Category Archives: nature

Vacation Destination: Calgary, Alberta

Looking off into the distance, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies can be seen, drive a couple hours north east and visit Drumheller, a town sunken down into the earth that just happens to have the world’s largest finding of dinosaur skeletons and a huge museum displaying them,  but the main purpose of this destination was to attend the Calgary Stampede, the largest outdoor event on earth.

It is exhilarating to travel somewhere you have never been before.  To experience the beauty of nature and the excitement of a world-renown event.   To visit areas famous for their natural beauty.  That is what I did this past July when I flew from Detroit, Michigan to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a 10-day vacation.    To me travel and vacations are an opportunity to partake in the areas surroundings, take photographs, and experience the culture of the area.

Calgary is surrounded by a vast array of attractions, and I was only able to experience a small amount.  I arrived at night and did not have the opportunity to view the Canadian Rockies from my plane, but when I awoke the next morning they could be seen in the distance from where I was staying.   About 1-1/2 hours drive west from Calgary is Banff National Park.  Canada’s First National Park comprises 2,564 square miles and is located in the Canadian Rockies.  Banff is the home of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, glacier lakes with a beautiful, distinctive emerald/turquoise color water.  The breathtaking scenery makes this park makes it well worth the time to visit.

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A day trip to Drumheller, northeast of Calgary, is a “must see”.  Located in the Canadian Badlands, this unique town is built in an area of land that at some point in time sunk down into the earth that now houses the badlands and an entire town.  This is where you will find the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur skeletons and fossils.   I spent several hours inside the museum, taking a break to lunch at the on-sight cafeteria.

The plan was to visit the Royal Tyyrell Museum in the morning and spend the afternoon driving the Canadian Badlands taking photos.  The Canadian Badlands covers a 35,000 square mile region where dinosaur bones were discovered in the late 1800s.  Nowhere on Earth has there ever been found the quantity and quality of dinosaur remains as have been discovered in the Canadian Badlands.   It is speculated that for some reason this area of land sank down into the earth, creating a drastic drop in elevation and that stampeding dinosaurs fell over the age and died.  The result is one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil regions.  Since the late 1800’s more than 1,000 complete skeletons of dinosaurs have been found and digs continue to this day.  The Royal Tyrrell Museum contains over 130,000 skeletons and/or fossils from this area.

In addition to dinosaur finds, the Badlands is also where gangsters would run and hideout in the “wild west” era.  The terrain of the area was dangerous due to its sunken area, allowing for an easy ambush and law enforcement would not pursue gangsters once they entered the area.  The history of the badlands combined with the gorgeous rock formations makes the area a “must see” on a trip to the region.  Unfortunately a rainstorm prevented the planned exploration of the badlands from taking place.

The main purpose of my trip to Calgary was the Fantasy RV Tours 7-Day Calgary Stampede event.  The tour group arranged RV parking in a stadium parking lot and participants  took a short walk to the train stop for a ride into the town of Calgary and/or to the  Calgary Stampede Grounds.   In addition to the stampede, the tour included a visit to Heritage Park and Gasoline Alley, attending the Calgary Stampede Parade, breakfast in the rotating restaurant at Calgary Tower, and a visit to the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary.

Heritage Park Historical Village includes Gasoline Alley, a “must see” car museum.  I spent so much time in Gasoline Alley that my time was very limited on viewing the rest of this living history museum.  A train ride around the park gave me a nice overview, and because of the way stops are scheduled you circle the park twice before you can disembark at the location you boarded.  The majority of visitors get off and on to visit various attractions.

Our tour included breakfast at the revolving restaurant in the Calgary Tower.  The observation deck of the tower provides a 360° view of the city and surrounding area.  One area has a glass floor you can walk out on for a true view down.   I found the glass bottom very disconcerting, and had to use the rail to walk out onto it.   Across from the tower is the Glenbow Museum, which is a combination art and history museum.  I spent quite a bit of time viewing the historical exhibits and taking photographs.

The Calgary Parade is a kick-off to the Calgary Stampede.  This parade displays the heart and sole of Calgary and the Stampede, with horses, carriages, bands, and more.  Many follow the parade down to the stampede grounds for the opening of the event.  The Calgary Stampede grounds is a huge venue, including barns, a midway, an Indian Village, and the main highlight, the stampede grandstand.   You definitely want to take in both an afternoon rodeo show and an evening grandstand show, which features chuck wagon races, performances, and fireworks.  You will not be disappointed!

My trip to Calgary went way too fast and before I knew it my ten days had ended and I was at the airport and on my way home.  I hope that someday I will get back to the area and have a chance to visit more thoroughly some of the areas I only touched on lightly.

 

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, events, Festivals, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, Photography, tourism, vacation

Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

Quotes have a way of making you think, of getting you to take a step back and analyze things.  If you have been a reader of my blog for a while then you know that quotes frequently pop up as a topic for my blogs.  When life is especially stressful applying the thoughts in this simple quote I found can bring peace to an overly processed world.

Watch a sunrise once a year…..there is something absolutely beautiful about getting out of bed and watching the sun peak over the horizon in the morning.  This is especially true if you are near a body of water.  It is a refreshingly positive way to start the day.  Sunsets are beautiful as well, but if it has been a while since you’ve watched the sun rise, set the alarm and partake in the experience.   Refreshing!

Put marshmallows in your hot chocolate……this seems so ordinary.  So “take off the chill” normal happening in fall or winter.  Then it occurred to me that as I got older I would make a cup of instant hot chocolate, but somewhere along the line I stopped dropping in the marshmallows.  Forgo the whipped cream that has become commonplace, or worse the “naked” chocolate without any fattening additives, and go back to your youth.  Enjoy a few marshmallows melting in your hot chocolate.  Yummy!

