A Day in the Sun

I think everyone in the mid-to-northeastern portion of this country was looking forward to the “warm” temperatures expected on Saturday. Tony and I certainly were, so we planned a day of outdoor activities. We started out with a pre-lunch walk around Traverse City, and then headed over to the coast.

Petey was thrilled with that ball of ice

When we first arrived in Empire, a light snow was falling, and the skies were dull. But, it was in the 20’s (I think we got all the way up to 23F!), so I wasn’t complaining. I left Petey with Tony for a bit and struck off to areas best not to take him.

That tiny speck in the left photo is me. The right image features a pretty melt puddle

After about twenty minutes, we regrouped. And then the sun unexpectedly popped out. It was magical. I hopped back to a couple of my favorite views, and remade the images to stitch into panoramas.

Some pancake ice in front of Empire Bluffs
Empire Ice-2

A super cool iceberg, more pancake ice, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes
Empire Ice

The afternoon was wearing on, but the clouds continued to allow interludes of sunshine, so we decided to drive south of Empire for a bluff hike.

Empire Bluffs Trail-2

The trail is a local favorite, so despite having snow up to our hips, the path is well-worn and quite walkable without snowshoes. We passed several folks along the way – all smiling their appreciation for the gift of the moment. I looked up at one point at a couple of young kids trekking in our direction. I considered taking their photo, but didn’t. I immediately regretted the decision, when I heard one of the boys say our names to his friend. Completely by chance, we had run into our good friends out in the middle of nowhere, and their five-year-old recognized us before we did him!

Jim, Lisa, Jess. Little ones not pictured; they had better things to do ;)
chance friend meeting

After catching up for a few moments, Tony, Petey and I continued to the overlook. I have dozens of photos of this view, and I make more images with each visit. It’s a familiar view, yet it’s always surprising in its beauty and always different, if only subtly.

Empire Bluffs Overview

As we rounded the last curve, laughing at the guard fence buried in snow, the clouds again broke. Dramatic rays of sun spilled onto Lake Michigan, and I stood agape.

Eventually, I managed to contain my enthusiasm, and we began the journey back to the car. Like the view at the overlook, though we had just passed through, the woods was different – and so was I. After a confining bout of brutally cold weather, it’s impressive just how rejuvenating a few hours outside in the sun can be.
Empire Bluffs Trail

Taking Advantage

Temperatures were in the 20’s yesterday and today, so we took the chance to get out and explore. Since we have day jobs, we’re a bit limited on our mid-week options, but we are fortunate to have some hiking trails nearby. It snowed heavily on us today, so I left the camera at home, but yesterday the sun joined us (and so did the camera).

Tony and I have been working on Petey’s recall and calming down after major excitement. Happily, he hiked nearly five miles off leash yesterday with just a few minor incidents – both involving birds that he had no hope of catching. (Thankfully, he did not approach the coyote we saw at the end of our first hike. Instead, he walked contentedly behind me back on his leash.) We’re confident he’ll get his prey instinct under some kind of control – he just needs some training and patience. Which is to say we need patience.

Skegemog Petey-3

We’ve worked on behavioral modification in the past with great success. It wasn’t very long ago that we’d have to drag him out onto boardwalks and decking of any kind. It’s been worth the effort. I’m happy that his fears haven’t shrunk his world, and it’s wonderful seeing him not tremble as he steps foot onto these surfaces.

In addition to generally enjoying our outing, you can see that Petey practiced posing.
Skegemog Petey-6

He even practiced when I was simply trying to take pictures of the scenery sans-Petey. Clearly I missed the memo about the need for a Pete in every picture. “A Pete in Every Picture” sounds like a fundraising initiative, don’t you think? ;)
Skegemog Petey-7

Before the sun had entirely set, we trekked out onto the frozen expanses of Lake Skegemog. As always, Petey followed the path of a previous hiker. I made my own tracks. Not that I’m a trailblazer – it’s just easier to walk in fresh snow than the uneven footing of an obviously taller first hiker.
Skegemog Petey-8

That’ll be all from me for a few days. Friday is supposed to be in the teens, but otherwise we are expecting several days with single-digit highs. Brrrr!

Going Out Anyway

This was our weekend: grey and featureless.
winter

But with Saturday above freezing (barely) and today in the 20s, it was practically warm out. So even though it was kind of ugly, we went out anyway. We took Petey on a 3-mile off leash hike on Saturday, and I’m happy to report that it was almost entirely pain-free for me. At the very end I stepped over a snow bank and had a twinge, but I’m still counting it as a success. I’m sure it’s the tape; I’ve been doing my exercises diligently, but I don’t expect miracles overnight ;)

forked river

The hike yesterday wasn’t very picturesque, and good thing since I brought neither my camera nor my phone. Even so, the fresh air and movement was so good for my soul. Getting out again really takes that negative edge off things.

