Last Trip to Ionia State Recreation Area

With only two weeks left, with two days off work before Jeff retires and us leaving Michigan as residents, what was one place we hadn’t said goodbye to? Ionia State Recreation Area — between Lansing and Grand Rapids, and about an hour north from both Battle Creek where we lived for 16 years and Camp Turkeyville where we presently live in an RV.

I don’t know why this particular park sees such little use. It’s gorgeous, wooded, with lakes and creeks, hills and ravines. Not many people there, at least the times we choose to go. Except, mind that there are hunters, so wear orange. Last Friday, we went. God did not disappoint. Gorgeous autumn. I shall let a few pictures of the park speak for themselves.

Something which always amazes us is to have visited a place so many times, and then discover something new there. I asked Jeff to stop the van so I could get a photo of a creek. He pulled into a tiny gravel parking area. I took the shot I wanted, but between the trees, noticed a lake you can’t see from the road. New place! We hiked down to it.

We assumed the trail went around the lake. Wrong. At least I believe we are wrong. We followed it up the hill, overlooking the small lake. Spectacular.

As the sky darkened and moved toward us, we made a last stop at a vault toilet, and then headed out as it was starting to sprinkle on us. Shortly thereafter, it slushed on our windshield. And then, we drove southward into the sunshine.

It was a fantastic last trip to Ionia State Recreation Area. I know there are woods and lakes in Wisconsin we shall be able to explore. I look forward to experiencing more of God’s great creation.

Living in an RV, part 6: Bogs, Logs, and Fog — The Country Road to Town

In our transition between selling our Michigan house in July and living in the house we bought for after retirement in Wisconsin in November, we are living in a borrowed RV.

The 20-minute drive between the RV park and town is not unpleasant. It is your quintessential Michigan countryside.

There are hills, ponds and bogs.

There are soybean and corn fields, and nice, big red barns.

Much of the shoulderless road is tree-lined, allowing gorgeous travel through tree tunnels. I do look forward in the next couple of weeks when the trees will display their fall colors for us.

And, naturally, on a wooded country road, if a tree falls there are sometimes branches or logs one must swerve around near to or onto the road.

You must be careful to drive more slowly in the nighttime or in fog. As much as the narrow country road is stunningly interesting, you do not want to go off it. One of the ponds along the route has an algae-covered car tire sticking out of it — a warning to other careless drivers.

There is even a haunted house along the way, hidden among the trees, not far from the road. It is easy to miss, draped in tree branches. I will not show you a picture of it. The ghosts may come after me for exposing them.

I do look forward to Jeff’s retirement and living near our grandchildren. I will miss the Michigan countryside and the beautiful sunsets we see in this open space.

Pandemic, House-selling, and Power Outage – Oh, my!

I decided a week ago it was time to hook up the water hoses and get some moisture onto our dry lawn. We want it to look healthy and pretty for people passing by, for June 3rd, our house went on the open market – right in the middle of a pandemic. Even a sandhill crane seems interested.

I also went grocery shopping a week ago to load up our freezer and refrigerator. It’s important to have a well-stocked freezer and refrigerator, especially in days of uncertain pandemicness…unless two days later during a tree-tumbling hail and rainstorm you loose power for three days. When our electricity goes off, we also lose water since we’re on well water. The Internet was also cut. Good old primitive living.

Because the days were sunny, but not hot and humid, I decided to make me some sun tea — two cups in a glass jar. I also discovered that when the jar is set on some aluminum foil, the water actually heats up. This might become a good, normal, future thing to do.

Of course, if we had known power wouldn’t be restored for such a long time, we would have done things differently. But our energy company called every few hours to give updates on when it would be restored. These updates got pushed back eight times over those three days. Each update filled us with hope. And each passing update filled us with despair. The good news: after clearing out all our perishable foods, our refrigerator and freezer never looked so good, a necessity for leaving it with the house when we move.

Luckily, there were no appointments to see our house during the power outage, but 16-hours after we got power back (hurray!), we had two groups visiting our house (hurray!). Although neither party indicated a nibble (boo). Still…clean house; clean refrigerator-freezer (hurray!).

