Fire, Ice, and Copper

This afternoon I logged into my Flickr account to check out the beautiful images my contacts there had shared. As always, there were several good ones, and one from my friend Aaron that pushed my “I need to catch a sunset on the dunes” button. This is a frequent occurrence for me, and I am usually successful at staving off photographic attacks. For instance, I follow several photographers who live in Iceland, and I have major travel pangs thanks to them…but I have not (yet!) made my way to Iceland.

But Aaron lives in northern Michigan, and even though his photo is from an hour or so southwest of my house, similar landscapes are within half an hour. I was ready to put this urge on the shelf, but the light this afternoon was so beautiful…as viewed from my chair in the living room. When I mentioned it to Tony, he suggested that I go.

At first I wavered, but not for long. Thank goodness, too, because the light wouldn’t linger much longer. I grabbed my pack, tossed on my boots, and hit the road. I had plans to hike to Sleeping Bear Point, but as I got nearer, I spied a path up the dunes and it seemed so much closer. I pulled in, parked, and began a swift ascent up the trail.

Only it wasn’t so swift. If you’ve ever climbed up a mountain of sand, you’ll understand. It was 38-degrees when I parked, and I was wearing heavy winter boots + more than 20-lbs on my back. I was sweating before I inched over the first leg of the journey, not a quarter-mile in. I eyed the giant bowl in the dunes, and caught my breath for a second while taking an iPhone pano:
Spoiler: The top of that rise is not the top at all.

Then I continued the hike. The first bit wasn’t so bad, as it was down and then gently up. But then I really started to climb. My steps got closer, and my legs caught fire. My breath grew ragged as the cold air froze my lungs and I tasted copper. I considered how much easier the ascent would be without my gear – much – but then why go?

Look at my steps near the bottom of the photo! And see those two shrubs just to the right of the trail? They’re the same ones on the left side of the trail in the pano above.
Eventually, after a few false dawns, I arrived at the top. You know what I did then? I descended a little, because the view was better.

Celestial Imperatives

Looking down from near the top. Mom – this is where I stopped to take a photo and you were talking about Uncle Dick stocking up on pudding :)

Are you still there?

Hello there,
Long time, no type. I thought I’d check in to let you know I’m still alive. I know it’s been a while, so here’s the short version.

Tony and I took a quick vacation to the western UP at the beginning of October. We stayed in a quaint little place that allowed pets, so we brought Petey. We dropped Sebastian (male cat) off at the vet so they could dispense UTI meds in our absence. I created lots of photos, lamented the harsh sun, enjoyed hiking in that warm sun on the trails, and we met up with Kathy.

It was a well-timed break, because we were both a little burned out from work. That part of the Upper Peninsula has practically no cell phone service, and we didn’t bring laptops, so we were unplugged almost the whole time. Petey enjoyed his trail time, Sebastian didn’t mind the vet stay too much, and Dominique (sister cat) greeted us loudly – asking why we had left her alone.

It wasn’t long after we returned home that the fall color started in earnest in this part of the state. I hadn’t been expecting much of a show, because the color we’d seen up to that point had been muddy. I was convinced the leaves were just going to turn brown and drop. Instead, they burst forth into a vibrant display, and our weather was unbelievably pleasant. I got lost in a photo and hiking frenzy.

Spoiler alert: most of the rest of this blog is decidedly cheerless.

And then the end of October arrived. I laid down for a nap on Halloween day, and noticed that Dominique felt tiny. I could tell she was sick, so we cuddled for a good hour – a very long time for that restless, squirmy cat. We had her in to see the vet two days later, because she wasn’t eating and I was pretty sure it was a painful dental issue. I was wrong. It was a painful tumor in her lungs. We were given prednisone and a possible six months.

We spent the last two weeks carrying our once sassy (frankly bitchy and demanding) cat around (she was too unsteady to jump down from places she could jump up to), and coaxing food and water into her. She seemed to have some good days. It’s hard to say. She certainly had days full of love, spent in sunny windows on top of warm radiators and tucked into laps with toasty blankets. We don’t question whether it was the right thing, to say goodbye to our sweet kitten on Wednesday, but that doesn’t make letting go easy.

Sebastian’s urinary tract, unhappy with all the stress we’ve been under, developed an infection. Again. It wasn’t long ago that we were uncertain his health was sustainable, as we couldn’t seem to get him well (successive and stubborn UTI’s). Fingers crossed, he seems to be on the mend.

Speaking of “on the mend,” we had to have Petey in for a lumpectomy this morning. He had a cyst on his back that had previously seemed fatty and benign, but had become hard with larger nucleated cells than our vet was comfortable with. He came out of anesthesia okay, but he’s got a nice set of sutures to get healed in the next 10-14 days…which is a long time for a guy who plays so hard with his new gal-pal that he tears up his tummy skin. We’re hoping for good news on that pathology.

Red tummy courtesy of playing too hard in the pastures and woods; snuggling photo is with us this afternoon – you can see his shaved patch for his stitches on his back.

