Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Flight 93

We detoured, yesterday, from our drive to Washington DC, in order to visit the Flight 93 Memorial.

I recommend visiting in the late afternoon when the light is warm.

We had two phones, the car’s navigational system and a Garmin with us. Each provide different instructions. We ended up circling up and down and around the hills in which the memorial sits. It’s beautiful country but after about an hour of driving, always within 5 minutes of our destination, we were pretty frustrated.

Our first look at the Tower of Voices

Part of the problem is that there’s an old entrance that isn’t open anymore and some of our technical tools wanted to go there…and so we did. The other part of the problem is a distinct lack of signage for the new entrance.

Located on a small hill planted in wildflowers.

But eventually we made it, as the sun was starting to lower in a sky filled with big puffy grey and white clouds.

Eight columns holding the heavy chimes.

Our first stop was windchimes tower, dedicated to the 40 people on the plane that died September 11th, 2001 when the passengers put Flight 93 into the ground rather than allow themselves to be weapons aimed for the US Capitol.

There are 40 different wind chimes, each with a distinct sound.

The chimes are beautiful, but only play when the wind is at least 12 mph, and though it was getting breezy it wasn’t windy enough to hear more than one low tone.

Once in awhile there was a gust of wind.

Then we went on to the visitor center which is built into a huge concrete structure that draws you along that last flight path, and deposits you on a platform overlooking the final crash site of the plane.

Mapping the path of the plane.

It’s a beautiful field now, filled with wildflowers and birds. In the late afternoon light it glows.

The white is a tent left up after this week’s anniversary. The farm over on the hillside witnessed the crash.

We drove down to the lower area, and walked the pathway back to the wall of names. Along the way were some mementos in a space designed to collect them.

Lots of memories left on the wall.

The names etched into the wall were heartbreaking, as were the pictures there, and the flowers.

Always together, forever

We were visiting only three days after the 21st anniversary of the attack, so the flowers were freshly poignant.

We spent a long time wandering the grounds. It was so peaceful with hardly anyone else there.

Yet I couldn’t help but look back up at the visitor center, built along the flight path and imagine what it must have been like that day. What it sounded like, what it smelled like. What it looked like.

Also together forever.

There are photos, of course, of the aftermath. But I don’t think they convey the total horror that must have confronted the emergency workers when they arrived.

Hard to imagine this place as it must have been that day.

I imagine the field was a beautiful place before the plane dropped out of the sky.

Paying her respects.

And it’s a beautiful place again, a fitting tribute to the forty heroes of Flight 93.

Evening light comforts as another day slips away.

After I wrote this a friend provided a link to Sunday Morning’s piece on the Flight 93 National Memorial. It’s a short piece that will explain more about the tower and the site.


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Waiting on the Milky Way

So what does a person do all day while waiting for true dark to arrive? Besides nap that is.

Working on the river.

Well, on the one day the skies were clear while I was in the UP I wandered the Manistique waterfront looking for other things to photograph while impatiently urging the sun to hurry up and sink.

If you zoom in you might be able to read about the lighthouse.

The mouth of the Manistique River was being dredged so I watched that for awhile. It was sort of interesting, but you can only watch so many piles of mud being moved before you have to move on.

Scoop after scoop of muck was dug up from the river bottom and poured into the barge.

I couldn’t resist walking out on the causeway leading to the shiny red lighthouse. It was such a pretty day.

A wide cement walkway made the trip out there easy to navigate.

I spent quite a bit of time out there waiting for the sun to go down. And watching the light glint off the water.

It’s not a long walk on a pretty day.

A couple of guys were fishing but they hid behind the lighthouse for me to get some shots.

All metal, it can withstand some nasty weather. But none was forecast while I was there.

But as the sun lowered I came back into shore.

The flowers glowed, loosestrife, an invasive, and goldenrod.

The evening light makes everything so pretty.

The last bit of light before the magic begins.

And then, slowly, slowly, the sun sank and the blue hour began.

Let’s take a walk down this boardwalk.

Earlier in the day I had scoped out a place to set up, hoping that the Milky Way would be near the lighthouse from my vantage point. The compass said it should be. But I knew I only had one night so I hoped I wasn’t wrong.

