Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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So, on to the UP – ey?

Let’s see…last you knew I was hanging out in Mackinaw City waiting for it to stop raining so I could continue on over the bridge to my next adventure.

It was such a beautiful night.

Yep, I was feeling pretty good. Almost kinda certain that I had gotten some decent Milky Way shots at my last location. Of course I didn’t really know, but was feeling good about it.

The other end of the Milky Way.

And I was so excited to be heading to a new (to me) location to find more dark skies. I had a campsite booked for three nights at Fayette State Park which is located at the bottom of the “Garden Peninsula,” a piece of land jutting down into Lake Michigan from the southern edge of the UP. Should be perfect, right?

Well…wrong. When I arrived at the park about 4 p.m. and drove to my site I found a very small site (not necessarily a deal breaker) that was entirely sloped, about the size of 2 cars, and totally a mud pit.

Out of focus because I was speeding away.

I sat there in the drizzle for the amount of time it took me to say”H*LL NO,” and then I drove the long 14 miles back up to civilization where I sat beside the road and searched the internet for a cheap hotel.

Where do I go now?

Along the way, down and back up, I did note that the Garden Peninsula itself was beautiful. With lots of barns and windmills and such.

So that made it a bit easier when I had to drive back down there again to formally check out of the campground that I never camped in so that I could get a refund for the other two nights.

A barn being renovated.

A sixty dollar refund was worth the drive too. I should have just checked out the evening before when I decided not to stay but I was so freaked out by the campground I just ran.

Mama cow wants me to move along.

I made reservations at another state park, Indian Lake, which pretty close to the town of Manistique. It was a much nicer place, with larger camp sites and grass. It wasn’t full my first night so I had a distant view of the lake, though the second night someone camped behind me. Still, I had plenty of room.

Much better. Grass and a view.

And it was only three miles away from the lighthouse where I spent a lot of hours waiting for a sunset and hoping for a chance at a decent Milky Way image.

Did I get that image? Well, as usually this post is getting too long, and I still have lots of images to edit. So I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

Not much of a sunset….but there was the anticipation of stars.

I just had another 2 hour lesson from my Milky Way teacher and I now know more about what I don’t know. I guess I need to get out there for another practice session!

Meet Harlo, my doggie neighbor at the campground.

Oh darn.


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What am I doing?

I’m off on a grand adventure. Well. An adventure of some sort anyway.

My adventure land for the first two nights.

Have you ever wondered what people do all day when they’re camping? Since I grew up camping I never considered that a question. It’s always been obvious to me. You do stuff.

Mostly what I’ve been doing.

On my current adventure I’ve been reading. And entertaining this guy who tried to climb into my lap on several occasions.

I think he’s had plenty of snacks already.

I haven’t gone exploring or walked the trails. I’ve been here before, many times, usually with Katie. At this exact site. So I spent a lot of time staring up into the sky and talking to her.

Hey girlie, remember all the times we spent here together?

And crying of course. Because I miss her so much. She was definitely with me these last couple of days at site #43.

Katie’s just around that next bend. I’m sure of it.

But mostly what I have been doing is waiting for it to get dark. And hoping that the sky will remain clear. So I can do this.

Maybe I was overrun by aliens. Or shooting stars. Or not.

Well, not exactly this….on this shot the center pole decided to slowly sink and swing the camera around in the middle of the 15 second shot. Still, it’s cool.

No, I was working more toward this.

This was one of the first shots, just to figure out where the Milky Way was.

But not exactly this either. I took a lot more, and I’ve only processed a couple of the images from that first night under the stars.

Actually there’s only been one night under the stars. Because the second day it poured rain.

In between the downpours I ventured into town to get gas.

And when it wasn’t raining I sat and worked on the images from the night before.

Wishing it would stop raining.

I thought about where I’d be going next. I knew it was across the bridge.

Beautiful even in the rain.

I’d never been to the state park I was headed to over there before so I was kind of excited. Not so excited that I wanted to drive across the bridge in the pouring rain though.

So I waited.

On a rainy afternoon might as well go for a hotdog. Actually, no I didn’t.

And waited. And waited But the rain never stopped so eventually I took a deep breath and slowly drove across the bridge to the Upper Peninsula. Where it was raining.

It will clear up soon. I’m sure.

So what happened next? I can’t tell you because I need to take a shower and check out of my hotel room.

Stay tuned.

There might be a barn or two involved.


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On the way from here to there

I took myself off for a camping adventure this week. First stop was a park Katie and I have visited several times. Most of the time we end up in site 43.

