Dog Days

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting anxiously to see how our evening turned out – you remember; we went on that beach hike where it was cloudy and windy the whole time only to have the sun pop out as we left for dinner? I thought you remembered.

bubbles and waves

Since the sun was still out after dinner, we all decided more time on the beach would be best. Isn’t it always? Our bare feet sifted through the cool sand while we basked in sun (finally) beating down through the ever-present breeze. The pups were oblivious to the things we enjoyed, but then I suspect we can’t quite discern the nuances that delight them.

We had no plans for the rest of the evening save appreciating it. Jim and Jess headed for the northern parts of the adjacent county, while Tony and I aimed to complete a hike that we had abandoned a year or so previously. It wasn’t in the cards; before we even stepped on the path, mosquitoes swarmed, and we simply weren’t in the mood.

Otter Creek

Instead, we opted to hang out a bit longer on a different beach – where the wind keeps the bugs at bay – and watch the sun set.

Petey sunset beach

driftwood sunset

In between beach visits and sunsets, and beach visits with sunsets, Tony and I have been driving ourselves crazy with house shopping. We know better than to get attached to any potential homes, but we’ve looked at a couple in person and find ourselves hoping they’ll be available when the time comes.

Petey on beach towel

We’re not really that hopeful, and all the shopping is helpful. Though we’d love to speed up the process, having time to sort through options is nice. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new home, and being forced to take it slow has allowed us to explore some vastly different choices.

WIlderness Petey

I’ll keep you posted on Operation Relocation, but in the meantime, don’t worry too much about us ;) We’re managing to find time to do things we love – you know, aside from poring over homes for sale and imagining the renovation potential!
through grass Petey

Fourth of July in Pictures…and a Rant

Independence Day is a big celebration Up North. Not that it isn’t everywhere, but the weekend of July 4th really marks the true beginning of Tourist Season. Thankfully, this worst part of the season lasts just a few days. I nearly put worst in quotation marks above, but then thought more honestly about it.

Warning: I’m going to be all crankipants for a moment, so if you’d like, just skip to the next bit below. Although I am somewhat of a hermit, I genuinely don’t hate tourists. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I am not sure what happens to people on this weekend each year, but it’s deeply unpleasant. Our sleepy, ultra-rural area turns into something akin to Panama City Beach during spring break. The roads around the south end of Torch Lake are lined in both direction with cars, and throngs of mostly young drunk people roam in the road barefoot carrying coolers. And if they just partied and kept mostly to themselves, I wouldn’t even do much more than roll my eyes (because I just cannot relate). But they don’t. Every year, I pick up piles and piles of garbage…and there are trash cans at every single public access point (where I find the litter). Sadly, it’s not just confined to the Torch River Bridge. You should see the photos of the Traverse City beaches. It looks like a garbage truck spilled over. I will just never, never, ever understand how a person can vacation at a place like this, where it must be the natural beauty that draws one here, only to behave in a way that is detrimental to its continued existence. Sigh. I will be helping with clean-up efforts, and will continue to pick up after folks who lack good sense.

Rant over.

In an effort to avoid The Fourth crowds, we headed farther north on Friday. We hiked a couple miles at the Headlands Dark Sky Park, and were nearly run off by mosquitoes. Well, I guess we were kinda run off. About a mile in, we gave up and headed back for the car (the hike we were on was optional) before rejoining the lake. The beach was open, and the winds kept the bugs at bay, so we stayed for a bit before landing on a nearly empty beach on the outskirts of Mackinaw City.

The scenery was stunning: clear skies, smooth stones, a few boulders, and copious crashing waves. Petey met a few other dogs, and splashed around in the clear water. We didn’t end up having a very close view of fireworks over the Mackinac Bridge, but the serenity and sunset more than made up for any shortcomings – which admittedly would have come from unfounded preconceived notions.