Rapid River bridge

More good news: the road crews sanded/salted our road the other day, but we’ve had enough fresh snow to dilute it, so Petey and I enjoyed a good walk this morning. It’s my favorite way to start the day, and as long as his feet don’t hurt, it’s Petey’s favorite too.

And since the temperature was still so temperate this afternoon (18F), Tony and I drove over the hill down to the river – to Seven Bridges Natural Area we go’ed. Okay, I’ll stop singing now ;) Despite the flat lighting, I took my camera and tripod and made some new images while Tony and Petey meandered. I’m feeling revitalized and ready for the week, which is good, because ready-or-not-here-it-comes!
bridge over Rapid River


Since people so often comment on how majestic Petey looks, I figure I’ll share this dorky photo that I posted on FB on Friday. This little nerd prays at the altar of the fireplace god until he’s so hot that he pants. Does he get up because he is hot? He does not. Mostly, he just pants with his goofy smiley face on.

I hope your week is so good that it makes you smile like this guy:
IMG_1875

Rediscovering Skegemog

On the last day in November, Tony and I took Petey on a hike at the south end of Lake Skegemog. We had been fairly recently, but the boardwalk was underwater, so we turned back before we got to the viewing platform. After that trip, we decided this one we’d just stick to the old railroad bed. Back in 2010, we discovered a pretty little spot on the lake, and were sure this was the way to get there.As the sky darkened – no sunset this night – we figured we must’ve been mistaken. We did find this cool place, though, and had a nice walk so we were content.

Fast forward to today. Prior to this weekend, the sun’s presence has been scarce in northern Michigan. But we’ve had a fair amount lately, and all day today, the sun shone, begging me to join her outdoors. I finally did late this afternoon.

And wandering around the yard – despite the lovely dripping icicles – just did not satisfy. I consulted The Oracle (google) and her maps, and we set off for what I was sure was our previously discovered paradise on Skegemog.

Unsure of our distance, but sure that we only had about one hour of acceptable hiking light, we struck off at a decent pace. The trek follows a fairly wide, level trail through tall cedars and other evergreens. The path looks tangly, but it isn’t.
evergreen trail in

We arrived to the lake’s edge right at sunset. The southern end is frozen. I’m not sure how thick the ice is. It is both strong enough to support rabbits, as is evidenced by their tracks across the ice, and weak enough that experimentally adding weight (don’t worry – it was only inches deep where I was, and I was supported by one leg on solid ground!) causes interesting/eerie noises along the cracks as the force is distributed across the surface.


We stayed as late as we dared, knowing that we had about 1.5 miles to hike back out.

It wasn’t as dark as they look. I severely underexposed those shots because I liked the way the grasses appeared as silhouettes against that beautiful sky gradient. But, the light was quickly dimming down in the canopy. By the time we arrived back at the car, houses had their outdoor lights on.
dark hike out

We arrived home under the very last light of the sun, and to the glow of our neighbors’ Christmas-y house.

Thanksgiving {Hiking} Traditions

For the second year in a row, in the spirit of starting traditions, Tony and I took Petey for a hike at the Sleeping Bear Dunes as a family Thanksgiving outing.
empty snowy trail

We walked from the parking lot at the entrance to the Scenic Drive, and hiked the snowy road in to a few overlooks.
Empire Bluffs

The Dunes always offer spectacular views and a place to be engulfed by nature. I couldn’t pick a favorite season for a visit, but I love how the park feels absolutely silent in the winter. They close the scenic road to vehicle traffic, and a carpet of snow hushes any wayward echoes. The quietude is splendid.
desolate dunes

As you near the lake, though, the tranquility doesn’t last. In fact, being perched atop 450-foot sand dunes facing incoming gusts, the wind screams in your face, tears at your clothes, and flings sand in your eyes.

We stayed out on the precipice long enough for me to run to the very top of dunes to grab this shot of a lake effect spotlight on the Empire bluffs, and then we jogged back to the relative warmth of the tree cover.
Empire-Bluffs-Spotlight-blog

Lest you think it sounds too cold or inhospitable, I will say that 4+ miles of trekking in the snow keeps you warm. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
so cold its hot

We got back to the car shortly before sunset, and decided to hop over to the Glen Haven Cannery (a few miles west). I was going to take a shot of the pilings there, but alas, they are covered by the higher lake levels. I can’t decide if I wish we’d just stayed or skipped the detour altogether, because on our way back home just minutes later, the sky did this.
glowy-sunset

We pulled over at a random spot between Glen Haven and Empire, because we knew the moment would be fleeting, and I am a photo addict. It wasn’t as short-lived as the lake effect spotlight, but gosh that glowy sunset burned out quickly!

To top off an already wonderful day, we arrived home to find that our neighbors had lit their home and fence. Let the twinkly lights photos commence!
lit fence