Yep, I’ve been gone again. Just a few days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which, of course, created a couple hundred images for me to sort through. It’s so beautiful up there that it would be impossible not to take a few hundred images. A day.
A friend and I drove north on Wednesday, our goal to make it to our hotel in Sault Ste. Marie by late afternoon. Since it’s only about a five hour drive to the bridge (that’s the Mackinaw Bridge for those of you not quite up to speed on Michigan geography) and then less than an hour to the Soo (short for Sault Ste Marie) we had lots of time to meander on our way.
Which is, you have to admit, the best way to travel.
So we stopped at one of my favorite parks, about 3 hours into our trip. Hartwick Pines is a place Katie and I have camped many times.
Visiting without her by my side was hard, but it was fun to show it to someone who hadn’t been there before. We ate our lunch under tall white pines and then walked the path back to the logging museum.
Along the way we stopped at the chapel. I remember Katie and I doing that walk early one morning only a couple of years ago.
Everywhere I looked I could see her.
After our walk we headed north again until we came to the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula where we stopped to spend some time admiring the Mackinaw Bridge from the shore.
There’s a lovely little park that allows you to walk right under the bridge. You have to do that, I think it’s some kind of unwritten rule that everyone needs to see the underside of the bridge at least once.
I’ve seen it more times than I can count, starting when I was a kid and my folks took us exploring. I think of them every time I stand under that bridge.
I remember my dad taking us out on the water in his homemade canoe, telling us that we were paddling all the way from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan which turned out to be a short paddle under the bridge that bisects the two Great Lakes.
I still grin over that, all these decades later.
Then it was time to get going, up and over the bridge (where I don’t have images for you because I was driving) and into the Soo. We figured we’d buzz up to the Sault Locks where huge ships traveling the Great Lakes are raised or lowered depending on which direction they’re going.
We were just going to find out the visiting hours, we didn’t intend to stay, but we were pleased to see a giant ore boat in the biggest lock. We hurried up to the visitor gallery and saw that the lock closest to us was filled with a tugboat, a tour boat and a sailboat.
So we stayed and watched both locks lower their boats. We figured that was that, but then we were surprised to see another huge ship maneuver into the lock closest to us just after it was emptied of the original three smaller boats!
So, because the larger ship was just beginning to move out, we were able to watch both locks working at the same time.
The one closest to us was now raising the red ship in preparation of it moving west…and the huge lock behind it was filled with a huge ship being lowered so that it could continue on to the east.
It was fascinating! We couldn’t have timed it better. I’ve been to the locks a couple of times and never saw a big ship in the lock closest to the viewing area.
There was a guy on the close ship who was talking to people near us up in the viewing stand. They were asking questions about how the food was, what his hours were, how his family felt about him being gone for weeks at a time. He answered, with a wonderful accent, maybe Australian, with good humor and honest facts. I couldn’t hear much because it was so windy that day, but the bits I heard were interesting.
So it turns out that one of our main objectives for the trip, visiting the locks, was accomplished before we even had dinner on our first day!
We ate, that evening, at a restaurant called Antlers in the Soo…which is an interesting place filled with…well….antlers. I had a really good burger and decent onion rings and then, stuffed, tired and happy we headed back to the hotel to dream of our next adventure.
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?
I hadn’t been there in mid-summer before, preferring migration season, when the cranes are coming and going, but you never know what you’ll see on any given day. We arrived at the park before the sun was up, and it seemed pretty quiet.
I was feeling kind of disappointed that nothing seemed to be flying when suddenly the sound of wings came up from our right, moved directly overhead and then off into the distance to our left.
I don’t know what kind of birds they were, they were just black silhouettes, but thousands of smallish dark shapes flew by, heading out for breakfast and their day in the sun.
It was pretty cool.
Then we hopped back in the car and started down Wildlife Drive where, once again, I didn’t initially see anything interesting Though there was this beautiful field of something, glowing in the early light.
And as I was standing outside of the car taking that photo these guys rose up with a ruckus from the ditch right next to me.
And a little further up the road we disturbed this blue heron. I loved his long legs as he took off.
He was less than thrilled with us…
…so we moved on down the road.
At the next corner I saw an adorable duck. So of course we stopped.
Turns out he was some kind of diving duck, and the best image I grabbed of him wasn’t him at all.
And then right after the duck was a juvenile eagle hanging out in a tree.
The light wasn’t really right to get a great shot of him, so I started looking around at what else was waiting to be photographed and found my artsy-fartsy image of the day.
I don’t know why the line of dead trees caught my eye, but something about it demanded to be captured. So I did.
Then we ran across something of a bird flasher. He seemed intent on showing off everything he had. Or maybe he was just drying off from a morning swim.
And while we were watching him my sister saw a bit of gold flitting around in a stand of thistle.
I spent a long time getting an image of him eating out in nature what I usually see goldfinches eating from my feeder at home.
These ducks were swimming as if they had some sort of mission to achieve somewhere else. I have no idea what kind of duck they are. Looking in my Michigan bird book I wonder if maybe they are female wood ducks? Or maybe juveniles.
And this family of ducks were adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before either.
But the bird that made me smile the widest was this guy. We’d been watching, through binoculars, a couple of bald eagles perched in a tree very far away when I happened to glance to my left and saw this:
There was an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree much closer to us. Still far away, but much closer than those eagles across the field.
We spent a long time taking shots of him, as I was struggling with my focus all day. I kept trying, manually adjusting, trying to find a place to prop my long lens because I was worried about camera shake.
My glasses were fogging up and sliding off my nose which irritated me so I put them on top of my head and then realized I couldn’t tell if anything was in focus without them. I decided to trust the lens.
Eventually I figured, what the heck, I’d try to move closer to him. I walked, under cover of the tree line toward him, moving slowly and as quietly as I could given the gravel road. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me.
I caught a bit of him through the trees then tried to move out into the open to get an unobscured shot. But he wasn’t having any of it, and that was the end of that.
But man that was fun.
We were nearing the end of Wildlife Drive, but there was still a bit more to see. We’d noticed monarch butterflies all morning, flitting among the milkweed, wings glowing in the early morning sun.
And now that the sun was higher warming the air we noticed even more.
Having not learned my lesson with the egrets, the heron, the diving duck, and the eagle, I tried to move around the butterfly to get a better angle.
But he wasn’t having it and that was the end of that.
Turns out there was so much to see along the road that had initially looked empty, and just before we left the Refuge we saw one more image that made us smile.
I know it’s not easy being green, but these guys seemed pretty comfortable in their own skins. Or should I say shells. At least they didn’t take off when I took their picture. Maybe because I shot it from the car window.
I can learn, contrary to what Katie always used to say, yes I can.
I was back out at Kensington this week, on a dreary and damp Wednesday morning. The birds were overjoyed to see us. And of course I have loads of images. Some are quite good.
But my question today is about one particular little bird. Or perhaps two.
We were still very near the nature center when a rose-breasted grosbeak demanded a treat. This is the first year I’ve ever seen a grosbeak come in for a hand held treat. But these days I often see, on Facebook, a picture of one enjoying himself. It kind of looks like the same bird I’ve fed out there.
And I wonder if there is only one that comes in to eat our treats, or if the entire rose-breasted population has figured out the secret.
So here’s the bird that ate from our hand near the nature center.
And here’s the bird that flew down from a high branch of a dead tree to get the last of the snacks just before we left for the day.
What do you think? Is it the same bird? Or did we have two hungry birds begging for attention?