For the record: we left only footprints and took only pictures. (More of which I’ll be adding to my photography site and Facebook over the coming days)

Peachy Beach Time

Tonight after work, we were all itching for some outside time. We’ve stayed very near to home recently, making a concerted effort to cut back on thoughtless miles. (We’ll always be vagabonds to an extent, so don’t worry that we’ve suddenly become shut-ins!) Last night we took a looong walk in a nearby park, so when we considered where we might go, that was off the list. And with the clouds of marauding mosquitoes this year, the Seven Bridges were out too. Maple Bay is always a nice place, though, and it’s been a while since we were last there, so we headed thataway.

The beach is at the end of a short hike through the woods, and is normally quite pleasant. Tonight, we swatted mosquitoes the entire time, and ended up nearly running despite being in flip flops. Thankfully, they preferred the closeness of the forest to the fresh air and breezes on the beach.

Other than a couple of ladies and two children who were leaving as we arrived, we had the entire area to ourselves (which is about 3/4 of a mile according to Google Earth estimates). We waited until we left to read the signs asking you to keep your pet on a leash, and we let Petey roam. He never wandered far enough that we felt like we had to go get him, and when he meandered near private property, he listened when we called him back. He did not, however, play in the water very much. Even though we happily splashed along ankle-deep, he tried his best to keep his paws in dry sand.

I love the collection of driftwood here!

Petey trotted along busying his nose, Tony traipsed along scouting Petoskey stones, and I trekked along shooting my camera. It was incredibly peaceful and pleasant – a perfect way to relax post-work. (Can you tell I’m a touch delirious and having too much fun with alliteration?)

As sunset neared, we headed back to the car, again braving running from the mosquitoes. We’d have stayed at Maple Bay, but really didn’t want to venture through the woods in the dark. But Elk Rapids is a short drive up the road, and on our way home, so we stopped off at the Dam Beach for sunset.

We stood on the sand, waves lapping around our feet as the sun dipped below the horizon.

After the sun was gone, the sky really lit up, as it often does. And as is sometimes the case, the action was not where you’d think to look for it.
Elk River sunset

Spring Is Happening!

We are finally, finally in the full throes of spring, and I just cannot get enough of it. Fortunately, my husband is very understanding about my need to be outside, and my dog might have cabin fever worse than I do. It’s a close call, though ;)

These past weeks, we’ve spent oodles of time outside, which means a fair amount of off-leash time for Petey. We’ve learned that he gets easily grass-stained, and that he does enjoy the water (weren’t so sure there for a while – he gave wide berth to any puddle we came across in the winter). The beach is particularly nice after a hot hike, because even on a warm day (I’m talking low 70’s/20C) the water is cold (38F/3C).
spring is a thing-21spring is a thing-20

Those who know me or who’ve followed the blog for a while know that most of our outside time has been spent in the woods. We’ve done hours of mushroom hunting, and haven’t been too successful until tonight. We’ve found a few, but we’ve been far more successful at finding cool things in the woods to look at. It’s not a bad deal. If I’m not going to find dinner, it doesn’t hurt to find pretty things. When you’re intensely focused on details like you must be to find morels, you tend to notice the details in other things. That’s how the teensy-tiny orange mushrooms grabbed Tony’s attention. And how cool is that teal wood? I have no idea why it’s that color, but that’s how I found it. Speaking of blue, how about those fungi on the tree? Such cool stuff out there, I tell ya!

Such cool stuff, and such scary stuff. Yes, scary stuff. Yesterday was one of the most glorious days a person could hope for. I took Petey for his morning walk, and just wanted to call in “Can’t focus – too pretty out.”

I didn’t, but I wanted to. And Petey wanted me to, too, because he kept going to the back door and plaintively looking back at me. Eventually it dawned on me that it would be a perfect day for working on the patio. I grabbed my laptop, phone, and some water, and opened the door.

Less than 100 feet away, over where the deer occasionally bed down, a cougar sprang off into the woods. A Petey-sized (he’s 67-lbs now) cougar. I am 99% sure of it. I’m leaving a 1% chance it wasn’t a cougar because I have no photos or other evidence, but I know what bobcats look like and I know what coyotes look like, and it was not those. And it certainly wasn’t a deer. It might have been a Bigfoot, though.

Seriously, it was a cougar. In my yard. The funny thing is that cougars are far more elusive than morels, and I’ve looked for years to find one of those on our property. I should have looked for a big mountain lion, because here’s the ironic thing: when we went over to see if it had left any tracks, I found a morel.