Turns out four years ago yesterday Katie and I were at this very site, packing up, heading for home.

Four years ago at site 43. I don’t want to leave, mama!

But first I took her up to the Mackinaw Bridge, because she had never seen it. She wasn’t all that impressed. And the ride home was extra long because we went north before we went south. But she was a trooper and never complained. Much.

Best rest stop ever, mama!

This trip I stopped at a rest stop just before my exit, because it’s one of Katie’s favorite rest stops. Turns out there was a commercial truck inspection going on. All trucks were mandated to pull off the freeway at the rest stop so commercial vehicle inspectors could check their rigs and their hours of service.

Thank you to Michigan’s State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection team.

I walked over to the table at the front of the inspection line and thanked the two officers there. I told them the truth, that whenever I saw them and a commercial truck pulled over I give them a thumbs up and that it was nice to be able to do that in person.

Then I gave them my Truck Safety Card, thanked them again, and went on my way feeling better about our roads knowing the state police are working on it.

Next month I’ll be in DC again, along with many other families and victims of truck crashes. We’ll be voicing our objections to some things going on (teen truckers) and asking for more changes, (increased minimum insurance, automatic emergency braking on ALL trucks) many of the same changes we’ve been asking ever since I started this journey almost 18 years ago.

Our last press conference, 2019

Change is hard.


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First time camping

No, not me silly, you all know I’ve been camping enough to wear out a couple tents. But my sister was up from the South, visiting us here in Michigan, and one of the things she wanted to do was camp in her brand new tent.

Her new tent, before we introduced sand to the inside.

She bought it a few years ago anticipating a vacation like this, but then Covid happened. And she was busy teaching and working on her house and time slipped away and the tent stayed in it’s packaging and summers came and went and we always said ‘next summer.’

Finally she got to retire and go on a real vacation and we scored a campsite with a view of Green Lake up in Interlochen, near Traverse City.

Our little compound.

So exciting!

I had piles of camping equipment that we packed into the car, much more stuff than you really need for two nights, but you never know, right? And as we were both girl scouts once upon a time, (OK, I was a girl scout for only about 8 weeks) we were trained to be prepared for anything.

For the record none of the bad things we prepared for occurred. Like torrential rain or thunderstorms flooding the tents, or nighttime temperatures plummeting below freezing. We actually had beautiful weather every day. We should have stayed longer, but that would have been tempting fate, as it was threatening to rain the morning we were packing up to come home.

Her view.

Still, though our time there was short, we had so much fun and did so much exploring. From visiting a bagpipe store near Traverse City, to picking rocks up near Northport we covered a lot of territory.

Would you like to see what we saw? Well come on!

There was a bird up there. Or maybe rain coming.

Before we even got to our campsite we stopped at Pt. Betsie where we walked the beach looking for pretty stones. It was the first time my sister had visited this lighthouse, though it was a favorite place for our parents and is now a favorite spot of mine.

I am always awed by the color of Lake Michigan’s water.

I don’t think I’ve ever been there in mid-summer when there were people laying on the sand. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather, but never when it was actually a busy beach. That was sort of fun to see.

A busy place.

I noticed an older couple trying to take a selfie with the lighthouse in the background, so I offered to take their picture. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary, I don’t remember the number, but it was over 50. They reminded me so much of my own parents, and I told them that and we all smiled. I got a lovely image of them grinning at each other.

The fog horn was not needed on this beautiful day.

We have a grainy picture of mom and dad standing in pretty much the same spot that they took during an October 50th wedding anniversary trip. Dad must have had the camera propped up on something, he looks worried about whether the shutter will go off. Mom just looks cold.

Makes me smile every time I see it.

Looking for special stones.

After our time at Pt. Betsie we headed over to our campsite. We were lucky to get a spot at Interlochen State Park because we didn’t need electricity and there were a few sites open in the rustic loop. The vault bathrooms weren’t really fun, but we didn’t spend much time at the campsite anyway.

There’s a series of amusing but unsuccessful images before we got this one…you can imagine them yourselves.

Our site was on Green Lake, and that first night we went down to the very narrow beach to watch the sun set. With high clouds striping the sky we knew to stay after the sun dropped below the horizon just in case those clouds lit up.

Can’t stop smiling.

And we were right. It turned into the most amazing sunset.

Worth the wait.

Then we headed to bed with alarms set for around midnight when we returned to the beach to see if the Milky Way was visible. Turns out it was…sort of. There were still wispy clouds obscuring some of the stars, and a bit of a wind blowing to keep us chilled.