The beginning of blue hour on the beach.

I waited impatiently. It takes forever for the night to get truly dark. And then….a few stars decide to turn on their lights.

Here we go…

I still couldn’t tell exactly where the Milky Way was going to shine…but the stars made me smile anyway. And then….finally, finally, there it was. It was pretty darn amazing. I don’t know why the beach wasn’t full of people just staring.

Take a moment and just look.

I stayed out there a long time. A lot of it not shooting, just standing there, in the moment.

Because, really, how many shots can you take of the same lighthouse with the Milky Way? Well, as it turns out…several dozen. You see, the dark sky requires that you have a high ISO and a wide open aperture and that causes grainy shots.

Beautiful without the lighthouse too.

But you can stack them. Did you know that? There’s software that will lay your photos, one on top of the other, and match up your stars and eliminate anything different. And that clears up a lot of the grainy noise. Huh. So I was taking 7 shots of each shot, in preparation for stacking. But I learned, just this week, I should have taken 10 to 15 shots to stack.

Ah well.

Many of my images had these streaks. I never saw it when I was on the beach, but some people say this light in the sky is the Sky-Link satellites. Zoom in and see what you think.

So, anyway, these are single images, no stacking here, just a little editing to bring out the whites and sometimes to lift the shadows.

I still have so much to learn…so many technical things that I can do to make the images more clear, more beautiful. But the Milky Way season here in Michigan is almost over. There will be one more chance in October, just a few nights, and then I’ll have to be patient until 2023.

Just to show you, we are never alone, the sky is full of stuff flying around.

Yea right. I can hardly handle waiting for the sun to set in a single evening. How am I going to get through months of no Milky Way?

It’s gonna be tough.


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So, on to the UP – ey?

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

It was such a beautiful night.

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

The other end of the Milky Way.

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

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

Out of focus because I was speeding away.

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

Where do I go now?

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

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

A barn being renovated.

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

Mama cow wants me to move along.

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

Much better. Grass and a view.

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

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

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

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

Meet Harlo, my doggie neighbor at the campground.

Oh darn.


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So, as I was saying…

Let’s see, before Katie decided you needed a Katie fix I was about to take you over the Mackinaw Bridge and on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My friend, who was in the passenger seat, got some really cool shots of the bridge as we drove over it. I should ask her to share them here…but meanwhile let’s go see what we saw once we left downstate behind.

On our way to a lighthouse.

You might think that the UP (short for Upper Peninsula) is nothing but trees and lakes and mosquitos. You would, of course, be wrong. Thought not far wrong…there’s plenty of all that too.

For example there’s the lighthouses. Did you know Michigan has more lighthouses than Maine? Yea…I forgot, I told you that factoid a few years ago when we were traveling in Maine.

This one is in Mackinaw City, at the Southern end of the big bridge.

We visited one of them on our first full day in the UP. It’s a lighthouse that’s not easy to get to, and they tell you on their website and in their literature not to try to find it using GPS.

Trust me, they know what they’re talking about.

Only 6.5 more miles to go!

There’s no GPS or any kind of service out there, and you get dropped while you’re still miles away in the middle of the middle of nowhere. You need to follow sandy, sometimes two track roads. But the route is mostly well-marked (except for one very important corner where I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right but went left) so if you pay attention and follow the signs you will eventually get to Crisp Point Lighthouse.

Your first glimpse of Crisp Point Lighthouse makes you smile.

It’s definitely worth the multi-mile drive through the woods on roads filled with deep holes and standing water. Actually, the roads are one of the reasons I love it so. There are fewer people (but not NO people!) out there. You definitely won’t want to take your RV on those roads, and there’s nowhere to turn around, but if you have a car with a bit of clearance you’ll be fine.

Anyway, once you’re finally there, and have breathed your sigh of relief, you’ll be able to climb the tower if volunteers are on duty to open it up. We were lucky and got to enjoy the view from the top.

From inside the tower you can see forever.

And then, since my friend is into rock picking, we walked the beach looking for perfect stones. Though to be honest they all looked like perfect stones to me.

Take your pick, you can’t go wrong!

