Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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The weekly smile is buried in snow.

Trent hosts a collection of smiles each week. People post on their own blogs, describing things that made them smile that week, and link their posts to his. On Mondays, a day when we could all use a few smiles, Trent posts a recap so that we can all visit everybody else. It’s a nice way to start the week.

So this week, in Michigan, we got snow. Record breaking snow, more snow this early in the season than we’ve ever received in the history of our weather.

Sure it was pretty, but nothing to smile about.

Did we smile?

Well, not so much, not after the first “Oh it’s so pretty” wore off. My husband went out three times during the day to clear the driveway. And then he went and bought a bigger snowblower.

We all wanted to fly away.

To add more drama to our lives, this week we’re having drywall put up in the garage, so the car had to stay outside. In the accumulating snow.

Is this supposed to be fun mama?

I took his truck with four wheel drive to my morning physical therapy appointment. Driving in blowing snow, through snowdrifts, and finding out, after the appointment, that there was no snow scraper in the truck meant I was still not smiling.

My feet are cold. This is not fun.

And Thursday and Friday we had painters doing the inside of our house. Katie and I were relegated to one bedroom with the door closed so she didn’t end up a painted dog. She wasn’t smiling.

Camping makes me smile, but not in the snow!

And when Katie is unhappy everyone is unhappy. So most of Thursday and some of Friday she and I explored her parks.

About time you found me a park where they plowed the path!

And then the sun came out. Which made us all smile!

Now this is perfect weather mama!

After two long days of exploring cold, snow covered parks, we spent last night playing hide the sheltie-girl.

You can’t hide from me mama!

And the smiles continued.

What made you smile this week? Share it with us! Those of us up here in snow country could use more smiles.

Adventures always make me smile mama!


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Living large as befits a princess

Katie here.

Welcome to Davis Lake Overlook Park! Or as I call it – Katie’s Park Two.

Boy I’ve been busy; mama says you wouldn’t know I’m going to be a teenager next month. After lolling around all summer I’m now all energy and bark. Maybe too much bark, but it gets me what I want so I’m not going to stop.

Even when mama calls me “KATE!”

Stop lolly-gagging around mama!

So when I kept barking and getting under her feet, mama gave in and took me to a local park. It was a beautiful, if a bit windy, day. Mama said that worked in our favor because no one else was out there.

The wind is taking down the last of the leaves!

She was intent on taking pictures of these yellow trees out in the wet swamp.

It was such a pretty day!

She does this every year and every year she gets her feet wet. I chose to stay up on the hill and wait for her; I haven’t forgotten how I got my feet wet following her last year.

I’ll wait here.

Then she started focusing on the light shining through this young oak tree leaf. I was bored and figured she should be focused on me and my treats, so I photo bombed her shot and she got the message. After that it was all about me.

Which is more pretty? This stupid leaf of me?

Still, this was just a local park and I thought I deserved a bigger adventure. After all, this year I’ve spent weeks and weeks at ‘camp’ and she feels quite guilty about that. I milk it for everything I can, so I kept bugging her to take me somewhere more fun and guess what?

Whatcha going to do for me next, huh mama?

She made a date with another sheltie and her mom down in Ann Arbor at Nichols Arboretum!

Meet Abby!

Abby is going to be 12 soon. She is a very elegant lady.

Mama and Amy’s mom have been Facebook friends for a long time, and it turns out Ann Arbor is sort of halfway between where we each live, so we met there yesterday.

Isn’t Abby pretty? She has a regal air about her don’t you think?

Abby and I got along just fine, mostly because we ignored each other. If I’m honest I sniffed her behind a couple times, but she was polite and didn’t try to sniff mine at all.

Abby’s mom didn’t bring her any treats, and she still posed when asked. I, of course, demanded payment after each shot.

At first we weren’t too excited to pose too close to each other, but almost right away we recognized if we just did what they asked we got to go off and sniff sooner. And there are so many good smells in the woods there!

This is Abby’s mom Shaun.

