Last week the weather people started talking about a wind advisory for Saturday. Lots and lots of strong wind, they said and I wondered if there would be big waves over on Michigan’s west coast.
I wondered if it would be worth driving over there to see. It’s a long drive, between 3 and 4 hours, depending on where I go. Still…it was going to be warm, unlike other drives I’ve made to see storms roll in.
So about 10 a.m. I made a snap decision, grabbed my camera and jumped in the car. Even on the way I wasn’t sure exactly where I’d go…but construction on the roads made the decision for me.
I ended up at St. Joseph Michigan, where I’d never visited before. I knew there was a lighthouse out on the end of a cement breakwater, and I was hoping to see big waves crashing over it.
But what I found was very different.
The wind was coming from the southwest, and just south of the lighthouse pier was another breakwater, which did what it was supposed to do, and broke up the waves before they reached the lighthouse. So…in reality it was sort of boring, even though the wind was blowing very hard and just as I left the rain began to whip sideways.
I figured the trip was something of a bust…and was going to head back home when I decided to just stop by Grand Haven on the way (even though it isn’t exactly on the way home. At all.) for a sort of drive-by look to see what the waves were doing there.
Well. Even though I’ve been to Grand Haven before, seen waves crashing there before, I was thrilled to see it again. The red lighthouse against a changing sky is always photogenic.
When you add white capped green waves, well, it’s just stunning.
I don’t know how many images I took…but it was a lot. Sometimes I was just holding the shutter down while trying to stay upright in the gusting wind.
I actually turned around to go back to the car a couple times then turned back because it was so mesmerizing.
I tried to find different angles, moving up and down the beach…running away from the water whenever a rogue wave slid up the sand overcoming where I’d just been standing.
The sun actually peeked out for a brief moment just as I was leaving, so of course I stayed. But the wind was getting stronger and I had plenty of images.
Luckily I was inside the car when a huge burst of wind began throwing sand around and people began running for their vehicles.
I smiled all the way home, even though I arrived long after dark.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And we were right. It turned into the most amazing sunset.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Because, after all, what’s a trip north without a barn?
It’s taken me a few days to sort through the images from my two nights of photography. Looking through them I’m transported back to those warm nights again.
Before my photography friend arrived that night I spent a few minutes capturing the sky above the dunes and houses along the road. It was an image I’d had in my head since my last trip up to this area, back in May. I think it looks like an amazing painting, and I’m glad I got to go back and get it.
Once she arrived we went down to the beach to see what there was to see.
It was a very windy night. We were pushing our tripod legs deep into the sand to try to reduce camera shake. The wind was cool, but I never felt cold until we stopped shooting. The adrenalin kept me warm.
The sky was stunning. The Milky Way was so clear. And when we turned around to face north the lit lighthouse was beautiful too.
The moon and several planets were supposed to line up around 4:30 that morning, so though we were done shooting the lighthouse and the Milky Way around 3:00, we thought it would be a waste not to stay and see. It was warmer up on the road, and we stood around talking as we waited for the moon to come up.
The moonrise was stunning, but it was rising through a bank of clouds and only intermittently visible. And in the end we didn’t see them all lined up, just Jupiter and sometimes Mars, and the moon.
But even without planets we were both smiling when we finally headed to bed just as the sun was beginning to light up the world.
We knew we’d had a wonderful night under the stars, and if we were lucky we’d be out the next night too.
I went on a little adventure this week, two nights spent near Lake Michigan shooting images of the Milky Way. It didn’t escape my attention that I went without my girl. Or that I went in part because it was too hard to be here without her.
And it worked. For two glorious nights I stood in silky sand with my lens pointed at the sky and I was happy.
Last night, after I was finished shooting while waiting for my photographer friend to finish her work, I sat alone in the sand, gazed up at the Big Dipper and talked to my dad, a warm breeze drying the tears on my face.
Hey Dad. I know you and Mom never met Katie but she’s up there now. Take care of her for me, will you? She might be scared to be so far away from her mama and daddy. I don’t want her to be scared, so please reassure her. And she likes her shoulders to be massaged. If you could do that for me, I’d appreciate it.
Tell her we love her, and miss her, and we’ll see her again someday.
PS: I’ll have more images to show you from the past two nights once I get them all sorted. It was pretty amazing, millions of stars crowding the sky, the Milky Way glowing.
I’m back from camping in northern Michigan where I was lucky enough to have a couple days with sunshine and one clear night. I have photos for you that I’m anxious to share. But I can’t. Couldn’t yesterday and it doesn’t feel right today either.
