Indoor-Outdoor Adventures During the Time of a Plague

Backyard Feeder

Of course, the Coronavirus-19 is not called a plague, but it might as well be considered one. Shelter-in-place. No close human contacts. Keep clean. Stay safe.

But there are ways to have outdoor adventures with even staying indoors. You could watch birds from inside your house.

You could look at nature shots.

You could draw or paint nature shots. You could write a memory of an adventure you had. You could read about unfamiliar adventures in books.

Whatever your Indoor-Outdoor adventure may be, stay safe.

MLK Weekend, and Another Stormy Year For It

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Saturday’s Saga.

We received about 8 inches of snow in the night, but then it started raining this morning. The temperature was in the lower- to mid-30s – perfect for making snowballs snow forts snowman, aka, heart-attack-snow, because it is so wet and heavy, it produces much stress on muscles, joints, and heart when shoveling it.

We bought an expensive snowplow three years ago. Hurray. Saturday was the first snow of the season deep enough to warrant its use. 8” of snow fell overnight, and then was compressed by in the early hours by freezing rain. Good thing we bought that snowplow, because we had an MLK Breakfast to attend. Jeff has been on the breakfast committee in town for years. Our snowplow refused to start, plus, our street usually gets plowed late. (2:30 this time, so not too-too bad.)

Jeff started shoveling, but we knew by 8am that we weren’t going to clear the drive enough to make the 9:00 breakfast. The speaker really sounded very interesting!

It took us five times going outside on Saturday. Then neighbor Rod rescued us with his working snowplow. Hurray for helpful neighbors! It was still going to be an Advil night for us because of sore muscles and joints.

One of the times between our shoveling, I went out to move just a bit more of that perfect snow away. Did I mention with the heavy, wet snow and icy top, it was perfect for snowman making? Isn’t there some enlightened quote about all work and no play?

OK,all you snow-haters; I mean snow chickens; I mean people who prefer warm weather year round. Snow is not just for scary driving or power outages. It’s also God’s message to tell us to PLAY!

By the time my rough snow guy was finished, my outer clothes were soaked on the outside from touching the wet snow while my inner clothes were wet on the inside (from sweat).

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Sunday Morning.

We easily made it out of our drive for the Pulpit Exchange. Jeff has participated for 16 years. Black pastors preach to predominantly white churches while white pastors preach to predominately black churches. I tag along with Jeff to support him, but also because it’s so much fun.

Jeff has preached at several black churches, and loves the congregation’s feedback during his sermon. And the clapping during singing.

 

(Funny side note story from last year: A young black preacher participated for the first time. Because the congregation didn’t respond during his sermon – not a single “Amen!” – he assumed his message was a bomb, so cut it short, and after the service, scurried out of there. These pulpit exchanges are as enlightening for the pastors as it is for the congregations.)

This year the 8 participating pastors (speaking on the same scripture verses) drew churches to see where they’d go. We got Second Missionary Baptist. Again. Hurray!

We’ve gotten to know many people from that church in particular over the years through several community events. Hurray! Friends!

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Fall Hike Revisited; Leelanau County Parks

 

I traveled to Wisconsin over last weekend, which meant no Friday hike with my awesome hiking partner. so I shall revisit two short hikes we took at the end of October up in Leelanau County, near Empire Michigan: Chippewa Run Natural Area and across the road (M22) to the Beaver Pond Trail.

Because of my aching knee, we only hiked part of the Chippewa Trail, through the field, into the windy woods, and over the creek crossing and just beyond.

We lingered around the creek, as we became engulfed in the beauty and natural silence of fall.

We crossed the road just to check out what Beaver Pond Trail was like. It was just a sampling of the trail, but, as always in Leelanau County, well worth even the taste.

 We lingered a while overlooking the beaver pond in reflective silence, away from sights and sounds of other humans.

It also rained every day up there (with gale warnings and power outages), but that couldn’t stop us from getting outside. Also, rain grows mushrooms!

It’s always great to discover mushrooms. I’m now on chapter three of a fantasy dealing with mushrooms. They can be very inspirational, don’t you think?

 May you find time to hike in nature or sit and rest in the out of doors. May you find peace at this season.