Lie on your back and look at the stars…..remember being a child, laying on the ground and looking up at the stars, amazed at the pure beauty and wonder of them.  What a peaceful way to enjoy the nighttime sky.  So many of us live in the city hustle and bustle where there are always lights and we forget to look up at the beauty of the night sky.   As you are walking into your house after dark take the time to look up and enjoy glimmer of the moon and stars above you.  Heavenly!

Never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on…..being that I haven’t owned a coffee table in about thirty-seven years, I can’t say too much in this area.  I think this message has more to do with being comfortable your own home.   My parents always had a coffee table which held things like coasters, display pieces such as an antique photo viewer, or large coffee table books, but never a person’s feet!   As I prepare to downsize and move I am considering re-purposing my mother’s Lane cedar chest (the old fashioned hope chest) into a coffee table.  It would be convenient for storing afghans in the living room and could serve dual purpose as a coffee table.  Of course having owned reclining couches for several years, the idea of a coffee table may be defunct if I continue with that type of furniture.  At the same time the idea of a traditional couch with a table in front has its appeal.  Comfy!

Never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline…..to me this says experience life, be adventurous.  While some of us may be able to climb onto and jump on a trampoline, others may not have the physical ability to do so.  Don’t let small limitations hold you back from what you can do.   Go forth and try new things, take risks.  Live life to the fullest and never pass up the opportunity to try something new.  Exhilarating!

Don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for big ones…..this is something way too many of us do, especially when young and career oriented, which often overlaps with the time-filled days of raising children.  We get our mind set on not just keeping up with, but also exceeding “the Jones’s,” and in doing so miss out on a lot of life’s simple pleasures.   If you find yourself caught up in the rush-rush lifestyle a good way to rejuvenate is to take a walk with a child, or better yet spend an afternoon with one.  They will take you on an adventure of all the things you have forgotten to enjoy.  The pleasure of blowing bubbles, watching a butterfly, gathering stones from a beach, stomping in mud puddles, gathering fall leaves, the smell of flowers, the rustle of the wind in the trees, the joy of watching birds, or even playing with your shadow.  Relaxing!

I hope each of you reading this will take the time to do not only these things, but others that will bring you peace of mind and relaxation from the every day stresses of life.

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, backyard, birds, children, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, habit, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring, summer, winter

Dirt on My Shirt

Anyone who has raised a boy can relate to the Dirt on My Shirt poem that I stumbled across recently.  When I saw it memories of my son and my grandsons came to mind.  It is like they are immune to the idea of cleanliness.  If it looks like fun, dig right in.

Dirt on My ShirtI have very rarely seen my grandson, Corbin, with a clean face.  I think it is magnetic and attracts dirt, all he has to do is walk across a room and it zeros in on him.  Thinking back to when my son was growing up, there were all kinds of messes and things going on that bring to life the saying “boys will be boys.”

Here are some of my “boys will be boys” memories….

  • Walking into my backyard and Patrick and his friend had dug a huge hole in the ground.  Why?  Just for fun!
  • Patrick telling me about taking a boat down the canal using a battery-operated fan for a motor.  I thought he was kidding until I was at a meeting and a mother who lived on the canal commented on these boys running a boat down the canal using a fan for a motor…she thought it was pretty ingenious!
  • My grandson, Corbin, telling me he didn’t have to wash his hands as he flipped them back and forth saying “see they are clean” and “I’ll wash them on Thursday.”
  • Socks that are filthy because why bother putting on shoes, you’re only going into the yard.
  • Cleaning out pockets filled with stones, grass, dirt, and miscellaneous other items.
  • At 2-1/2 to 3 years Patrick had a 2-foot ramp he would use to jump his 2-wheeler.  My mother-in-law, who had raised three boys, didn’t give it a thought.  My parents, who had raised two girls almost had heart failure when they saw him do the jump at 2-1/2 years.
  • My grandson, Austin at 2-3 years old running onto a water park and standing in the running sprinklers fully clothed in shoes, turtle neck top and overalls.1933939_1214548853295_8053577_n
  • Creek findings in my garage:  craw-fish, baby muskrat, fish, snails, snakes, turtles (Patrick, now 30-years old, has a large turtle in a tank in my garage right now) all brought home and kept in fish tanks in my garage.
  • Having all the screws in my dining room chairs removed by Patrick’s bare hands.
  • My grandson, Austin sliding ice cubes from his Koolaid around on the table; when asked what he was doing he said “washing the table.”
  • Hearing a crash and discovering my 2 year old son on top of my refrigerator.
  • Greasy/dirty clothes from fixing things…snow blowers, lawn mowers, anything that doesn’t work.

The list could go on forever, and thinking back on those memories makes me smile.   After all, I can still look at Patrick, now 30 years old, and he will have dirt on his shirt, dirt on his hands, and dirt on his face due to something he has been working on.  Oh, and he still leaves dirt on the refrigerator handle when grabbing something to drink.

Share with me your
“Boys Will Be Boys” memories

 

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Cleaning, Discoveries, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, nature, reality, spring, summer

Do I like it or not?

We are having our first snowfall of the year…well not really.  We had a few flurries in the air a couple times earlier this year, but nothing that stuck and it has been unseasonably warm until now.  We are getting dumped on.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. you go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? J. B. Priestley

The First Fall of Snow

So with the snow falling and sticking to the roads and people nervous as they always are on the first bad roads of the season, we had to make a 40-mile round trip to pick up my daughter from work due to her car being in for service.  What are my thoughts?

