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.

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.”

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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.

 

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