History, Rising Flood Waters, and Michigan Coastal Lands

Yesterday, we took visiting Arizona family to the west coast (of Michigan) to do the Saugatuck Dune Rides and walk the cute town of Saugatuck, 90-minutes from our home. On Sunday morning, the forecast for Monday was for 90% chance of thunderstorms with 1″ of rain possible per hour during times. But weather is weather, so we waited until Monday morning to hope our one day to experience the coast would be viable. Even with reduced percentage For rain, and dark grey clouds, we left for our adventure.

We first went for the Dune Rides, one of five left in the entire country (with a second one also in Michigan). Our driver Nate, and his prattle, jokes, and historic information was perfect. Even I, who have done the rides several times as well as researched the area for my book, The Town That Disappeared, learned new things.

We had lunch nearby in a 6-month-new restaurant called The Guardian. The food was great; the waitress was amazing; and the history of the place (again with the history) was interesting, from horse barn to theatre to restaurant. Plus…famous guitars!

On to the town of Saugatuck. Being late June, we hoped to find a parking spot. It’s always so very crowded. First came the Water On The Road sign, Then a side street with several parking spots. We grabbed one of the first. This wasn’t our first time to Saugatuck. A bird in hand, and all.

Two shocks: 1) there were plenty of other parking spots and the streets weren’t at all normal-June crowded; and 2) the high water of the Kalamazoo River.

Condos across the river had been evacuated with the lower floors flooded. Parking lots were water. The Chain Ferry could not run because of high water and strong(er) current. Sad, but survivable.

The many cafes with outdoor seating and cute, artsy downtown stores were the same delight as always, with those blocks even somewhat crowded. This lifted my heart for the beautiful tourist town with rising flood waters.

I’d been to Saugatuck many times, but had never seen the river so high. Although it rained steadily all the way home, I was thankful the thunderstorm forecast with 1″ per hour was wrong for the day. But the Kalamazoo River is long – and runs through Battle Creek where we live. Rain anywhere along the river would make it rise.

Flood warnings remain in effect, but the stores, restaurants, and nearly all attractions in the Saugatuck area remain open. Go visit and support them. I thank you.

Goslings and Robin Chicks

May and June are marvelous times of new birth. The earth is alight with the colors of spring flowers, and penetrating the air are the sounds of birds starting new families.

Mid-May we spent four days at a friend’s cottage up north. I cannot convey in words how peaceful that was. There were, of course, plenty of Canada geese around with their newborn goslings.

One of the mornings we saw a family swimming past under the dock. However, the following morning, the adults honked and squawked for quite a long time. It was so different from the quaint line swimming by on the previous day. And then we saw them: two adult geese, still crying, and no goslings in sight. We could only assume they were the same two adults, and that their screaming was about their babies gone for someone’s breakfast (coyote? fox? bobcat?).

Then we drove home to find a robin had made a nest in our front porch plant pot. A couple weeks earlier, we’d discouraged nest building by removing the plant gathering two or three times a day. But being gone for four days not only allowed new nest to be build, but there was also a beautiful blue egg inside it. Too late to evict the bird. The following day, there was a second egg, then a third and a fourth. We started going out our garage door instead of the front. Babies were babies.

Two weeks later, June 2, they started hatching. New life was fascinating to watch from our kitchen window. There were two, maybe three, adult robins bringing worms to the chicks. I’d sneak onto the porch for a quick shot now and then when the adults were off worm-hunting. I was amazed with how quickly the feathers started growing.

   

Suddenly, after just two weeks hatched, they started moving about the nest, stepping ontop of each other, watching a bee fly past, scratching their necks, mostly crying out for more food, but also trying out their wings without leaving the nest.

This was also the time we noticed neighborhood cats on the prowl. Did you know (from a 2013 study) domestic, free-ranging cats kill about 1.5 billion birds and 6.3- 22.3 billion mammals each year?

