More Ice, More Exploring

There’s more snow above that mailbox than there is below.
laughable mailbox

Yep, that’s a lot of snow. Our inland lakes are frozen, with the snow on top forming drifts, and over half of Lake Michigan is frozen. Some days it seems like a featureless landscape, and fighting off ye olde seasonal affective disorder can be a chore. Normally, we’d just jaunt off to go skiing, but our schedules have been less flexible lately, and it has been cold. Thus, when the clouds part to reveal the blue sky they’ve been concealing, we go adventuring.

…And because it’s still winter in northern Michigan, sometimes the clouds swallow the sky right back up as we’re on our way for a hike. Too late, though; we were already on our way, so along we went, to the mouth of the Platte River. Our dearth of moving water meant that we appreciated the short stretches of exposed river wending its way into Lake Michigan’s icy expanses.

Tony, Petey and I meandered along the beach (there was sand to walk on in places – sand!) and then scampered out onto the near parts of the ice shelf for our weekend explorations. Occasional peeks of the sun added a touch of drama to the sky to compliment the ice formations.

After a bit, we headed south to check out the Pt. Betsie Lighthouse. We were there just before Christmas, reveling in the blue waters despite our constant grey skies. Yesterday revealed a different scene. Ice stretches nearly to the horizon; from the top of the dune, you can just make out a hint of open water.

It’s a surreal thing, absorbing the beauty and irony of a lighthouse perched above a giant frozen lake. This lighthouse is always a favorite, but I particularly love how the ice near the shore retains its characteristic teal color.

Not long after we left Pt. Betsie, lake effect snow again blew in, blotting out any color in the sky. With a projected high of 6F tomorrow, I am ever more grateful for the ability to take spontaneous refreshing, recharging trips on the weekend. I hope you’re recharged for the week ahead.

A Big Day with Little Temps

It seems like everywhere in the country was cold yesterday, including Texas and Hawaii. Here was no exception. Regardless of the 15-degree temps and 3-degree windchill (-9 and -16C), Petey still needed and wanted to walk, so I layered us both up, and off we went. I know it sounds pretty bad to many of you, but really, once we got going, we were plenty warm. Cold is still cold, though, and after an hour out walking in it, there was only one solution: Polish food.

Sunrays spill over Elk Lake
Elk Lake

We decided to make an afternoon of it, considering our favorite Polish place is a few miles up the road in Petoskey. Some light lake effect snow had blown in, creating dramatic skies and reasons to stop at multiple places along the coast for photos.

Barnes Park – bigger panorama here.

While I examined the ice shelf, Tony and Petey explored the beach. I hear Petey discovered a nice salmon skeleton. I thought about going to find it myself so I could show you, but my fingers had already broken off from the frostbite. You’re lucky it was so cold on the lakeshore. 😉

I had originally planned to photograph some Christmas lights in Petoskey during the blue hour, but those plans got dashed upon the icy rocks in Charlevoix. It was nearing sunset as we drove through town, and the low, broken clouds promised beauty.

The weatherman said that the winds were only blowing at 3-mph in Charlevoix, and I say that he obviously imbibed too much eggnog. As I shuffled my way around the icy pier, those brutal winds blew tears onto my cheeks. I’m just thankful they didn’t freeze on my eyelashes. And I’m thankful we waited – the sunset was pretty…even if I almost missed it while taking photos of the waves on the rocks, and Tony had to shout 10 times over the wind to get my attention about what was going on in the sky behind me 😉

After the brief show ended, we packed the shivering Petey and our chilly selves back into the car to continue the trek to dinner. Tony had goulash over potato dumplings, and I had a rueben fusion dish: pierogies covered with corned beef and sauerkraut, topped with melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing. I told you: it’s the perfect antidote to freezing weather!

After dinner, we strolled around Petoskey, pretending it wasn’t too cold for aimless traipsing. I grabbed a few shots of the lights in Petoskey, and then we grabbed some coffee before doing a bit of Christmas shopping on our way home.

Now that my fingers have grown back, I think we’re going to bundle up for another hike. The tundra isn’t going to take pictures of itself 😉


….On a side note, I entered this photo in a contest to be featured on the cover of Michigan Wine Country magazine. There are two contest winners: a judge’s choice and a people’s choice. Voting runs through the 20th, so if you’d like to cast a vote in my direction, I’ll take all the help I can get 🙂 You can vote daily if you’re feeling really generous!

A Running Hike on South Manitou Island

Sometime last summer, Tony and I created a list of things we wanted to do before the weather turned. Having the list helped focus some of our free time, but we didn’t cross all our items off, and so they popped back up on this year’s list. After living in northern Michigan through four summers, we finally ventured over to the Manitou Islands…specifically a day trip to South Manitou.

It’s a popular place, but only one ferry undertakes the voyage (about 15 miles direct…which is definitely not how we traveled), so it never gets too crowded. Or so I imagine. We did just make our first trip on the last day they do daytrips, so I could be making this up. But it stands to reason.

The boat ride lasts about an hour and a half, and while accommodations are Spartan, they’re also pretty comfortable. We faced into the wind for the majority of the trip, so incoming waves pounded the boat, eventually dousing the semi-interior carpets in a constant stream. It didn’t feel dangerous or daring – just amusing.