Since I had been there before I showed Abby some of my favorite places. There was one spot with lots of pretty leaves on the ground.

Abby didn’t mind hanging around getting her picture taken at all.

Then mama saw this tree. Well. You know we had to pose by that!!

“Does she always make you stop and take pictures on your walks Katie?”

We walked for a long time, but Abby and I didn’t get tired at all, mostly because mama was always stopping for more pictures. You know how mama is.

I think Abby had a good time too!

On our way back to the car I asked Abby if she wanted to come back sometime and explore more. She said she was definitely interested!

“I think this was a good idea, Katie!”

It’s a good thing we went for that walk yesterday. Cause this is what’s happening today!

Oh yea, Fall is over!

So, as you can see, I’ve had a pretty good time lately. I didn’t even tell you about the new park I explored last week with my friend Deuce!

Me and my friend Deuce as the sun set on another perfect day.

Yep, mama’s keeping me pretty busy. She says she’s trying to get me to sleep through the night. Yea. Like that’s going to happen.

Talk later, your park advisor pup, Katie-girl.

I always have fun with my friends.


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Missed it by THIS much

A few weeks ago I drove an hour north to visit a wildlife refuge and found the trail was closed for hunting. I left not knowing if there was anything there enticing enough to make me drive all that way again.

Three cranes drift noisily over the trail.

But it’s stayed in the back of my mind, a little whisper nagging me. What if it’s beautiful?

So Sunday I got up early (OK, Katie got me up early as she does every day) and jumped in the car heading north. I arrived about 8:30, the refuge opens at 7:30. As I was driving down the last dirt road toward the parking lot I heard cranes. Lots and lots of cranes.

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is out in the middle of farmland.

I realized I should have arrived earlier, because there were hundreds of cranes flying high overhead, and odds were they had just left the very place I was going. I was missing the mass exodus by minutes.

I stopped in the middle of the road, leapt out and pointed my camera blindly at the sky, trying to capture just a bit of it; I had no idea what I got, but I kept snapping until most of the birds were gone.

Then I drove to parking lot and began to explore.

On the drive north I had been watching the sky, the clouds were really interesting and I was assuring myself that even if the park was a dud, the clouds would make the drive worthwhile.

Early morning art.

Turns out the park was not a dud, though with the heavy cloud cover and a bit of morning fog the colors were initially muted. Still, I was there mainly to see what kind of birds I could capture. So I moved along, further into the preserve.

The over 9,000 acres was once mostly farmland. There are a series of earth dams, pumps and drains to manage the wetlands now. Most of the time I was walking along the top of a dam, with water on both sides of me.

Not a lot of color right at the beginning of my walk, but still beautiful images everywhere.

I seemed like maybe the water was high this year, as full grown maples and hickory trees were standing in water to my right.

Young cottonwood trees glow on the other side of tall trees.

And to the left, on the other side of a tree lined and water filled ditch were open fields.

Splashes of red from maples that lined the ditch.

I was headed down a long straight path toward a ‘wildlife viewing area’ that turned out to be a bench sitting in a nondescript place along the path.

Looking for wildlife.

Along the way I accidentally flushed out two blue herons who had been standing in the ditch. I guess I’m a noisy walker. Both of them startled me and I missed catching their images. No time to get the camera up, turned on and focused. I barely figured out where they had come from when they were gone from sight.

All I got was that little dark spot in the sky. But I know it was a blue heron, and I’m OK with just seeing him.

Darn. Missed each of them by seconds.

I turned around after half a mile, working my way back to the path intersection. A sign said there was a viewing tower 2 miles in another direction. I switched to my long lens and began the trek.

Walking along another earthen dam, water on both sides, I was focused on trees turning colors over to the left. It was pretty amazing.

Mostly maples turning, our first trees to give in to fall.

Then I happened to glance to my right and I laughed out loud.

Fall hasn’t made it over here yet.

It was so green even the air seemed tinged with jade.

