To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Conquering fear.

Bet you can't tell but I spent the first 40 years of my life making decisions based on fear. Then, one day, in 2001, I made a different decision that would completely change my life. Oh, did it ever, but it also started me down a path that required me to face up to those fears because there was no longer anyone around to act as a buffer between me and my fears. I mean, I had to stare them down with a stamp of my foot sometimes, but I refused to give into the fear.

Yep, here I go again, asking myself, what would I do if I weren't afraid?

Well, I'm about to face down another fear...and I'm excited about it. I hope to tell you about it next week. I'm sure I'll prevail, and I'm sure I'll have a lovely time doing so. I just know it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How mature.

Sir S and I had a lot of time to talk while we were backpacking. We talked about all sorts of things, some silly, some serious, lots and lots (and lots and lots) of questions and some good discussions about what we wanted to do that made us the happiest. He said camping and kayaking and hiking made him happiest. I said they made me happiest as well. The conversation turned to our trip to Blue Elephant Island, the fun we had and the promise I had made that we would go back. The problem is you need kayaks or canoes to get there and I only have one. As we walked along the trail we talked about how we might resolve this dilemma. I could buy another (not likely), I could borrow one (it would probably be too big for him), "or," he said, "I could save my money to buy one for myself." That literally stopped me in my tracks and I had to turn around to see if he was serious. He was.
"You could," I said, "but it would take a lot of money..."
"How much is a lot?" he asked.
"Well, if we're patient and keep checking Craig's List, we may be able to get you one for a couple hundred dollars."
"2 hundred dollars."
"Yes, I think we could get one for $200."
"I would need a pouch like you made for M to save my money. I need a safe place to keep it," he said. 
He is now $65 closer to having his own kayak. He wasn't kidding about saving up for it. He even told his mother he didn't want birthday presents this year, he wanted money for his kayak. I think she was surprised by how serious he's taking this. I shouldn't be surprised at all. He's so like that.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ludington State Park

Well, the places you find when you join with a group of fellow hikers. I've been to Ludington, several times, in fact, but I've never been to the state park and I've never hiked the trails. Until today, that is. Our trek began on the beach, I was walking in the water, and we walked a couple miles North to the lighthouse. The water felt delicious on my legs and by the end of the hike I was wishing I were back in the water. Whew, it got warm out there, plus, half the trails we hiked today were loose sand. Tough going, but nice trails and very well marked.
I really like how bright, and colorful, and festive this guy looks. Sometimes the beaches are full of kites. Today I only saw two.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Normally I would have climbed to the top, but I knew we were going to be covering some serious miles today and I wanted to save my energy for the hike. Guess I'll have to go back and hike the beach again so I can climb the lighthouse. Darn!
We turned inland and followed the Lighthouse Trail through the dunes for a couple more miles before picking up the logging trail. This wasn't too bad though because the trail was a bit more hard packed, mostly. We stopped for a brief lunch, I love the food part of hiking, then followed a quick spur to pick up the Ridge Trail. Now this trail was quite difficult actually. It climbed steadily, which wouldn't have been a problem, but was once again loose, sandy soil. You know, two steps up, one step slide back. Yowza! Still, there were some pretty views from on high, especially the section where you could see Lake Michigan to the West and Hamlin Lake to the East. I was so grateful when we finally began our descent and ended up on the Island Trail.
We spied these deer towards the end of our trek along the Island Trail.
I dunno, I saw this lying in the grass next to the boardwalk and thought he looked 'lost'.
To be honest, I liked these trails, but I'm sort of into photography, and as much as I like hiking with the group, I think 11 miles in the dunes and sandy hills is a bit far if I really want to spend time taking pictures. Shoot, going that far doesn't really give you much opportunity to enjoy the views along the trail either. I felt like I had to push myself on this hike and I ended up putting the camera away because it's just too cumbersome when I'm hiking hard and I'm tired. I could go back and hike some of the easier trails again, but I probably won't. Now that I've hiked here I would prefer to find new trails that I haven't been on, explore new areas. I just don't think this was spectacular enough to warrant a 2 hour drive to hike over again. Still, it got me out of the house and into the woods so that made it a wonderful day!

But then, we stopped at House of Flavors on the way home and I treated myself to a waffle cone with Raspberry Rendezvous ice cream. Oh my goodness!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

View from my bike.

I was in need of another bike ride. I get like that. I just have to go for a ride and clear my head. Only 15 miles tonight (ha), but I stopped alot for photo ops. Oh, I finally bought a padded bike bag so it's easier to take my camera with me. Before I either had to wear it around my neck or put it in my backpack. The strap hurt my neck to wear it and the backpack was too hot. I needed to do something different.

 Red Tailed Hawk

See what a little rain does for the forest floor?
And that, my dear, is why I ride my bike.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


We did it. Round trip - about 23 miles in 3 days, but we did it!
Our plan was to get an early start Friday morning, except the weather prediction was for a cold, pouring rain until about noon. Not a good way to begin our trek so we held off until the weather broke in the early afternoon. By 1:30 the rains had dried up and we hit the trail. The North Country Trail was the first leg of our trip and we had a long trek ahead of us. Poor guy, he had no idea we had somewhere between 8 and 9 miles to our campsite at Eddington Creek. He mentioned that he would like to hike the whole NCT, even when I told him it ran from New York to North Dakota and it was 4000 miles. He thought we might be able to do that in a couple months. By the end of the trip he said that perhaps he would take longer to hike the trail and maybe finish when he was an adult. Ha, that's probably a little more realistic.

