Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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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UP dreams

The Upper Peninsula is mostly rural. Though there are small towns everywhere, and a few larger more urban areas, much of it is woods and water. That’s why I like it so much.

Someone cared enough to paint the trim.

But as I travel around I always notice the old homesteads. The places where people once lived but have abandoned. Nature is gradually taking back what was always hers.

Somehow the goldenrod made this one seem a bit friendly.

I think about the people that used to live here. I wonder what happened to make them leave. I wonder what dreams they had when they first built, moved in, worked the land or at the neighborhood store. I wonder when and why they gave up on their dreams.

Sometimes, in cold climates, bright colors help to make the winter more tolerable.

Maybe they haven’t left at all, maybe they’re around the next corner, maybe they just built a bigger, stronger house somewhere.

This one was already quite large. Love the virginia creeper taking over the porch.

But it doesn’t usually feel that way.


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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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Smiling in the rain

Seems like the weather all across the country has gone crazy. Temperatures over 100F (37.7C) in Oregon where it’s usually cool and wet. Flash flood producing rains here in lower Michigan and elsewhere.

At first I thought the only barn photos I’d get would be from the Plaza reststops on the turnpike.

Everything here is soggy from days and days of constant rain, and it’s been raining all day today too. You’d think I’d be kind of depressed by all the dark skies and thick humid air. But I’m not. In fact I’m finding it sort of cozy to be curled up inside on the sofa listening to rain on the windows.

Right up against a winding, hilly road, I’m surprised it hasn’t been hit and taken out by a truck.

There’s no pressure to go out and weed, though that’s going to be a huge job once it stops raining. No walks in the park, no bike rides that I never seem to get to. Just lots of time to attend meetings and get clerical stuff done for the two nonprofits where I volunteer.

These first images are from Pennsylvania, with picturesque farms tucked away in the mountains.

Even Katie seems content to nap. Though she’s starting to hint that she’d like to post here soon. She says she has stuff to say. Of course she does. She’s a sheltie.

I loved the cows in the front yard.

But this post was supposed to be about what made me smile lately, so let me tell you about a impromtu trip I made to Baltimore this past weekend.

Perfectly iconic farm.

The Truck Safety Coalition was putting on a small local lunch with a couple of important objectives. One, it was an opportunity for the volunteers local to that area to get together after the long Covid shutdown. And two, we just hired a new Executive Director, and he would be attending, so it was something of a welcome lunch.

In Ohio, the wheat was ripening.

My husband and I decided to go. Katie had been eating well for almost a month and seemed like her old self. I booked her for 4 nights at camp. We planned on driving the nine hour trip, my husband’s first excursion since early 2020.

I had great weather, no significant rain the whole weekend.

Then, 2 days before our departure Katie decided she no longer liked the food she’d happily been eating. We began to hand feed her, one kibble bit at a time. Sometimes she wanted it dry. Sometimes she wanted it wet. Sometimes she’d only eat it if it was soggy.

No way she could go to camp.

Wide open flat vistas.

So husband stayed home with her and I went alone. I spread the trip over two days each way, and most of it was on either the Ohio or Pennsylvania turnpike. As you might imagine I saw lots of beautiful barns. But it was such a hassle to get on and off the turnpike, particularly in Ohio, that on the way over I didn’t stop or take a single photo.

My last day of driving was such a pretty day.

But, after a wonderful weekend among friends, on the way home I stopped twice, once in Pennsylvania and once in Ohio. Each time I drove a big country block and stopped for whatever barns I could find, then jumped right back on the turnpike again.

Red barns and golden wheat sure were pretty.

So the images in this post are from those two wanderings. I can’t show you the images I took at the lunch because I don’t have permission from any of those people to go public. Plus, it was just a bunch of pictures of people most of you don’t know eating and talking and laughing.

Add in some orange ditch lilies and you can’t help but stop for a photo!

Suffice it to say it was wonderful to be back with my Truck Safety Family, though sadly we had two new families represented. There are always new families and that’s the part that doesn’t make me smile.

But barns? Barns will always put a big ole grin on my face.

This one was a gift shop that wasn’t open when I drove by. The better not to spend more money!


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Randomness

I’m trying to finish up working on the photos I took on the camping trip that is now weeks in the past.

Under the Cut River bridge.

I feel like I shouldn’t take any new photos until I get these processed and put away.

It’s for sale, you could own this gem.

But of course there’s always something that needs photographing around here.

Cool car.

So it’s hard as time goes on to go back to the images I took so long ago.

Obviously a math teacher is selling firewood.