Hiking During Hunting Season

(Deer photo by FB Colorado writer friend, Roni O’Connell)

Generally speaking, hiking during hunting season (with gun) is not recommended. Bow-hunting time is another matter, for it takes longer to reload, and wearing orange seems sufficient. Not so with guns. And, I’m sad to say, some hunters are simply careless. I have heard rapid gun fire hiking during hunting season, assuming that the hunter spotted a deer, shot, missed, shot again, repeat. My concern is that I’ve known stories of hunters doing this very thing, focusing on trying to shoot the deer, and not seeing another hunter nearby while the deer passes. So…where to hike on a Free Friday during gun hunting time?

Marshall Riverwalk, and the North Country National Scenic Trail!

  

Although a familiar “hiking” spot, and late fall, Jeff spotted a shivering, camouflaged blue heron this time ’round. It’s always fun to spy animals in the wild.

I realize I’ve blogged about this “hike” before, This time, I dint even need hiking poles. Even though I’ve written about it before, it’s safe to walk outdoors here during hunting season. Plus, it’s lovely any season, summer, spring, or fall. Haven’t tried it in winter. Would rather be in the woods.

     

This Marshall Riverwalk is a super easy hike (not much up and down at all), and always different in each season with the constant flowing stream.

  

I was a little concerned this time with what looked to me like an oil spill on water areas near oil pipeline markers.

There’s always the worry here, especially after the largest inland oil spill in the continental USA, in 2010, broke/started just northeast of this location. Wish I could have done more back then besides clean oil off a few turtles. Our land! We are the stewards. Or need to try to be.

Above the dam, the sound of rushing water stilled.

 

I imagine a blue sky reflected in the river-lake would have been quite pretty. Someday.

Along with the browns and grey, there were spots of red berries and orange lichen and orange barkless tree in the river’s edge.

 

I also spotted some more turkey tail mushrooms on our 90 minute walk. Then I found these other mushrooms on a sawed log. Didn’t realize till later–only after zooming in–that they, too, are turkey tails. They’re everywhere, I tell you. Everywhere!

Even out walking for such a short time is refreshing and calming to the soul. May you, also, engage in outdoor adventures for refreshment for your soul.

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

Autumn Roads Up North

Dear friends allowed us the use of their cottage during Jeff’s vacation last week. Four nights and three glorious fall days up north. Perfect.

Driving up, I took over 300 photos out of our dirty van window. I couldn’t help myself. The trees were so pretty-colorful in the sunshine. Though the next 3 days were gale warnings and rainy, it was still perfect vacation. Yes, we hiked some, but even the getting there was glorious.

The 4-lane roads were beautifully colored.

The 2-lane roads were gorgeous.

The seasonal roads were stunning.

I do love the fall.

Even from the van, Autumn delighted us with her various outfits. I hope you all have been able to get out and enjoy the outdoors this season.

Fall Scenic North Country Trail near Augusta, MI

We waited to hike in woods until after the first frost, to be sure of no deadly mosquito concerns. So last Friday, we once again hiked on the Scenic North Country Trail, this time near Augusta by Fort Custer State Recreation Area. We’d hiked this section once before…in winter, last March. We were the only ones there in the silent woods for a couple of hours.

This time, we hiked at the beginning of the turning of the leaves.  My, what a difference in the cycle of creation from winter to fall. I love fall.

 

I took my cross-country ski poles, which I’m discovering work quite well for hiking with a bum knee. Even so, we didn’t explore too much beyond what we had last March.

We went through the woods, following the trail into Fort Custer Cemetery land, across the no-railing bridge, and followed the narrow pathway between two bodies of water to a bench in the middle of the marsh.

 

We stopped for a snack, and to watch and listen to the wonderful sandhill cranes  high overhead, celebrating their fall dance.

 

I was surprised how well I did walking so much. I do believe it was because of two major reasons: 1) I was with my best friend; and 2) I was in the woods. Either is inspiring enough to feel energetic. Together, it is just joy.

 

Home to ice my knee, and already looking forward to our next outdoors adventure.