Because while I was blissfully floating down a beautiful river through the wilderness, enjoying the blue sky and birds and fish and turtles, somewhere in Texas terrified children and their teachers were locked in a classroom with a gunman.
I never checked my phone for news that afternoon, didn’t through the evening while we enjoyed dinner under swaying pines, or later on the beach as we waited for the sunset, or even later sitting around the fire with a glass of wine.
I didn’t know until, on a whim, I turned the phone on just before rolling over to sleep in my warm sleeping bag in my snug little tent. Immediately I knew something was wrong, the first Facebook pages to pop up were filled with obscure but horrifying posts. I didn’t know what had happened, but it was clear something terrible had.
So I googled “news today.”
You all know what that news was. And now I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad, and frustrated, and very very angry. As the mayor of Buffalo said….”We haven’t even raised our flags from half mast for the last mass killing and now there’s another.”
I thought we’d have reform by now. I thought that after Columbine in 1999 where two students killed twelve other kids and one teacher. I thought certainly this shows there is a need to rethink gun accessibility.
But then there was Virginia Tech in 2007 with 32 dead, and Northern Illinois University in 2008 with 5 dead, and of course Sandy Hook with 6 educators and 20 first graders dead. That one, little kids, for sure I thought would make us start discussions that resulted in real change. But the killings continued, in churches, in theaters, in stores. In schools.
And nothing significant has happened to resolve the problem, other than those who feel it’s all a mental health issue and those that feel it’s all about the guns stand harder and faster on their beliefs and the gulf between them widens.
It’s incomprehensible to me that we can’t each move a little closer to the center. It’s obvious it’s not all about mental health or all about gun control. Adults should be able to find ways to adult. There are things both side could agree on if each side were willing to compromise.
Maybe we can find ways to increase the availability of mental health support while at the same time lower the accessibility to individuals of weapons designed for war. I’m not saying everyone needs to get a mental health screening and I’m not saying no one can own a high powered gun. (Though I don’t understand what purpose those types of weapons have in an individual’s collection.)
What I am saying is that we can’t continue in the direction we’re headed. We can’t continue to stick our heads in the sand and mumble that these problems are too big, not fixable, that nothing would change the outcome.
And if those currently in office do nothing more than throw their hands up and say it’s too hard…well…those people need to be voted out so there’s room for people who are willing to work hard to fix the problem.
Because whether you want to admit it or not….we have a serious problem and none of us are safe. Wishing it was different won’t make it so. Doing the work, making the hard decisions, risking your friendships, your constituents, your donors, even your job, doing the work is the only thing that will cause change.
Change is hard.
I’ll give you one image from my time away. The sunset we watched on the day those innocents died. Now I can see how it represented that day, and the way our country, maybe even us as individuals, are split, shadowing the light that is our democracy.
We need to do the hard work necessary to make that light shine bright again.
You all know that my happy place is just about anywhere on the shores of a Great Lake, but especially Point Betsie, a lighthouse on Lake Michigan.
It has sentimental value because it was a favorite place for my parents, who camped near it on their honeymoon back in 1952.
Though when I think about camping in a green army pup tent in October I have to wonder what my dad was thinking.
But they stayed married for more than fifty years.
This week I had the opportunity to wander the beach at Point Betsie with a friend and her two cocker spaniels. We had a beautiful day, cool for the dogs but a bit of sun for us.
I took my camera equipment including the tripod, in case it looked like we’d have stars. My friend was willing to stay up late with me while I tried to capture the Milky Way.
I don’t think she realized how late that would have to be; the Milky Way isn’t really visible until almost morning at this time of year.
But as we walked the beach the clouds rolled in and after a few hours of rock hunting, and a great lunch at a park beside the Platt River in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we decided to head home.
The next day I saw beautiful images posted on Facebook of stars and the Northern Lights, taken the night before at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Yep. I told my friend if I ever suggest we head home early she should just kick me.
Katie says it serves me right for going on an adventure without her.
While camping midway on M-77 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last week I decided to explore both ends of that road.
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.
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.
That didn’t deter the rock pickers and there were even a few beach walkers out there even during the worst of it.
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.
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.
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.
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 barge is moved by turning a wheel near the back. Anyone on the barge can turn the wheel and be captain for awhile.
The center of the barge was open so you could see straight down into the water.
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.
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.
Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.
You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.
And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.
Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.
Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.
Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!
The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.
Eventually we found the trailhead.
The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.
Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.
We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.
We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.
We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.
Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!
We had a lovely dinner….
…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….
….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!
The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.
By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!
But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.
And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.
But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.
And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.
Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!
We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.
It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.
Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.
I’ve seen pictures of the Pt. Betsie lighthouse in lilac season. I’ve been covetous of those images because I’ve never seen it myself, never timed a visit to the lighthouse, one of my favorite places in this state, at exactly the right time.
Yesterday, on my way home from a 3 night camping trip near the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I finally got to check that as done.
The lilacs were at their peak, the sky was cerulean blue with a few wispy white clouds, we were the only ones there.
I have many reason to love this lighthouse, one being it’s where my parents visited during their honeymoon in 1953, and where they went for their 50th wedding anniversary a year before they died.
I like to sit and think about them there, and I hope they were close when I squealed at my first sight of the purple blooms against the white of the lighthouse.
I imagine they were, possibly, even squealing along.
Here it is Saturday already, and I’ve inadvertently left you hanging on my last two posts. Wednesday many of you wanted to know, “What IS that?”
and in the post before that you wondered where I went on my little mini adventure.
From a crispy but beautiful morning.
Both posts were related to the same adventure I was inspired to take last weekend, on our one completely sunny day so far this year. After so much rain, snow and dark skies I eagerly set out early Saturday morning anticipating bright blue skies and endless sun, looking for something magnificent to photograph.
But, as those of you who have been reading know, I got tangled up in beautiful frost before I made it more than a couple miles away from the house. Not a bad thing, you understand, but it certainly slowed me down.
So nice to see sunlight!
My first stop was Katie’s park right in my own town, where the tall grasses were shining. The Wordless Wednesday post was in the parking lot there, a car had driven over the unplowed lot, probably the day before, and then deer had crossed that track. In the early morning light what was concave appeared to be convex and I couldn’t resist capturing the image.
As to where I went next? Well, I had no destination in mind, and even though the sky was bright blue and there was still a little snow on the ground, as I drove nothing in particular caught my eye. So I kept going.
Surely I can find pretty stuff on a day like this!
Eventually I found myself half way to my favorite lake, so I went for it and headed for Warren Dunes State Park, someplace I’ve always wanted to visit.
I’ve always liked images of sand and snow. Blue sky doesn’t hurt either.
It’s down near the Michigan/Indiana border, quite near Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect, but the first sight of the giant dune sure made me smile.
It’s a long way to the top.
I watched families as they trudged up the dune or ran back down. Everyone was having a lot of fun on a chilly but sunny Saturday afternoon.
A long line of trees led to the water.
Of course I couldn’t be at Lake Michigan and not walk on the beach, even though the sun was beginning to descend and the shadows were growing longer.
So I headed down the beach, just for a bit, so that I could say hello to my lake. There weren’t many people out there, the wind was picking up and my fingers were chilled. But I know there’s always something pretty to photograph when you’re walking on a Great Lakes beach.
A chilly afternoon on a beautiful beach.
And of course there was.
Ripples in the sand, driftwood, and the brilliant sky.
Soon enough, though, I knew I should head for home. I hadn’t seen the St. Joseph lighthouse, something I really hoped I would have time for, but it was 30 minutes further south, the wrong direction. I checked to see what lighthouses might be north of me and found one near Saugatuck, not so far away. I put it in my phone and headed out.
Not real, but still pretty.
Turns out it was a replica of a lighthouse, tiny, being used for educational purposes. But it was still photogenic. As was the giant tug boat moored next to it.
All prettied up in festive holiday colors.
It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but what the heck, it was still an adventure, so after a couple shots I headed toward where I thought the freeway to home should be.
I was wrong, and ended up lost in Holland, which turns out to have several murals painted on the sides of it’s downtown businesses. I only stopped for one, because it had a parking lot where I could park and get my bearings, study the map, and set a true course for home.
One mural in Holland, there were more.
Early that morning I set out to find some barns, always a goal of mine on any adventure. I didn’t find any on the way over to the lake, not because they weren’t there, I suppose, but because my heart needed something more.
The last light of day made the barns glow.
Satisfied by a visit to my lake, I found several, all red, on my trip back home.
Worth stopping for.
Since last Saturday we haven’t had another day that was all sunny. No bright blue sky, no warming rays.
Just waiting for me to find it.
But I know we will again someday. And I hope, when the sun shines, I’ll be off on another adventure.