I thought I caught a glimpse of a little bird, then two, flitting in some nearby shrubs. Ah…maybe I could catch them before they flew off. From their tail feathers I thought they might be dark eyed juncos, though I hoped not. Juncos are only in our area during fall and winter, and they are my first harbinger that winter is really on the way. It’s a reality check I hate to accept. I never got pictures, the little birds remained hidden in the dense underbrush.

I missed them by micro seconds.

I continued on and the colors of the trees got more and more intense. At least the leaves stood still for me while I messed with my settings.

Kind of unbelievable.

Even though there was no sun, maybe because there was no sun, the colors were intense. It was taking me forever to walk that two miles out to the viewing stand.

Loved the shape of the trunk.

The long lens was heavy and I hadn’t seen any other birds. But there really wasn’t a good spot to stop and change it, so I slogged on. Even when there weren’t colors it was still beautiful.

Oh wait…there’s something, a family of geese enjoying a quiet moment together. Good thing I still had the long lens on the camera so I could be far away and not disturb them.

They stood still for me too.

I finally got out to the viewing “tower” which was a large, elevated deck overlooking a huge pond. A long way away were hundreds of geese and swans and probably cranes too, all making a lot of noise.

Lots of birds way down there.

I was too tired to walk further in order to get closer, and I figured if I went down there they’d all leave, so I sat on the deck and watched and listened for awhile. And then I changed my lens back to the lighter and shorter version.

The view was pretty from up there. The subtle colors in the fields and marsh looked like an oil painting. But I knew I had over 2 miles to get back to the car and and hour drive home, so I reluctantly started back.

Not as flamboyant as the maples but just as pretty.

Glancing to my left I stopped as a doe and I stared at each other. She was several yards away from me, but well within range if I still had my long lens on the camera.

She showed me her white tail of alarm as she ran the other way.

Darn. Missed again.

The walk back was faster, mostly because I was focused on not taking any more pictures! Well, maybe one more. And that over there is stunning. But no more!

And then the sun came out.

The world began to glow.

I couldn’t resist, even though my stomach was rumbling with hunger, and my back ached from carrying the camera, and my poor little finger, still aching from being broken was telling me it was time to stop. I couldn’t resist.

Light is what it’s all about.

But eventually I got back to the parking lot where several cars full of people were contemplating if it was worth it to walk back into the preserve.

Gold trees, blue sky. What’s not to love?

I don’t know…what do you think? Even though I didn’t get one single fabulous wildlife image I still had a great time.

Far far away, but still beautiful.

And I learned a few things.

One, now that I have the lay of the land scoped out, I need to sit in one spot and see what comes by. Walking around only makes the wildlife nervous. Two, I need to leave the camera turned on, lens cap off, and not regret whichever lens I happen to be using.

And three, I need to go up there again before it gets too cold.

Soon all the color will be gone.


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Photo surprise

Early Saturday morning, just before the sun made it out of bed, I headed out to a park about a half hour away to meet other photography students and an instructor. We explored the Hawk Woods Nature Center, with it’s large pond and trails.

Then the sun began to push through the clouds.

It was cold, only 44F degrees (6.66C) and I hadn’t dressed warm enough. But I figured once we were moving, and in the woods, I’d be fine. I was wrong.

This park, on this particular day, challenged my belief that there’s always something to photograph. Though there were beautiful purple asters I wasn’t noticing much else in the way of fall color.

If you look closely there’s a bit of color, no matter where you are.

The pond was fringed with tall grasses, making it hard to appreciate. But I did notice this guy sitting across the way when I passed a break in the grass.

Hiding in the grasses.

But still, what else to shoot? The class stopped at a wildflower garden, but I wasn’t really into it, as I have the same flowers in my own yard. So I meandered away from the pond and into the woods.

This path looked interesting.

I am always most comfortable in the woods. Not much color in there, but still, it drew me in.

After a bit of time in the dark green woods I went back to where the group was still concentrating on the flowers. I moved on down the trail that circles the pond, looking for anything interesting.

