Fire, Ice, and Copper

This afternoon I logged into my Flickr account to check out the beautiful images my contacts there had shared. As always, there were several good ones, and one from my friend Aaron that pushed my “I need to catch a sunset on the dunes” button. This is a frequent occurrence for me, and I am usually successful at staving off photographic attacks. For instance, I follow several photographers who live in Iceland, and I have major travel pangs thanks to them…but I have not (yet!) made my way to Iceland.

But Aaron lives in northern Michigan, and even though his photo is from an hour or so southwest of my house, similar landscapes are within half an hour. I was ready to put this urge on the shelf, but the light this afternoon was so beautiful…as viewed from my chair in the living room. When I mentioned it to Tony, he suggested that I go.

At first I wavered, but not for long. Thank goodness, too, because the light wouldn’t linger much longer. I grabbed my pack, tossed on my boots, and hit the road. I had plans to hike to Sleeping Bear Point, but as I got nearer, I spied a path up the dunes and it seemed so much closer. I pulled in, parked, and began a swift ascent up the trail.

Only it wasn’t so swift. If you’ve ever climbed up a mountain of sand, you’ll understand. It was 38-degrees when I parked, and I was wearing heavy winter boots + more than 20-lbs on my back. I was sweating before I inched over the first leg of the journey, not a quarter-mile in. I eyed the giant bowl in the dunes, and caught my breath for a second while taking an iPhone pano:
Spoiler: The top of that rise is not the top at all.

Then I continued the hike. The first bit wasn’t so bad, as it was down and then gently up. But then I really started to climb. My steps got closer, and my legs caught fire. My breath grew ragged as the cold air froze my lungs and I tasted copper. I considered how much easier the ascent would be without my gear – much – but then why go?

Look at my steps near the bottom of the photo! And see those two shrubs just to the right of the trail? They’re the same ones on the left side of the trail in the pano above.
Eventually, after a few false dawns, I arrived at the top. You know what I did then? I descended a little, because the view was better.

Celestial Imperatives

Looking down from near the top. Mom – this is where I stopped to take a photo and you were talking about Uncle Dick stocking up on pudding :)

Hiking Arcadia

Tony and I have always leaned toward the curmudgeonly side, opting for to bushwack our own roads rather than share one with the masses. It’s not that the masses are lesser; it’s that they are masses. Thus, living in Traverse City, we are more aware of the weekend crowds that gather to play in our northern Michigan playground, and we feel pressure to escape. Even popular outdoor destinations like the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park feel too busy on weekends, so yesterday we decided to aim for a sunset hike a bit south of our normal settings.

After an oddly frustrating drive down US-31, we parked at the Old Baldy Trailhead in the Arcadia Dunes Nature Preserve. We’d driven by the area a few times, but never stopped for a hike. We joined one car in the parking area, and other than footprints, saw no other signs of humanity on our outing. Masses averted ;)

The trail was well-marked, dotted with late summer wildflowers, and devoid of bugs – pretty much the best kind of trail. The mixed hardwoods had a lovely open forest floor, deeply darkened by a rich canopy. But we soon climbed a ridge leading over the dunes.

The packed sand gave way to loose sand as we rounded Old Baldy, an open dune perched 356-feet above Lake Michigan.

The sun shone through a hazy sky, painting the sand peach; a gentle breeze took the heat out of the climb; and the vistas made us feel tiny.

Because there wasn’t easy lake access, we decided to stop by the shore in Elberta so that Petey could get a drink and romp in the waves.
After the sunset in Elberta

The scope of the beauty that surrounds our days in northern Michigan sometimes leaves me breathless. Moving here five years ago was a good choice. I love calling this place home – even on “busy” weekends that encourage us to spread our wings a little.