  • People constantly refer to how bad the roads are
  • Some people are very nervous and drive extremely slow
  • Some people are idiots and drive a maniac speeds
  • My car appears to automatically turn of Max Defrost when it is turned off, so auto-start doesn’t give you the max benefit when used.
  • Heated car seats are the best
  • If you forgo using the brush for mittens because the snow is fluffy, you will regret it later when your mittens are wet and fingers feel cold.
  • Freshly fallen snow on bushes and trees with Christmas lights on them is pretty.
  • There is something about snow that puts you in the Christmas mood
  • Yikes!  Only 12 days until Christmas and I’m not decorated and have more shopping to do.
  • Who am I kidding, I wish I were somewhere on a beach, somewhere tropical, not in the midst of a snow storm.

So, I assembled my Christmas tree last night, and I should have put the lights on tonight but it still remains naked.  I’ll tackle that project tomorrow night.  For tonight, I’m going to crash.

If you are in the midst of a snowstorm, stay warm.
If you are somewhere tropical, I wish we could trade places.

 

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Filed under celebration, Discoveries, events, exploration, habit, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, nature, reality, Weather, winter

Scampering Squirrel

The other day I had an encounter with a squirrel, well not actually an encounter, more somewhat of an invasion.  I happened to look out the window onto my front porch and spotted a squirrel up on the porch with a huge nut in its mouth.  It seemed to be confused on where it wanted to go.  It came across the porch, then walked toward the steps leading off the porch, then turned around so it was facing the door into the house, then sideways again and disappeared off the side of the porch.

What was the squirrel thinking as he ran back and forth?  Why did he choose to get up onto my porch?  Was he trying to escape the rain?  Where did the nut come from?  This last question is relevant because I don’t have any nut trees on or by my house that I am aware of.  How far did he carry that nut?

Standing Squirrel

Photo by Grace Grogan   Copyright 2014.

One question was answered by this, as I assume that this could be the same squirrel who left the shell from a nut on my sidewalk about a week ago.  I saw the pieces and wondered where they had come from.   Still I wonder where the squirrel was coming from, how far he is traveling to accumulate his nuts, and why he chose to walk up and across my porch rather than through the front lawn.

This is not the first animal encounter I have had.  Past encounters include bunny rabbits, deer on the front lawn, skunks strolling on my driveway and sidewalk, a rooster walking across the front lawn, birds on my porch eating insects out of spider webs, and a woodpecker pecking at my house.

Whatever possesses these animals to pass my way I will never know.  What is going through their minds as they travel across my yard I sometimes wonder.  Why that woodpecker feels the need to peck away at my house rather than one of the trees I cannot explain.  Wildlife in action.  I’m still pondering over the thought process of that squirrel on my front porch.

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Filed under assumptions, backyard, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, nature

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

LIFE IS FUN

          Life is fun — the things you take in stride, the things that flip you out.  Sometimes neither make sense which is what keeps life hopping with laughs — the weird idiosyncrasies of each an every personality that make it unique.
         I am like most females, I like cute little things like kittens and bunny rabbits.  I have learned to tolerate spiders on my front porch, but anywhere else I want them demolished.  I don’t freak out over most rodents, but I am reasonably cautious and don’t want them invading territory they shouldn’t.
          That leads me to my Sunday encounters.  I went outside to mow the lawn.  I was putting gas in the rider, which is backed up to my house.  Suddenly there is this flash of movement from the area behind the mower.  Something jumps out and naturally I jump with it.
Life is Fun
          Now you have to admit, when you are not expecting it those cotton-tailed bunny rabbits can be pretty ferocious looking when they are scampering out from a hidden spot and making a mad-dash across your lawn.  Once I realized what it was I decided it was safe to proceed with my plan of mowing the lawn.  I am here to tell about it, no further attacks.
          I was riding the mower along a fence line where the ground angles, so you have to stay close and battle any tree or bush limbs hanging over.  As I am traversing the path I apparently disturbed a black hornet or wasp (I can’t tell the difference) and he was flying around and at me.  I do not like those creatures, they are not nice!  To keep him away I automatically swatted at him, which I had to do twice before he finally left.  Then the mind does weird things…what if he goes to get his friends and gangs up on me?  What can I say, I grew up when all the “killer bee” movies were out.  Luckily I didn’t have to relive any movies, he stayed away.
          So I turn the corner in the front yard and bump!  I drive through a weird depression or hole that hasn’t been there before.  I have no idea what it was, and I did not get off to inspect, but of course I wondered…was it from a snake, a gofer, a mole?  Who knows.  I’m not going to ponder the possibility.  Hmmmm, could that be the reason I decided not to rake this week?
          So now that I’ve been blasted by bunnies, hassled by hornets and bungled by bumps the rest of the week should be a breeze.  What other creatures could possibly invade my personal space?  A spider.
           I was driving my car down the road and get a glimpse of something.  It was a very tiny, microscopic spider strolling along the inside of my windshield.   Now I must say that compared to the ones that typically live on my front porch, this one was so tiny it almost isn’t worth mentioning.  However I feel the need to point out that not only did I not flip out, but I just shrugged my shoulders and went “oh well” and let him enjoy his stroll.  Attempting to kill a spider when driving down the road is probably not recommended.  As I am writing this I do have one thought though.  I let him remain inside my car….what if he grows?  That is a thought I do not want.  Hopefully it gets hot and he dies of heat exhaustion before that happens.
     So as you are going through your day and encountering the various creatures of the wild, laugh at your own goofy, stupid, exuberant reactions to things and let the good times roll.