The sun began to peek out and the grass began to glow.

Brown is a color, right?

If you make this bigger you’ll notice the intricate texture of this dried queen anne’s lace.

Down at the end of the pond I came across a couple fat warblers and a chickadee hopping about in a shrub. I didn’t have the right lens, and while I was changing lenses they flew away. But I was happy to see them.

Not peak color yet, but still pretty.

By now my fingers were freezing, and my broken little finger was aching, a combination of the cold and carrying the camera, so I decided to pack it in. I’m not writing this park off, I think if I had dressed better I’d have stayed and found more pretty things, and given it’s not so far away I will definitely go back.

On the way home I stopped and got a warm drink, trying to make my finger feel better. I stopped at a rest stop along the freeway, to toss the cup when I finished the drink, and as I was getting out of the car I noticed a flurry of activity in the crab apple trees lining the sidewalk.

Could it be my favorite birds? I heard the distinctive excited chirp. My camera already had the long lens attached and was sitting in the passenger seat. My fingers were no longer cold.

I grabbed the camera and crept up to the trees. AMAZING. There were adults…

Notice the yellow feathers at the end of his tail.

…and juveniles.

Notice the stripes on his breast.

I know people stopping at the rest stop thought I was insane as I was creeping around the trees with a big ole camera. But I ignored them, except when they slammed car doors and the birds rose up into the air as one. Then I scowled at the clueless drivers. (Not really, it’s a public rest stop after all.)

Three in this one shot!

There were so many! They’d fly from the trees near the bathroom over to the trees on the other side of the parking lot, and back again.

The trees were beautiful too.

I was having such a great time. And in a rest stop. But I actually squealed when I got home and looked at the images. Because I had captured this:

My favorite shot of the day.

So the point of this post is that there always is something interesting or beautiful or original, or fun to shoot. And you should always have your camera ready to go, because you’re never going to know what you’ll see when you keep your eyes open.

Years of sitting quietly in these woods.

Many thanks to Bob DiTommaso and his wife Juliann for hosting the meetup. If I hadn’t gone and wandered at the park I wouldn’t have stopped for a warm drink and to toss the cup and I never would have seen the cedar waxwings.

Plus I found some pretty things at the park too.

Hungry


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Almost to Canada

Well, on my last travel post I thought we were ready to cross the border into Canada, but as I sorted through photos I realized there was still plenty to see in Minnesota.

Enjoying Lake Superior on a warm summer afternoon.

Unless this post gets really long there’s no way I can get you through Minnesota and all the way across the northern shore of Lake Superior and back to the border at Michigan.

Everywhere there are ships loading and unloading.

Let’s just see how far we get.

I didn’t want to move on without telling you about Gooseberry Falls, north of Duluth.

I was fascinated by the exposed tree roots as much as by the falling water.

There are a couple of sets of waterfalls, all of them were beautiful when we were there. You could walk on the rocks very near the falls if you wanted, or stay on the trail. The trail took you further down the river where you could get a view of all the falls at once.

Most waterfalls we saw have upper and lower falls.

And even further north is Grand Portage National Monument. We stopped there because we were expecting an historical monument. Maybe a marker.

Pretty impressive.

But there’s a beautiful information center…

One of the interior murals.

…and guided tours of the restored trading post.

Explaining the birch bark Indian shelters.

We explored the interiors of several buildings…

The kitchen and the dining room.

…and then the lake shore itself.

The gate down to the dock where boats full of goods would land.

I could have stayed out on the dock for the rest of the evening.

Such a beautiful evening. The clouds were perfect.

It was getting late and we were almost to the border, so reluctantly we moved on.

But wait! There was another set of waterfalls, on the Pigeon River, in the Grand Portage State Park. The river makes up the border between Minnesota in the United States and Ontario Canada. Should we stop? It was chilly and starting to rain. It was late in the evening and getting dark.

Of course we stopped.

There weren’t many people out there, but the walk was relatively short, maybe only half a mile back to the falls. We hurried as the rain came down harder.

