Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


4 Comments

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 that 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.


19 Comments

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!


23 Comments

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.


28 Comments

Both ends of the road

While camping midway on M-77 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last week I decided to explore both ends of that road.

The colors are changing on M-77 north of M-28 in the UP!

I’d been up at the northern end, which terminates at Grand Marais along the coast of Lake Superior, in June, but it’s such a pretty spot I thought I’d go see what the lake was up to again.

I always love the color of the water against the purple grey clouds during a fall storm on this lake.

As seems to be usual when I visit, it was a stormy day on Lake Superior. Heavy dark clouds made the sky facinating, but made me dash to the car several times as bands of cold rain swept in.

Good thing I brought my raincoat.

That didn’t deter the rock pickers and there were even a few beach walkers out there even during the worst of it.

This guy was riding the waves and wind, while a flock of sandhill cranes in the distance fly against the wind.

But amazingly, the sun won the weather battle and the sky began to brighten. More people instantly appeared to revel in the beauty that is a beach walk in Grand Marais.

Nothing like a brisk walk along the beach once the rain lets up.

I always enjoy my time on the shores of Lake Superior, and this time I didn’t pick up one single rock! Though that might have been due to the weather and not my willpower.

The next morning I headed south on M-77 down to where it ends at M-2, then a bit west to Manistique. My goal was to visit a spring my husband and a friend had both told me I had to see. But first there was this pretty lighthouse off the shore of Lake Michigan.

Reminds me of us, decades ago.

Who can resist, right? It was still windy and cold, but this family out there on the rocks was having lots of fun. Four little kids, they reminded me of my family when we were all that young.

But I was really there to see Kitch-iti-kipi.

This deep, photogenic spring resides within a state park.

What is that, you ask? And how do you pronounce it? Well, maybe I better let you read about it first.

It’s a deep, beautiful spring that maintains a 45 F temperature all year around, even in the cold upper Michigan winters. There’s a barge like flotation that runs on a cable out over the top of the spring.

The colors really are this intense. Especially when the sun shines.

The barge is moved by turning a wheel near the back. Anyone on the barge can turn the wheel and be captain for awhile.

Pull hard to the starboard side!

The center of the barge was open so you could see straight down into the water.

Some big fish down there!

The water was so beautiful, it was mesmerizing. Everywhere I looked people were smiling and happy and chatting and exclaiming over how beautiful it all was.

Such amazing colors!

So, that’s what there is to see at the north and south ends of M-77 in the UP. Since you can’t all get there this fall, I figured you wouldn’t mind if I shared.

Hope you’re smiling now too!

Note: You really should look at these images on something bigger than a phone. You’ll smile wider I promise.


19 Comments

And then…

My adventuring continues into the Upper Peninsualia of Michigan where I intended to spend a few days exploring the Seney Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is a giant wetland, with lots of water and grasses.

Years ago when I lived in the UP I always thought I’d visit, but you know how it is when you live near somewhere cool. You always figure you can do it next week, and next week never comes around.

I couldn’t find an eagle’s nest

Late Sunday afternoon I drove the seven mile wildlife drive under pretty skies. I had the big lens on the camera, expecting to see lots of birds. But all I saw was a pair of sandhill cranes flying and a couple of ducks. I didn’t even hear much of anything.

I heard them before I saw them.

One issue I can see with driving a wildlife route rather than walking, is you’re never going to sneak up on anything. Though to be honest I didn’t even scare up anything.

These are the same two cranes that flew by.

But the trees and water were pretty, so I decided to switch lenses and just enjoy what there was to enjoy.

Light through dying ferns.

The refuge is beautiful, but I wondered what I’d do for four nights camping nearby. I decided to worry about that when I got there.

Meanwhile, I had a reservation at the Pleasant Moose Lodge for one night while I waited for my campsite to be available. I was tired by now, driving up from downstate, then exploring the refuge. I was ready to find the hotel.

But darn it, neither my GPS in the car nor on my phone could find this pleasant moose. I drove up and down the road looking, and saw plenty of places with moose art displayed, but all I saw whenever I was told “you have arrived at your destination,” was a decrepit rundown set of cabins. No way. It was getting on toward evening now and I was going to have to find somewhere to stay if these cabins were really the lodge!

Guess I didn’t notice this big green moose when I was driving by.

So I pulled into a parking lot called the Pleasant Moose and a pleasant guy answered the phone and talked me in.

Whew!

Imagine my relief when I saw it was a real hotel, just tucked way back behind some other stuff. I spent an uneventful evening, enjoying my last night of a real bed, shower and television before heading out to camp for 4 nights.