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Filed under backyard, bugs, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, habit, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, summer

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, play, summer, travel, vacation

Trigger Indicators

The same feeling can be triggered by different stimuli in different people.  It can be a memory, likes, holidays, smells, or just a date on a calendar.  What is your trigger indicator for spring?

Michigan is known for temperamental weather.  It can be 70 degrees today and 40 tomorrow, so is temperature a good indication of spring?  Here in Michigan you may be hunting Easter eggs under snow.  Is it spring when the weather is consistently above 60 degrees?  Is it spring when the tulips have bloomed but are then covered in snow?  Can we rely on the weather to tell us it is spring?

2769 trillium portrait format (1 of 1)

Trilium – Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Maybe your trigger that spring has arrived is when the daffodils or tulips bloom.  Could it be newborn birds chirping in a nest, or a tiny bunny hopping across the front lawn?  Spring is a time of rebirth.  What about the smell of lilacs blooming on a tree?  The smell of a fresh cut lawn?   Scent is a very real trigger for memories.  Has what indicated spring to you as a child changed now that you have become an adult?

What about Easter?  It arrives with easter egg hunts, bunnies, spring dresses and special worship services.  Does the arrival of Easter mean spring has arrived?  The problem with Easter is it arrives anywhere from late March to sometime in April.  Easter is a mental trigger for many that spring has arrived, but should it be?  The weather doesn’t adjust itself to Easter’s arrival, so not a true indicator of spring.

Has spring arrived when a trip through the store includes displays of seed packets, seedlings, soil, mulch, rakes, shovels, and other items needed for gardening.  What about the season opening of the local farmer’s market selling flowers and plants?  Do these items trigger the feeling that spring has arrived?

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Ship on Lake Huron, photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

The trigger indicators that spring has arrived are different for every person.  They are brought on by things we have experienced in our lifetime that instills in us that degree of freshness,  newness, that spring evokes in all of us.  For me, one of the number one triggers that spring has arrived is when the shipping resumes on the St. Clair River.  The vibration of ships as they go up and down the river, the sight of their lights at night as they pass by, the sound of fog horns in the morning.  For me, shipping season means spring has arrived.  What triggers the arrival of spring for you?

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Filed under Blue Water Area, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring, Weather

Where is Spring?

Here in Michigan we had a very mild fall and early winter.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s and a very small amount of snow.  It was wonderful.  People did have trouble getting into the Christmas spirit.  It was hard to get into the shopping mode with green grass and wearing spring jackets when under normal conditions it would have been cold and normally some light snow.

Now the holidays are over and we are ready to break out the flip flops and head to the beach, but Mother Nature played a trick on us — well, actually tossed reality back at us.  It is now running 18 degrees, parts of the state are under heavy snow, and we have had to haul winter jackets and gloves out of the back of our closet.  winter - can I wake up and it be summer

Where is Spring?  It is hiding down the hill and around the corner.  It may peek at us now and then, just to remind us it does still exist, but is not going to spoil us and break out for at least another month or so.  April snow storms in Michigan are not unusual.

Michigan takes a beating on its weather.  A popular saying in our state is “If you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes, it will change.”  This is very true.  Michigan weather is unpredictable and because of that putting your faith in a weather report is suicidal.  However there is one thing to be said for Michigan.  We rarely have true natural disasters.

While Michigan is not completely immune, it does not normally have news breaking weather like so many states do.  Tornadoes, forest fires, hurricanes, mud slides, floods, earthquakes, and massive life-stopping snow storms are not the norm.  What temperamental weather we get can generally be dealt with and resolved within a day or two.  Some Beach Somewhere

So, as much as I would love the warm sunshine of a hot summer day, I know that is still in the distant future.  For now I will trudge through the skiff of snow, scrap the frost off my windshield, and drive with my car set to defrost more often than heat.  Yep, it all sounds good, but I do have one final question….Where is Spring?

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, spring, time

Photo Seminar and Seven Ponds Nature Center

A couple weeks ago my husband, Ron, and I attended the Seven Ponds Nature Center Photo Expo.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and we had the opportunity to take classes and enjoy taking photographs at the nature center.  We split up, taking separate classes to fit our own personal interests and so we could share information from as many sources as possible.

Class subjects we participated in included Travel Photography, Subject Elements and Composition in Nature, Night/Low Light Photography, and Shades of Gray (visualizing your photograph in black and white when shooting).  Extended and overlapping break times allowed us to meet up and eat lunch together in the car before once again splitting up.  We even walked areas of the nature center separately, which is sometimes beneficial so that our photographs are not all alike or of the exact same subjects.

There were several drawings for door prizes and Ron was the lucky winner of a $50 gift certificate to Camera Mart in Pontiac — a place that we frequent.  While at the seminar we purchased a new mono-pod for Ron and a new tri-pod that converts to a mono-pod for me.  I had been having trouble with my tripod and the Benro dealer informed me it could be sent in and re-worked/repaired at no charge by using his name from the seminar.  Needless to say I was very pleased to hear that, and Camera Mart handled getting that sent in for me.

Nature photography is something we both enjoy.  Everyone taking a walk in a wooded area or nature center should always have some form of camera available to capture the things that make those walks beautiful to you.  Take the time to look and enjoy the small things.  There are times I have taken walks with others who are not photographers, and they traverse the area much faster than I, because I am spotting and photographing many subjects that they never see.   I’m including some pictures taken the day of the seminar at Seven Ponds Nature Center.