Saturday morning, there was only one fledging, chit-ing for food, and hopping from pot to pot to railing. And repeat. An adult robin brought him four worms, then flew to the nest, poking around for about a minute before flying off. Had the other three flown off? Did cats get them? Having not witnessed their departure, we simply don’t know.

Saturday afternoon, the nest area was vacant. Again, we hadn’t seen what expired, but hoped it wasn’t the bird.

Sunday afternoon (yesterday), as I was typing this post, I heard the distinctive “chit-chit-chit” near our front door of a robin chick. I checked the nest from the window. Empty. I stepped outside, barefoot, in 58 degree weather to try to follow the sound. It stopped before I could determine the location. Plus, my feet on the cement were getting cold. So I stopped my search.

I’ll never know what actually happened to the four robins, but it was an honor to witness new life from egg to fledgling. I wish them well.

Michigan’s State Parks – 100 Years Old

We hadn’t realized this fact until last Friday when we hiked through one of Michigan State Parks. The first state park in Michigan was established in 1919. Happy Centennial!

Last Friday, we hiked a loop in Fort Custer State recreation Area (a.k.a. state park) for an hour and 40 minutes. The only other people we saw in that time were three men walking off-trail through a field with a butterfly net.

It was a pleasant warm summer Michigan day. Yes, the mosquitoes were out, and so were the deer fly, but not enough to make us wish for winter hiking.

From rains the last few weeks, we were delighted that it was only muddy in three spots we had bushwhack around.

As I mentioned, there were no people on the trail, but the woods were alive with the sounds of birds. We did see deer tracks in the mud, one small black snake scurrying across the trail, and a chipmunk running wildly across the trail. We also came to a section of trail between two lakes where a snapping turtle guarded the path. He turned his body to follow my steps as I passed. He reminded me of Gandolf saying, “You shall not pass!”

Wishing you a good June, with adventures small or grand. Perhaps you’ll try out a new Michigan State Park trail this summer during its special anniversary celebration.

Wonderwhere Roads

We recently were able to explore some Wonderwhere Roads in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Our only regret is that we no longer have a wonderwhere vehicle. We downsized to one means of transportation, a van, and sold our 24 year old Suzuki Sidekick for scrap.

When we lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota, with the nearest city our size or larger a six-hour drive away, Jeff and I sent many hours exploring wonderwhere roads in our wonderwhere Sidekick.

Wonder what a wonderwhere is? If you haven’t guessed it by now, it’s usually a seasonal dirt, mud, rock, or sand road, usually wide enough for only one vehicle to traverse, going off into the untamed wilderness. Oftentimes, there would be fallen trees across the road — simple enough to climb over or walk around when you’re hiking; not so much when you’re driving. But it sure makes for interesting times.

Once we were literally driven off the road by two men in a pickup truck, who sped towards us on the one-lane path without veering, with snow-filled ditches on each side. Yes, at the last minute, Jeff chose the ditch over a head-on crash, deep in the heart of the Black Hills where there was no cell phone reception.

Even with that one negative people-experience, whenever we pass one of these “roads” off of the asphalted roads, we say to each other, “Wonder where that road goes?” If we had the time back then while in the Black Hills, we’d go off exploring. I didn’t capture too many road photos in the Hills since I was bouncing inside the car too much.

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Today, if we had a proper vehicle, we’d explore, as well. As is, the backroads (Seasonal) in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are…exciting. Up one road we started to explore, our tires nearly got buried in the sand. On another, the potholes were more like barrelholes, with marsh on either side, so there was no way to avoid them, as we prayed for either a higher carriage or someplace to turn around. You’d think we’d learn by now, but we still hold onto that hope of exploring, plus, Wonderwhere Roads are have become a part of our Carlson adventures.

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Sure, there is the uncertainty of not making it out with our vehicle, especially a van. We know we could always hike out. It’s not too-too distant to a paved road. But even so, getting a tow truck back in there would be questionable.

Last time up north in Michigan on one of the seasonal roads, we came to a dead end where a couple with a baby and two large dogs sat in their vehicle. They’d been waiting for a couple hours for a tow truck, but didn’t know the name of the road they were on, so had given vague directions. The dogs had apparently triggered a light in their car which then ran down the battery. As we always carry jumper cables with us, we were glad to help them out.