The next morning I needed to find something to do while I waited to check into my campground. I remembered seeing pictures of Crisp Point Lighthouse that was somewhere around here. Checking the map, and putting it into my GPS I set off. It was about 20+ miles away, but GPS said it would take me an hour.

The trees are beginning to turn up here.

What GPS didn’t tell me is that more than 15 miles of the trip will be on increasingly narrower dirt and sandy roads.

More narrow, and sandier.

Roads that wind up and down and around. My average speed on the last 15 miles was 14. The last 7 miles it was closesr to 8 mph. I couldn’t believe it when, with only 5 more miles to go there was actually a stop sign.

Seriously? Is there an intersection coming up?

But all that crazy driving was worth it to find this.

My first glimpse of Crisp Point Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is absoutely beautiful. And yes you can go up to the top for a donation.

As I wandered the beach the clouds moved in.

The beach is equally beautiful.

Nobody can resist these rocks!

It’s strewn with wide swaths of smooth, rounded stones. A rock picker’s paradise.

The water was too cold to go wading after these beauties.

I kept telling myself not to pick up any rocks. Not to even look closely at any rocks. I have plenty at home.

I had to touch. They were so smooth, this one reminded me of an granite egg.

But they were soooo beautiful!

I was also facinated by what I guess was an old wooden breakwall.

I love how the sun made it glow.

It was actually two rows of logs driven into the ground.

Engineering from a generation ago.

Eventually I walked back up to the lighthouse and checked out what was on the other side. The light was better over there anyway.

People were picking rocks….

The beach was sandier with fewer rocks on that side.

…and climbing the tower.

A lighthouse selfie.

It was beautiful out there! But it was time to head back down that winding, sandy road.

Quintessential beach photo.

The trip back out to the main road wasn’t nearly as scary as it had been driving in.

I enjoyed the leaves on my way back and didn’t worry about the road as much.

My campsite was waiting for me.

When I arrived the office was closed, but they had taped instructions for me to the door. I gathered those and drove to my site, a big, grassy relatively flat spot with a view of the river. I pulled the tent out of the car and realized as I was unfolding it that the rainfly was missing. And it was beginning to rain.

OH MY! What to do.

Obviously I couldn’t tent without a rainfly. Especially since it was already raining. Disgusted I threw the tent back in the car, went up to the office, put the rest of my reservation money folded into their instructions, along with an explantion note, and taped it to the door.

Then I drove back toward town, intent on calling the Pleasant Moose to see if they had a room. But a few miles away I thought I should call the campground and tell them there was money taped to their office door, wanting to make sure they got it rather than some nefarious camper.

The owner answered, and I explained and she was as sad as I was. Then she said she had a tent I could borrower! Really! Yes, she said, it’s just a 4 person tent, nothing fancy. That’s all I had myself, I replied. She said she’d go set it up on my site if I’d come back.

So I did. And this is what I found:

Isn’t this cute?

This campground comes with a mascot.

He waited around to make sure I was OK, then he went off on his rounds.

So….here I am camping in the UP in someone else’s tent, ready to visit a refuge I’ve already explored.

What will happen next?


30 Comments

Adventuring

I’m off adventuring again. Mostly alone, though I did spend a day on a river with a college friend. But first, as most of my adventures go, I began with barns.

Because it’s hard to drive anywhere from my home without seeing at least one barn.

I was hoping to find yellow soybean fields, but mostly they’ve already gone brown. That was sad, but it was such a pretty day I couldn’t stay sad for long.

And eventually I made it to the river where I met a friend from way back in college, and she and her daughter and I paddled in the warm fall sunshine for a few hours.

It was totally unlike my previous times on this river when we had most of it to ourselves.

This time we were out on the river on a sunny fall weekend afternoon. There were lots of other people there too.

But we managed to make our way through the crowds of tube floaters and enjoyed people watching while we were paddling.

An interesting combination, a totally different vibe, but lots of fun regardless.

After we left the river we drove a few miles north to walk the Empire Bluffs trail. Turns out Empire was having some sort of car race. The little town was inundated with people and race cars.

It took us a long time to find a way to get to the trail, but once we did we enjoyed the scenic walk out to the bluffs.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived at the end of the trail, and we didn’t linger out there for long, but it was definitely worth the walk!

On the way back I got distracted by the low rays of sun glowing in the woods, spotlighting plants along the way.

We had a little bit of a drive to get to the hotel, though, so we moved along.

And then had dinner at The Painted Lady Saloon.

It was a pretty darn good day, and it definitely made me smile.


18 Comments

Yard stars

An opressively hot August has given way to dryer, cooler temperatures in September here in lower Michigan. Katie suggested I put up the backyard tent. After all, she hasn’t gone on any adventures this summer, so the least I could do is give her an outdoor sleeping experience.