~~ ALL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY GRACE GROGAN ~~
~~COPYRIGHT 2015 GRACE GROGAN.~~

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, nature, Photography

Trilium Trek

          The trillium is a delicate, small, wildflower that blooms in the spring.  They can be found in white, pink, red, and the very rare painted variety.  Since 1980 the only sightings of the painted trillium in Michigan have all been within a 30 mile area of St. Clair County.
          Knowing that they were in bloom, my husband, Ron, and I went out on a search for painted trillium a couple weeks ago.  They are located in a wooded nature area.  Although I have not used bug spray in years, when you open the car door and the mosquitoes are coming inside you know precaution is needed.
          When you haven’t used bug spray in a while, there are a few pointers to remember.
          1.  When misting your face make sure you keep your mouth shut — that stuff does not taste good!
          2.  Spaying the majority of your body does not prevent mosquitoes from finding the spot you missed.
          3.  You will find out you forgot to spray an area at a most inopportune moment, such as when bent over taking a photograph and one decides to bite you on the backside through your jeans.
          4.  Evidence of a poor spray job may not become evident for hours, such as when you look in the mirror and realize the small section on the back of your arm from you elbow to wrist is covered in mosquito bites — 27 of them to be exact.
          Not that I’m admitting to any of the above, but knowledge does come from experience.  Of course a pain-endured labor does have its just rewards.  We found all three kinds of trillions, a slug, a toad, and a few other items to photograph.  A pleasant morning photographing nature.

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Filed under bugs, flowers, nature, Photography

Husband, Marsh, and Porta-Potty Challenges

Before heading onto the  boardwalk of Magee Marsh Ron and I made a pit-stop at the gift shop area.  Because hours are spent walking the boardwalk, taking pictures and observing birds I made a trip to the porta-potty while Ron headed to the gift shop.  The difference, this year I was prepared for the porta-potty challenge, at least I thought I was.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

Last year I pulled out a sheet of toilet paper and notice a “shadow” on it, and turning it over discovered a huge black bug on the backside that scared the crap out of me (well, not literally), causing me to throw the toilet paper on the floor.  This year I pulled out a strip of paper and checked it over very carefully.  I was happy to find it bug-free.  I then watched a small spider come down from the ceiling and land on my purse, which I had carefully hung on the sanitizer dispenser.  Of course the dropping of the spider led me to look up, where I spotted a large spider on the ceiling.  Does the Magee Marsh porta-potty dislike me?  Can’t I use it without a bug problem coming up?  Apparently not.  The sacrifices of a photographer who needs to utilize the facilities before heading out to capture some bird shots.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan
Copyright 2015

I exit the porta-potty and enter to gift-shop where my husband, Ron, had gone.  He is standing in the check-out line when he sees me come in the door and immediately says “would you like a T-Shirt?”

He is purchasing a large poster and a T-shirt.  Where does he plan to put the poster?  We have no available wall space left.  His answer “I’ll take something down.”

Great!  I wonder what item gets demoted for the promotion of poster showing the various types of Warblers.  Time will tell, because he’ll have to get it framed first.  Now the T-shirt, whenever I see a new one of those come into the house or in his hands to purchase I just laugh.  Why?  Because the man could probably wear a different T-shirt for the next 90-120 days before having to do laundry.  Granted a few of them may be showing their wear, have paint on them or a few holes, but for the most part they are good, nothing wrong with them T-shirts from various places and festivities.  However, we would not want him to feel deprived of a Bird Week shirt from Magee Marsh, so the purchase was made.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Magee Marsh is located in Ohio and is a great place for photographers and bird watchers. It is where Warblers gather each spring before flying over Lake Erie on their migration north in the spring.  Unfortunately we were a bit early and there weren’t many birds at the location yet.  It was a nice, warm day on the boardwalk, and if you look around you can usually find things to photograph, such as moss growing on a log, or a turtle sunning himself in the sun.

There are two kinds of people you find at the Marsh this time of year.  The photographers, like Ron and I, with our camera’s and large lenses to capture photographs or the true bird watchers who are carrying bird books, check lists, and binoculars.  Both are friendly groups, so a nice mixture to share space with.

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

Photo by Grace Grogan Copyright 2015

About half way around the marsh my bad ankle started causing me problems, with pain shooting from the ankle up to the knee.  We were almost at the end when my wonderful husband did his best to take my mind off the sore, swollen and throbbing ankle.  As I was standing with my back to him, sore foot off the ground and one hand holding the boardwalk rail for balance, Ron swung his camera around to take a photograph of a bird up in a tree.  Sounds simple and uneventful, doesn’t it?  Only one glitch, in the process he clobbers me in the back of the head with his 150-500mm lens,  I hear an “oops” and he is off and shooting.  Luckily the head only hurt for a few minutes after I hobbled my way to the end of the boardwalk and sat down on a bench to wait for him to finish.

We get in the car, and as we start to roll down the long exit road from the Marsh I look at him and say “For future reference, hitting me in the back of the head with your camera lens did not draw my attention away from my sore ankle.”

Ron has it duly noted, but makes no guarantees it won’t happen again.  Such is life with a photographer, the shot must come first, but as I am also a photographer I understand the process.

Photographs by Grace Grogan are available for sale on Fine Art America.

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Filed under birds, bugs, nature, Photography

In a Squirrel’s Mind

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

I was sitting at my desk this morning when I looked up to see a young squirrel hopping across my front yard and up onto a raised bed surrounding our tree.  He then perched on the wall for a moment, turning his head looking around before he scampered up the tree and onto a bottom limb,  Mr. Squirrel then sat on the limb, facing the road, watching traffic go by.