She’s a rock painter, someone who paints rocks with cute colors and pictures and than hides them for people, often kids, to find. It’s a thing. And I found out how fun it is to hide her painted stones as we left more than a dozen behind during the three days we were out exploring, tucked into crevices across the UP.

Wonder who found this painted turtle?

So I looked for smooth, white rocks that would be good for painting, and she looked for specific types of stones, like quartz (we both found some of that) and granite (lots of it!) and pudding stones (maybe!) and all sorts of others. I don’t remember most of it, but I was pretty good at finding smooth white stones.

Eventually we had to leave this perfect place and find our way back to the world of paved roads. We intended to spend the evening at Whitefish Point, several miles up the Lake Superior shoreline. Maybe there would be a sunset. Maybe there would be stars.

Waiting on the sun.

Maybe…just maybe we’d get to see the last super moon rise up from Lake Superior. And, of course, there’s a lighthouse there too.

An entirely different kind of lighthouse at Whitefish Point.

Well, it turns out there wasn’t much sunset, though it was still beautiful.

The cloudless sky turned orange and the most interesting part were the people watching it set.

And the moon obliterated most of the stars…so we didn’t stay real late, and we made it back to the hotel in Sault Ste. Marie shortly before midnight.

It was amazing.

Just in time to get a good night’s sleep in order to get up and do it all over again in the morning!

Do you see the hidden treasure?

Were should we go next?


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Now where was I…

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.

Ahem.

The light was beautiful. Hard NOT to take a few pictures.

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.

We meandered here during our driving break.

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.

The logging museum reflects how things were back in the day.

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.

A perfect place for lunch.

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.

A peaceful place to remember my girl.

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.

The clouds added a nice touch to the beautiful span.

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.

Good to see everything looks ship shape.

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.

A ship much bigger than our canoe heads from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan.

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.

It was so fun to watch these ‘little’ boats in the lock!

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.

Off to get some work done on a Wednesday afternoon.

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!

Well, where did YOU come from? We hadn’t seen this ship hiding over near the shore!

So, because the larger ship was just beginning to move out, we were able to watch both locks working at the same time.

The white tall ‘building’ in the second lock is the back of the larger ore boat pulling out.

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.

I thought this was kind of like walking a dog…only a really BIG dog…

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.

“The food is pretty good!”

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!

Riding high on her way west.

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.

Don’t you wonder where we’re going next?

I remember Katie-girl sitting right between those two trees on a trip to this park years ago.


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Northern Lights

No, I’ve never seen them in person. Well. I might have seen a tiny bit of some once, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been watching all the great Northern Light images popping up on Facebook. Many are being shot in northern Michigan, often very near where I used to live a lifetime ago. Sometimes I can tell exactly where the photographer was standing because I’ve stood there myself.

Creating pollution, light and otherwise while waiting for the Northern Lights.

Now days I live far away from the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsulia which would be my first choice of viewing locations. It’s just not practical to jump in the car when conditions are right and drive ten hours on the off chance the dancing lights appear.

It was a crazy night.

But I’m sure, sooner or later, I’ll be in the right place at the right time. In fact I was, kind of, a couple years ago.

I never saw this fist cloud that night, only when I reviewed images later.


These are photos from 2019 when we were in the UP in the fall and northern lights were predicted. Not only predicted among local northern light buffs, but also on national news networks. Everyone knew there should be lights that night.

Is there some green light over there?

Which is why we found ourselves on a beach looking out at Lake Superior along with a few thousand of our closest friends, all of whom were enjoying bonfires producing smoke obscuring the sky.

Bad composition, but the Milky Way is there.

Yep. That’s the closest I ever got to seeing the Northern Lights.

They’re out there somewhere. I never did figure out what that red spot was in the water.

It was a crazy night, and though I was facinated by the others on the beach, mostly Michigan Tech students, we couldn’t see much of anything out over the water. I didn’t even look at these images when we finally made it home from our adventures. We’d seen so many other wonderful things that trip I never thought about these shots at all.

But I have to say…maybe, just maybe I did see some Northern Lights that night. In spite of myself.

