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 :)

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!).

Walking the Dune Drive

Following several days of dreary drizzle, this morning dawned bright and cheerful. Clear skies overnight made for a thick frost on the grass, resembling snow in my predawn fogged eyes. After putzing around the house, enjoying some fireside time with the bad-old-cats (battle cats?), we dressed for our planned hike with the Cliftons.

We met up at main entrance to the Sleeping Bear Dunes – the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive – which happens to be closed to vehicular traffic at this time of year. Jackson was recovering from some afternoon sleepiness, which was aided by vanquishing some foes me repeatedly. (Don’t worry; I recover quickly, and stick-swords and plentiful in the forest.)

Soon everyone was happy, chattering as friends do about things important and unimportant, and generally enjoying the time outside.

The air was chilly but invigorating, and the golden light warmed us from inside. Though we had meandered at Jackson’s pace, we arrived shortly at the North Bar Lake overlook. Many of the trees have shed their fall adornments, but this place is lovely dressed in any attire.

Feeling pretty certain the next big overlook was within reach (keeping in mind that the sun would leave us at 5:30), we ventured onward.

A few brief paces delivered us to the sandy bluffs perched above Lake Michigan, shimmering and blue below.
Sleeping Bear Dunes

We traipsed up and down the empty dunes, luxuriating in the vast, deserted landscape that is normally teeming with visitors, but today just held us.

We poked around the observation areas, and lingered at the trail’s edge, taking in details that might be overlooked while trying to avoid blocking a fellow visitor.

Eventually noting the time, we sequestered Jackson – who was mastering the art of rolling down the sand – and began the trek back.

Once more at our cars, we parted ways, though I’m pretty sure we converged again for one last shot of the day’s beauty before nightfall. Darkness arrived early, but it was a day filled with plenty, and in November that’s all one can rightly ask for.
Empire sunset

A Late Summer Dune Adventure

I’ve been away from the blog again for a while. I just can’t seem to keep it together lately. We just returned from a week with our families in southern Ohio, and it always takes a few days to get back into our normal routines. We like to let the cats settle into our presence again before going off gallivanting, leaving them alone once more ;)

I think I must have blinked at some point this season. I know that it was summer, but while my eyes were closed, this happened:


My barberries have turned many shades of red, the grapes have ripened, and my cherry tomatoes have gone riotous. I am making myself sick on late summer produce. I can’t decide whether that’s bad…so it must be good. Yes, that makes sense.

By yesterday the cats had settled in just the right amount for us to disturb them. (This is kind of a joke, but only kind of. Our cats are really only happy if we are both sitting on the couch like when we’re working. They do not think we belong anywhere else. We disagree.) The weather was late-summer perfect (breezy, warm-but-not-hot, sunny), so we dressed for a hike. We did not know where we were headed, except out. A friend suggested a hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes park, so that’s where we ended up.

All wide shots are multi-frame panoramas, and can be clicked for more detailed versions
SBD - park interior

My bearded husband played the part of the hippy – hiking barefoot – while I played NatGeo photographer – packing around my camera and too much gear. We marched happily along the loop trail, enjoying the different angle on the views we see so frequently from other park locales.
dune panorama - small
Glen Lakes from dunes
The Glen Lakes

The hike was short, and incredibly mellow thanks to the dearth of tourists. They have flocked elsewhere (presumably south) with the recent turning of the calendar page, and honestly, it’s good to have our homeland back. I’m looking forward to spending more time with it before autumn burns its way into our landscapes.

3, 2, 1…And you’re back in the room

Anyone else watch Little Britain? It comes and goes on Netflix. One of the regular characters is a hack hypnotist who brings his victims (of frivolous trickery that favors his laziness) back to consciousness with the phrase in my title.

That’s kind of how I feel. I’ve been away, but I’m back in the room. And I have lots of stuff to share, not least of which are the photos of lovely blond chicks in this blog ;) I guess I feel like as long as I point out all the pictures, you’ll see that we’ve been busy and understand why I’ve been away without even a Wordless Wednesday.

A large percentage of Tony’s female family members joined us Up North last weekend. His mom (Shari/Blondie), grandma (Mamaw), aunt (Jerri), cousin (Tyler), and niece (Alayna) all rode in one vehicle for the eight ten hour journey, and still managed to arrive in merry (delirious?) spirits. We stayed up way too late chatting and laughing before we got on to the business of enjoying Michigan’s playground the next day.

The sun didn’t burn us with her intense rays, but she did at least visit, which made our trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes pleasant. Alayna delighted in nature’s enormous sandbox and the rest of us oooohed and aaahed at the always impressive views.


Sleeping Bear Dunes panorama

We blinked, and the clock ticked over from afternoon to sunset. We spent the remainder of the light hours playing on a nearly deserted beach in Traverse City, trying to keep warm. Not to worry, we were warm enough for ice cream ;)

We rounded out the evening with a fire (in the fireplace we had installed in May) and then started out Sunday with more activity. Ty and I went for a run, and everyone else did what everyone else does when I’m not there to see or hear it. Which I assume is to make the same noises a tree does when it falls in the woods when I’m not around to hear it.

Despite having been up with everyone since about 8am, time speedily slipped by, and it was after 2pm by the time we finished “brunch” in Elk Rapids. Half the group played on the beach while Tony and I took the other half out kayaking. Then they switched. And then it was dinner time (Tony and I grilled from-scratch pizzas)…followed by ice cream, and later, another fire.

Packing up on Monday morning was a slow affair, as we weren’t in a rush to hurry everyone back home. Five blondes is a lot for one home to sustain, but with all that giggling, we managed ;) How lucky are we to have this bunch for family?

All photos can be embiggened by clicking :)