Still, it was very cool to be out there together under the stars.

Still pretty.

My sister plays the bagpipes and one of her pipe sets needed some work, so she was eager to stop at a bagpipe store and talk to an expert. So the next morning I sat out in the car reading a book while they discussed what needed to be done to fix her pipes. She got so much good advice at Henderson Imports she kept grinning and saying “I’m so HAPPY about my pipes!” the rest of our trip.

Ok, so maybe it’s not typical of my camping trips to visit a bagpipe retailer, but the rest of our trip was Pure Michigan. Getting our steps in during this vacation was never a problem.

Worth the climb.

After the bagpipe experience we drove up to Northport and visited a friend in her bookstore, then went out to Peterson Park to look for more stones. Peterson Park is known for it’s stony beach, and we were not disappointed.

There’s gotta be a Petosky stone in here somewhere!

It’s such a pretty place, well worth the long flight of stairs from the parking lot down to the beach. And the seemingly longer flight of stairs back up to the car when you’re usually laden down with special rocks. It has been documented that it is impossible to visit this park without picking up at least one stone to take home.

Easier on the way down.

After Peterson Park we drove south to Sleeping Bear National Park where we stopped for a quick dune climb. I have the lifetime national park pass, so it cost us nothing more to pull in and climb. We haven’t done that since we were much younger, but I have to say we did just fine.

Ready to climb?

We only climbed to the first summit, it’s possible to keep going for miles eventually arriving on the shore of Lake Michigan. I’ve done that twice and don’t need to ever do it again. It’s a cool walk, but it’s HOT and sandy and it takes FOREVER and once you get to the lake you turn around and do it again. No footwear is ever the right footwear to walk miles in shifting sand. Just saying.

We made it!

And after the dune climb we drove out to Barr Lake which is a small inland lake that connects to Lake Michigan. We trekked from the parking lot out to the big lake and spent some time lounging on the beach people watching, then did the requisite beach rock looking for stones. Neither of us took a camera out there, which I regretted once we got out there, but it was freeing not to lug the camera up and down the beach. So just imagine a beautiful white sandy beach, with people kite surfing out on the waves, and building sand castles on the shoreline and throwing frisbees and laughing and sunbathing.

There. Now don’t you feel relaxed? We did too.

So, slightly sunburned and covered in sand we headed back to the campsite where we made dinner and settled in for a nap before our planned walk back down to the beach to try for the Milky Way on our last night.

It’s right up there!

My alarm was set for midnight and I when I poked my head out of my tent I could see lots of stars, and the Milky Way right above us. Neighbors in the site next to us had a dog that barked at every noise so I tried to be quiet as I woke my sister but she is infamous for sleeping like a rock and I couldn’t get her up by shining my red flashlight into her tent or whispering her name, so I went down to the beach by myself.

Amazing.

The sky was clear on this, our second night, and I shot a few images of the Milky Way out over the lake. There was still significant light pollution, and a party going on across the lake compete with bright lights, but in general I was pleased.

The breeze was warm and there weren’t any bugs, the stars were bright and I was standing in a beautiful place. It was all good except I should have tried harder to wake my sister up. She was disappointed when I got back and she woke up as I was climbing back into bed. She was ready for a night time adventure and all I did was tell her to go back to sleep.

But we saw other pretty stuff, like this orchard under the clouds.

In retrospect I should have gone back to the beach with her so she could see the Milky Way. Sometimes, as Katie always said, I can be a little dense.

In the morning the sky was dark and the air felt damp and the radar on my phone predicted rain. We hurried up to get the tents down while they were still dry. We skipped breakfast and packed everything up as fast as we could finishing just as sprinkles began to dampen the sand.

Tearing down isn’t as much fun as setting up.

But we took the long way home, stopping at a farm market north of Ludington for some more wonderful fruit. And, of course, I stopped later for a photogenic barn.

Green barn under navy summer skies.

Because, after all, what’s a trip north without a barn?


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Besides the night sky

Sometimes when I go north to camp it’s with the sole purpose of getting night sky images. Those trips I don’t care much about the campground, it’s just a place to nap during the day. Mostly I care if there’s a dark sky park nearby, or at least some open sky with something interesting in the foreground.

Our campsite, tucked up on a knoll, deep in the woods.

Those trips I usually spend the days sitting around at the campground reading and nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for me. When I begin to fall asleep over my book I tuck myself into my sleeping bag and take a nap.

It was spring in the woods, with the pine trees in ‘bloom.’