What was his reason for going to the tree and stopping first on the wall and then sitting on the branch?  What was the purpose of this observation?  Was he looking for someone, meaning another squirrel?  Was he contemplating the safety of venturing out and crossing the road?    Was he just enjoying the morning view, something to do for a moment?

After a few minutes he scampered back down the tree and without hesitation hopped off the raised flower bed, onto the lawn and ran back from the direction in which he had originally come.    What was his next destination?  Why was he going there?

We will never know what was going on in that squirrel’s mind.  What his purpose or goals were at the moment.  In our hectic, fast-paced world it is relaxing to contemplate for a moment what is going on in the mind of an animal that appears to take action that in some form or another had a purpose, we just don’t know what that purpose was.

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Filed under backyard, environmental, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature

Looking Out My Front Door

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

As I sat down this morning and looked out my window I had the contrast of a tree in my front yard that is still full of leaves, and they haven’t even changed color, but the trees across the street are bare of any leaves at all.   Then I have shrubs with snow on them, and a neighbor across the street running his large snow blower in his drive.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

The contrast of these items shouldn’t come as a surprise — I live in Michigan. We have a saying here, if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes, it will change. However where I live, in the thumb just south of Port Huron, I am not used to snow on the ground until January or February. We still wear spring jackets in November, people ride their motorcycles, we haven’t found our ice scrapers yet.  I am not a winter person, I took these photos standing inside my house, through the screen.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

An arctic blast has moved across the country, dumping cold and snow everywhere.  Buffalo, New York has taken a major hit.  Given what is going on elsewhere, I really can’t complain about what I am dealing with here in the thumb….well, yes I can.  I’m still not happy, just recognize it isn’t as bad as it could be.  There is snow coming down as I write this.

In April I wrote Wild Weather Past and Present because we were also having strange weather this past spring.  If you didn’t get a chance to read it then, check it out.  It shows that bizzare weather has been going on for hundreds of years.  The advantage is we now have homes with furnaces, cars with heaters, snow blowers, plow trucks, and tons of modern conveniences that our forefathers did not have when dealing with wild and bizzare weather.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Stay Warm.  I am trying to look on the positive side:  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go.

 

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Filed under backyard, Blue Water Area, environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature

Blog Bonus – Spiders

Spider tipping hatThis is a Blog Bonus – a posting that is not on my normal schedule, a little something extra.  In my last post  They’re Back I talked about the return of the spiders to my front porch, something I am not thrilled with.  My 3-year old grandson, Corbin and 8-year old grandson, Austin, seem to view the event differently.  Corbin thought they were spiderman, and Austin thought I had a “cute little spider” and they both stood on the porch the other night when the spiders were out and said goodbye to the spiders before leaving.  Guess it is all in perspective.  I would love to say goodbye to the spiders, but on a permanent basis and it would be them leaving, not me.

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Filed under backyard, bugs, children, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spiders, spring

They’re Back

It keeps you on your toes when things are constantly changing.  A couple weeks ago I noticed they started appearing again, just a few, but the number has grown and their size has grown, and unfortunately they have returned, but I don’t really understand why that would happen now.

Back in June I wrote a post Where Have All the Spiders Gone? about the spiders that have taken up residency on my front porch every spring since our move here in 2004.  This year for some reason they never arrived.  They weren’t putting forth an appearance every evening on the sides and ceiling of my front porch, and we didn’t have to worry about walking through a web if we arrived home after dark and the front light wasn’t on.  Over the course of the summer I enjoyed not having them here.  I could sit out on the porch reading in the evening and not have to worry about them stringing webs above my head if I read past dusk.   It was wonderful, until now.Spider on rope

They are back!  Why would they come back in mid September?  Don’t they know fall is here, that the temperatures are going to get colder?   Do they have to cover my porch with their webs now, after all this time?   Don’t they know I have grown accustomed to their absence?  Could I be so lucky as to have a frost this fall kill them all off once and for all?

I really shouldn’t complain, after all they stay outside.  In all these years I have never had a problem with them invading the inside of the house.  I don’t have a problem with mosquitoes, most likely thanks to spider consumption.  Maybe they have done me a favor.  I used to be the type of person that would freak at the sight of a microscopic sized spider, now I can walk in with them all over the porch and not go into a state of panic.    That isn’t to say I don’t try to come in as quickly as possible to prevent the possibility of one landing on me, but I am able to walk calmly into the house without looking like I’m trying to escape a mass murder.   In fact I have grown to enjoy the comical, panicky entrance of those who are freaked out by them.  That still does nothing to satisfy the questions that now perplex me.  Spider - Bringed you a fly

My mind is even more curious than it was a few months ago.  Why were they here for nine years beginning in the spring and staying through fall, then this spring never arrived?  Where have they been all summer?  Why are they suddenly making their appearance now?  Will they be back next spring?   The great spider mystery, it just adds to the craziness.  I think it may become a cold case, never to be resolved.

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Filed under backyard, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring

Same But Different

After an 11-day vacation my husband and I arrived back home the evening of August 17th and I am still working on getting back into the swing of things.  Our trip was within our own state, but to an area that was very different from where we live.

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

We began with a two-night stay in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a memorial service. We have a motor home and had booked into a campground there that is located on a country road. What we found, luckily after we had left the motor home at the camp and were driving only our car, is that the GPS does not distinguish between good country roads and seasonal, 2-track roads. We also discovered that it is possible for a GPS to get confused because after taking us down an assortment of roads it took us back down the same roads we had just come from. So much for a GPS being able to navigate from Boyne Falls to Boyne City — it couldn’t even find our campground!

