Fall Vingnettes

Warm sunshine, cool shadows and crisp breezes. A perfect day for Sunday driving. Apologies in advance for those with slow connections. Hopefully you’ll pardon my overzealous picture-posting (18 this time) if I tell you that this is only 10% of what I took today. *Sheepish grin*

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Spring Serendipity

If my last post centered on an idyllic Spring day, this post focuses on a downright irascible one.  To wit: yesterday we had highs in the low 40’s (well below average) and continuous soaking rain, promptly followed by a high-wind advisory lasting until 11pm tonight.  Today’s forecast wasn’t much of an improvement over yesterday’s; instead of 70% chance of showers, we were looking forward to 40% chance of snow/rain showers.  Yay!  Most sensible folks, I’m sure, made plans to spend the weekend indoors.  While I’ve occasionally been accused of being sensible, I’ve more frequently been accused of being hard-headed and even cantankerous.  So, did we stay inside?  Absolutely not.  High winds from the west?  To the Dunes we go!  And to Manistee, for good pizza!

We woke up to snow on the ground (See what I mean?  Surly weather indeed!) and clouds in the air.  But Spring is ever fickle, and by the time we arrived in Empire, the skies had cleared and the waves were spectacular.  While I might not feel safe venturing out into the Big Lake on a day like this, the water’s siren-song is never more beautiful or enticing.

Looking north to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, where theres a snow shower striking

Looking northwest toward South Manitou Island (and Wisconsin)

Looking forward to summer 😉

After a good sandblasting (you would not believe all the places I’ve found sand…and I was bundled up in my ski coat!), we headed for the Dune drive, which has been closed since the beginning of Winter.  Luck held momentarily, and the super-nice lady at the gate welcomed us happily.  We stopped at several overlooks where capricious Mama Nature dealt us a mixed hand:

Sunny overlook

Blowing snow and sand, about two minutes later

North Bar Lake, buried in snow...probably another two minutes later

Departing snow storm, five minutes later?

Sun-lit cute flower. But no morels...I checked 😉

South of the Dunes, the immense gravitational pull of Pt. Betsie pulled us in, which was awesome since the sun was back out.  If you’ve looked at some of the preceding pictures and decided it didn’t look that cold (spoken like a northerner!), you’ll soon change your mind:

Crystal Lake thru an Aspen (across the road from Pt. Betsie). Weve already discussed how much I love these trees, so Im sure youre not surprised to see another one

Something windy (wintry?) this way comes

Ahhh...the cause of the ice

Nearing dinner time, and Manistee, we decide to eat first and beach later.  After all, we’ve got a good 2 hours before the lighting conditions deteriorate, it’s already completely gray out, and we don’t want to miss pizza.  By the way, if you’re ever in the area, you have to get a Chicago pizza from Big Al’s in Manistee.  Tony’s still full and we brought home half the pizza.  But I digress.  Onward, to the Manistee Lighthouse:

Lake Michigan through the dunes on Manistees 5th Avenue Beach. Which I should mention that you cannot actually access from 5th Avenue. Go figure.

From the beach to the north

Nearing the lighthouse on the pier

Nice splash! (compliments - sans snarks - of Tony, who also took the sandblasted tree and iced tree photos above)

Our temperamental Spring day finished up with a large, bright full moon. (Aside: we watched this incredible moon become clouded over to a soundtrack of Agalloch, compliments of Jim C.  A perfect fit, and if you are at all interested in atmospheric metal, you should check it out.  Check them out even if you don’t think you’re into that kind of thing 🙂 )  Which you’ll just have to imagine, because the pictures didn’t come out.  Some things you have to experience without a lens.

Fall Phantasmagoria

I’ve been saying for a while to await fall pictures, that I’d travel around with my trusty camera to capture autumn’s beauty.  Well, I wasn’t lying, so sit back and let the slide show load.  It has 25 of my favorite fall pictures, in no particular order.  Some of the pics are from the very beginning of October, when Tony’s mommy and daddy were in.  Others are from a random trek I took through Kalkaska and Antrim counties.  Still others are from a fall color tour Tony and I took yesterday, through inland northern Michigan over to the coast in Manistee.  And the remains are from our kayak trip out on Torch Lake today.  I won’t guarantee any more fall pictures, but don’t be surprised if I post edition 2 of this blog.  We seem to be at just the right distance from the trees to really enjoy their color, and frankly, it’s distracting to try to drive down the highway with all the fall diversions!  Enjoy!