Oh, the adventures. Gotta love them. (And then I get to chisel those experiences into bits and pieces which often ends up in my novels. What fun.)

 

Finding Petoskey Stones

Michigan’s State stone is the Petoskey stone. There is also a town in Michigan called Petoskey. Both are named after the Ottawa chief named Chief Petosega. The stone is part of a fossilized six-sided coral bed from ancient seas, with circle or striped patterns. They are found along the north western Michigan shoreline of Michigan’s Mitt (the Lower Peninsula) of Lake Michigan, most often in the spring (April or May) when the winter sea churns up the lake’s bottom and brings the stone ashore. Even knowing these facts, it took me years to find one of these treasures. Here is one I bought, all polished up:

I’ve seen people in rubber boots and pronged garden claws, and bags, buckets or even wagons in which to place their finds. These are the professional stone seekers. I’m barely in the Amateur’s Club. I casually look for them when I go to beaches. Each time I find one “in the Wild”, which is not very often at all, I feel like I’ve won a prize. I believe that my joy with finding just one Petoskey stone outshines the relentless beach-prowling pros.

In the photo below is part of the reason they are hard to find. Can you spot it?

It’s the ordinary oval-type one right in the center of the photo. Here’s the stone after I’ve turned it over:

See the circular pattern. Tricky stone! Often plain on one side, with the treasure revealed on the other. Win!

So if you ever find yourself on the northwestern Michigan coast line in the spring, keep your eye out for Michigan’s state stone, the Petoskey stone.

And here are three more of my lovely treasures:

Happy hunting.

Wonderful Friends; Glorious Creation

Last week, friends let us use their cottage “up north”. It was a marvelous four days of needed rest and renewal. Thank you, Friends!

 

We hiked. We biked. We walked beaches (along with thousands of midge insects). We saw lots of wildlife, birds, mammals, spring wildflowers.

 

I could easily write five posts for each day we spent there…and I may just do that.

There are several reasons I love being in nature. I suppose my most important reasons are that you see and hear different and unexpected things each time out; I also get to appreciate nature alongside my mate and best friend; but most of all, I see God’s certainty of the cycles of life.

Halfway through day two, I mentioned to Jeff that I wished I had a video camera cap to attempt to capture the out of doors all around me. Even so, watching the video would only end up being a tiny fraction of the experience, even with my memories of being there. Nothing, I mean nothing, can substitute for the real thing, with all five senses on high alert at the same time of every muscle and thought in total relaxation mode. So, look at the pretty pictures, watch interesting nature shows, taste new local delights, but much more important than those things, get out and enjoy the wondrous creation which is out there.

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May Fool’s Day – Gardening for Mother ‘s Day

For my Mother’s Day gift, last Thursday my boys and their families sent me soil and peat pots. <waggling head> Okay. They know I love to garden. So now I had to think up something special to grow in all those pots. <waggling head again; there are so many choices, you know>

So I finally settled on making an herb garden. I have various herbs around the yard, but to have a designated garden for them would be awesome, and with all these pots I could add such a variety. It was settled (in my wiggling head): I’d sow me an herb garden. Although, I’d have to wait for a few days to buy the seeds for life was too busy to look and decide what and where of such a wonderful project.

On Sunday’s Mother’s Day, I thanked them for the gardening gifts. I would put them to great use, I promised.

Then comes today. A small package arrived in the mail addressed to me. Inside was an envelope with 15 varieties of herb seeds in neat little packets, along with blank labels. May’s Fool day/ Happy Mother’s Day to me. For apparently, the seeds were supposed to arrive at the same time as the soil and peat pots. Ha-ha.

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Today I dug right in (literally) and spent a lot of today filling the peat pots, dropping in the seeds, labeling the sections, and watering them all. Now as my little seeds grow into seedlings, then into plants, I will plan and create a perfect home for them.