I thought that was an excellent idea.

She doesn’t sleep through the night anymore, though, so about 3 a.m. every morning she wakes me up and we venture out into the yard for a walk about.

Our private camping spot right here at home.

While she’s choosing her spot, I’m usually looking up at the sky. There’s almost always something to see.

One night I noticed a perfectly shapped “C” of clouds moving in. The left half of the sky was clear with sparkling stars. The right was rolling with clouds. I tried to hurry Katie along so we could go inside to get the camera.

Trees lit from the neighborhood lights.

But by the time I got her inside, then found the camera, switched lens, attached it to the tripod and changed the settings, the perfect “C” was just a bunch of clouds.

Still, it was fun, and something I wouldn’t have done if my Katie-girl hadn’t picked the perfect time to wake me up.

No matter the weather it’s fun to spend some time in the backyard. Even in the middle of the night.

Ediit: These images will show best if you’re in a dark room and looking at a screen larger than your phone.


24 Comments

Let’s celebrate!

Katie here. HEY! Did you know it’s NATIONAL DOG DAY? It’s been on the news and everything!

Hey! It’s another opportunity to celebrate ME!

Honestly, here at my house every day is National Dog Day, but don’t tell anyone how spoiled I am. Oh. You’re fully aware of that? ALL of you are fully aware? Hmmmm….I think mama discloses too much information. A review of the nondisclosure clause in her contract with me might be in order.

But I digress.

This is my garden. Mama should make a boquet to decorate the house in celebration, don’t you think?

So as soon as I woke mama up this morning I told her we needed to do something special to celebrate. But so far, nothing.

OK, maybe she wasn’t in the planning mode at 3:30 in the morning when we went outside to explore the yard, umm, pee. But surely when she was making my breakfast #1 she should have been thinking about what we could do that was fun.

Or when she made my breakfast #2 a couple hours later.

I’m waiting, mother.

But no. Mama says she’s going to book us for a camping trip but I haven’t heard anything about where or when yet. She keeps saying it’s too hot for shelties to camp.

One of my favorite things to do is sleep in my tent.

She might have a point about that. I’m thinking early November would be the perfect time to sleep out in a tent. Don’t you agree?

I thought so. Mama is a wuss. She even bought an electric blanket to use when we camp later in the season. I think she should book that November campsite right away! Oh- you say the campgrounds up here aren’t open in November? Well, that’s just silly.

I’m sure if mama was motivated to make me happy she’d find somewhere to camp. I’ll add it to her ‘to-do’ list.

You weren’t doing anything anyway, right mama?

Anyway, if all you doggies out there haven’t gotten anything for National Dog Day yet either, we should band up and form a doggie union. Sometimes the only way to make change is to make some noise.

And you all know Sheltie’s can make some noise!

I usually get what I want when I really put my all into asking.

I hope you all have a wonderful National Dog Day! Even if you’re not lucky enough to be a dog.

Signing off,

Your Union Organizer,

Katie-girl.

I’m not manipulative. I’m just really super cute.


30 Comments

More practice

I got a couple of tips (thanks DailyMusing!) about how to maneuver through WordPress’ blockhead editing system, particularly with images.

So here goes….I should be able to delete a photo. Guess I should insert a photo first:

Then I’ll see if I can remove it….one moment please…

OH!!!!! That worked!

But wait….now there’s nothing there, and you can’t see the image…because…I REMOVED IT! 🙂 🙂 🙂

So here it is again…

It’s just a barn taken on my trip home from the night sky camping trip I took a week or more ago. In fact I have a few other barn images from that drive home. It was prime farm country, after all.

She gave me a tip on how to do a gallery too, let’s see if I can do that:

Well, THAT was interesting! I don’t know if there’s a way to decide what goes where, but at least it’s a gallery!

The trick now will be for me to remember what I did.

Always something.

Edit: I just figured out you can click on any of the pictures in the gallery and see them bigger. They’re really better bigger.


41 Comments

Sky high

Let’s see. The last I knew you were all looking at barns because barns are so much easier to photograph than stars. I don’t suppose I can ply you with more of them?

Look! It’s a barn! (From my drive home on Friday.)

No? I understand–you’re wondering how I could have been at a dark sky park for three days and three nights and not produce something worthy of all that time.

Packing up my campsite Friday.

All three evenings we had nice sunsets, and I hoped that the skies might be clear enough to see some stars. But clouds rolled in after the sun went down and we had two nights of torrential rain and wind.

This little guy had to be presuaded not to hitch a ride home with me.

Definitely no star shooting those nights! Though I did see a couple meteorites each night before the weather turned really wicked.

Wednesday night’s sunset.