We have been so very careful during the lockdown, mostly ordering groceries delivered to us over the past three months. When the power when off, and CPAP machine wouldn’t function, we decided to go to a hotel for the second night — in the middle of a pandemic! Do you know how many people have been in that room recently? It was a rather sleepless night.

However, the following morning, with hotel Internet working, I had my first zoom doctor’s appointment. Slick. I mean, no waiting in the waiting room or individual patient room for an hour. Just a quick little visit, with my doctor telling me I’m doing well.

During one of our home-visits, Jeff and I drove out to Fort Custer State Park — a close and favorite place. Just driving down the two-lane, tree umbrellaed road made us take deep, refreshing breaths. The woods have always had that calming affect on us.

 

We first went down the dirt road to the Kalamazoo River boat launch area. It was gloriously empty of people and cars. We had that lovely little spot of the park all to ourselves. Or so we thought. As we stepped out of the van, as Jeff puts it, within three nano-seconds, fifty mosquitoes were upon each of us. By the time we’d hopped right back in, only about twenty unfortunate insects made it inside with us.  Disinfectant wipes will definitely be needed on all those smooshed bug bodies.

(Smooshed mosquito on window)

We continue to find it odd that the campgrounds remain closed. But we’re we to camp, we would have to burn an awfully lot of green plants making enough smoke to drive away the hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes hovering around.

Home to our screened house, with electricity. Life is good. Now just to have people get as much interest in our home as the birds.

Pandemic Day Off

Last Friday, we finally had the chance to hike again. We also immediately remembered why we prefer hiking autumn through springtime: mosquitoes and other biting insects!

 

We left for Fort Custer State Park at 10. It was more crowded than even a regular (non-pandemic) day off. For instance, by 11:30, the beach area was full of summer fun people. We decided to hike our favorite little trail circling a widening area of water (“swamp” on the maps), beneath the dam. It’s wooded 97% of the way.

 

It’s a trail not normally used by many others, and, in fact, there was only one other person on that trail with us — a bicyclist speeding past. We stepped aside too quickly to check if we were ankle-deep in poison ivy.

We’d seen plenty of it on and along the trail. Such a pretty green. But, thankfully, there was none where we’d moved aside.

I’ve called this trail The Double Dam Lake Trail, but last Friday, we discovered that the beaver dam had been dismantled some, so that only the lodge remained with the creek flowing around it. I wonder how long that will last?

 We were surprised there weren’t many wildflowers out, just some clover, daisies, and raspberry blossoms. And from the abundance of white flowers, we know in two weeks there will be plenty of raspberries along this trail.

 

We realize there may have been other flowers we passed. After all, our hike was considerably shorter than normal because of all the dozens of other trail inhabitants flying in front of our faces, and any bit of exposed skin.

Even so, we enjoyed our trek through Michigan woodland.

Ya know? There shouldn’t have been that many mosquitoes around us, because we’d sprayed repellant on our clothing, including hats. I’d also worn a twisty mosquito repellant bracelet as well as a battery-operated fan contraption, which has always worked in the past, but Friday, I moved it from my belt to my neckline. I even had a bandana I swung in circles in front of my face. Still. Those little critters sure were hungry. I’m wondering if all our spraying (even from planes) and repellants aren’t making today’s mosquitoes resistant to the “old” repellants.

 

Later in the afternoon, we had to depart our home for an hour for a house showing. We decided to head south to Athens. Since it was National Doughnut Day, of course, we had to stop on our way at Station 66 for some of their homemade doughnuts. Because of the coronavirus, they were only doing window-orders. At the time I was there, 14 customers mulled around near the windows. Only 3 of us wore masks. I found it interesting that we mask-wearers were the only ones trying to implement social distancing of 6′. The others would walk right by us, or stand immediately behind me in line. (If you would allow one short rant: It’s their decision to wear masks or not, but for mask-choosers, it’s a safety concern. Not maintaining distance from strangers is not only risky, but also so disrespectful.)

