Northern Winter Beaches, Changes and Playtimeu

[THIS was in my drafts folder. SERIOUSLY? It was the last time we travelled, actually. And here, sheltered-at-home, crocuses and daffodils are starting to pop up. Where HAS my mind been lately? I’m sure you all can guess. So stay home. Stay safe. Love to you.]

Friday. Jeff’s day off. Sunny day. Off to South Haven and Van Buren State Park on Michigan’s western coast. A very favorite place of ours in all seasons, especially not in busy summer – when it is crowded with people, dogs, and bugs. We went to three beaches: the state park, and South Haven’s south beach and north beach.

It was briskly-cold. City temp was 30 degrees with a wind chill of 17. But there on the beaches, the wind roars mightier, and the temperature is colder yet. After only a few minutes of photographing waves, my iPhone simply shut down. It couldn’t stand the cold. So I stuck it in my jean’s pocket to warm up. Have you ever held a baggie of ice in your pocket? Similar feeling. Makes your eyes go cross.

The water level is high, with some docks in the channel marinas being washed over with incoming surges. (Earlier I also posted about the high water level four hours north of us in Leelanau County, at Fishtown. I wonder if the high water is also happening across the pond in Wisconsin?)

But with all the changes, and a day off now and again with cooperating weather, we still love to play outside (Jeff skipped ice on the lake.) We hiked the narrowing beaches, listened to the lapping waves, and talked to hungry gulls…well, I talked, anyway.

Jeff skipped flat ice vs rocks.

The splashing waves onto the pier rails seemed nature-artsy. There were a number of other people out and about taking photos, including a man in waders on the south beach.

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 Besides the seasonal variations, our western coast has changed over the past couple of years. For example, Van Buren State Park beach has vanished, due to high water and erosion. Part of me wants to say how awful this is; another part knows this is nature.

A Before Shot of the beach, which doesn’t even show the end of the sidewalk; and a couple taken this weekend, showing how the sand is eroding underneath the sidewalk’s end.

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Michigan’s shoreline has Critical Dunes. That means they move – with the wind, with the snow, with the rain. Here is a favorite little building of ours, taken in both summer, and this past winter weekend. Seems like this particular critical dune is moving in on the outhouse, soon to make it a buried house. Bye-bye, sweet little, dependable house.

 

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Life is full of changes. A dramatic one for us is happening this year as we move this fall to the other side of Lake Michigan. That will be a big change with plenty of unknowns, but will also carry with it family, exciting new adventures, and more places to explore.

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.

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?

3 People Stories Near Water – 2 Peculiar and 1 Miraculous

There are story ideas everywhere from real life.

Near the Water Story #1: About six weeks ago, my husband and I decided to walk part of the Battle Creek River Walk, starting at a small playground with about six parking spots. We were the only vehicle. (Yay! Not crowded.) We walked about twenty minutes upstream and then returned to a crowded area. Two cars besides ours! A woman played on the playground with a preschool girl. We assumed it was her daughter. A man in his mid-twenty’s paced near the river, avoiding eye contact, twitching, and biting his lips. His body language made me nervous enough that I didn’t want to leave mom and child alone in the area. (Can you say Amber Alert?) My husband later commented that the man’s face “seemed weird.” So we strolled nearby, pausing long near the river, man, and mom-and-daughter. We figured it was a natural thing for a couple to do, for who doesn’t like watching a flowing river? But our senses were on alert. Suddenly the man moved quickly to the parking area and got into the back of a newly arrived vehicle with two people in the front. We went to our van and got in, but lingered still. I nonchalantly glanced at the car at the very moment there was an exchange over the seat. The man immediately got out with his small package. The new car drove off. So did the man. Had we just witnessed a drug buy, or is my fictional writing brain overactive?

 

Near the Water Story #2: A couple weeks later, we walked part of the North Country Trail along the Kalamazoo River, about twenty miles east of Battle Creek in Marshall. We saw turtles in the river, birds in the trees, bugs enjoying our presence, and a clowder of cats. We’d witnessed the other animals before, but never the cats. At first there were only five, sitting under a picnic table. About thirty paces past them, a black cat laying on a fallen log near the trail eyed us. Then we saw another lurking in the woods. We hurried on to the street bridge crossing and decided to walk part of the dead-end road parallel to the trail. We hadn’t gone far when we spotted a woman bending over into the back of her station wagon parked near the woods with – seriously – about forty cats near the car, most laying on the pavement, nearly all watching us. (Can you say Crazy Cat Lady?) We were rather committed at this point to passing by her. With her back still to us, she took a five-pound bucket in one hand and a three-pound one in the other and started into the woods. There was no trail entrance there; just trees and shrubs. Without any noise from lady, the cats all rose and followed after her. One of the buckets tipped just enough for me to see inside. It looked like birdseed.

 

Near the Water Story #3: It was my first free day to go along Lake Michigan to do my annual distribution of my summer books. I had five places to visit, and then my husband and I would be free to play at the beach…or walk on it. And we did. When we returned to the van, couldn’t find my key fob. Not wanting to take a purse to the beach, and wearing jeans with only two pockets, I’d put glasses and ID in one pocket and iPhone and fob in the other. Naturally, I took photos! I’d never lost a key or fob before. The only thing I know about fobs is that they open and start vehicles, and cost hundreds of dollars to replace. (I suppose that’s three things.) As my husband had his fob, we searched the van. Normally I only look through things once. This time I searched everywhere (more than my two pockets) three times. No fob. The sky threatened its forecast of thunderstorm, so we snatched our raincoats and slowly backtracked toward the beach. I was picturing every spot I’d stopped to take a photo. A park employee rode a golf cart on the sidewalk from the beach to the parking lot. I flagged him down and asked if he’d seen a key fob on the beach. Jeff later explained that his disinterested attitude was probably from being asked that many times before. However, a passing woman said, “Was it small and black?” She measured with her thumb and finger. “YES!” What happened was that earlier a man walked near her beach blanket and without a word to her, placed the fob on her blanket and walked on. She was with six children and had never seen a fob like this one before. She thought it was a bomb. (!) She was going to toss it high into the sand dune woods, but instead laid it in some weeds. Going from nervous to hopeful to skeptical and back to nervous, we followed her. She pointed from a distance, still seemingly unsure that it might be a bomb. My fob. My short-lost fob was found. Thing is, if I had only searched my pocket, or the van just once, the woman wouldn’t have been passing at that exact moment to have heard me asking the employee about it. (Can you say I believe in miracles?)