The High Falls on the Pigeon River.

We could hear it before we saw it. The falls were magnificent, and we were glad we made the trek. The walk was on a paved path most of the way, not difficult at all, which made it easier for us to sprint back to the car.

Now we’re ready to head into Canada! But that will have to wait until the next post. I think that blogging while sleepy could be a problem.

And you know I’m all about safety. Stay tuned.

Surprise, there are more waterfalls in Canada!


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Ashland Wisconsin and Duluth Minnesota

Katie has released the blog back to me so that I can get back to the travelogue…we circled Lake Superior in late August and early September. There was lots to see.

Sturgeon at the Duluth aquarium.

I could do a separate blog about each town we visited, but in the interest of saving some time, here are just a few images from a couple towns before we headed into Canada.

The side of the co-op was covered in a beautiful mosaic. This is only about a third of it.

Ashland was a town in Wisconsin that we were just driving through on our way to Duluth. We weren’t planning on stopping there, in fact the road moved north of downtown, following Lake Superior’s shore.

But we saw a sign that referenced ‘public art’ with an arrow pointing toward downtown, a block away, so we turned toward town. And we were astounded by our first glimpse of huge murals painted on the sides of many of the retails buildings.

The flowers complimented the beautiful mural.

At first we were just going to take a couple of pictures and move on. But then we realized how outstanding these pieces of art were and we parked and walked from one end of town to the other.

These women were real people who worked at the local diner back in the day.

I’m only showing you a fraction, they were all worthy of photos and I took pictures of all of them on the main street. I think there were a couple more further away.

Sometimes the murals melted right into the afternoon sky.

If you ever get the chance to visit Ashland I recommend giving yourself an hour or more. Plus there was an absolutely wonderful burger place right downtown. I had a really good bean burger.

Mural reflections.

I recommend visiting there too.

Then we got back on the road, heading to Duluth.

The bridge into Duluth.

Duluth is a working town, lots of ships coming and going. While we were at the aquarium we saw a big ore boat come into port. And no matter where we went ships were loading or unloading.

I liked the grey ship with the grey sand against the blue sky and water.

You saw the post about the mansion in town. There’s also Pattison State Park, named after the family that built the large house.

Upper falls. It’s hard to see just how big these falls are.

Lots of waterfalls there, and I was still figuring out settings to make the water smooth. Sometimes I got it right.

Working on my fluid water technique on the lower falls.

The first night we stayed on the top floor of a hotel with a view of the city.

Lake Superior, a ship, the iconic Duluth lift bridge and a cloud front. Perfect.

At night it was so pretty. I could show you that…but you can imagine it. I sort of liked this shot from our window.

Lots of color at night.

Just because it’s fun.

OK, OK…here’s the real night shot.

Took this one with my phone. Phones cameras are amazing.

The second night we stayed at a hotel down near the marina with a lovely view of the bridge and boats.

Early morning light on the marina.

Plus we got to drive across the famous lift bridge!

Crossing the bridge.

After two days of sightseeing in Duluth, visiting mansions, lighthouses, waterfalls, the aquarium and Lake Superior we moved on, heading north into Canada.

Pretty and peaceful at the Duluth aquarium.

I guess I’ll have to post at least one more travel related blog or I’ll have abandoned you at the border.

Roses in full bloom at the Leif Erikson Park at the edge of Duluth as we left town.

And there’s plenty to see in Canada.

Stay tuned.

Building on a building in Ashland.


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Be brave

In the past two days, since we moved north and west from Duluth Minnosota, we’ve explored Canadian waterfalls…

Kakabeka Falls

…and a fur trading fort set in 1816.

Fort William

Tonight as I sort through those images there are plenty I’d like to show you. But you’ve all seen waterfall images (though even I think the falls up here are pretty spectacular) and I’ve shared lots of forts in past travel posts.