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Summer Visitations

When you live in a cool place that isn’t co-located with your friends and family, those same people tend to come visit in the summers.  For the past few years, this migration of friends and family to our home has, more than the end of the school year, marked the arrival of summer.  It’s been a fairly constant stream of people coming and us going for the last month, and that makes it difficult to keep up with this.  Alas, it was my idea, and I shant whine.  Regardless, here’s what’s been going on during my blogging hiatus:

Meg came to visit.  Yay!  We’ve been really good friends with Meg since we lived in Miami.  It’s kind of a miracle we ever became friends, and to some extent, it’s a bit of a miracle that we remain friends.  You see, Meg is unlikeable.  No, that’s not true.  What is true though, is that Meg is as nomadic as we are.  However, whereas we tend to stick to the I-75 corridor (from Canada to Cuba…), Meg makes giant moves.  Like from Maine to Maui.  So when we get to see Meg, it’s special.  We took a brief tour of the “neighborhood,” and stopped in Elk Rapids to throw rocks into the lake.  Throwing rocks is an objective any time we are near the water, and the rocks in this area must have been preordained for the purpose of skipping.  If you don’t believe me, come visit!

Meg throwing rocks into the lake...perhaps even skipping them!

The weather cooperated quite nicely during Meg’s visit, and we got to take a canoe trip down the crystal clear Platte River.  We spotted many large fish during our journey, which for some reason is always a highlight of any water outing for me!  I always look for them, and am delighted when I see them.  When I do not, I declare that there must not be any fish in the water, because if so, you’d be able to see them!  I think that seeking out fish in some way fulfills my mushroom hunting addiction…

Canoe trip down the busy, but beautiful Platte

We also took a few hikes, including one through a nice hardwood forest to an enchanting Lake Michigan overlook, one through Skegemog swamp for a nice sunset, and one along the majestic Manistee River.

This hardwood forest looks like a "good ridge." I think Mom would agree 🙂

View of Lake Michigan from the hike

An epic Skegemog sunset

Meg spied these Showy Lady Slippers on our way back from the swamp

Glorious view of the Manistee

And what trip Up North is complete without a stop at Torch Lake?  We went, we saw, we swam.  But only briefly, because the lake is cold!  There are fish cribs up near our entry point, and I was determined to find them.  But the sky clouded over, and Tony and Meg backed out on our snorkel trip.  Not to worry though: Meg brought my snorkel gear to me in exchange for me not cajoling her into getting back in.  Not to be outdone, though, she suited up too, and we took off.   (“Teamwork.  Keeping our employees gruntled.”  I digress…) Turns out determination is not enough to find the mysterious old pier supports.  I will find them, though!

It really wasn't that bad, once you got used to it...

Meg left on Wednesday; Tony’s parents and grandparents arrived Friday.  I did my best to help them all on their heart-healthy, waistband-friendly diets.  Just ask them 🙂  Our happy half-dozen piled into Mamaw and Papaw’s Envoy for a jaunt up to the Old Mission lighthouse.  The Blond Chic, Phil, Tony and I waded around in the warm shallow water for a bit, which was a nice change of pace from Torch’s cooler temps.

View of the lighthouse, obviously from my perch in the water...

And, since this is the cherry capitol, we stopped at a little roadside stand to buy some washed, sweet cherries.  (I only say this because all the signs indicate the cleanliness of the cherries…)

Old Mission fruit (and syrup) stand

You might think from looking at the pictures that Phil was really excited about the fruit.  What you can’t see, though, is the sign by the road that says Pure Michigan Maple Syrup.  (No, Papaw, I still haven’t figured out how they harvest it from pines!)  Apparently, maple syrup is best taken in shots directly from the bottle. From Old Mission Peninsula, we headed over to the dunes, which I cannot wait to sled down.