We drove on down to Athens and stopped in their little river park for a bit. We were saddened to see the park equipment sectioned off (safety from virus).

 

We walked to the bridge, covered with Mayflies, as another car pulled in — right next to us. It’s a fairly big parking area. Back into the safety of our car.

I was thinking of all the dangers we encountered today. There was a risk of the COVID-19 from unmasked people, or even of strangers walking around inside our house and touching things. There was risk of diseases from mosquitoes (e.g., West Nile Virus, EEE, and La Crosse encephalitis, to name a few). Not to belittle the plant which loves me so, poison ivy. And let’s not forget arachnids. The brown recluse spider does damage, as well as ticks which could gift lyme disease and more.

In our past, we’ve lived-hiked-camped in bear-cougar-rattlesnake-moose country, but even those larger animals never deterred us. I suppose it would be safer to remain in one’s home, but lovely as our house is, and as much as Jeff and I get along with each other, we still enjoy being around friends and family, as well as exploring the great outdoors. So, even with the risks, we will continue to take the precautions needed to keep ourselves safe, and to interact with people and nature, and always trusting and continually thanking God.

In Search of a Less-Crowded Hike — Barker Sanctuary

 

Last Friday’s day off of Jeff’s work, sent us outside our neighborhood once more, seeking a less-crowded place to hike than last week. We both first thought of the Kellogg experimental forest, but, alas, MSU had closed it to the public. Jeff then suggested the Barker Bird Sanctuary northwest of town. So we twisted around the rural Michigan roads to reach our destination. To our expectation, the tiny parking lot was empty. To our disappointment, as we were getting prepared to hike, another car pulled in, a dog walker. Our two “groups” headed in different directions from the two trailheads looping through the meadow-woods-swamp. Interesting how with this pandemic there was not quite the total give-in-to-nature relax about the hike. We kept expecting to pass Mr. Dog Walker. We did see him twice, but only at a distance. (Whew.)

The gentle rolling hills reminded me of my grandparents’ farm in southern Ohio. And, of course, there were birds, not hundreds crying out or flying overhead, but enough variety to make our ears perk up and eyes to search.

The Octopus Tree was there, as well as wild flowers, lichen, moss and fungi.

Benches scattered along the trail for quiet watching or reflecting. We did take advantage of one, and were at peace.

The wooden bird blind seemed a bit claustrophobic to enter on that particular day, with one way in and out, and a 2′-deep mud rut  between doorway and bench. But it’s still nice to feast on familiar.

On the other side of the pond, Jeff noticed two people with two dogs jogging the trail from behind us. We found a spot where we could step off the 6′ wide path to allow further social distancing as they passed. But they slowed to a walk, and finally stood on the trail next to us, the one dog coming within a couple feet of us, with owner following. We stepped back some more. He-in-the-lead said, “You didn’t need to move over because of me. I’m not that special.” As neither of us knew how to respond, we’d kept silent with perhaps an awkward smile between us. They walked on, probably thinking we were as socially-awkward strange as we thought they were for not taking social distancing seriously.

We returned to the lot to find our little, ole van contentedly alone.

All-in-all, the hour+ hike was good for us, and a lovely visual distraction outside of our own lovely neighborhood. The last time we visited Barker Sanctuary was October, 2018, with a couple of photos below to show the variety of the seasons of this natural setting.

 

Stay safe, everyone. Enjoy nature when and where you can. Pray for an end to this pandemic.

 

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.

img_2443

 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.

DSC08730

 

img_2228

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.

 

img_7717

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.

Redundant River Revisited

Battle Creek River Riverwalk, East of Bailey Park — Revisiting the Redundant River!

There’s a reason why people need sunshine and blue skies: It lifts one’s spirit. There’s a reason why day after day of overcast, low gray clouds is depressing. It nails one’s spirit down. Last Friday — too gloppy for woodland hikes, and too tired of mall walking — we finally got out among some woods and water, onto the Battle Creek Riverwalk.

