When the Beach Calls…

Some days – even cold, snowy, grey ones – the sand and water call. Their quiet serenity pleads, and eventually you listen. With no other plans etched on the calendar, we headed for Lake Michigan’s coast after lunch at a favorite place in Traverse City.

Roadside sights on the way – tall trees stand frosted while others are snowless;
roadside sights
A strip of corn remains in a harvested field
roadside sights-2

The day was positively balmy; temperatures hovered near freezing, and just the barest of breezes kissed our cheeks.
Empire beach

Empire beach-2

I was hoping for dramatic ice volcanoes on the edge of a shelf, but instead found a sedate beach ideal for long walks in gentle surf. We meandered down the shore, looking for – and finding! – natural sculptures. The winter beach doesn’t invite you to pull up a chair with a good book, but the sand and ice formations encourage quiet exploration, which is my favorite.

After walking a few lengths at the Empire Beach, we rolled south to the beach at Esch Road.


Welcome gate?
beach welcome

The ice volcanoes were still missing, but the beach holds other offerings. Incoming waves slightly undercut the frozen sand creating overhanging shelves, which occasionally break off in astonishing geometric shapes.

More dripping icicles under the sand shelves pretend to be stalactites, and balls of ice at the water’s edge taunt young pups.
beach offerings-8

My favorite thing about the Esch beach, though, is the mouth of Otter Creek, which must be a great place to play when it’s warmer. Perhaps one day I’ll find out.

The beach also boasts signs reminding visitors to keep their clothes on – not a problem on a December afternoon 😉
Esch Rd beach

Esch Rd beach-2

After lots of digging, we loaded back into the car and continued down the coast to Pt. Betsie.

Pt Betsie breakwall
Thanks to reliable splashing waves, the jagged breakwalls and plants below the lighthouse were draped in their usual winter finery

And the lighthouse itself? Absolutely beautiful. (With two Christmas trees lit up inside!)
Pt Betsie pano

With the Frankfort Lighthouse just down the road, we made the Pt. Betsie Lighthouse a short photo stop and then moved on. We got to Frankfort during the “blue hour,” which isn’t actually an hour at all, but is a short time of evening (when everything looks very blue) to take lovely medium-length exposures.

We would have explored longer, but these December days are brief, and night had fallen. I wanted to take photos of Frankfort’s Christmas lights, but apparently lots of the homes are empty this time of year. Instead, I contented myself with a shot looking down Frankfort’s decked street. Not bad, I say 😉
Frankfort street

Have I convinced you yet about the treasures of the winter beach?

a little bit of childhood that can never be lost

My dear, sweet, darling sister and her boyfriend drove over 400 miles north from Ohio last weekend to visit us. All right…so the “dear, sweet, darling” bit might be pushing it a little, but just a little 😉  We had a marvelous time. Probably the best we’ve had since we were little, getting The Look from Dad for giggling over dinner. Continue reading

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.