Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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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A little water therapy

We had some bad weather Saturday night, with rain blowing sideways for a time. I was sure that my tent, up in the backyard, would be flooded but it wasn’t. There was, however, a tornado that touched down not many miles from us during the storm, and a tree across the street from us split, falling across the road and into our yard.

None of that made me smile.

What did make me smile was a couple hours of paddling on a lake with one of my college roommates. We don’t see each other very often, but it’s always a good time when we do.

We caught up with each other’s lives, her kids, my dog.

And we enjoyed a sweet after the storm breeze, bright blue skies and sunshine as we floated across the water.

You just can’t beat being on the water for giving yourself a pick-me-up.

So that’s my smile for this week. What made you smile?


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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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Trillum, cherry blossoms and a barn or two

There’s no better place to spend a weekend then in Michigan’s little finger, and I was lucky enough to spend last weekend there at the home of a friend. This trip had a specific purpose, to see Trillium Hill and cherry orchards in bloom.

What’s that over there? Could it be a barn??

But first I had a several hour drive up and across the middle of the lower peninsualia of Michigan. Right through farm country.

Three for the price of one.

Plus I was lucky enough to have some pretty interesting skies which kept taking me off the freeway and on to back roads looking for that perfect combination of barn and sky. I kept promising myself that I’d get back on the road and stop stopping. But it was hard.

This was my favorite barn on the trip north.

When I eventually made it to Traverse City, still half an hour from my destination, the storm front I’d had so much fun photographing had gone through, the temperatures had dropped into the mid 30s, (-1.11F), and the wind had picked up. On the 7th of May sleet was hitting my windshield.

Traverse Bay didn’t look very inviting.

Things didn’t look promising for a photoshoot of flowers or orchards! But by late afternoon the sun was beginning to peek through clouds and temperatures, though not balmy, at least weren’t freezing. Still, we put on our winter coats, hats and gloves as we headed out to Trillium Hill.

Waves and waves of trillum lit by a sinking sun.

The hill is covered in acres of white blossoms and the lowering sun softened the light, making them glow.

Trillums, the state flower in Michigan, as far as you could see.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And though you’d think there were only so many pictures to take of trilliums, you’d be wrong. There were infinite ways to try to capture the moment, and I tried to get them all.

A closer look.

I didn’t want to miss the cowslips along a small creek at the base of the hill…

A bit of gold among all that white.

…or the jack in the pulpit that gleamed in the evening light.

I loved the light shining through the leaves.

And of course, the stars of the show, the hundreds and hundreds, the thousands of trillum as far as the eye could see. There was simply no way to encompass the entirity, it was almost hard for me to believe it was real, and I was standing in the middle of it all.

Sheer magic.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the hill and went looking for cherry orchards in bloom. Luckily there were still some puffy white clouds just begging to be used as a backdrop.

Rows of beautiful trees covered hillsides, shining against a bright blue sky.

Not everything was in bloom yet, but the trees that were, were stunning.

It felt like spring had finally arrived.

It was a treat to drive the backroads looking for something special. And look what we found.

A barn AND cherry trees! Jackpot!

So the very first day of my weekend up north we managed to find both our objectives, trilliums and cherry trees. What was left to do the next day?

Even the roads are beautiful.

Guess you’ll have to wait and see.

We liked the shadows on this barn. The end of a good day.


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Birthday walk

My husband got me a new camera lens for my birthday in April, but we’ve been so busy with our Katie-girl and truck safety stuff that I haven’t had a chance to take it out for a test walk.

Yesterday, even though the weather people said there woud be a 10% chance of rain in the morning, my neighbor and I headed to my favorite park where the herons are nesting in their rookery and little birds are always excited to see us.

One of my favorite places.

Early in the morning the sky was filled with puffy white clouds turning pink as the sun came up. I had high hopes. But shortly the rolling grey clouds moved in from the north, and it began to sprinkle. Still, she was game, and I really wanted to see whether there were baby herons, so we decided to go anyway. We both dressed for a 10% chance of rain.