 

Jeff usually gets a day off each week. On Friday, the iffy, hovering around freezing with precipitation kept us from wood trails (too muddy) or traveling to a larger city to walk a new mall or window shop (no new things, please), or visit a museum (surrounded by lots of walls). So we chose a section of the Battle Creek Riverwalk.

The people factor.

Hiking within city limits is sure to draw out the people factor. This was our second time parking at the tiny playground area. The first time, a nervous, pacing man near the parking lot made us linger getting back into our van…because there was a woman and child playing on the playground, and the guy was just acting suspicious. After another car arrived, he climbed into the backseat, was handed something, and then got into his own car and they both drove away. Had we just witnessed a drug deal?

This time, when we arrived at the parking lot, there were two men with heads down and close together, with their hands over their mouths. Smoking or sniffing? On our return, another seemingly empty car was in the lot. As we climbed into our van a hand rose from the backseat and reached towards the front. I don’t even have a suggestion as to what that behavior was about.

Sadly, there were also car tracks on the walkway. They caused the thinner snow sections to ice over. On the other hand, the rough tread marks made it easier to walk upon without slipping.

The people factor also made us ponder why a dam was necessary here.

When outdoors, there is always the animal factor. With civilization across the road, we heard barking dogs On our side, the woodland side, we saw ducks and geese swimming, and one black squirrel scurrying across the ice to another tree.

 

We certainly don’t hike for the other people factor. The animal factor can sometimes interesting, especially in wilderness. But the geographical factor is mostly why we continue – the water, the land, and the trees giving our eyes, ears, lungs, and heart some rest. We find that even during a gloomy mid-winter stretch in Michigan, there is still beauty in the gray.

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.

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.

Summer Reflections — 4th of July 2015 Weekend, Canada Day, Family Reunion

(In a continued break from my regular writing posts, here is another Summer Reflections post — with things tucked away for some future novel scene or ten.)

2011 hot air balloon by our flag

We lived ten years in Buffalo, NY, a mere fifteen minutes across the Niagara River and into Ontario, Canada. Canada Day is July 1st. American Independence Day is July 4th. Each year the Friendship Festival lasted about a week with numerous activities on both sides of the border and huge fireworks at various locations every night. You really had to pick and choose your activities. The food, the people, the events, all were amazing. I miss my Canadian face-to-face contacts, but always belt out, “Oh, Canada!” on each July first.

Twenty years out from that time, here in Battle Creek, Michigan, each 4th weekend is a Field of Flight. There are hot-air balloons going up each morning and evening (weather permitting), and air shows from 1:30-5 pm for three days. We live two miles from the private airport where the events are held, and often have balloons (with a “fffffft”) or planes flying (with a “zzroommm”) low overhead. Until recently, the U.S. Thunderbirds and/or Canadian Snowbirds (“Oh, Canada!”) would absolutely thrill with their maneuvers and noise. This year we had an amazing, turn-on-a-dime, Raptor-22 fly close overhead. There is much more to see and do during this time, including the orange street signs all over indicating “Balloon Traffic” or “Balloon Parking.”

2011 July 4 Goguac Touchdown Thunderbirds 08 02 DSC01639

Twenty years out from that time to this year, our little family of eight (two sons, a daughter-in-law, three grandkids, husband and me) had a 4th of July family reunion for three days and three nights. We went boating, swimming, made sand castles on a beach, watched balloons and planes and fireflies from our front yard, set off sparkly fireworks in our backyard each night, BBQed, ate and laughed, and laughed and ate. The only thing we didn’t get to was make smores, which causes me to wonder what I’m going to do with all those marshmallows and chocolate! Hmm. When the little ones left for their home, the remaining adults spent a day visiting some of Michigan’s fabulous, friendly, and very tasty wineries, and playing Dungeons and Dragons into the night. All that’s left is loads of laundry, putting away toys, taking out and storing table leaves, returning loaned baby equipment to neighbors, and a longing heart for more family time together.

 

IMG_3529 AA Beach   Balloon Parking 01