New Spaces in Old Places

After five years in northern Michigan, the Old Mission Peninsula and its lighthouse are familiar and well-loved places. We often drive along the shores of the peninsula when the weather is not ideal for getting out in – and sometimes even when it is. It’s idyllic, rolling farm country, and I feel at home there. (In fact, we nearly moved there when we relocated from Rapid City.) We’ve kayaked from a few spots on the east side, multiple times, and we’ve paddled out to Power Island farther south on the west side, but we had never put the boats in at the lighthouse. Until last night.

OMP kayaking-7

Ironically, we had set out with the intent to again paddle around the Old Mission Harbor at Haserot Beach, but with winds out of the east, there was more chop than we felt like fighting. We hadn’t unloaded the boats, so we decided to give the other side of the peninsula a try – if it didn’t look good, at least we’d be in time for a sunset.

Much calmer waters greeted us, and we tossed the kayaks and accoutrements in the water before the mosquitoes had time to feast. Though we had no plans upon arrival, we quickly set our sights on the north end of the islet that was almost directly in front of us. As we approached, the cacophony of bird-screech (decidedly different from birdsong) announced the tiny island as a rookery. Though we had no plans to do so, this underscored that we would not be disembarking for island exploration.

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The sun, which had been a showy and welcome presence, dipped below some hazy clouds taking its drama – but leaving a profound serenity. Not an altogether bad trade, I suppose.

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We paddled farther north as we returned to get a better angle on the lighthouse. I imagine other kayakers and boaters have seen the view before, but this was the first time I’ve seen the Mission Point Lighthouse from so far away. It’s even more quaint and tucked away than it seems from the beach.

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Various bugs – including climbing numbers of mosquitoes – increasingly visited, beseeching that we share our eyes, ears, or blood. Declining, we began the paddle back.

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As we neared shore, I paused (well, actually I circled a few times until I was lined up, and then I paused) to appreciate the simple beauty of a few boulders strewn under the water’s clear and shallow depths. Sometimes it’s the simplest scenes that leave the biggest impressions.
OMP kayaking-5

When the Sun Comes Calling

With over a hundred inches of snow for the season (and it’s snowing right now, and there’s more on the way…), we just haven’t had many sunny days. We’ve enjoyed peeks at the sun here and there, but the sun’s presence has been sparse. So when the clouds gave way to blue skies yesterday, we took advantage with a brief photo excursion up the Old Mission Peninsula with Jim and Jess.

None of us had seen the Traverse Bay frozen. Framed in ice, sure, but not frozen. Just ten days ago we were there, and water still flowed freely. Some of the deeper parts remain un-encased, but most of it is coated in a hard, candy icy shell. Frozen.
Frozen Bay Panorama
The nearby Clinch Marina hasn’t escaped winter’s chill, either. The boat slips are locked in place, and the railings are all varnished.

After ogling the marina and bay, we headed out of Traverse City and up OMP, where we stopped on the iconic overlook. From the top, you can see parts of the not-frozen East Bay, but all visible parts of West Bay are solid. Jess and I climbed the snowbank for our respective shots. I had my wide-angle lens in place: she had her zoom lens on. I’m interested to see our different compositions from the same place 🙂 (My photo courtesy of Jess!)

We continued our drive, thankful that we have such easy access to nature’s impressive beauty – even in the deepest of winters. We stopped by Haserot Beach for a couple of moments. A deep water harbor, it houses only a short and discombobulated ice shelf. The other side of the peninsula though, with its much shallower waters, is predictably frozen. Which you would think would lead to monotonous photos, but with the sun…

post-sunset over OMP

As the last of the day’s (colorful!!) light bled from the sky, we arrived at our dinner destination – hungry, but sated emotionally. Thank goodness for the recharging effects of solar power 😉
Post sunset over Power Island

Rewards and Traditions

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, to which I arrived early, and – would you believe this? – they  took me straight back! Everything went well, and then I was outta there. For my doctor’s speediness, I rewarded myself with a cuppa joe (decaf maple cinnamon latte, please) and a photo drive up the peninsula.

