Getting Ready

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Spring dune flowers in Upper Michigan

It is August and today the weather has that late summer feel, when I start thinking of Fall and our annual 5-week camping trip from mid-August to mid-September. I am so eager to go as we are returning to the Canadian Rockies, the western side of Glacier International Park, and down to Oregon to see our grandson’s family. I have menu items planned, our bed made up for warmer nights, have started stocking the cupboards with staples, and have meals in the freezer so we don’t have to do much grocery shopping while on the road. Next week I’ll be able to start packing in earnest as we will need both warm weather and cold weather bedding and clothes. I really want to get this show on the road.

At the same time as I am eager to move on into Fall and our travelling home, I have been spending time looking at the photos from our last camping trip with friends to the very upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Not surprising because both involve quiet, easy living. My request for a day trip was to go to Wilderness State Park that is situated where Lake Michigan narrows into the Straits of Mackinaw between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Our friend was asking if we would be able to see the Big Mac so I told him to pull over at a turn-off.

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I remember camping at Wilderness when our kids were young but the campground didn’t look familiar. That has happened several places because the shorelines change as sands shift resulting in the campgrounds needing to be redesigned and enlarged. What was the same was the sense of wildness and quiet. We were far away from towns.

It is a place where the kids learned how to entertain themselves with simple activities using nature’s toys. Maybe we don’t outgrow this pleasure.

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The vastness of each of the five Great Lakes pulls me into thinking about the greater questions of life as I gaze into the horizon. Sometimes we engage in small talk, but most of the time we just enjoy quiet time together.

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This is a beautiful wilderness in the summer months with warm sun and cool breezes off the water. In the winter the weather can be brutal although a lot of people enjoy the outdoor winter sports that are available. When I think of winter in northern Michigan, I think of Florida.

But before I think of Florida, I’m thinking of driving across Canada and down the Rocky Mountains into the northwest states. I’m thinking of traveling with our cozy little home behind us, spending time exploring the changing landscapes, eating healthy meals we cook ourselves, finding small pleasures along the way, and taking lots of photographs.

 

Lake Michigan, Harbor Springs

_DSC0074We went “up north” last weekend camping with friends. This wasn’t a new location to us, with lots of new areas to explore. No, we have been here before, many times so it was more like going “home” to the “up north” that includes anywhere above the midpoint of the Lower Peninsula into the far west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have vacationed at different places throughout this large area for close to 50 years so we can engage in many “remember when…” conversations. Conversations like; “Did we come here with … or …? Wasn’t this the place where Mike… or Sharon… or Carol …? Didn’t we have the …. camper when we camped here, was it in 1976? This sure has changed a lot – its not as I remember it.

It was a beautiful weekend in Petoskey, on the shore of Lake Michigan almost to the tip of the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. The temp was in the low 70’s with a cool breeze to complement the warm sun traversing a very deep blue sky. On Friday we drove north along the Lake Michigan shore making our first stop at Harbor Springs. I did a little shopping but mostly tried to capture the spirit of the small towns that cater to tourists who are discovering the beauty of our Great Lakes for the first time or the people like us who have been going “up north” for decades. Many of the people were young families with strollers and young adults in small groups.

Harbor Springs was just waking up to summer, enjoying the laid back quiet before the throngs of summer visitors arrive. The planters were newly planted with bright summer flowers and spring iris and daffodils were blooming. There weren’t many boats in the harbor marina and hardly any people walking the streets or shopping in stores. A couple of shop owners told us this was the first week of being open, probably recently returning from their winter of managing stores in southern Florida.

The most obvious sign that we are in northern Michigan is the presence of fudge shops – lots of fudge shops. It appears that this shop is stocking up for the 4th of July week-end.

I resisted, although Lynn and Gary confessed to indulging in something decedent and very tasty. I am convinced, however, that I gained about a half a pound smelling the wonderful aroma coming through the door that was propped open to the morning breeze.

