Another Friday, Another Hike (Ionia State Park)

Last week held another Friday, Jeff’s day off, and therefore another hike. Hurray. A hike. In fall. With Jeff. Triple hurray. I told him I was glad to have him as my hiking partner. He replied, “Your Hiking Viking!” Perfect.

It’s bow hunting season within Ionia State Park, so I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be mistaken for a deer. You may think me silly in bright hat, gloves and vest, and also carrying cross country ski poles as hiking sticks — good for balance, muddy or icy ground, and leaf collecting. But the only other hiker we met during our 2-hour hike was a woman and her dog, both dressed in hunter orange. Not so silly after all, huh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 33 degrees out, for the first time in months I dressed in layers. I felt like Linus in Charlie Brown — so bundled, but well worth it. Wasn’t cold a bit. Couldn’t move much, either, but I wasn’t cold.

Only really sub-zero temps, wildfires, tornadoes or hail deter us from hiking through God’s creation. Jeff even got to play improv frisbee golf.

The sights of being in the woods during late fall is glorious, and so refreshing. We started our hike in sunshine, still 33 degrees. By the time we’d stopped for third lunchies, there were light flurries (snowflakes) drifting around us. Can’t help but love the variety of nature.

From crazy mushrooms, to tall trees, to babbling brooks and flitting snow, Ionia is beautiful in the fall — or any time, actually.

 

So why do I journal my hikes on a writing blog? Settings. Experience. Nature’s eye candy. All valid reasons for various reasons, including writing.

So why don’t you, too, get outside. Experience nature. Breathe. Enjoy.

SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, MI

 

Two weeks ago, we were able to spend an annual few days in peaceful retreat at a cottage near to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau Peninsula. Rain, snow, ice, sun, gale warnings – nature so near wraps her arms about us in stunning beauty no matter the weather or time of year or length of stay (usually 3-5 nights each year). Because we go off season – in the late fall or early spring – we don’t normally bump into a lot of tourists. Therefore, we have peaceful days and nights.

The very first place we stop before even pulling in the cottage drive, is Good Harbor Bay Beach in SBDN.

 

Many books have been written about this area through the years. Be sure to check them out. Therefore this blog post will be most brief. A summary of the park with only a few of the hundreds of photos I have from the area.

Of the 20 marked trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Jeff and I have hiked all but three (one is new), and hiked several of them more than once. The Dune Climb is quite popular, even off season. (photo at top of page). But the other trails are fascinating, like Old Indian Trail in the southern part of the park.

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If you like woods and water, SBDNL is a must-see. One of our favorite hikes is on Alligator Hill. But a few years ago, sheer force winds rather leveled it, with open skies above and hundreds of fallen trees cut away on the trail. We’ll return someday, when the forest grows back.

But spring is as enchanting as fall with new beginnings:

   

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive probably ties with the Dune Climb for popularity in the park. It is a lovely, winding road with several stops and nature notes, and even a few trails getting out into the dunes, mostly along boardwalks. We’ve watching people walk down and up the steep dune cliff, and even once saw rescue personnel descend with basket.

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Empire Trail trailhead may be a little tricky to locate, but the views are spectacular. The lakeside view of the Sleeping Bear Dune (from the Dune Climb) is pictured here.

Empire Bluff Trail 2008

Historic Glen Haven is within the park. I caught a blacksmith in the shop twice, and an iron hook I saw made there hangs in our kitchen.

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We usually stop at the Visitor Center for a pass. Well worth it!

We’ve gone on two ranger-led Nature or History Hikes, only two of them since they are offered in-season, unless you come close to spooky Halloween.

The first photo below is a hike in the cold rain to Sleeping Bear Point and Devil’s Hole, where an entire Native American Tribe was slaughtered by another Native American Tribe during a gathering. The second was exploring around the ghost logging town of Aral. I would have put in a shot of the reenactment the ranger made us do in the Aral area, but she chose Jeff to play the part of the minister. (Rats! How did she know? She didn’t.)

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Someday I would like to ferry out to Manitou Islands. The 20 trails mentioned above do not even include the hiking trails on those islands. But sun, rain, snow, ice, sunsets, stars. How wonderful to witness God’s creation close up.

Sunset in Glen Arbor

The Story of Walking Tree

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The forecast was for partly sunny skies. So we drove the 90 minutes to Michigan’s West Coast only to find it foggy. We wouldn’t have left home if we knew it would be foggy. But once there, and surrounded by December fog, we were up for the adventure. 

