walked away with a very wet lap), and the current on the south side of the beach pulled strongly at the tails of our boats.


But for no longer than we were out, the paddle was exceptionally rejuvenating. I don’t know why time spent quietly on or near the water is so restorative, but it is. I feel so at peace and so connected to the water when we kayak. We should really get out more often.

Take Three

Three quick stories, because I wanted to share these fun moments (or, really pictures for the TC one…)

When my family was in town recently, we did a lot of sunset + ice cream -ing. It’s something we excel at, and when you’re good at something… Anyway, one evening we were all hanging out at the ballpark on Torch Lake near Alden, licking ice cream and watching the sun paint the sky. Another couple had joined us, but it was no intrusion. Everyone was polite, simply enjoying the moment. As we gathered up our things to leave, the lady approached and asked if I was Heather. Trish recognized me (and Petey and some family members probably) from this blog. How cool is that? Thanks for stopping to say “Hi,” Trish! It was lovely to meet you and share a moment.

A couple of days ago, Tony and I planned a date night. We don’t bother to do this often, because when you’re married to your best friend, like to eat out, and you don’t have kids every night is kind of like date night. But we did plan an evening out to a favorite restaurant followed by a movie.


With skies like these, I tried to talk Tony into just watching the sunset and skipping the movie, but he didn’t take me very seriously. ;)
Stormy TC pano
Stormy TC pano-2

As we wandered around Traverse City and the marina afterward, we determined that apparently date night = eating at The Franklin and watching an action/sci fi movie at The Bijou. For our last three real date nights, this is exactly what we’ve done. Perhaps next time we’ll choose a different restaurant. I have no expectations that we’ll choose a different film genre.

Yesterday afternoon, I hopped on Facebook on our way to dinner with friends. Blogging pal Kathy had posted just moments ago about how though illogical, she was deeply interested in traveling the 550 miles from the Upper Peninsula (da UP, dontcha know?) to the thumb area downstate to visit her folks. She incited a storm of commentary – including my own additions – urging her to follow her heart. Less than half and hour later, Kathy and I had made breakfast plans in Gaylord – a northern Michigan town less than an hour from here – as she pauses in her journey south.

May you all find yourselves here soon :)
beyond bliss

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…