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Our next destination was Iron Mountain, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our drive from Boyne Falls to Iron Mountain was uneventful, unless you count orange barrels on the Mackinac Bridge an event. Of course all Michiganders know that summer is “orange barrel season” and why should a bridge be any different?  What we found during our stay in the UP is that although we were in the same state, the environment and way of life is very different.

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mountain is on the south side of the UP very close to Wisconsin and about midway across.  It is home to one of the world’s largest ski jumps, and if you drive to the war memorial there it will take you up to where the jump is located for a beautiful view of the area.  We enjoyed a tour of the Iron Mine in Vulcan, where they take you approximately 425 feet below the earth’s surface into the mine.   Mining has not been conducted there for years but it is interesting to learn the conditions under which they worked and the tools used to drill in the mine.

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

Our main objective of the trip was to photograph waterfalls, lighthouses and nature.  We were disappointed that although we passed several Moose Crossing signs the moose were not being cooperative and we never saw one.  We did see several deer, wild turkeys, and what we believe were a couple coyotes.    We found that while some waterfalls are well known and have a lot of visitors, others are secluded, hard to find, and require driving down narrow county dirt roads that are only slightly wider than a car width and you will only find the waterfall if you are lucky because they are not well marked.

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Driving down county roads can be interesting.   We came across lumbering areas where we stopped to take photographs, and discovered that semi-trucks coming at you on those narrow dirt roads drive at a pretty good rate of speed.  Don’t forget to roll up your window because you will be engulfed in a smog of dirt after they pass.    Much of the UP is National Forest, so you are driving those narrow dirt roads with huge trees on both sides.  We commented on how beautiful they must be during the fall color season.

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

Part of the UP is Eastern Time and the other portion is Central Time, and as we drove to our various locations we were constantly bouncing from one time zone to the other.  The solution, leave your wrist watch on Eastern, set the microwave on Central, and your cell phone will automatically change for whatever time zone you are in.    Although this did not have a massive impact on our vacation plans, you do have to keep that in mind when considering the hours a place is open or when you make reservations.

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

Two of the lighthouses we visited are private and can only be seen by tour.  We luckily stumbled upon them at the correct time to take part in the tours and learn about life at those locations.    The job of lighthouse keeper was a lonely existence for both the keeper and his family, as they were often in places that were located out and away from other civilization.  Climbing a lighthouse that is part of a home is an easier, shorter climb for a great view.   By the time you begin your climb up the spiral staircase to the lantern room you are already on the second floor of the home and only have a bit farther to go.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial. Photo by Grace Grogan.

I have given you a few details on our trip, but the question you may have is why did I say it is “Same But Different?”  Because it is.  I live in Michigan’s lower peninsula in the thumb just south of Port Huron.  When you cross from the “mitten” into the UP in some ways you take a step back in time and into a small town existence.  A “big city” has a Walmart and a KMart, and some fast food establishments, there aren’t many big cities in the UP, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising and St. Ignace are those that come to mind immediately.    The rest of the UP has small towns, no fast food, and the towns have long stretches of roadway between them.  Of course you can always find a restaurant serving pasties wherever you travel, something you will not find in lower Michigan.  A pastie is meat and potato with maybe a couple other veggies in a crust.  They were carried by miners down into the mines to eat for their lunches.

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

We traveled Highway 2 several times and it is a long road of forest and very few cars.    You spend a lot of time driving in the Ottawa National Forest or the Hiawatha National Forest.  The UP does not have “rest stops” like we are familiar with where you have a nice modern building, vending machines and bathrooms.  When you travel in the upper peninsula there are Roadside Parks with picnic tables and the bathroom facilities are actually outhouse toilets.  Did you want to wash your hands?  If fussy about that you better carry some hand sanitizer.    We noted that most vehicles on the road are clean without any with damage from accidents or rust.  When living in an area where you have to drive for miles between cities without any other cars, homes or businesses between having a well maintained vehicle is a must.  While there are miles and miles of desolate area there is no litter.  Here in the lower peninsula you find litter everywhere, but not in the UP.  We never once saw so much as a gum wrapper on the ground – clean and natural as it should be.  Uppers take pride in their environment and it shows.

We will definitely go back to the UP for another vacation.  It was relaxing, has great photo ops, nature, and requires a lot more time to explore than we allowed.  If you want to go somewhere that is the “Same But Different” take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Filed under environmental, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Uninhabited and Unconnected

This past weekend I had the fun of staying on an uninhabited island with my sister and two female cousins. It is a unique experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

There is something about being away from everything and unconnected from the world — no TV, no radio, no telephone (cell phones only worked down by the water, not in the lodge), no electricity, no indoor plumbing except for non-consumable water at the kitchen sink, no air conditioning, no street lights, no cars, no other humans on a 263 acre island.  There is an operating lighthouse and you may see ships and other boats passing in the distance  on Lake Huron.   It is a peaceful existence.

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island. Photo by Grace Grogan

Our journey began at a boat dock in Alpena, Michigan.  It is there that Captain Mike met us.  He loaded our luggage and coolers packed with food for the weekend onto a boat and transported us 2-1/2 miles out to Middle Island.   The Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge where we stayed is a former U.S. Coast Guard foghorn building that has been transformed into a beautiful and comfortable lodge.   The lodge is a 2/3 mile walk from the boat dock down a trail through the woods.  Captain Mike loads up and transports all luggage to the lodge for you.  If you are unable to make the walk you can hitch a ride in the small 4-wheel vehicle he keeps there for providing luggage transport.

