Trail Time

The arrival of fall brings a touch of melancholy – we hardly had summer, I’m not ready for the cold, and I’m going to miss the long days – but it also brings the blessing of fewer biting bugs, which means more trail time.

dog watching

Last weekend we had Tony’s entire family stay with us. Okay, not his entire family, but his grandparents, mom, niece, aunt, and cousin. Before that – last time we chatted – we had visited the Sand Lakes. Last time we were there was in May; the place looks remarkably different now.

Click to embiggen:

Sand Lakes marl pano

Sand Lakes - clear water and marl

Note the swimming pine trees and soggy trails. If you click for a larger view, you can see minnows schooling on the formerly dry path.

Even with all the rain (I tried to track down the numbers…to no avail. If you know of a reliable resource, please share 🙂 ), the high ground stays pretty dry. This means places like Hickory Meadows in Traverse City are open for a visit after dinner. Or before. Cooler temps make it pleasant just about any time with the right layers.

And tonight we even ventured back into the Skegemog Swamp. Last time – in June? – we high-tailed it outta there because of marauding mosquitoes. Tonight only a couple chased and chewed.

We made it most of the way to the viewing platform before abandoning the trek. Excess water builds up in the wetlands, too, overtaking the boardwalk. :-/

Petey looks for whatever’s making the squishing sound each time we step

Happy to have made it as far as we did, we turned around with no complaints. Except maybe one: Where’s my apple cider? 😉

{Unrelated} – Petey at “camp,” because I’ve been promising Graham I’d share the love. 🙂

Quick Trip to the Sand Lakes

This evening after work and dinner, Tony, Petey and I dropped by the Sand Lakes Quiet Area for a short hike. Petey had never been, and it’s been since October that Tony and I were there. The North Country Trail runs through the area, so if we wanted to, we could park the car and then just hike for days and days. Mother Nature hasn’t decided to just let it warm up already, so we only walked to the closest lake – “Sand Lake 1.” Creative, I know.

Sand Lake 1

Aside from a few rounds in the back yard, Petey has been an on-leash boy. He has trekked many, many miles with us at this point, but he’s still a pup so we haven’t pushed it. Tonight, ours was the only car in the lot in a very remote location, so we tied his leash up to his pack to see how he’d do. He wasn’t perfect – he seems a bit deaf to “Petey, come!” if something smells good – but he did pretty well. We’re proud “parents.”
He stayed near, resisted the (strong) urge to chase little critters that flitted away, and waited patiently for us at any forks in the trail. Accordingly, he got lots of treat nibbles and the chance to flex his developing (haha!) jaw muscles while racing after and chewing sticks.

I was hoping to see a wildflower to two, but I had to settle for fall’s remnants.
Wildflower remains
And since spring is tardy to the Sand Lakes, I sated my desire for greenery in the extensive variety of mosses (and lichen) strewn about.

As the sun waned, and whatever passed for warmth ebbed out of the day, we decided not to linger. We plied the Petey-Puppy away from the lake and its smells with the promise of a delicious stick, and headed back. Many tosses later, we neared the car with a tired, happy dog. Not a bad way to wrap up a Monday! I hope your week’s off to a good start, too 🙂


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
sand lakes-2

A Quiet Moment at Sand Lakes

barbed fencerow

Summer seems to be on a faster time stream than the other seasons. We won’t talk about how much remains, because really it depends on what September chooses to do, but I just feel like the days are flying by. It could also just be that I’m getting older. Either way – faster time stream…aging blogger – we’re trying to squeeze in as many summer activities as possible.

Tonight after dinner, we relaxed under clear skies in the backyard for a while discussing what to do with the remaining daylight. Inspiration struck, and off we bounded for the Sand Lakes Quiet Area – a place we haven’t visited since…well, I don’t know when. Over weekends in the summer, Sand Lakes is a popular camping destination, but tonight the trailhead held only one other vehicle.

We spritzed on some bug spray and headed down the trail – an easy half-mile descent on a smooth, wide path. As an added bonus, the woods on either side of the trail is littered with wild blueberries. Though most of the low bushes had already been stripped of their fruit, I found a few lingering berries to enjoy.

As part of the North Country Trail, the path continues, but we stopped at the first of the lakes. We were in good company on the shore, surrounded by reeds, wildflowers, and dragonflies. And mosquitoes.

We wandered near the water’s edge, enjoying the evening quiet. Even the water sat still in the hush. As we lingered, I swear I felt time slow down for just a moment – a moment I’m holding onto in case I need in future seasons.

beside Sand Lake

I recommend opening for a larger view 🙂
west end Sand Lakes