But I really wanted to spend a few hours on a warm summer night watching the sky, and behind those clouds I just knew there were hundreds of meteorites flying. It was frustrating.

Thursday night’s sunset.

Finally it was Thursday night, my last night at the park. Weather predictions were that Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights would be clear. But there wasn’t a campsite or a hotel room to be had over the weekend, so all my chips were on the table for Thursday night.

The stars from the campground beach about 10:30 p.m.

I walked down to the beach after dark to see if there were stars or clouds. Turned out there was a bit of both. I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t really dark, so I decided to drive to the dark sky park one last time.

And I’m so glad I did.

No that’s not a meteorite. It’s just a plane.

I arrived shortly before 11:00 p.m. and the parking lot was very full. You could feel the excitement, all those cars, headlights off, dark shadows of people scurying around with tripods and red headlamps.

Light from town interferes with the Milky Way.

I finally found a block of three empty parking spots and I quickly pulled into the middle one. Just as I was turning in I realized there was a person in a chair in the first empty spot. That shook me as I could have run right over them!

So many stars.

I got out of the car, intent on apologizing for almost mowing him or her down when I heard snoring. There was a very large man in a reclining beach chair full on asleep. I made a lot of noise, not intentionally, getting my gear out of the car and he never woke up.

The other end of the Milky Way.

I decided there were too many noisy people, including what appeared to be a whole group of school kids at the other end of the parking lot. I was already seeing metorites overhead, so I headed back into the dunes to see what I could see.

Most of the Milky Way was directly overhead.

Lots of people out there too, red headlights bobbing around, but the people were quiet, more respectful of the wonderful show going on overhead.

As the sky got darker and darker the number of meteorites bursting overhead increased. I was standing at an intersection of two paths and several people stopped by to chat about what a wonderful night it was.

There were a few clouds but they just added to the interest.

One young man in particular asked me right away what appeture I was using, and we ended up in a long conversation about lenses and iso speeds. He had a camera in the car, shooting film. We debated if it would work, and he went to get it.

Turns out it was color, with a speed of 200 (I can’t remember how we phrased that back in the film days) but he did have a really low f-stop. So I set my camera for 200 iso and shot 20 seconds to see what he might get…which ended up being a big, totally black rectangle.

It was such a beautiful night.

So he took one picture anyway, just for fun, but didn’t waste the rest of his roll of film. Then we talked about him going to the University of Michigan, and me having done that many years ago, and his road trip to NYC and my roadtrip to Baltimore, and his granparents (who aren’t much older than me), and photography composition, and today’s real estate values skyrocketing, and my dad’s truck crash, and his planned kayak trip the next morning. Then he headed back to his campsite, and I stayed out there and shot the sky for another hour at least.

Just after 1 a.m. the sky lit up with metorites. And I was lucky (and it’s all pure luck) that one appeared to dance right through the frame of one of my shots. I squealed as I am want to do in situations like this, then impatiently waited for the 15 seconds to elapse, and then the long wait for the noise reduction to work itself out before I could check to see if what I thought had happened had.

I still can’t believe I got this curly que meteorite!

And yes it did! HOW COOL IS THAT?

I could have stayed out there staring at the sky all night. But by 1:45 I thought I had captured all the angles of the few trees out there. And I had that drive home in the morning. So I started walking back to the parking lot. But then there’d be something else that was pretty so I’d have to stop.

There were lots of other people still out there, too, though some were also packing it up for the night.

This is what it looks like when a whole group of people with flashlights and headlamps walks through your 15 second exposure.

I’m sure there were several dozen back in the dunes still gazing up at the sky when I finally left, I hope they weren’t asleep like the three young ladies I found on the grassy berm in front of my car. I woke them up when I used the remote to unlock the back and my headlights turned on. I hadn’t seen them there asleep on a big blanket. At least they weren’t snoring.

It was such a wonderful night I’m having trouble deciding which images to show you. There was still quite a bit of light coming from town, but I guess that just adds to the effect.

I don’t know what planet that is on the left, but it was soooo bright!

I wish you all could have been standing right there with me. It’s really kind of hard to express how awe inspiring it is to be under those stars hanging so bright in the sky with metorites flitting through them which evoked oohs and ahs from people all over the park. It was better than the 4th of July fireworks.

I sweated through three days of heat and humidity and held my tent to the ground by sheer determination in two monsoons in a campground with no bathrooms for that one perfect night, and every bit of all that discomfort disappeared as soon as I was in the dark on the warm sand looking up on a clear night.

Hard to describe.

I heartily recommend this kind of experience for anything that ails you. And it’s OK if you bring your beach chair.

Just don’t snore.

PS: I recommend you look at the night images on something bigger than your phone, and probably turn up the brightness of your screen.