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ready to begin our adventure in true fashion, we all elected to make the walk.  On the journey we walked past a more rustic cabin that is also available for rent on the island, and another trail that leads down to where there is a sinkhole in Lake Huron.  The trail to the lodge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect beginning to our weekend.   Once everyone has arrived at the lodge and the luggage is unloaded Captain Mike gives a tour of the lodge and shows everyone how to operate the propane lighting inside the lodge and the propane heated shower out on the deck.    While we get settled in Captain Mike goes out to cut and deliver firewood to the campfire area down on the beach.    Captain Mike then leaves us on the island and will return on Sunday to provide us with the opportunity to tour and climb the lighthouse before transporting us back to the mainland.

The dining area of the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

The lodge is roomy and comfortable with a large modern kitchen.  The range and refrigerator/freezer are powered by propane.  There is running water in the sink that can be used for washing dishes, bottled water is provided for human consumption.  The sink and shower water is pumped in from Lake Huron.  A comfortable dining area, a couch and two chairs, plus a bar area with four stools provides plenty of seating.

In the main area there are propane wall-mounted lights.  A small free-standing fireplace is there for use in cooler months, but there was no need to use it during our stay.  Large windows, a front door, back door and sliding door provide plenty of cross ventilation to keep the cabin comfortable.   For families there is a loft accessible by ladder that holds another table and chairs, a single bed and bunk beds, making this an ideal family retreat.  For eating and socializing there is a picnic table on the grass out the “back” door, a table and four chairs on the back deck, and a bench and washline on the main entrance deck where the shower is located.  Even the porta-potty just off the main deck area is clean and contains a battery operated light for nighttime use.

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the golden hour approached we ventured down to the beach and fire pit area to light a fire and watch the sunset.  The beaches here are not sand, they are covered in limestone/shale rock.  As we watch the sunset over Lake Huron we notice that a huge flock of seagulls nest on a strip of land that juts out into the lake, and they periodically take off in large groups for a moment before once again landing on their nesting area.

As night falls we are able to watch the lighthouse come to life, with its beacon reflecting into the water.   Without the distortion of city lights the sky is pitch black and the stars are crystal clear.  A beautiful sight.    Our flashlights came in handy making the walk back up from the fire pit to our lodge.   When you are used to always having some form of unnatural lighting around it is amazing how absolutely pitch black nighttime is.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

You may think you sleep soundly, but when there is absolutely no sound except the distant sound of waves on the beach you learn how soundly you really can sleep.  I live on a state highway and am used to sleeping with the sounds of cars going by off and on all night, plus the vibration of ships going up and down the river and the occasional sound of their fog horns.  On Middle Island when you go to bed and there is no sound.  Quietness envelopes you into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Our first night on the island we stayed up late socializing, but Saturday night we made sure we went to bed at the reasonable hour of midnight and set an alarm to watch the sunrise Sunday morning over Lake Huron.  I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but that was a beautiful and peaceful sight as well.  The sun rose at approximately 6:08 am and there was only one lone sailboat out on the water at that time of morning.   A sight definitely worth rousting yourself out of bed early for.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

What do you do on an uninhabited island?  Spend time talking to people, really talking without the interference of tv, computers and text messaging.  Read a book or the newspaper articles that Captain Mike keeps on hand that tell about the island and special events that have happened there.  A small selection of games, puzzle books, and cards are on hand.  Read the journal books that people have written notes in talking about their stay on the island.  Everyone loves the time they have spent on the island and there are repeat visitors who have made journal entries over the years during each visit.  One thing is certain, everyone enjoys their time spent on Middle Island.  That was one of our Sunday activities, each of us wrote our own short paragraph about our stay on the island, and it was fun to read each entry.  Although the majority of our time was spent together as a group, our thoughts and experience the things that inspired us about the island, varied slightly.

Walking the trails on Middle Island.  Photo by Grace Groan

Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan

If you are physically able to do so do not miss out on walking the trail on the island.  Allow about four hours and take a water bottle with you.  If you have any physical challenges a walking stick or in my case, a cane are also important…and don’t forget to take your camera.  This is mostly a walk through the woods, but there are areas were Lake Huron is visible, and you will encounter nature in various aspects.  I personally could have done without walking my face into a few spider webs, or the large daddy-long-legged spider that I noticed crawling on my chest, but those things are minor compared to the beauty of nature experienced throughout the walk.  Huge butterflies, live snails, and spiders spinning webs were some of the things viewed.  The sound of birds singing up in the trees provided beautiful background music.  We were told that there are several deer on the island and did see their tracks but were not lucky enough to encounter any.  Nature has its own way of creating unique beauty, from gnarled upturned tree roots to wild daisies trying to take over the pathway. There was always something to capture our attention.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

Had someone told me I could survive and enjoy life without tv, radio, internet/computer, telephone, motorized transportation, electricity and indoor plumbing I would have questioned the intelligence of their statement.  What I found is that when eliminated from my life for the weekend I did not miss them.  A stay on Middle Island is the perfect getaway.  We are used to being connected at all times, we operate on a schedule and are always checking our watches, crowding activities into our busy lives.  A weekend on Middle Island eliminates those things from your life.  From Friday afternoon to the time Captain Mike picks you up on Sunday you are free to relax, not pay attention to time or schedules and enjoy the beauty of nature as it was created.  We all left certain that we will return again some day.

 

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