When the leaves have blown away from the inland trees, the vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula can be counted on for some cheerful last vestiges of color. Alas, the peninsula’s late-to-change-color leaves seem to have suffered this year – probably related to the recent snow. The drive was still beautiful, but ochers dominate where ambers normally do.

I hadn’t really intended to drive all the way to the tippy-top of the peninsula, but by the time I reached my destination vineyard, I was close. And I had finished that latte and needed a place to rest, if you catch my drift. A few visitors ambled around, enjoying the quiet repose. The lightest breeze breathed, barely stirring leaf litter and bay. I could have stayed much longer, but I remembered that I did have a job to return to.

But on such a pretty day (okay, the haze and clouds weren’t that great, but don’t tell Yesterday Me that), I couldn’t go straight home.
leaves hugging a barn
I had previously tried to photograph this barn, but wasn’t happy with the images. Try, try again, though. Yesterday, as I passed it on the way to the lighthouse park, I noticed a couple of bright red maple saplings – possible barn frames – and made a mental not to pull over on the way back by. I’m glad I tried again 🙂

Nearing Rapid City, instead of taking the usual way home, I took the back way in, over an almost unmaintained rutted sand road. A terrific decision – look at this county road splendor!
country road

And it doesn’t stop there. A logging operation has created this giant, reflection-filled puddle. Looking both up and down is advisable as well.

I did eventually return home and to work. Then, because it is going to rain all day today through Saturday, we left (after work) for what is becoming a traditional post-peak color hike at the Sand Lakes Quiet Area. I’m not sure what draws us there each year, but it always seems like a good place to go once the fall fireworks have petered out. Perhaps it’s just a tradition? Do you have places like that? Those that seem to draw you back, year after year?

PS – Happy Halloween!
PPS – I finally created a Facebook page just for photos. If you want to check it out, please do. 🙂

sand lakes
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Little Hikes and a Word about Gratitude

We’re getting our payback for late July/early August in northern Michigan. We endured about three weeks of cold temperatures then, but we’ve enjoyed truly wonderful fall weather so far this season. Today, it’s sunny, windy, and warm. Perfect for a walk later 🙂

spotlit shroom

Over the weekend, we had hoped to kayak the Platte River. The salmon are scrambling up the rivers on their annual spawning run, and we like to float above and watch the foray. Alas, though it was exceptionally pleasant, it was also windier than we’d have liked, so we opted for some local hikes instead.

Pyatt Lake

We meandered around the short trail at the Pyatt Lake natural area. It’s a decent place to wander around, but aside from the lake (pond?), there’s nothing too spectacular here. Well, except for that spot-lit mushroom above 😉

Next we headed on up the Old Mission Peninsula for the trails beyond Haserot Beach. The wild grapes have ripened, decorating the trail’s edge in gold, and the ivy and sumac are resplendent in red.

Click any image to embiggen. I’m partial to the bench.

All the normal early fall specimens dotted the pathside: yellow-veined red maple leaves, golden beech leaves, ochre grasses, wildflowers in a few hues of purple, and of course – an array of toadstools.

We only hiked a couple of miles (it was 80 degrees in the shade, and we were overdressed!), but I am so glad we have these areas around to explore. They don’t have to be anything special for me to find them special. Just that they exist for folks to unwind and renew is enough, because I use them for exactly that. And I am grateful that others – namely those who use and keep up the trails – value them, too.

Into the woods, and outta the woods…and home before dark!

My blogging friend Kathy (okay, so she’s a real person, too; we’ve met and I could just call her my friend now) recently posted a blog about being thankful for things. I figure I can’t ignore the serendipity of the timing – I had also just learned of a study supporting the idea that people who are appreciative are happier. Thus my moment of gratitude. I’m not going to set a schedule for my moments of appreciation/thankfulness, but I am going to try to pay it forward a bit, and be more consciously aware of the little things for which I ought to be happy. Feel free to join me. It should make you happy. 🙂

More Than Enough

After the austerity of winter, the abundance of spring is exuberant. The trees have sprouted baby leaves in various pastel pinks and greens, and some of the orchards have burst into bloom. Surrounded by the backdrop of the glittering bay and the warm, blue skies, the bounteous beauty is a little hard to believe. Continue reading