I really enjoyed meandering through the gift shops looking for things that I normally don’t shop for. I only bought a few little things but was reminded that this is a shopping area with a short season evidenced by their simple way of writing up an order. No fancy technology here – the clerk is getting my change from a small metal money box under the counter.

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As my purchase was being bagged the clerk said that if I liked cookies I should go to the next corner, turn right and cross the street. And of course we did.

We bought enough to split one now and another later, and some to share with our friends. The ones with chocolate were the best, but I didn’t need to tell you that.

Our friends were exploring somewhere that Hemingway is said to have frequented when he visited upper Michigan. While they were doing that, I was admiring a bronze statue of Hemingway that was for sale in front of an art gallery. The owner of this gallery had an eye for talent that resonated with my taste. Fate intervened to require that our credit card be cancelled and a new one issued the day before we left and Jim had the single other card we have as backup. Sometimes life just works out like it should.

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Funny how certain tiny events can evoke big and beautiful memories. We had crossed over to the shady side of the street and I had sat down on a bench to enjoy being who I am in that moment in time. As we sat, two boys passed in front of us, one a little older was striding with purpose, with a dollar bill in his hand. The second boy was younger, full of excitement, and bouncing down the street sideways. I overheard the younger ask if maybe they could get some ice cream at the general store that was their destination. The older replied with the authority of age that they would have to check the price.

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Those boys were me 60-some years ago. I remember the power of having money in my hand, especially money I had earned, heading for the corner market to make my decisions about what penny candy to buy – without adult supervision. I remember hopping along beside an older cousin I trusted and admired as we went down the street to the dry cleaners that also sold stamps for our stamp collections. Yes I remember this summer day from the being of a child, from the being of a young mother responsible for the fun and earned privileges of her children. And best of all, I experienced this summer day from the being of an old person with time and money to spend for small pleasures.

Morning on the Bay

 

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My goal was to be up for the sunrise at our campsite on Manitoulin Island, on the water of Manitowaning Bay, just south of Sheguiandah. I feel the tug of the yarn that wants to unravel my story of exploring this island with multiple First Nation tribes but my topic sentence has tethered me to the early morning.

Our site is on Sunrise Beach, as named on the camp map, and the windows around our dinette overlook a small corner of water of this large bay, filled with Great Lakes’ water. I left the blind up so the early morning light would find its way to my bed to gently stroke my eyelids open. I refuse to let an alarm clock jerk me out of an interesting dream, before I am ready, now that I am living on retirement schedule.

The sunrise did awaken me – as I raised my head I could see the peachy-pink skyline. I would like to say that I jumped out of bed, but no, I just eased out a little more quickly than usual. By the time I slipped my clothes on and secured my Velcro sandals, the fickle early morning light had lifted most of the pink but I walked into a calm and gentle light.

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The air was still as I stood in dewy grass, with only gentle breaths to create a small, occasional ripple on the water – but not enough to sway the rushes. The only thing that seemed to be moving was the small motor boat anchored a few feet off shore. I would take a few photos of this boat, then focus my attention slightly to the left or right. When I looked back the boat was showing me a new face. The boat was always moving but never going anywhere. It moved round about, changing direction but never moving forward, anchored to that spot in the bay.

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When I became satiated on photographs, I sat and enjoyed the cool air, the warming sun, and the morning sound of fresh-water birds, along with a few gulls. In the distance I heard a loon, a smile-maker because they aren’t common where I live in Michigan. I wonder what it is about the loons’ call that plucks at our human experience and emotions. Is it a call of yearning? Maybe a call for companionship.

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Grand Traverse Lighthouse

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Along the northwest shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Bay formed by the mainland and the Lelanau Peninsula. At the tip of the Lelanau Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse marking the opening to the Grand Traverse Bay. This lighthouse has guided ships since it was built in 1858, now with an automatic light tower.

I wanted to photograph the lighthouse from a different perspective so I walked toward the beach. The beach was a surprise and provided a quiet retreat for the few minutes I wandered through the paths. I love the diversity of beach along the more than 3,000 miles of Great Lake beach front in Michigan.20160916-dsc_0099