Sometimes that’s the best part about camping…eating, reading, napping. Repeat. I’m usually impatient for the sun to set, eager to try again for the shot I can see in my head but rarely get captured on my camera.

This trip, planned months ago, just happened to coincide with clear dark skies and no moon. So I got lucky.

I had my stove and my friend brought most of the food.

During last week’s camping adventure I had company, and a more varied agenda. We were camped in a walk-in site, we were the only people camping on our loop which was wonderful and so quiet we could hear owls at night as we sat around the campfire.

Thank goodness we were able to buy dry firewood!

OK, full disclosure. Mostly we sat around the campfire to get warm because it was stinking cold out there! Last year, on our camping trip the exact same week, we were wearing shorts. This year we were wearing long underwear, layers of sweatshirts, jackets and winter coats. I slept, the first night, wearing gloves and a hat, as well as my winter coat while in a sleeping bag and under multiple layers of blankets.

Not your typical sleeping attire.

But the next day, after a night of shivering and then squealing over the Milky Way, the sun came out and we paddled down the Platt River, almost all the way out to Lake Michigan. We got out of the river at the exact location I shot the Milky Way the night before.

Grateful for the sun while we were on the river.

That made me smile.

Lake Michigan is right on the other side of those dunes.

We had the site reserved for three nights, Monday through Wednesday, but though the second night wasn’t quite as cold as the first, I still slept in all my clothes and piled towels on top of the blankets on top of the sleeping bag.

Being cold all the time can wear a camper out.

Looks warm. Wasn’t.

Plus the weather people said it would get warmer but we were going to get rain Wednesday afternoon, and that it would rain all day Thursday, the day we were scheduled to leave.

Time to pack things up.

We decided to pack up on Wednesday morning and hightail it out of there. There’s nothing worse than packing up camp after a night of rain. Wait. In truth it’s worse to pack up camp after a full night of rain, while it continues to rain. Trust me on this.

The sun just tipping the trees above us made me want to stay….for a moment.

So we abandoned ship a day early. I think I did that almost every camping trip I took last summer, and always because of rain. Rain while camping in a small tent is not that fun after the first few hours of listening to it drum on the rainfly. Rain accompanied by wind and thunder can be pretty terrifying.

This could be another good spot to shoot the Milky Way, don’t you think?

Anyway, we chose to bail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. Camping in the woods without big RVs next to you is a delight.

I stopped at Pt. Betsie on my way home, but the lilacs weren’t open yet. And the storm was coming in.

I just hope next time it’s warm enough that I can sleep without wearing my hat and parka.

On the beach waiting for the sun to set on our last night.


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Magic

Some of you know that I’ve been taking an online photography course centered on getting images of the Milky Way. There are many many modules, but I’ve been stuck in the first set because I haven’t been able, for months, to get that first single image. And for me it was hard to go on to the next modules that talked about panoramas and stacked and stitched images when I couldn’t get the single image.

A friend and I had a camping trip scheduled for this week. It’s been exactly one year since we camped at this same campground, with it’s walk-in sites far from the world of mega RVs with their generators and large noisy families. Yes, carrying all your stuff down a wooded path to your site is a lot of work. But once again, just like last year, we were the only ones in that section of the campground, and it was heaven.

And, coincidently, this campground is located in a Bortle 2, a part of our state with less light pollution than where I live in a Bortle 4. AND the moon wouldn’t be up to interfere with finding the Milky Way. AND there was one night out of the three we’d be there that the weather folks said would be clear.

Win/win/win

According to my Planit app, the Milky Way would rise high enough to see it over the trees by 2 a.m. But my friend and I went out at midnight, after sitting around the fire all evening waiting for it to get dark, just to check out my chosen site, which was at a park at the mouth of the Platt River, where it empties into Lake Michigan.

An image I took of the Platt River while we were waiting for the Milky Way to show up.

It is a wonderful place to star gaze, but of course the Milky Way wasn’t putting in an appearance early, so we went back to the tent to take a nap.

I set my alarm for 2 a.m.

But when the alarm went off I didn’t want to crawl out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag. The temperature was hovering around 40F (4.44C) and everything in me wanted to stay in the tent and hunker down. But when would I ever again be in a dark location on a night that was clear?

So I crawled out of the tent and looked up. Stars, thousands of stars, were there, just hanging in the pine tree boughs above me. I scrambled down the path to the car and headed out to the river, smiling.

And as I carried my camera, already affixed to the tripod, around a building to the river I squealed. Because there it was….the illusive Milky Way, in all it’s glory.

There she is, as if she were just waiting for me to get my act together.

And suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. Suddenly I didn’t care that it was 2 a.m. I wasn’t worried about waking up early the next morning after being up all night so we could kayak down the river ending up at this very spot.

No, all I could think about were the stars, all I could see were the stars. And in the quiet pre-dawn hours that morning I shot images and grinned, and then just stood there in awe for a very long time. Alone in the quiet I listened to gentle waves lap the shore and watched the stars move across the sky and there was no place I’d rather be.

You’ll have to image that part on your own.

From the boat launch, looking out over the Platt River and then, past the small dunes, to Lake Michigan. See the big dipper up there?

But if you ever have a moment like that you’ll know….It’s magic.


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Fun, interesting, or stupendous things that may or may not have gotten done these past two years.

Back in 2019, instead of making a list of resolutions, I made a list of stuff I thought would be fun to do. I even ended up doing quite a few some of them.

So in 2020 I moved a few of the not done 2019 things to a new and improved list, and added a few more fun ideas, thinking about all sorts of exciting adventures and explorations.

And then covid.

2020 was brutal and I rarely looked at the list, though I did manage to do a couple of the fun things. But at the end of 2020, with the loss of my brother-in-law to covid, and so much overwhelming bad stuff happening, I never even made a 2021 list.

The 2020 list has been on my bulletin board ever since, reminding me that there are still interesting, fun and stupendous things to do, I just needed to figure out how to do them.

Here’s what was on that list, hanging on the bulletin board for the past two years and how it all turned out:

*Camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. — DONE the summer of 2021, two separate trips!

*Travel to Florida to meet the baby sheltie boys.–Not done, and they aren’t babies anymore.

*Purchase a set of extension tubes for my camera and explore macro photography. –DONE in 2020

*Make more vegetarian or vegan meals, goal being a least one per week. — Fizzled out

*Take a drawing class. — Not done.

*Spend several weeks in Alabama and invite friends to join me. –Well, I spent a couple weeks in 2021 there, but covid prohibited inviting anyone to come along.

*Walk in at least 3 5K races. — I think I did a total of 2 over the past two years. Both were virtual but fun.

*Improve my night photography skills. — I had an awesome time this past August shooting a meteour shower. I still have lots to learn.

*Spend a week in the Southwest.. –We were there in February of 2020, before we knew about covid.

*Ride my bike on some rails-to-trails around here. — Not done, and I have no idea why not.

*Take Katie camping at least twice this summer. — I tried once, in 2020, but she wasn’t having fun. We are probably limited to camping in the back yard these days.

So. Which of these should I include in my list of stupendous things to do in 2022? Or…should I abandon all of them and come up with some wonderful but wildly different fun stuff to do?

I feel like most of this can be done even in times of covid. But some of it feels stale too.

What would you keep, what would you add? What would you toss?

Inquiring minds (mine) want to know!

Some of your stupendous plans better include me and my park, mama!


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Can’t ignore me, mama!

Katie here.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that mama has been gallivanting all over the state again. You might have also noticed I was not invited.

Just napping, it’s so boring around here.

Well I certainly noticed. When I got sick, way back last spring, mama promised me she’d never leave me again. Apparently she is not to be trusted.

But, since I am a sheltie and since I love my mama so much I have decided to forgive her, because she feels bad enough that I wouldn’t eat my kibble while she was gone. Daddy had to feed me chicken and rice again.

These are my flowers, over near my driveway. I think pink is my color.

I suppose, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that mama made the chicken and rice for me before she left, just in case daddy felt like he needed it to make me happy.

This dead tree fell into my yard while mama was off camping.

So I guess she was thinking about me even though she was off having fun without me.

The pictures in this post were taken at my house and in my yard. Mama took me on a walk around the yard as soon as she got home. She thinks that makes up for leaving me.

This is where we’d be camping in my backyard if mama hadn’t been off having fun. I guess I should be thankful she and her tent weren’t home, ey?

I might let her believe that, ’cause it makes her happy. And don’t tell her, but whatever makes mama happy makes me happy.

Signing off, your girl Katie.

OH!! I almost forgot! Miss Robin is going to do Walktober again this year! That means we all should go for a walk, sometime between October 11th and the 25th, and then blog about it and link back to Miss Robin’s blog. (Mama says the link above is to an old post, but it explains how Walktober works. Miss Robin will have a new post about it soon.) Mama says she’s thinking about where I can go now that I’m a senior and walk so slow. She says she’ll figure it out. I can’t wait! You should check it out too. Just tell Miss Robin that Katie sent you. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ll stay vigilant on squirrel patrol.