 

 

Nature and Plastic and Our Earth

Our rising use of plastic does indeed have an affect on both us and on nature. You may well have read about the floating plastic island in the pacific, or all the debris (much of it plastic, washed up on the west coast after a tsunami. Of course, cutting the rings of 6-pack holders has been “a thing” for decades, especially after seeing photos of birds with their heads stuck through them in garbage dumps. Recently, I read about micro-bits of plastic showing up in fish guts, caused in part by make-up removers.

If I haven’t depressed you enough, here on the west coast of Michigan, floating in from Lake Michigan — the only All-American Great Lake, completely within US boundries — sometimes large debris is washed onto our sand beaches,  like pieces from ships or docks or swept off land or boats, like buckets or bigger. But there are also tiny bits of plastic less than 1/4″ in diameter, like those we spotted on our last visit to South Haven.

Plastic is everywhere, from our car dashboard to dish soap pods to diapers. I will not do a blame-game. Awareness is good. Action is better. London has started (so I’ve read) to use milkmen to home-deliver in glass bottles, and already people are making milkman jokes instead of taking it seriously. When shopping, do you try to reach for glass bottles vs plastic? Are you a diligent recycler as best you can be? Be the best that you can be. Be the best you can be for nature and us and our earth.

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Ahh…The West Coast…of MICHIGAN

Hiking these days before our first hard frost of the season is hard — EEE. Need I say more?

So last Friday, instead of hiking into the woods for a few hours, we drove to the West Coast…of Michigan. South Haven and area, to be precise. It’s about a 75 minute drive away, and well, well worth it!

Stop #1 was just outside Van Buren State Park where I wanted to see where this one trailhead went. There were usually 1-3 cars parked there. That day there were none. That meant for us Carlsons that it was not crowded. I assumed the trail most likely ended at Lake Michigan, but I wanted to duck my head into the glorious woods for just a little bit. After all, 55 degrees is rather cold for scary mosquitoes to be flying about. Wrong! Within five minutes, one of them found Jeff. Back to the van.

Stop #2 Van Buren State Park Beach…or rather, it used to be a beach. Today it’s just a sidewalk leading to a small bit of sand and then water. For the past year we’ve noticed the beach getting smaller and smaller. Now it’s about 40 feet closer to the dune, and not really a beach at all.

Still pretty, though. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We became a little nervous when we discovered the outhouse we’ve used during our winter adventures for the past 15 years now sported a padlock.

But all worked out well when we found the main – flush – bathrooms were open.

And one amazing Eagle Scout finished his life-vests-for-children project. Pretty amazing: Borrow-Use-Return. Thank you, Deegan Boyles.

Stop #3. We at lunch at a park picnic table in the sometimes sun (partly cloudy), where we were as far from woods as we could get. It was a typical Carlson Picnic, cold and windy. At least there was no precipitation. There, were however, bugs: bees, flies, gnats, a butterfly. Back in the van, I’d let a sweat bee in on my side. Jeff looked out his side window after getting in to spot a mosquito hovering just outside. Those guys sure do like my guy.

From there it was a quick stop at DeGramchamp’s. (Stop #4) No more blueberries (except some dried or frozen), but there were cranberries as well as pretty fall flowers.

Stop #5. On to South Haven’s North Shore beach.

When we last visited it (our first time there), we found out it cost $10 to park for the day. No half-days, no hourly parking. $10, period. However, that price is only from May 15-September 15, so for us, that day, parking was free. Hurray.

Waves are choppier on the north side of the Black River which goes through South Haven and into the Lake. The North Beach is also immense, at least compared to the South Beach. Only a handful of people were on the north side, including us.

Stop #6. Southside Beach. This has the pier going out to the famous red lighthouse. Similar to our last visit, waves were washing over the channel wall and onto the pier. We kept our feet dry and bodies safe on dry sand.

We walked the beach to find three very brave children, swimming in Lake Michigan in October. It was still only 55 degrees out, but the lake temperature was a balmy 66.

Stop #7. Just past halfway home, we made our last stop at a farm market/ apple orchard. If were weren’t on this diet, I would have bought up all 3 dozen left of their amazing smelling donuts. Instead, I bought a gallon of cider and a bag of apples. Just as good.

I did take a double look (and photo of) this gigantic apple, covered in caramel and rolled in nuts. Oh, my.

Until next time, West Coast.