It had been a while since we had walked that particular beach. We could only see a few yards ahead of us. The ghostly silhouette of a large tree loomed in front of us. We certainly didn’t remember there being a tree in the middle of the beach, standing tall between the edge of the sand dune and the waves. But it was foggy. Perhaps so were our memories.

Our second thought, separate, yet the same idea struck us, that the water was quite high. It must have been to be so near the base of the tree.

We’d agreed that the turnaround point of our walk was at the tree. However, as we reached it, I had the urge to see it from the other side. I twisted between and beneath the dripping branches. It was then, from that other side, that it became much clearer what had actually happened: the tree had walked down to the beach.

Two other whole trees lay on their sides nearby, their spidery roots exposed to the white air. Following up the sand dune, we noticed other trees, bent out at angles over the dune’s edge. Enlightenment! Through erosion, The trees had slid down the dune. 

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We’ve been on mountain roads where there are signs warning of falling rocks. I recalled the story of Sleeping Bear Dunes and a man walking his dog when the dune collapsed. With the streams of water flowing from the dune base and headed for Lake Michigan, I became a little nervous of other tipped trees anxious to take a walk down to the beach. There ought to have been a warning sign: Beware of Falling Trees. 

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I hope the people in power will leave the tree alone — particularly that one which walked down the dune, remaining upright. It has a chance to continue growing, for it is sure to have sufficient water for its roots, which were fairly covered by the sand. Clear away the debris from the beach, but allow this graceful tree have its second life. Please?

Nature and Human Sounds

It’s in the 40’s, dark and rainy, but there’s a nice breeze going on outside. I had to step outside. So here I was, standing on our front porch in my bare feet and loving nature greeting me. It was only my human rationality which finally encouraged me to pull the doorknob to reenter the house, even though it was irrational to my soul. What would the neighbors think?

I thought that if I had my dream writer’s shack (a tiny camper), I’d have as many windows as possible, and all of them opened wide as I wrote away to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the patter of rain, the occasional bird and scampering squirrels. Of course, if it were nighttime, there would be deer and racoon and opossum wandering near.

All of my stories are set in the out of doors. For that very reason, sometimes it is difficult to write…inside. It would not be wise to leave windows opened inside the house when the outside temp is below fifty. Inside, there is the constant hum of the computer in the closed-in den. Leaving the room, there is the refrigerator hum, the lights humming, the kitchen clock tick-tocking away, and the furnace or furnace fan clicking on and off. (In the summertime it is air conditioning.) Of course, other neighborhood human reminders include loud lawncare machines, or airplanes or boats or racing cars or motorcycles. It makes it very distracting to ride a unicorn through a mountain meadow, seeing the tiny high-altitude flowers immediately below, the azure-blue sky above with falcon cry, the rocks and ranges extending to the horizon.

Rizzz. Rahhh. Zoom. Hum.

Oh, fiddlesticks. I’m going back on the porch for a while.  At least there, in the dark, in the rain, standing in my bare feet, natural noises give competition to the human-created sounds.

End of Year Writing and Marketing

2017 was busy; hence, my long silence on my blog. Two of my books were published this year: THE POWDER HORN OF MACKINAC ISLAND (MG time travel, published in March) and WAR UNICORN (upper MG fantasy re-published in October through Books We Love Publishing). Both books need reviews, if you’re so inclined, since reviews on Amazon are like golden nuggets to a book.

I took a sabbatical this year from my War Unicorn series (I’m now working on the third book) to write what has turned into my memoirs. Hopefully, it will come out before Christmas. Yes, I’m talking Christmas of this year! It has the shockingly long title of THE ROAD LESS-TRAVELED OFTEN INVOLVES SMACKING FACE-FIRST THROUGH SPIDER WEBS (subtitle: A Life of Animal Encounters). It includes wild boar, bear, moose, otter, cattle, ticks, snakes, hawks, and bees, to name a few…and me, of course…and often my family. The book is 50K (50,000 words). That’s a lot of animal encounters!

Each of these books require a different marketing plan, different bookstores to contact, online sites, blog hops, ways to promote, etc. I am so foolish, and would never, ever recommend another author to do so. Why, oh, why didn’t I stick to just one genre and age group of readers? Why?

My end of the year writing and marketing tip: Stick to one genre and age group of readers and keep on writing.