Who knew a sand dune could be such a cliff??

This picture looks down one of the bluffs to Lake Michigan…not one I want to sled down.  A nearby sign indicates the drop is 450 feet.  There are a couple of people all the way at the bottom, and if you squint just right, you may be able to see them.  We didn’t join them.

Video gaming family fun (she's playing Trials) after our excursions

Before Meg got here, we bought a couple kayaks from a nice couple that we found through Craigslist.  I say they’re a nice couple, because they sold us their kayaks, and that made us happy 🙂  We didn’t get a chance to take them out until Sunday evening.  It had rained intermittently all day, but we were resolute about getting in them.  I guess that’s all it took, because the clouds parted, and the birds sang.  Of course we went on Torch Lake.  We had a great time…so great, in fact, that we left the kayak racks on so that we could go again Monday.  We didn’t, because it was cold and windy.  So, we made plans to go today.  We didn’t, because it was cold and windy.  We hope to go tomorrow.  We plan to go early, so that though it will likely be cold, hopefully it won’t be windy.

Floating above our favorite inland lake

In the event that it is both (cold and windy), we can always drive around for happy sites or forage for food, both of which we have done the past two days!

Wild blueberries...smaller, but very full of flavor. My students might say they are hypertonic compared to their marketed cousins. *groan*

Smiley barns...they work for me!

Saw this in Bellaire and it demanded to be photgraphed

Clearly for us, then, summer is here.  Tony’s family has departed, and we await my mom, sister, and nephews for the upcoming weekend and following week.  I’m looking forward to all of it.  And the fall, too 😉

Rainy Day Recon

It rained lightly for most of the afternoon, but I can’t complain too much.  The whole region has had a bit of a drought, and frankly I don’t want to burn my woods (or house!) down when I get around to burning some brush we’ve cleared.  Determined not to waste some free time, we headed out after Tony was done working early this evening to scope out some places to go and take people when the weather is more cooperative.  After reading this blog, we drove west to check out some Platte River access.  Indeed, the section of river upstream of Platte Lake is swift and loggy.  I’m not sure I’d canoe it, but it looks fun for kayaking!

Now that I know what they are, I feel compelled to include one more shot of the flowers.  In case you missed it, and don’t already know, they are Forget-Me-Nots.  And I love them.  Especially when I can get a nice macro shot with the river in the background!

We came across these beautiful shelf fungi in the state forest campground.  While there, speculating on how mushroom-y the woods looked, it occurred to me that I evaluate all forests in this way.  That looks like a good ridge! I don’t know that I’d eat these mushrooms (if I could identify them as edible and tasty, I would…just to be clear), but the slugs were chowing down.

Being interested in a trip we might actually take in the upcoming week, we took off in the trusty GTI and located the canoeable section of water.  It’s still pretty quick.  The water is surprisingly clear, even for here, and very inviting.  We watched some kayakers dive into the river near its delta, and I would have been tempted, too, if it had been warmer or even just sunny.  As things were, I was just impressed by the natural beauty.

Doesn't it look like an ad? It also LOOKS clean. The Shawlers might guess that it isn't, really.

Being road trip masters, we took the long way home, and came across this little guy shortly after leaving the Lake Michigan shoreline.  It was big enough that I knew it wasn’t a squirrel (there are black ones up here, in case you didn’t know…look for future posts, because I think the rodents are adorable!), and it wasn’t walking like a cat or raccoon.  Then I remembered: we have porcupines up here!

The long road home was aimed at letting us check out a dam on the Manistee River.  We got there at about 9:30, with enough light to see that the dam does in fact seem to hold water.  There are a lot of steps down, but it was worth the effort.

I’m not sure that we’ll spend much time at the dam, but we’ll probably check it out again later in the year.  However, I bet we’ll spend more time a bit more downstream, below Tippy Dam.  The salmon run there in the in fall:)  Currently, I’m most looking forward to the Platte and Lake Michigan beyond.