 

North Country Trail — Again — in Marshall, Michigan

 

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My husband has been sick for about a month. I was sick about a week of that. Either scenario meant no hiking for the sickies. (Oh, just rip out my heart and lay it on the table.) Finally, on May 3, a Friday, and therefore DH’s day off, the air was dry after raining all week, and the temp, cold (mid- to lower-40’s), meaning we wouldn’t be hiking on a muddy woodland trail. We put on our winter jackets (yes, I know: it’s May) and decided on a tried-and-true boardwalk along the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, MI, about 20 minutes from home.

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This past week, tree leaves started to pop out around here. I usually give trees about two weeks each spring to go from first bud to full leaf, depending, of course, on precipitation and temperature. It’s a very delicate time of year with the woods appearing like a green lace cloth has been draped over the canopy. There’s also a lot of pollen in the air and on the ground with the tree blossoms acting like flower girls for the coming leaves.

If I knew this before, I’d forgotten:  The Riverwalk in Marshall, Michigan, is part of the North Country Trail. Hurray. We’d found ourselves on it once again! (The week before we’d taken our grands on another part of it, at Bridge Historical Park. The entire National Trail is 4,600 miles. We’ve got a bit more of it to walk yet.)

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We had the boardwalk to ourselves, but across the way, we waved to others in the area. First, was the Great Blue Heron. Can you spot it in this picture? Jeff did. (Closeups and more to the story further on.)

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Wilderness-eyed Jeff also spotted deer across the river (how many do you count?), and two turtles (not included here).

 

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I kept hoping for an otter sighting like on our previous visit, but no such luck this time with spotting that delightful creature. I called out for it — just ask Jeff — but it must have been underwater or too far away to hear me. Along our walk there were also an abundance of serenading birds. Not too bad at all for a boardwalk.

And…the rest of the Great Blue Heron story is that we had the privilege to watch it fish and then eat a meal. I’m only guessing, but I’m thinking that fish was at least a foot long. Big bird. Big fish. Nice meal. Thank you, Heron, for allowing us watch.

 

To Continue a Series or Call It Quits?

My War Unicorn Chronicles will have its fourth book, RESCUE, THE WAR UNICORN CHRONICLES, BOOK 3, published in June through Books We Love, LLC. Already, there is a pre-purchase link with nine e-book stores listed, and the print stores will be listed soon, too. Yay. Newly published books are very exciting. Although with the electronical books, I can’t smell the newness of the printed page, there is still that new-excitement in the air for the author.

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(http://books2read.com/Rescue-War-Unicorn-Chronicles-3)

As I wrote the first book, WAR UNICORN: THE RING, I thought of it as a one-off — a story unto itself with beginning, middle, and end. But then after it was published, I started wondering where to go (writing-wise), so naturally thought about a sequel. As I drafted said sequel, my writing brain started trotting down different paths as I imagined other story lines with those same characters. So as I wrote, I plotted out five more possible books in the series.  The sequel, DRAGON PRINCESS, THE WAR UNICORN CHRONICES, BOOK ONE, is now, as the title indicates, “Book One” making the original, WAR UNICORN: THE RING, “Book Zero”.  A bit confusing, however, I couldn’t go back and change the title of the first book, so considered it in a similar format as THE HOBBIT to LORD OF THE RINGS.

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(Link to stores for all the above books:  http://www.bookswelove.com/authors/carlson-s-l-ya-fantasy/)

Even after four books, there could be more adventures for these characters. There are, constantly galloping around through my mind. However…I’m wondering…should I continue the series or call it quits (on The War Unicorn Chronicles, that is)?

It’s soon my turn to submit something to my critique group. They are the ones who keep me accountable for continued writing. Maybe I could write up a short story with Neighbor and Aldric. Maybe I could switch POV (point of view) and write from Neighbor’s herd of unicorns — IF THEY EXIST, that is. Or I could write something entirely different, like start a new fantasy story with elves or fairies? Or pick up some old manuscripts in other genres?

Oh, what to do? What to do?