Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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.


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Truck rant

(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)

Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct.  And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet.  Good or bad.  But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash.  And some things just need to be said.  Out loud.  Emphatically.

I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety.  Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.

But then I remember.

I remember getting the call at work.  I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry.  I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened.  I remember not understanding.

And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.

I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed.  And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole.  I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even.  She said “No we won’t.”  And she’s right.  We will never be even, not ever again.

So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead.  But we can fix fatigued driving.  And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.

I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule.  She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts –  and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied.  She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table.  OK.  So let’s study this for another year or more.  Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.

Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business.  After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know.  So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us.   Right?  Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled.  Those of us angry in our grief.

I’m not apologizing for this rant.  It’s your choice to read or not read.  Comment or not.  It wasn’t written for you.  It was written for me.  Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields.  I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done.  I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.

Give it up people.  The time for studying and discussion is over.  We need some action.  People are dying.

I don’t know what more I can say.


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Don’t miss this waterfall!

On my drive north from Alabama last week I took a quick (or not so quick) detour 50 miles east of my route home to see Burgess Falls. Husband and I had been to see it several years ago in the middle of a summer when there was significantly less water flowing than this time of year.

A little waterfall on the hike back to the big one.

It rained hard the evening and night before I drove over to the falls, and it has been raining for months in the Southeast. There was a squishy walk of about a mile back to the falls. I didn’t mind, there were plenty of pretty things to see along the way. Plus I knew I had hours of driving ahead of me. A little walk would be just the thing.

Everything was damp and green and muddy.

The river was roaring, over it’s banks and moving fast. Just like all the other rivers I’d crossed the day before and would cross on my trek north.

My first clue that the waterfall would be ferocious.

I remembered, as I walked, our last visit to this park where we had trekked down a steep metal staircase, and then climbed over boulders to sit at the base of the falls. I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be possible, judging from the volume of water rushing down the river.

And I was right. See those boulders and trees down there in the river? That’s an island and we sat on those rocks and watched people swimming in the pool below the waterfall.

So much water. And the noise!

You wouldn’t want to be out there now. Still, some steps led down ‘to the falls’ so I went down to see what was what.

Wonder what’s down there?

Personally I think those stairs should be closed. It leads you right to the top of the falls where it would be so easy to slip and fall into the raging river.

Teenagers throwing sticks into the water. I couldn’t watch.

I scurried right back up, and told the family at the top who were contemplating the trip down not to do it, it wasn’t worth the climb, and it was too dangerous for their kids.

Other than that I enjoyed my brief time at the falls, and I’d go back again when some of the water dries up. I’m sure there will be plenty of repair work to do before it’s safe to go down to the bottom again.

It was worth getting a little muddy.

Regardless of the water flow this is one stunning waterfall and worth a detour to see it! And I got to see a few barns on the way over there.

Couldn’t resist stopping for this one.

And some more cows.

Cows and their barn.

So even though it added a few hours to my trip home I think it was all worth it. That’s the best part about a road trip –turning left instead of right once in awhile.

Such a pretty place, Tennessee.


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Torn

I’m back in Michigan, and it’s lovely here, with sun and blue sky, a bit of white snow left on the ground. It might get to 50F this afternoon.

My last night at the lake the sky finally cooperated and provided a worthy sunset.

Still.

The fact that it was a foggy morning made it somewhat easier to leave.

In Alabama it was beginning to warm up too, daffodils were blooming, and when the sun broke through the rain clouds we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s.

For weeks, this trip, I passed this field and remembered one year when cows where there and how photogenic the spot was. But I never saw any cows there until the day I was leaving town.

My last day in Alabama I sat on the deck and enjoyed listening to the birds singing. The brown thrush were chasing each other around the yard. Blue birds were flitting everywhere. Robins sang in the morning and ducks and geese gathered in the lake.

I took tiny little two lane roads that curled through the mountains as I headed north. The better to find interesting things to photograph.

It would have been wonderful, after almost a full month of rain, to sit there for a few more days.

There were a lot of interesting places along the way.

Still.

You don’t always have to have a structure to make an image interesting. Especially with fog.

My husband and my Katie-girl were in Michigan and I’d been gone a long time. I felt somewhat guilty lounging around in the South while my husband dog-sat the demanding princess.

So many old, abandoned homesteads tucked in the hills.

Still.

I think about all the families whose dreams moved on to somewhere else.

My sister and brother are in the South and I hadn’t seen either of them in more than two years, so it was great to spend weekends with them, painting with my sister, going on a boat ride with my brother. It would have been nice to stick around and spend more time with them.

So many barns hanging on.

Still.

So many decisions to make.

My girl, who lives in the moment, had spent enough moments without her mama. She must have felt like she’d never see me again.

A high point in Alabama. Plus the sun started to break through the fog.

Still.

Lots of barns still in use.

There were more adventures to be had in the south.

I turned around to get this, because of the car.

Still.

