Turbulent Lakeshore Voyage

We’ve navigated dozens of northern Michigan roads this fall, visiting our favorite haunts and finding new ones. Until this weekend, though, we had neglected America’s (new and possibly voter-biased) most beautiful place: the Sleeping Bear Dunes lakeshore. Last week’s luminous summer-in-fall gave way to more typical hit-or-miss rains and chill, and I was a little excited this morning while tossing on my sweater, coat and hat for our adventure.

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Spring Serendipity

If my last post centered on an idyllic Spring day, this post focuses on a downright irascible one.  To wit: yesterday we had highs in the low 40′s (well below average) and continuous soaking rain, promptly followed by a high-wind advisory lasting until 11pm tonight.  Today’s forecast wasn’t much of an improvement over yesterday’s; instead of 70% chance of showers, we were looking forward to 40% chance of snow/rain showers.  Yay!  Most sensible folks, I’m sure, made plans to spend the weekend indoors.  While I’ve occasionally been accused of being sensible, I’ve more frequently been accused of being hard-headed and even cantankerous.  So, did we stay inside?  Absolutely not.  High winds from the west?  To the Dunes we go!  And to Manistee, for good pizza!

We woke up to snow on the ground (See what I mean?  Surly weather indeed!) and clouds in the air.  But Spring is ever fickle, and by the time we arrived in Empire, the skies had cleared and the waves were spectacular.  While I might not feel safe venturing out into the Big Lake on a day like this, the water’s siren-song is never more beautiful or enticing.

Looking north to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, where theres a snow shower striking

Looking northwest toward South Manitou Island (and Wisconsin)

Looking forward to summer ;)

After a good sandblasting (you would not believe all the places I’ve found sand…and I was bundled up in my ski coat!), we headed for the Dune drive, which has been closed since the beginning of Winter.  Luck held momentarily, and the super-nice lady at the gate welcomed us happily.  We stopped at several overlooks where capricious Mama Nature dealt us a mixed hand:

Sunny overlook

Blowing snow and sand, about two minutes later

North Bar Lake, buried in snow...probably another two minutes later

Departing snow storm, five minutes later?

Sun-lit cute flower. But no morels...I checked ;)

South of the Dunes, the immense gravitational pull of Pt. Betsie pulled us in, which was awesome since the sun was back out.  If you’ve looked at some of the preceding pictures and decided it didn’t look that cold (spoken like a northerner!), you’ll soon change your mind:

Crystal Lake thru an Aspen (across the road from Pt. Betsie). Weve already discussed how much I love these trees, so Im sure youre not surprised to see another one

Something windy (wintry?) this way comes

Ahhh...the cause of the ice

Nearing dinner time, and Manistee, we decide to eat first and beach later.  After all, we’ve got a good 2 hours before the lighting conditions deteriorate, it’s already completely gray out, and we don’t want to miss pizza.  By the way, if you’re ever in the area, you have to get a Chicago pizza from Big Al’s in Manistee.  Tony’s still full and we brought home half the pizza.  But I digress.  Onward, to the Manistee Lighthouse:

Lake Michigan through the dunes on Manistees 5th Avenue Beach. Which I should mention that you cannot actually access from 5th Avenue. Go figure.

From the beach to the north

Nearing the lighthouse on the pier

Nice splash! (compliments - sans snarks - of Tony, who also took the sandblasted tree and iced tree photos above)

Our temperamental Spring day finished up with a large, bright full moon. (Aside: we watched this incredible moon become clouded over to a soundtrack of Agalloch, compliments of Jim C.  A perfect fit, and if you are at all interested in atmospheric metal, you should check it out.  Check them out even if you don’t think you’re into that kind of thing :) )  Which you’ll just have to imagine, because the pictures didn’t come out.  Some things you have to experience without a lens.