National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Oregon Trail – Register Cliff)

Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – is our National Parks’ 100th anniversary. (And all National Parks are free admission for four day. Happy birthday!)

Although not part of the National Parks System, I felt the need to include in this series some shots of Stu Patterfoot along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. Because it’s history. Because it’s Stu. And because it’s so interesting.

During the mid- and late-1800’s, wagon train emigrants stopped overnight along the nearby North Platte River, and many recorded their names and dates in the soft limestone bluff, which has come to be known as Register Cliff.

Registration Cliff is a rock face where travelers could record by carving into the soft rock that they had made it that far. But today if you try to record that you, too, have passed that way, you’ll be arrested for vandalism. So acknowledge the history, sense the history, look at the history, but don’t touch. The near-barren landscape (trees only grow because of the nearby river) gives one a desolate feel of what early emigrants may have felt.

Most impressive (to me) at this spot was the worn rock made from thousands of wagon wheels heading for a new life further west. The sides of the prairie schooners must have scrapped the walls as they passed through here, with each wheel cutting deeper into the rock.

There are also thousands of cliff swallows guarding the wall. (Look above Stu’s head on the Register Cliff sign.)

As you write your stories, visit your settings. See the flora and fauna, and smell the history. Gather hundreds of ideas for future stories. Keep on writing.

 

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National Parks Birthday – 100 this month! (Mount Rushmore National Memorial)

Back in March I mentioned in a blog post the up-coming National Parks’ 100th birthday on August 25 (only three days away now). I showed a photo of Stu in front of Mount Rushmore. We lived about thirty minutes from there for about ten years. The scenery and wildlife of the Black Hills of South Dakota is stunning.

History: Many years ago a tourist was horseback riding in the Hills and asked his guide the name of “that mountain.” The guide said it didn’t have a name, so the tourist named it after himself. Fast forward a few decades and a visionary sculpture, Gutzon Borglum, saw faces in the bare cliffs. He designed and started the long process of creating the four US presidents seen today on Mount Rushmore. Can you name the four presidents? One had to be started over during the carving. And the original design was to be full busts, not just faces.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Jewel Cave National Monument)

Six more days until our National Parks’ 100th birthday! What awesome places to visit, for  anyone,  but especially for writers and illustrators. There are ideas at every turn, every look.

Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are about 1,000 acres of land on the surface with woods, rocks, and animals, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and passages below the ground. You really don’t know the term “pitch black” until you are deep in a cave and the lights are (intentionally) turned off. Even when experienced, it’s difficult to describe.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Grand Tetons National Park)

Eight more days until our National Parks 100th birthday. Here are some photos of Stu Patterfoot in beautiful Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. (Need a different, inspirational setting for your WIP? Visit a National Park!)

One fall, my husband was at a conference in nearby Jackson (which used to be called Jackson Hole until the millionaires in the area decided they didn’t like that historical reference). I’d taken the day off for a photo shoot. Before I’d left the motel, my husband ran through the checklist: driver’s license? wallet? keys? cell phone? Yes, yes, yes, yes, plus jacket and water and snacks for the day. See? I was prepared.

I was just inside this park’s boundary, with the edge of Jackson about three miles behind me when I stepped out of the van to snap my first photo of the day. (See the unedited version below with me holding Stu by the sign.) It was early morning. Very little traffic. And nothing here except a sign, about ten parking spots, and a gorgeous view. What I hadn’t counted on was the wild wind whipping through the valley. The open door banged my elbow. The van door shut. I thought nothing more about it because I was on a photo shoot, not until I went to get back in the vehicle. The wind and my elbow had collaborated to lock the door. Because it was a frosty morning, I’d had all the windows up. I was prepared for the day. What I hadn’t been prepared for was all my valuables just out of reach, but within sight on the passage seat along a very lonely, hardly-anyone-stopped-here, side lot. I could have walked to Jackson, but I was counting on my faith in humanity (and someone to stop help a maiden in distress). Plus, there was my open purse.

45 minutes later, someone stopped. They didn’t speak English. 20 minutes after that someone else stopped and lent me their cell phone so I could call AAA. An hour after that, a man came and in two minutes he got me back into my van and I was off for the rest of  day taking photos.

Grand Tetons – a stunning place year round, but in the fall…oh, my, the fall is gorgeous. Just remember to take your keys with you when you stop at lonely wayside lots.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota)

In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond.  But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)

Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.

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