Settling In

We’ve lived in the new place in Traverse City for just over a week now. There are still a few boxes to unpack, but we’re really in the final innings now. We have a few loads of things to donate, and we have pictures to hang, but I think all the furniture pieces are in their final resting places. Since we gave up quite a few square-feet with this move, it’s been interesting to figure out just how things fit. I’ve gotten creative with some of the organizing, but so far the house doesn’t feel small – and I don’t think it will. I know I promised you photos, but that’ll have to wait until I feel like the house is ready for company ;)

Historically I’ve been a total task-master about completing the move. I’ve tried to lighten up a bit and just enjoy the new location some this time. In the midst of all the packing, unpacking, and nesting, we’ve gone on dozens of miles of walks – one of the things we most looked forward to with this relocation. Petey and I start each morning with a trek around two miles. There have been just a couple mornings when I didn’t feel up to facing the lake breezes, but otherwise we’ve started our days by walking to the bay. It’s a great way to begin.

It’s also a great way to end ;) (All photos from our walk tonight to get ice cream and then visit the bay.)



Otter Creek Sunset – A B&W Photo Challenge

Eliza, who shares a similar love for the outdoors as me, and who lives in a similar place but different country invited me to join a black and white photo challenge. Since It’s all in good fun, and since it’s so windy out, I’ve decided to play along. At least once. There are rules, as with any contest/challenge, but I’m not playing by them ;) So, new rules: if my post inspires you to try your hand at a black and white photo when you might otherwise opt to see the world strictly in colors, link it up to this post. If there are multiple participants, I’ll post a future blog shouting out my favorites. Or something.

Without further ado, here’s the photo – perhaps the only one, perhaps just the first – that I chose to convert to black and white. I originally shared it on FB and Flickr in all its peachy sunset-y glory, but decided it had nice enough lines to lend itself to B&W too.  I posted larger versions of each below, which can be further embiggened via a click if you like.

What do you think?

Otter Creek - B&W Otter Creek Sunset

Deeply Ill

In case you’ve forgotten what it’s been like in this part of the world, let me remind you:

frigid Rapid River

That was Thursday morning. Double digits below zero again. But the mercury was on the rise, and threatened to get almost warm. No really – we’ve been expecting 40’s (between 5 and 10 C) and sunny, which I feared would make our ice unsafe for exploration so I did the unthinkable.

On Friday morning, I rose at an indecent hour, and then left the house just a couple minutes too late to catch the moon setting over the west coast in Empire, MI. I remain a touch disappointed about that, but only a little. I had the whole beach very nearly to myself (I wasn’t out on the ice all alone-y on my own-y) for the entire hour and a half I was there.

Although temperatures hovered in the single digits, I was never cold. Being surrounded by such beauty is awe-inspiring, and surreal, and breathtaking. It is invigorating.

The sun rose hot on Friday, and by the time I made it to my running appointment at 10:00 (I’m cleared to ease into running!) it was nearly 20F. I hesitate to speak out of turn, but I think Old Man Winter finally got tired, and went to bed.

good morning sunshine

This morning we woke to brilliant sunshine accompanied by spring-like temperatures. It was still below freezing, but not much. Birds sweetened the air with their songs – and not just one or two birds, but a whole chorus of them.

I’ve removed the fleece lining from my coat, and didn’t make Petey wear his. Speaking of whom, some puppies have a terrible case of spring fever. That little guy practically pranced his way through his morning walk. He sniffed the air and sashayed along the way, not once trying to end the walk early. Then, he begged to go out for an afternoon jaunt. Then, he asked to go for an evening walk.

A stop on our evening walk on Torch Lake in Alden
Torch reflections

And then we walked again during sunset. Since I obliged with every request, I think I must’ve caught it too. Looking at the forecast – which has 50’s in store dontcha know?! – I think I might have a fatal case of spring fever. Quick, no one get some ice! And be careful; I think this strain is highly contagious ;)

Images from tonight’s everlasting sunset. That sun pillar lasted nearly 15 minutes after the sun dipped below the horizon,