But I try to stay disciplined. Kind of anyway.

After 7 hours of torrential rain the only part of my tent site that was dry was right where I had been sleeping.

And looking at these images, these random images not related to any particular story, makes me smile.

Fire dancing, moments before the rains came.

So I guess it’s OK that I’m still working on them after all. Hope at least one of them made you smile too!

Iris at the Iroquis Point Lighthouse. I thought this post needed something pretty.


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So…..lighthouses

I’m starting to feel repetitive here. All three of these lighthouses have appeared in this blog in years past. Still, lighthouses are irresistible, so maybe you won’t mind seeing them again. I didn’t mind visiting them again myself.

I was exploring the northern edge of the Upper Peninsualia, when I noticed a sign for Point Iroquois Light, and I remembered visiting it a few years ago.

A beautiful building.

During all the years I lived in the UP I never knew about this lighthouse. But it’s a special one, on a beautiful piece of land with a great view of Canada.

Canadian windmills across the way.

When we were here before it was open and we climbed the tower. This year covid has it closed, but I still enjoyed walking around the grounds. I was taking a picture of the lilac bushes along the front of the lighthouse when I realized there were butterflies everywhere.

Do you see them in this image?

So now you’ll have to indulge me while I show you some of those.

Hold still for a moment!

I spent a long time circling this lilac bush, trying to get a good shot of both types of butterflies.

I love the colors on the underside of this guy’s wings.

They didn’t stay still long, especially, it seemed, never stopping long in the sunlight.

Did you know the body of the monarch is spotted? I didn’t until just a couple weeks ago!

But it was so much fun to try. And in the end I got a few shots that I liked.

What a spectacularly beautiful day.

During this trip I camped at two locations, the first on the Straights, and the second at the mouth of the Hurricane River, where it empties into Lake Superior.

My site tucked into the trees. This was a beautiful, but rustic, campground.

This campground has a lighthouse too. You walk a mile and a half up a beautiful, wide, mostly level path above the shore of Lake Superior, out to the point where the lighthouse sits.

It’s a really pretty walk, though 1.5 miles starts to feel like a long way if you’re carrying all your photography gear.

My goal, when I made the reservation for this campground, was to do some night photography with the lighthouse in the foreground. It was a good plan.

Some of the coast here is rocky. All of it is beautiful.

I walked out there late in the afternoon one day. No one was out there, covid had this lighthouse closed too, so no park rangers were around.

Almost there!

No tourists either as the wind was picking up and another storm was on the way.

Au Sable Light Station, a beautiful compound.

It was kind of nice to have the place to myself.

I loved the colors of the brown ferns in the late afternoon light, with the red brick outbuilding.

On the other hand, it was still a couple of hours until the sun set, and a few more hours after that until it got really dark.

And I loved these sweet daisys with this building down near the water.

I started to feel uncomfortable with the thought of walking back down the path in the dark by myself. Plus there were no open restrooms out there.

The weather was changing.

So I reluctantly gave up on the idea of staying there until the stars came out. But I haven’t given it up totally. I plan to go back but bring someone with me so I’m not out there all alone!

The view from up there is stunning!

In the end it was good I headed back when I did. That evening the thunder began far off and quickly advanced until it was overhead. We ended up having 7 hours of pouring rain, lightening and thunder. I listened to it all from my cozy tent, glad I wasn’t running back through the dark and rain from the point!

As I listened to the pouring rain that night I thought about this open window in the tower. Bet no one closed it before the storm.

My last lighthouse is out at Whitefish Point. It’s a totally different sort of lighthouse from the other two.

This is the image everyone gets from the parking lot. It was starting to rain when I grabbed it.

And the beach there is totally different too.

Filled with huge fallen trees turned driftwood, tossed about by Lake Superior, it’s certainly not a swimmer’s paradise.

I had grand plans of trying to get the Milky Way behind the lighthouse. Or at least some stars.

Would have been cool with the Milky Way behind it.

It was sunny and 85 degrees when I left to drive up to Whitefish Point. When I arrived it was 58, windy and thunder was just off to the west. Another plan foiled.

And then the storm arrived.

So there you have it. Three lighthouses along the south shore of Lake Superior. Worth the trip even if I didn’t capture what I set out to get. I guess that’s the fun (and frustration) of photography.

There’s always next year. You won’t mind seeing them again, right?

It’s all about the light. And avoiding the rain.


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Waterfalls

While I was camping in the Upper Peninsula last week I got to roam around several waterfalls. I’d been to all of them in years past, and if you’re a long time reader you’ve probably seen them all. But come along with me anyway, you deserve a short break and waterfalls are fun.

