There’s No Place Like Home

We spent most of the first week of March in the Atlanta area officially getting in some face time “in the office.”  Unofficially – and the best reason, as far as I’m concerned (and since I’m the author here, my opinion is the only one that matters…) – we were catching up with friends.  We had a great time; Abigail and Jackson were being impossibly cute and sweet and generally awesome, which they usually are.  I still don’t want one, but I certainly wouldn’t complain about having more chances to shake up and return my friends’ (and brother’s and sister’s) children!  I also wouldn’t complain about having more time with my friends south of the Mason-Dixon, but it doesn’t seem likely, considering that we live above the 45th parallel.  Nonetheless, we had lots of good conversation – and food!  I’m not stepping on the scale to check, but I’m sure I gained some weight over the week.  Ably Asian, Chick-fil-A (twice), Marietta Diner, Canoe, Krispy Kreme.  It wasn’t all top-notch, Top Chef-type food, but it was all delicious!

Atlanta and Ellijay were enjoying sublime spring weather (minus the Saturday morning rain, which I can forgive since it didn’t delay my flight), so it was quite jarring to step off the plane in Flint to fresh snow and considerable winds.  We were supposed to get up to 2″ of snow Friday-Saturday, but it looked a lot more like 6-8″.  The roads were clear, and our spring is still a few weeks away, so I was pleased with the additional accumulation; the trees were heavily frosted and mesmerizing the last hour of our drive.  I thought I might be pining for the warmer temperatures and fresh-sprouting greens of spring, but I’m not.

We woke (after a glorious, much-needed night of sleep) to unblemished blue skies, and of course the fresh snow.  After lunch, we embarked upon our day’s adventures on the Leelanau Peninsula.  Our first stop was at Hendryx beach – a location new to us – and ventured out onto the ice shelf.  Close to the shore, the scene was almost silent.  The air was still, only a single swan for company (there were a couple ladies there when we arrived, but I think we scared them off), and no road traffic.  After realizing we were over very shallow water, we did what Mom would have once chastised me for, and got close to the edge.  Then we heard what sounded for all the world like hundreds of peeping baby birds.  It took us a few minutes, but after some ice shelf exploration, we discovered the noise was coming from the friction of the broken ice sheets floating on the water next to us.  Somehow, the tableau was even more serene when punctuated by the music of the clamorous ice than with soundless stillness. [Click any pictures for a larger version.]

After my fingers were thoroughly frozen (winter temperatures + no gloves + lots of pictures = cold fingers), we left the beach (ha!) to see what else we could find.  The findings turned out to be some interesting striations in the ice on some small bay.  Also, some other pretties:

Leaving the roadside distraction behind, we rounded the tip of the peninsula only to arrive at South Beach.  (Channeling Dave Barry: )I am not making this up.  I have a picture, but decided it was not picturesque enough to deserve an online presence.  South Beach was resplendent with sun, surf and sand, or at least sandy ice.  Unlike the other side of the peninsula, which was in what I’ll call the wind shadow, this side was squarely facing it.  (Head on: apply directly to the forehead.) The mixed sand-and-ice shelf was fissured in places from the recent freeze-and-thaw cycles, but the ducks were impervious.  Or maybe just bird-brained (teehee).  Regardless, it was cold, slippery, and absolutely stunning:

Continuing south, we stopped just north of the Dunes in Glen Haven at a restored historic village.  I took a picture of the cannery building, because the colors were a study in juxtaposition, but I don’t love it.  I put it up anyway, so don’t judge it too harshly.  We found something we did love though: remains of an old, large pier.  We’ll be back, and I’ll post pictures from underwater when we do.)  In the meantime, these will have to suffice:

We were so close to the Dunes, that their immense gravitational field pulled us in.  I was compelled to do the climb (Tony was not inclined likewise), and I’ll admit that it’s more fun in the summer when you sink down with each bouncy stride down the steep grade.  The sand was quite crunchy, and I was glad not to have fallen.

If the home is where the heart is, surely northern Michigan is home.  It’s good to be back.

See? They really *do* look awesome in the snow.


Winter WOW!Fest

View of the bay through a chairlift at Mt. Holiday

I started this blog to keep in touch with the people who may be interested (or at least feign interest) in what we’ve been up to since we moved Up North.  If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve made it difficult for you to maintain said title.  It turns out that our “adventures” are more varied and frequent in the warmer months.  To be sure, we’ve adventured this winter: we’ve sledded, snow-shoed, skied, and we’ve done LOTS of deep-snow driving.  Since we’ve only been downhill skiing this winter, I haven’t carried along my trusty camera to take pictures of the bay from Mt. Holiday or of the rolling hills surrounding Shanty Creek.  Rest assured that we’ve adventured; we just have not photo-journalized aforementioned adventures.  So my point is this: I was going to write a blog tonight (no coincidence that it’s the last night in the month!) telling you about some of our skiing forays, but have decided instead to highlight a few things I love about being here.