There were people and bonfires as far down the beach as we could see. In both directions.

Note: These aren’t great images, but to see them at all you’ll probably need to be in a dark room and looking at something larger than your phone.


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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.


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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?


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Epic camping experience

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.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

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.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

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.

My campsite.

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 other site.

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.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

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!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

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.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

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.

Worth the muddy feet.

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.

A little rain never hurt anything.

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!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….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.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

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.

Not easy to do!

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!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

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.

One of many trips to the car.

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.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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Remembering Ricky

Katie here.

Mama said I could get on her blog to tell you about my buddy Ricky who crossed the Rainbow Bridge last week. He was one of the original dogs with blogs, and mama found his blog years and years ago when we were all youngsters. There were a bunch of shelties with blogs back then — Ricky and Misty and Miley and Reilly and Ludo and Morgan.

Mama thinks there were more, but she can’t think straight when her eyes are leaking.

Anyway, we noticed Ricky right away because he was such a dapper little man. So much sophistication in such a little package. Mama likes to call him Little Ricky, because he was tiny.

But he had a big personality.

Ricky had fun with agility, but he liked to do it his way. His mom worked and worked to speed him up, but Ricky was his own guy and took those obstacles at a speed he deemed appropriate. Especially, as we remember, the dogwalk where he liked to survey the entire facility as he moved arcross the top. Ricky, always so elegant, never felt there was a need to hurry.

Ricky was really good at learning tricks too, and for a time he learned a new trick every week. His mom posted videos of his latest accomplishments and we were always so impressed! He learned to hold things in his mouth, and spin to the left and the right, to play dead, and so much more. He was so smart, and he made mama and lots of other people smile every week.

In fact, Ricky was something of a celebrity, he had so many people that enjoyed watching him learn new things. I told mama that we should try to meet him, and she said she’d see if she could arrange it. And guess what? I got to visit Ricky two times! It isn’t often that a girl from a small town gets to meet one of her idols in real life, you know?

In fact, visiting Ricky was one of my very first big adventures, cause they lived hours away from me and in a different state and everything! It was on a trip to visit Ricky that I proved to mama that I was a good traveler!

Ricky was such a gracious host. He shared his house and his people and his beautiful yard with me without any protest. He was such a cool dude, we got along great because we ignored each other most of the time. He didn’t even get mad when I drank out of his waterbowl!

He was so polite and nice to me that when we stayed over night at his house I decided to invite him into our bedroom (OK, it was really his room, but he let us stay there) to do obedience with mama and me so that he could get some treats from her too. Ricky really loved treats.

And that first visit he took me in his car to one of his parks! I was so excited! Ricky, of course, was too cool to be excited about a car ride with a silly girl.

It was a very very beautiful park with a little stream at the bottom of a big gorge. We walked and walked, with lots of sniffing thrown in. Wherever Ricky sniffed, I sniffed; he was sharing all the best stuff with me!

And when we climbed back out of the ravine there were beautiful gardens and we sat close to each other on this little wall so the moms could take pictures. He was much more patient than I was with the whole picture taking thing. This was way before I contracted with mama about the one picture, one treat clause, so we ended up sitting for way too many pictures for way too few treats. But Ricky never got upset.

He was such a special boy.

I visited him a second time, and by then he had a little sister who was, of course, bigger than he was. We all went to a park together again and had a wonderful time. Ricky was so patient with all the girls, his mom, my mama, his sister and me.

I am so sad that Ricky had to go on ahead. But I can imagine him exploring the whole place, and finding the best sniffing spots, and where all the good treats are. And I bet he’s found Ludo and Reilly and Denny and Morgan and Misty too by now. Just picture it, all those shelties running and laughing and enjoying snacks. All those sheltie smiles as they play together while they wait for the rest of us to arrive.

It’s got to be one amazing place, over the Rainbow Bridge. I wish he could have stayed here with his mom and dad and sister, but I know he’s happy there too. He may have been a little guy, but he sure shouldered a whole lot of love from all of us who knew him.

See you later, Little Ricky. I’m so glad I got to meet you, and I’ll never forget your friendship. You were and always will be one classy dude.

-Love, your pal forever, Katie.