If you like, once I get home, I’ll post some of my favorite shots from those experiences. But this post will focus on our adventures last night, when we drove to the top of the Sleeping Giant mountain to watch the sun set.

There’s potential for a spectacular sunset.

The road up was almost 6 miles of bumpy, rutted dirt. When we got near the top the road disappeared into pure rock. We were driving on the top of the mountain! There’s a viewing deck up there, but not exactly what I expected.

Not quite the nice wide deck I was expecting.

It’s a metal walkway extending out from the side of the mountain, 100 meters above the lake shore below. The floor is made of wooden slates…

Ummmm…don’t look down.

…that you can see between. It’s a very long way down and it took me a few moments to stop feeling light headed enough to slowly creep my way out toward the end.

It helps if you hang on to the railing and concentrate on the horizon.

But when I finally did, the view was astounding.

Picture perfect.

And to my right the lowering sun made the cliff glow.

The light on the cliff against the dark clouds was breathtaking.

I couldn’t keep from feeling a thrill to be out there…

It was amazing! photo credit to my husband.

…even though there really wasn’t much of a sunset.

Just before the rain came.

It was scary, being so high above Thunder Bay, but I’m glad we went. If you’re ever nearby I recommend you venture out too!

Just don’t look down.

Good night sun!


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Houses of different kinds

During the past couple of days we’ve visited a few houses over here in Wisconsin and Minnesota, each one different, but each housing families in the early 1900s.

Our first house tour was in Superior Wisconsin, where we visited Fairlawn, a mansion built in 1891…

Fairlawn mansion.

…the family only lived in the house a few years when Mr.Pattison died unexpectedly. His wife moved the family to California and the house became a children’s home for several decades.

Lots of drapery and carved wood.

Inside the first floor has been restored to look as it did when the family lived there, while the top floors describe what life was like when it housed dozens of children.

We also toured Glensheen, a mansion in Duluth Minnesota.

The grand front of Glensheen.

This one was completed in 1908, and was lived in by an original family member until 1977 when the last daughter died.

The dining room.

With 20,000 square feet, fifteen fireplaces, numerous bathrooms and bedrooms, it’s huge and beautiful.

Lots of carved wood in this house too.

Each of the seven children had their own bedrooms, often with their own bathrooms too.

One of the girl’s rooms.

Most of the rooms had lovely views of Lake Superior. Still, the house was a lot darker inside than what we’re used to today.

Drying linens in the laundry room.

The grounds were beautifully landscaped, complete with a huge vegetable garden, tennis courts and lawn bowling.

The back of the house was more stunning than the front.

Next we headed north, tunneling our way through a couple rocky outcroppings.

Tunneling our way north.

We stopped in Two Harbors Minnesota where we walked the breakwater enjoying a beautiful later summer afternoon.

Such a beautiful day to be near the water.

In the same park was a lighthouse that has become a Bed & Breakfast. It looked wonderful, though it’s privately owned and we couldn’t go inside.

Seems like a perfect spot to relax on the shores of Lake Superior.

Guess we’ll have to make a reservation and stay overnight to see what it’s like to sleep in a lighthouse!

Then we moved on to something that’s been on my bucket list for a long time — Split Rock lighthouse.

We took the tour and learned a whole lot about what life was like when this lighthouse employed three keepers. Then we started to explore.

Stairs ascending the tower.

Up in the relatively short tower there is a truly beautiful lens.

The lens rotates and sending out a bright white light every 10 seconds.

This lighthouse sits high on a cliff; I’ve seen pictures that made me want to see it for myself.

I couldn’t keep myself from giggling with joy when I rounded the corner and saw this jewel of a lighthouse shining in the sunlight.

But nothing could have prepared me for just how beautiful it really is, as seen from the stony beach far below it’s base. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s just stunning, definitely my smile of the week, and a perfect way to end our exploration of the Duluth area.

We’ll be moving even further north, into Canada, tomorrow. I don’t know when I’ll be able to post again…but you can be sure I’ll have more images and adventures to share when I do!

Me and the lighthouse.