We get epic icicles that dangle precariously outside our upstairs bathroom south-facing window.  In the winter this means that occasionally I get to see the sun set through the ice.  Seeing an icicle is like beholding a moment suspended in time.  Look – you’ll see what I mean (click any image…anywhere on my blog…for a larger version):

Winter scenes.

With the frequent lake effect snows and preponderance of evergreens, we often have snow-encrusted trees.

After living in Coosawattee, you’d think we’d be just about deered out, but fluffy winter deer are different.  At least to my sensibilities.  I love seeing deer cozied up under some trees or snarfing up whatever greens they can out from under a couple feet of snow.

After about the middle of December, brave (crazy?) souls cart out ice fishing shanties to perch atop frozen lakes to fish for what I presume to be fish sticks. (I don’t really; check here for a good local-to-me ice fishing story.) I wonder at these people who drive four-wheelers and snow mobiles over the ice.  I’ve been nearby when they’ve done it.  I’ve even walked on an ice shelf and a frozen lake, but I like to think I’d be able to hear it crack and run for terra firma.  So, I revel in the evidence that I am saner than someone, at least.  Also, it’s quaint and it makes me smile.  But then, snowmobilers and their tracks make me smile in general, because I know that they’re having good, clean fun (in the moral, old-fashioned sense…not the ecological one).



People everywhere have their special festivities (the Corn Festival and Apple Festival spring to mind), but people here just find an excuse to celebrate.  Sometimes I think they just borrow reasons to celebrate;  I’m not sure a month has passed here without some kind of contrivance to get folks out-of-doors.  This is good, because it gives me things to get out and do in mid-February, instead of sulking inside whining about excessive snow-melt and less-than-excellent ski conditions.

This month’s celebration, which will come as no surprise if you use your context clues, was the Winter WOW!Fest. (Well, let’s make that one of this month’s celebrations…there were at least three more good ones, but I digress.)  If you’re interested in all the festivities, you can peruse the official site, but we went mainly to check out the sculptures and the “Soup’r Bowl.”  Local businesses supported the festival and were honored with ice sculptures.  Teams of snow sculpters competed in a carving competition.  Twelve local restaurants entered soups into a taste-testing event.  Tony’s favorite was Bubba’s Black Diamond Asparagus, a cream-based soup, but mine was Soul Hole’s Crawfish Chowder.  So, next time you’re cooking for us, you’ll know what to make 😉

Considering that more of the snow-pack melted than I would’ve preferred, only to be followed by brutally windy 20-degree high days, the festival worked well to drag us outside.  Plus, I got an elephant ear 🙂

Things I thought you might like:

There were well over twenty ice sculptures, and I took pictures of almost all of them, but I spared you, and only posted my favorites:

And last, the snow sculptures.  I’m not sure which won, and I’d have a hard time choosing.  Tony’s favorites were the snake – for the idea – and the second fish – for execution.  I really liked the detail on the squirrel, but I loved the last one I posted for its concept (last four pics).

I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello

Fall is the season for goodbyes. The tourists have pretty much all dried up and blown away home.  The leaves on the trees are starting to change color in earnest and will soon drift down from their lofty perches.  Boats have been moved from their dockside abodes into shrink-wrapped storage.  But fall isn’t all goodbyes; apples are ripe and delicious, the salmon are making their yearly spawning runs, and fall flowers abound.   And that’s what I’ve got for you.  Tony and I have been planning an underwater adventure, but the weather keeps not cooperating.

See? This is entirely too much surf in which to be exploring around old piers looking for fish.

Instead, we took a drive up north yesterday, following the coast pretty much constantly from Charlevoix to Wilderness State Park, outside Mackinaw City.

The Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas.

Along the way we discovered a bakery in Petoskey that has fantastic pumpkin donuts and blueberry scones, and a cute antique/consignment store in which we window shopped.  North of Harbor Springs, the road narrows to one windy lane and meanders through a lightly crenulated landscape. In my mind, it was quite Kentucky-esque.

I see silos like this all over northern Michigan. I love them!

As I mentioned, the fall flowers are in full bloom, so naturally I took pictures.

An unspecified yellow flower

Unopened milkweed

I think milkweed seeds could make a nice down alternative...

Another unspecified, but cool - and fuzzy - plant

Some berries. Also unspecified.

Burning bush. Not a great composition, but the color is admirable!

Some kind of thistle

Beachy goldenrod

Purple aster

And not surprisingly, you can see the lake in the background of each of those pictures if you look carefully 🙂  For many of you it is still quite summery out.  For us, fall has arrived, and I welcome it happily.  For now.

One more, for the road:

Us on a dolomite glacial boulder. For those of you wondering why Tony looks SO cool (I of you), it's because his not visible t-shirt has Strong Bad on it.

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 😉