Along the way, on the 40 minute drive, it began to pour. At worst case, we said, we’d drive by the heron rookery and check it out through the windshield. With the wipers on if need be.

With the new lens I can get this close to a heron’s nest!

But as we pulled into the nature center parking lot the sun began to peep out, making the landscape glow just a little.

Everybody was trying to dry out.

Still, it was windy. And when the sun dropped back behind the clouds it was cold. Cold and windy made the little birds very insistent on our attention and we lingered on the boardwalk that edges the water where the herons live for quite awhile feeding the red winged blackbirds and a drenched, bedraggled woodpecker.

No, I’m not a woodpecker, the lady with the long lens didn’t get a picture of him.

There was no action at the heron condo complex. I actually wondered if they had already hatched their little families and moved on. But there was one heron standing atop a nest, and it’s still early in the season, so mostly I was just confused.

One lone heron stands guard. Turns out that there were other herons there too, sitting low in their nests, out of the wind.

We decided to try walking around the lake, I was hoping to get into the woods and out of the wind. It was really cold. Almost immediately we came upon a Canadian goose couple, one of which stepped into the path and began to hiss at us. Uh oh. I told my neighbor not to get too close, you don’t want to mess with an angry goose. Then I noticed the babies behind them.

Out of focus angry parents, protecting little tennis balls of fluff .

We gave them lots of room as we moved past them, then we watched the babies, from a place far enough away that the parents weren’t threatened. That’s where having a long lens is really helpful.

Hey lady! My siblings are busy messing around in the mud, but I’ll pose for you. Stardom looks good on me!

We didn’t get much further when the wind really picked up and we realized that walking all the way around the lake was going to be pretty miserable. So we turned around and headed back toward the car.

A second family, swimming among the lilly pads, with about a dozen little ones.

The parking lot greeter cranes were delighted we were back so soon. Their business had been a bit slow that morning, what with the weather and all. They were more than happy to get their parking permit payment in the form of a yummy snack.

Hey! Don’t forget to pay your parking fee!

We left damp, chilled and happy. I had the chance to try out the new lens , she got to feed a few birds and one hungry crane couple. We vowed we’d be back soon to monitor those illusive herons.

But we’d pay better attention to the weather report next time.

Sure lady, you go get back in your warm car. We’ll wait here in the wind for someone else to come along and feed us.


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This week’s noisy smile

It’s been a crazy winter, right? Some parts of our country have seen snow where no snow is expected. Other parts are flooding, or fighting wildfires. I think we’ll all be glad to say goodbye to this winter, and for me, the first true sign that spring is right around the corner is the sound of the red-winged blackbird.

Hmmmmm…this peanut looks good.

It’s a distinctive cry that I haven’t heard around my house yet this year. Other people, not so far away from me, are hearing them already and have for awhile. My Facebook memories say that it was on this date when I heard them first last year.

I’ll just fluff myself up and let out my best territory protection scream. I’m sure the girls will be flocking to me in no time.

Today it’s too windy to hear much of anything here, but yesterday was a beautiful morning and I headed out to Kensington where I almost always find something beautiful or exciting or just fun.

I’ve picked out the perfect patch of cattails to build our home. Now I just need to find the perfect sweetie.

I found all of that in the massive flocks of red-winged blackbirds all screeching for a mate, while flocking to food, hanging on to swaying cattails, or flying up into trees to sing even louder. Their combined sound was almost overwhelming.

I can’t find the ladies anywhere! And trust me, I’ve looked!

But it sure made me smile!

I guess I’ll just keep singing.


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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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Smiling

Things are beginning to get back to normal here. At least as far as Katie is concerned.

If this is all the snow around here, it must be spring…right mama?

She and I went for a walk at her favorite park this afternoon. She hadn’t been there in more than a month.

Are you going to carry me across this big, cold puddle?

We had sunshine, but it was still chilly out. Just the way she likes it.

I guess maybe it’s not quite spring after all.

I’m pretty sure, when she wasn’t busy sniffing out the best smells, she was smiling.

I sure love my park!

So was I.

Can’t beat a walk in my park!