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 :)

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.

Shipwrecking again

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (thanks to all “old” and “new” followers, by the way!!), then you’ve visited this shipwreck with me a couple of times. If you’re new here, then you’re in for a treat. Well, either way I still think you’re in for a treat; this is one of my favorite hikes in my neighborhood :) Continue reading

Unsafe Structure Exploration in Frankfort

Rolling out of bed at noon is a pretty strong indicator for an unproductive day…which is exactly what happened today. Except for that unproductive part. We had the Cliftons out last night for a slumber party. We are adults and can behave like children if we want, thankyouverymuch :).¬† Last night was our best viewing opportunity for the 2012 Perseids, and we did not intend to squander our chance like we did last year. Continue reading

How to have a good time Up North

Well, for starters, try to have an aunt and uncle who like to take you on adventures and encourage you to do things that might otherwise scare you. And then, do those things with said aunt and uncle. Anyone you love will do, in a pinch ;) Continue reading