The biggest waterfalls in Michigan are near Newberry in the Upper Peninsula. Tahquamen Falls are a big tourist attraction, there’s a state park campground there, and a few hotels in neighboring towns. I just drove over from my campsite down at St. Ignance.

The view from the trail to the falls.

The upper falls are the highest. Notice the red tint to some of the water? That’s tannin from the cedar trees growing along the banks of the river. Sometimes the whole thing looks like frothy rootbeer. You can walk down a lot of stairs to see it from river level.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

Of course I did.

The view from down at the river.

On the way back up I stopped to take this picture of the rocky walls the river has cut away over hundreds of years. Don’t tell anyone, but taking pictures is a good way to rest when you’re having trouble breathing on your way up a whole lot of stairs.

Carved by the river centuries ago.

Then you can take more stairs down to the brink of the falls.

Definitely don’t want to skip this!

It’s important to take these stairs down so you can get a good, closeup look.

Sometimes it’s good to have a hand to hold on to.

Even if your knees and back are protesting.

Getting up close.

Then you can walk the four miles through the woods to the lower falls. Not many people do that, as the trail is quite rustic. I drove. Those stairs were plenty of exercise for me.

When you get to the lower falls you walk along a boardwalk back to get a good view of the falls.

I love this walk almost as much as the falls themselves.

Some years, when there’s less water kids play in them. But not this year! The noise and spray were pretty intense.

Lots of water roaring over the falls.

You can rent a rowboat and paddle over to an island where it’s safe to play in the water. As I was taking pictures I heard the thunder of a storm coming in. The people working at the rowboat station were calling everyone to come back, to get off the water. Everyone did but one young lady who was having trouble paddling in a straight line.

I don’t think he was a lot of help.

I enjoyed Tahquamen Falls, though I lost my phone somewhere there. I don’t remember putting it down anywhere, the last thing I remember doing was taking a picture at the bottom of the first set of stairs. Once back at the car I realized I didn’t have it and I traced my path again, all those stairs included, but never found it.

Ah well, it was pretty anyway.

I learned there are ways to survive without a phone, and continued on my trip, heading north and camping at Hurricane River. From there I explored a few waterfalls, the first being Sable Falls, just a few miles from the campground.

Guess what? There were stairs, even more stairs than at Tahquamen!

They have a sense of humor at Sable Falls.

But it was worth it! No one was there but a fisherman who was further down the river. I set up the tripod and had fun working on smoothing out that flowing water.

Such a pretty waterfall.

But I forgot to carry down my remote shutter release. So after I shot a few images by physically touching the shutter, and worried that I might have moved the camera doing that, I climbed back up the stairs to my car, grabbed the shutter release and clomped back down.

Smoothing out all the edges.

To be honest, I don’t know which of these pictures used the shutter release and which might have been just me and my finger. It didn’t make any difference, but you never know. It was worth the extra steps to me.

Then I drove over to Munising which has several falls. I visited Wagner Falls which has a small parking lot and a short walk back to the falls along a boardwalk…

This was a small waterfall on the walk back to the main event.

..where along the way you can hear the water flowing over the falls hidden by the trees.

Another beautiful waterfall. And very few stairs!

I can’t decide which image I like better of this falls, so I’ll show you both.

Water glides over the rocks.

Then I drove into town and visited Munising Falls. There’s a visitor center there with information about the area, and a very short level walk back to the falls.

The water was ethereal.

Both Wagner and Munising falls are easy walks from the parking lots. I recommend you visit them yourselves if you’re ever up there!

Last time I was up in that part of the woods (literally woods!) my husband and I walked the mile back to Miners Falls in the snow.

No bugs to speak of on that trip.

This year it was getting dark and the bugs were bad, so I didn’t. Plus, have I mentioned tourists? I hadn’t been in the UP (Upper Peninsalia) in tourist season in years. I’d forgotten about all those darn tourists everywhere!

I did drive out to see Miner’s Castle, a rock formation that you shouldn’t miss, and you get this vantage point from very near the parking lot. You can also walk down to see it closer. But did I mention tourists?

Spectacular.

So those are the waterfalls I had the opportunity to visit this trip. I hope you enjoyed them, it was nice to have company on all those stairs…and while I was running from the black flies!

Next up, maybe I’ll show you lighthouses….or maybe it will just be other pretty things. I have to hurry up or I’ll be talking about this camping trip the rest of the summer!

Watching birds fly over in the morning light from my cozy tent.

Guess that wouldn’t be so bad though.


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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.