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)

Finding a Happy Place – or Two

The busiest Up North weekend of the year has passed, and we have survived with our sanity in tact. Or what passes for sanity. Cherry Festival, which was all of last week in Traverse City, brings huge crowds of vacationers who are mostly well-behaved, if oblivious to other people sharing sidewalks. Independence Day, though, brings a much less well-behaved crowd right to our backyard on the Torch Lake sandbar. And by much less well-behaved I mean very poorly behaved, but I’m over being negative so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 😉

Anyway, like I said, we survived. Heck, we even prospered. It was hot (high 80s/low 90s) over the weekend, and since it’s the busiest one of the year, we decided to stay off the water – but not out of it. This is our fourth summer up here, and we’re glad to have spent so much time exploring our playground. This year, it meant that on a sunny, hot Saturday, we were able to stretch out on a large expanse of beach all by ourselves.

Because it’s my favorite time of year (you know, because it’s a season, and they’re all my favorites 😉 ), I walked about 15 miles this weekend in daily laps around the “block” getting in outdoors time. Tony’s recovering from a summer cold – he really doesn’t feel great – but he did join me a couple of times, sharing his phone-camera for the pastoral shot, and taking the lovely one of me. (That one’s just for you, Mom. That’s the goatsbeard/salsify I told you about while we were “walking” together.)

Thanks to the superb location of our friends’ new house (three blocks from the water!), we spent even more time on the beach right in Traverse City. They’ve discovered a sandy spit that’s perfect to splash through even as the sun dips low on the horizon. Just ask this dog, who fetched incessantly for well over an hour.

Or these fledgling geese (and also the ducks), who were obviously not playing with the dog…(The two right-most small pics are worth looking at bigger-er)

Or don’t play in the water. Just watch the passing boats like I did.

We relaxed on that little sandbar Saturday evening – not quite alone, but amazingly close to it – until after 11pm. We’d have left sooner, but if you looked closely at that last boat photo, you might have noticed the barge laden with explosives 🙂

Traverse City awaiting fireworks in lovely light
Traverse City before the fireworks

Gallery of but a subset of pictures I took Saturday night. Click for the rest (which I put into a separate blog post) if you’re interested –> fireworks pictures

Traverse City (and the Cherry Festival Midway) in the smoky aftermath
Traverse City after

I hope you found your happy place – even if it was simply on your couch – this weekend. We surely did!

Cherry Festival Fireworks

I am like a child when it comes to fireworks. Other things too, but right now we’re talking fireworks. I don’t love dealing with a crowd, but I will battle a horde for a good view of these sparkling wonders. In fact, we did just that on Independence Day, but were fortunate enough to find relative seclusion in which to celebrate the end of Cherry Festival. Which only seems fitting, because for me the Cherry Festival fireworks are the clearest friendliest way to usher visitors back home.

Without further ado, a slideshow of Saturday evening’s festivities. I posted them in the order they occur, so a couple of the shots kind of show the whole “life-cycle” of an explosion. Be a kid – enjoy 🙂

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Torch Lake Fireworks

Our friend Erith joined us for (too much) dinner tonight followed by fireworks over Torch Lake. We ended up making an impromptu trip down to the sandbar so that she could see the craziness. If you’re not from around here, allow me to paint the scene: Panama City Beach meets sleepy little collection of lakefront cottages. Did I say I would stop grousing? Okay, so I did. But I did not say for how long.

Anyway, we found spots to park our heinies at the ballpark on the east side of Torch Lake. Erith and I were a bit more excited to be there than Tony. So what if we’re like small children 😉

Our vantage point did not seem to be as good as last year’s, but that’s no big deal: we’ll be celebrating the end of Cherry Festival soon. It might not be as worthy for celebration as the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, but it’s a good cause nonetheless. Hope your 4th was terrific!

Welcome to the Fireworks Show!

10:30 pm last night marked an important even Up North: the (blessed) end of the 2012 Cherry Festival. Cherry Festival is a wonderful thing for Traverse City and the surrounding areas, at least as far as tourism goes. The events are generally wholesome, even if the midway food is not (which did NOT stop me from having both a funnel cake AND cotton candy!), and the carnival entertainment provides a good selection for those 32 inches through 32 years (and beyond). Plus, carnival workers were helping clean up the area today – unbidden – after the festivities, which I thoroughly appreciated (and joined in on). A+, Arnold Amusements! Continue reading