A cozy barn nestled in the hills.

There are adventures to be had in the north too.

Solidly facing a new day.

So here I am, enjoying sunshine while wearing a coat, tickling the princess tummy, feeding my birds, watching the squirrels. And it’s good.

Some grey barns are by design, not by age.

Still….

Photos in this post are from my last evening at the lake, and my drive north.

Kinda missing this place now.


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Smiling?

I’m still driving home from my month in Alabama. I should be home tomorrow afternoon.

Walking on the Gulf of Mexico beach early in the morning.

Today I left a friend’s house in TN a bit later than I might have had I stayed in a hotel, but it was so much fun to visit that I didn’t mind. And then I took a 3 hour detour in the wrong direction so that I could see a big waterfall.

Sunset at our lake house.

Which I saw, but the pictures of which are still on my camera and I don’t have time to download them tonight, my last night on the road.

Sun making water sparkle.

I’m not even totally sure what day it is…or whether I posted a ‘smile’ post this week.

A long walk in a wildlife preserve.

So in case I did not, which is highly likely, here are a few things that made me smile this week!

Light in general.


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Evening surprise

I wasn’t going to go down to the Gulf Shores beach to watch last night’s sunset because I figured it would be the same as the night before. The day’s sky had been a similar, boring and cloudless blue after all.

But just to be sure I took the camera out to the beach balcony here on the 5th floor of my hotel. And saw this.

Where did those clouds come from?

Uh oh, I better get out there, this could be good!

Looking east with the sun at my back.

In the end the sky wasn’t spectacular, but the subtle colors were.

My favorite shot. Look at those colors!

So I enjoyed my last night on the beach, reveling in the 60 something degrees, the gently rolling waves, the moon being quietly swallowed up by clouds.

The pelicans were enjoying the evening too.

I’ve got so many photos to show you from my two days here, but nothing as crazy beautiful as that last night on the beach.

That’s a wrap on a good mini vacation.

So that’s what you get to see. If I get to the rest, you’ll see more, but I sure didn’t want you to miss that sunset!


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Mountaineering

Today, after our regularly scheduled morning rain, I decided to climb Smith Mountain. This is something we always do at least once when we’re here at the lake.

The goal on top of the mountain.

You have to climb the mountain before you can climb the fire tower. It’s a long way up.

At the beginning of the trail I encountered this sign.

Well darn. But the access road will get me to the same place.

Huh. I like going up the trail, it takes longer than the access road but it has some ups and downs. Unlike the access road which goes up. And then it turns a corner and goes up some more.

Just the beginning of the upward climb.

Along the way I stopped, ostensibly to take pictures of pretty things.

Luckily there were plenty of pretty things to stop and take pictures of. Like this orange lichen on a big rock.

But really I stopped so I could breath. Did I mention that the access road goes straight up the mountain?

As I was walking a work truck crawled slowly past me, headed for the top as well. I seriously considered jumping on his tailgate.

I thought this stone, embedded in the asphalt near the top of the mountain, looked like a sketch of a girl hiking. I might have been delirious from lack of oxygen.

Once at the top I read some of the newly placed signs, about the wildlife, the birds, flowering shrubs. Anything that would stall the hike to the top of the fire tower.

But it turned out to not be that difficult. Guess the mountain warmed me up for 111 stairs. That’s one of the numbers I stopped to read about on the way up.

This sign was about 1/3 of the way up. Lots of interesting facts. Like the gazillion gallons of water in Lake Martin!

Once at the top I spent some time just enjoying the lake. I love being up there. I especially love being up there when there aren’t a lot of tourists around.

That little spit of land, with the trees reflected is on the back side of the mountain, where I walked my first week here.

Unfortunately, on this Monday there were workers down below, complete with generator going full speed to power up their tools. They’re fixing the stairs you’d climb at the end of your trail hike if you came up the mountain via trail.

Three guys and their generator sure can make a lot of noise.

I guess that’s nice. But it sure would have been nicer to listen to the wind in the pines and the birds calling. But I’ll be back, once they’re done with their project. Meanwhile I enjoyed the lovely poofy clouds and the red-ringed lake.

The Sandy Creek Narrows (I only know that’s the name of it from the new signs on the way up the tower) out to the ‘big water.’

I love this lake, it’s so beautiful, and not completely built up like most lakes are.
Sure, it’s more crowded than it was when my folks moved here in the 80s, but it’s still has a lot of empty land filled with trees and wildlife.

I loved the stripes of green fur trees against the empty limbs of the deciduous trees. Also the two turkey buzzards flying below me.

The clouds were beautiful, and sometimes the sun would peek out.

Bits of blue sky.

As I walked back down the 111 steps and started my way back down the access road I was happy that I’d made the effort to climb the tower on a beautiful afternoon. Even if it wasn’t as peaceful as I’d have liked.

It’s always a good feeling to see the world from way up high. If you’re ever this way you should definitely climb the mountain!

Standing tall, waiting for my next visit.