It’s on the right. I included the left shot of some poisonous lookalikes for fun.

Not all our days have held such excitement. We’re still mostly reveling in not dressing in layers and in all the green. And I’ve been enjoying the simple act of capturing a sunset that happens well into the evening. It’s enough, and I’m happy with it :)

spring is a thing-15

A Clear Forecast with a 0% Chance of a Hike

Despite cool temperatures, Tony and I had decided last evening would be perfect to revisit a hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Clouds had cast a pall on the landscape all day, but the forecast promised clear skies shortly after work, so we packed up Petey and headed for the west coast.

The clouds parted about five miles into our drive, and we basked in the sun’s warmth. However, as we neared the park, threatening skies loomed and we checked the radar. Our 0% chance of rain had been upped to 40%, and a small system was clearly blowing in from Lake Michigan. Not wanting to get caught in a rainstorm two miles into a hike, we altered our plans. Instead of walking the Dune Drive, we opted for a few shorter treks, starting at North Bar Lake.

This is what it looked like from the overlook on November 3, the last time we saw it (we went again at the end of November, but it was snowing too hard to make anything out).

We followed the short trail from the parking lot down to the lake, and then skirted along the edge.

This is the little lake in the photos above: North Bar Lake
North Bar Lake
Winds picked up as we climbed the dunes separating the Big Lake from North Bar, and rain sprinkled down. We decided to take in just the high view of the lake instead of venturing down farther into the wind. But we were in good company. An eagle was perched on high as well, surveying the lake for dinner. Glad it wasn’t us ;)

Next, we retired to the Empire Beach, our old standby. Even if the weather is downright yucky, you can sit in your car, protected from the elements, and enjoy the view…which is exactly what we did for a bit.

I did get out of the car for this one, just not for long. Yes that is still ice on the lake.
Empire view

I’m not entirely sure why, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, but after I grabbed my pre-sunset shot, we decided to head down the road. I think we were hoping for a chance to hike around near the shore while waiting on sunset. Things had not worked in our favor so far, but we decided that if we returned to Traverse City, we’d arrive right along with the rain we were currently waiting out. So, south we went, where we were hoping the rain would surely, eventually pass.

We were rewarded almost immediately. It didn’t suddenly get warm, and the winds didn’t die down, and the rain didn’t leave, but a beautiful sunset was waiting for us at the end of the road. I meandered with the camera, Tony meandered with Petey, and the sun meandered toward the horizon.

Again, probably because it is in my nature to wander, even though were in a delightful location, I thought it would be a good idea to travel farther down the beach. Just on the other side of Otter Creek. When you come down the road to the beach, you have two options: park right at the beach, or park off to the left before the beach so that you can explore Otter Creek. Instead of moving the car, though, we just decided to walk (it’s not very far, and we were glad of a chance to move). Just as we started making our way back out toward the open water, the rain really let loose. Tony – gentleman that he is – took Petey and went back for the car while leaving me to my photographic devices.

rainbow tree silhouette

I clambered through low shrubs and downed trees, making my way to the creek and lake. As I stood capturing tree silhouettes in the falling rain, I looked over my shoulder, hoping to see a rainbow. Given how the trip had gone, I wasn’t hoping very fervently.

double rainbow

For once in the evening, the weather cooperated. And then Mother Nature decided enough was enough. She turned off the faucets (mostly), and let the light shine. I set up a few places along the bluffs, thoroughly amazed at the progression of the setting sun. The area around the sun was dressed in vibrant yellow, the clouds overhead were bruised purple, and a short-lived shower over the lake absolutely glowed red.

This is one of many great shots I got. I’m not done processing them, but they’ll be making their way to my Facebook page and my photography site over the coming days, so keep your eyes peeled :)
amazing sunset

As the pink tinge faded out of the sky, Tony popped up over the dunes behind me. I grabbed one last image before running to greet him, (you can’t see him, but he’s in the photo – dressed in black against the black background) grateful for the evening if not for our broken hike.
Otter Creek and mountainous bluffs