North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse – getting close to our destination

This sweet lady (in her 70’s) stood here the entire journey – thoroughly enjoying the crashing waters
lady who loves life

The lighthouse greeted us from afar, and soon we were within the calmer waters of the bay.
South Manitou Lighthouse

The lighthouse was high on our sight-seeing priority list, on the way to other list items, and close to where we disembarked, we headed there first. It is a lovely structure in beautiful condition, built in the mid 1800’s. Maybe next time we’ll climb inside.

We didn’t linger. With time slipping quickly by, we hopped onto the trail to the (by our reckoning) main attraction.

Canopied trail – typical of the island’s trails
canopied trail

One hour later, we arrived at the high bluffs overlooking the Francisco Morazan shipwreck. Carrying a motley cargo lineup, she ran ashore of the shoal November 29, 1960. All the crew escaped, and eventually some of the cargo was salvaged.

Zoomed-in panorama; click for more detail
Francisco Morazan shipwreck-2

Though the remains of the wreckage were supremely cool, they were also buffeted by large waves…and were also waaaay down a sandy bluff with no elevator back to the top. So, again we shouldered our packs, and rejoined the main trail continuing west to the perched sand dunes. Checking the time, we picked up the pace to avoid an accidental overnight stay.

The trail narrowed and then finally took an upward turn as we began the sandy ascent up the dunes. At the top of the first rise, we quickly decided it was imperative to keep climbing, but we were in a serious hurry. We tossed our packs down – gearless except for my trusty camera – and ran the rest of the way. Sweating, muscles burning, and out of breath, we marveled at the sights: 360-degrees of Lake Michigan along with a ghost forest and commanding views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes (back on the mainland), North Manitou Island, and the entirety of South Manitou.

Atop the perched dunes – North Island visible in the top photo, SBD in the bottom (click to embiggen)
North Manitou from South Manitou
Sleeping Bear Dunes from South Manitou
I’ll take a picture of you if you take a picture of me 😉

Vanity photos snapped, we recommenced our run. Truth be told, we quite enjoyed the descent.

Another time check revealed that we had about an hour and forty minutes to cover the trail that had taken us two hours on our way in. So of course, we forked off the main path to explore the old growth cedars. Once again, we found ourselves jogging up a steep rise. At least this time it was packed turf instead of shifting sands. The diversion was again worth the sweat. The cedars were Jurassic beasts.
Heather and giant white cedar

With no remaining checklist-sights to divert our attention, we made good time back en route to the dock – arriving early enough to enjoy some of the trail mix we had been packing.

While we had been gallivanting, the winds had kicked up and the lake was a mess of six-foot rolling swells. Again, not dangerous, but definitely a seasick concern. (We packed stomach-settling mint gum: crises averted!) Somewhere in the middle of the passage, we came across a tallship, bucking in the waves. I think even a tub of gum would have been ineffectual.

I definitely recommend checking out larger versions of the right two images

And as we neared the mainland, we savored the last views of some of our favorite hiking destinations – places we visit so that we can look out to where we were currently sitting 🙂

Different views of Pyramid Point

Back on land, we were exhausted (and gross), but eminently glad we had (finally) made the journey. Perhaps we won’t wait four summers to get back over there. And assuming that’s the case, perhaps we’ll even budget our time better!

Holy Cow, It’s July

We are halfway through 2013 – can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday I was whingeing about how it would never.warm.up and now tomorrow (perhaps today, depending on where/when you’re reading this) it’s July.

Since it was the last day of June, we got a late start. Okay, so we really got a late start because we never get up early and yesterday’s moving shenanigans took their toll on us. After tending to our trees and garden, we slowly prepared to meet the rest of the world, and ventured forth.

This guy just would not sit still for me

We didn’t know where we’d end up, but we decided our route would take us through Elk Rapids because we hadn’t been there in a while. Since I posted so many shots of the cherry trees in bloom, it only seemed fitting that I stop and check their progress.

They are loaded with fruit that’s not yet ripe

Elk Rapids was as lovely as ever. It’s such a quaint village and the beach there is one of my favorites in the area. We had planned on kayaking there today, but as you can see, it was a tad too windy.

Trying to avoid traffic from the Cherry Festival in Traverse City, we meandered north toward Charlevoix. We checked out some old favorite places that we hadn’t visited in a few seasons, and found a couple of new-to-us beaches, and generally enjoyed the countryside.

Eventually we found ourselves in Charlevoix – a coastal town that we’ve driven through dozens of times, but never really stopped. We’ve hit a couple places on the south side, and we’ve ridden the bike trail heading north, but we’ve always tried to get through the town as quickly as possible – not because it looked unpleasant, but because there’s one road that goes through town and it’s always, always busy.

But today we stopped. And we ate at a tasty Asian Fusion restaurant. And we walked out to the lighthouse and beach area. And then we walked under the drawbridge over to the marina where I was absolutely astonished. The marina – which holds a jaw-dropping collection of gargantuan yachts – was surrounded by an inviting park with a splash pad and an outdoor amphitheater. For a town that I (yes, judgmentally) thought was snooty, Charlevoix is pretty welcoming. Maybe we’ll make it back a time or two in the next half of the year 😉

The Eben Ice Caves and Blogging Buddies

After we found some measure of frozen waterfall success in Munising, we rolled west toward the Eben (like “Evan” with a “B”…I asked 😉 ) Ice Caves. The journey there proved much less perilous than our previous efforts, and the hike wasn’t too bad either. Continue reading