And, to add to the drama, I’ve had some wonderful – but stressful – photographic opportunities come my way in the midst of all this…literally this week. I shot some photos for a cell phone provider (should probably not discuss details), this month’s Traverse Magazine features one of my photos on the cover, and I a have a nature photography opportunity that’s still in the works (again, should probably not discuss details – but I think it’s a perfect fit, and I am thrilled with the potential).

So that’s where I’ve been. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. I have over 300 items in my feed-reader, so it might take me a while to get to your blog to check! If you’re inclined, leave me a comment and tell me the highlights. Or lowlights. Or just say hi ;)

Signs of the Season

For a few days in August (Or was it just earlier this month? I don’t remember.) the temperatures dropped into the 60’s, and I thought: Oh, it’s time for fall. I thought it was premature, but then I always feel that way, and I welcomed the seasonal change anyway. And then highs in the 90’s returned, and we’ve since been enjoying an extended summer.

Thankfully, the humidity has dropped back down within acceptable (Yep, I’m the judge of that, thankyouverymuch!) northern Michigan norms, and the mosquito population has died back some so outdoor exploration is less frustrating than it is early in the summer. Without much of a plan, Tony and I headed south yesterday afternoon to check out a state park in Interlochen that we’ve driven near dozens of times, yet never stopped to visit.

About half of the campground was closed, which we took as a mere suggestion since it seemed that only cars were blocked. We ducked under the yellow tape and wandered aimlessly under the oaks, hoping the breezes wouldn’t dislodge acorns onto our noggins.


Thanks to the summery weather, our trees are still mostly green, though a few are starting to display their autumnal plumage. Since Interlochen is a touch inland compared to on-the-bay Traverse City, we had hoped for a slightly advanced color season. We weren’t entirely disappointed.



After our meandering, we grabbed some dinner and then went in search of potential super moon eclipse viewing sites. I took a few pictures from the park in Greilickville, but by then the sky was getting too dark for the photos I had in mind, so I threw in the towel on that venture. Considering the lunar eclipse is officially underway, and the sky is completely clouded over, I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time discovering the perfect location. Here’s hoping your view is better :)


On August 2, several rounds of fierce summer storms swept through northern Michigan. We won’t talk about how I didn’t get out in time for the really awesome photos of one of the rounds of storms (not that I’m still upset about missing my opportunity or anything). Ninety mile-per-hour winds accompanied the last round that rolled through, with several notable downdrafts. The storm is reported to have been the worst one the area has seen in at least 25 years.

We got lucky, losing only a few small limbs off our trees, but nearby areas did not fare so well. Today, we decided to hike one of the still-closed trails, taking the signs as more of a “you can’t sue us if you get hurt” warning.

The trail started off mostly clear, though we could see huge sections of forest on either side that had been laid over by the winds. Soon, though, we came across more substantial devastation.


Not long thereafter, our trail was lost entirely to a labyrinth of trunks and branches. We scrabbled on for a bit – finally turning back after a minor mishap that separated group like we were in a scary movie. (We all made it back to the car safely, though not entirely unscathed.)

It is sobering to see the tops snapped off huge trees and to see so many uprooted. It’s haunting to see trees fractured near the base of their trunks, and to see the scrapes the trees collected as they crashed to their deaths amid their longstanding peers.

On a lighter note, just before we rejoined the trail, we came across a fledgling squirrel. The tiny thing wasn’t moving well enough to run away from us, but it didn’t seem hurt either. Petey was super curious, so we allowed him to approach slowly. He jumped back every time the baby squirrel twitched at all, but he gently sniffed it, and then we went on our way.


Whoever said pit bulls are inherently dangerous obviously never met this one.

Hiking Arcadia

Tony and I have always leaned toward the curmudgeonly side, opting for to bushwack our own roads rather than share one with the masses. It’s not that the masses are lesser; it’s that they are masses. Thus, living in Traverse City, we are more aware of the weekend crowds that gather to play in our northern Michigan playground, and we feel pressure to escape. Even popular outdoor destinations like the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park feel too busy on weekends, so yesterday we decided to aim for a sunset hike a bit south of our normal settings.

After an oddly frustrating drive down US-31, we parked at the Old Baldy Trailhead in the Arcadia Dunes Nature Preserve. We’d driven by the area a few times, but never stopped for a hike. We joined one car in the parking area, and other than footprints, saw no other signs of humanity on our outing. Masses averted ;)

The trail was well-marked, dotted with late summer wildflowers, and devoid of bugs – pretty much the best kind of trail. The mixed hardwoods had a lovely open forest floor, deeply darkened by a rich canopy. But we soon climbed a ridge leading over the dunes.

The packed sand gave way to loose sand as we rounded Old Baldy, an open dune perched 356-feet above Lake Michigan.

The sun shone through a hazy sky, painting the sand peach; a gentle breeze took the heat out of the climb; and the vistas made us feel tiny.

Because there wasn’t easy lake access, we decided to stop by the shore in Elberta so that Petey could get a drink and romp in the waves.
After the sunset in Elberta

The scope of the beauty that surrounds our days in northern Michigan sometimes leaves me breathless. Moving here five years ago was a good choice. I love calling this place home – even on “busy” weekends that encourage us to spread our wings a little.