Now, about our day. I'm not going to kid you, this leg of the trip is really tough whether you're a kid or not. You're either climbing up a hill or going down a hill, neither of which are a backpacker's friend. In the beginning you think the climbs are hard, but it isn't long before going down hurts just as much. Oh, but those flat sections are such a nice reward and the forests we hiked through were simply beautiful. I highly recommend this loop as long as you know it's going to be challenging. Challenging, hmmm, I'm minimizing. In truth, I should just say it's damned hard, because it is. Thank goodness for trekking poles.
We had a wonderful breeze all afternoon that dried the woods and kept us cool as we hiked. The woods were filled with so many shades of green and wonderful woodsy scents. Love the smell of cedar when I'm hiking. The fungi were everywhere along the trail. Could the recent rains be responsible for this one being so big? Wow! And they were so colorful. Lots of red mushrooms, obviously some yellow and some that were a bright green with stripes.

Then there were these crazy things that I couldn't be sure if they were flowers or fungi. Turns out they're flowers - Indian Pipe.
Crazy looking aren't they? I think they look carnivorous.

I did say this portion was hard. We stopped often to rest, but we knew we had to put the packs back on and it became more difficult with each stop. After a bit he didn't bother to take off his pack, he just looked for a spot to lean against.
For a first time backpacker he did really well until the last mile or so when he was exhausted and could hardly put one foot in front of the other, but he still managed to dig deep and push through in spite of having no idea when this section would truly be finished. I don't know many adults who would push through like that. He was thrilled when we finally got to a campsite, but then he surprised me by suggesting we put our packs back on and see what the view was like from the top of another hill. Really? You want to put your pack on and go up another hill? Turns out he was right because we found a beautiful campsite tucked into the trees on top of the bluff with long views all around. We quickly set up camp, made a delicious pizza on the stove for dinner, then eagerly climbed into our bags to read for a bit before lights out. Just before dozing off I heard a very loud and very close bird call that at first made me think, "what the hell is that?" but then I heard the end of the call and realized it was a Barred Owl. I learned how to make the call years ago at a Bard's Bonfire, but that was my first time hearing the real thing. It. Was. Verrrry cool!

Saturday, we awoke refreshed and took our time over breakfast and breaking camp. The trails were so much easier and it wasn't long before we found the connector trail to the MRT, and experienced our first view of the Manistee River. Sir S was immediately reenergized. Yesterday's hike was cool and it had to be done, but the real treat was going to be hiking along the river.
See this suspension bridge? It's nicknamed the Little Mac and now we've been on both the Big Mac and the Little Mac. Points for us! Once we crossed this bridge,we turned South to continue on the second leg of our journey.

Seriously, will you look at this trail? How beautiful is that?
Sometimes the trail was more open, but it often closed in around you so you felt like you were in a jungle. Well, I suppose it felt more like that if you were a Little, but it was lush, and fragrant, and cool. The day was a bit warmer than yesterday and we were grateful for the abundance of shade, plus we rarely had to walk in the open as most of this trail is protected by the tree canopy.

Still, we were constantly aware of the river to our right and eventually, well, we simply had to stop and play in it. Besides, Sir S had just finished all his water and he wanted to try out the Sawyer water filter. He was a bit skeptical that river water could taste good and mentioned he was afraid it might taste 'fishy', but it didn't. It was absolutely clear and clean, no taste or smell whatsoever. This filter is so easy to use even Sir S quickly figured it out. And then he downed half his bottle of water so he could fill it again.
A quick lunch and then it was play time. Up and down in the current, tossing rocks, looking for bugs and know, kid stuff.
And then we were off again. We still had a few miles to get to where we wanted to camp and there were waterfalls to be explored along the way.
Right, so they're not big waterfalls, but there was water and it was falling over the edges so they count, right? Come on, we're in Michigan, we take what we can get. ~grins~
They were pretty, maybe a bit lacking in water because of the dry summer, but still, most of the creeks were flowing and the water was cold and refreshing.

Later, we invited ourselves to camp with a group that was already occupying the site we wanted to use. In fact, the group occupying the site had passed us while we were admiring the waterfalls. They said there was plenty of room to join them, we happily pitched our tent and cooked our dinner again. Weary, sore, food in hand, we wandered over to the bluff to enjoy the view while we ate our meal.
This is Sir S's favorite part of the day. No pack, no shoes, a full tummy and he gets to just chill.
Gorgeous vistas all along the trail.

These next three were taken on Sunday as we neared the end of our journey.
His view from on top of the world. He's nearly 9, but the boy just hiked 23 miles carrying all his own gear, food and water, and he survived. In fact, he nailed it! And he's already planning our next adventure.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Take me to the water.

I've never done well in the heat, but after this summer, I'm learning to deal with it. In past years I've foregone paddling when the temps were too high, but we've had such a long period of sustained heat this year that I would have missed all of my outdoor fun. I'm learning to push through the heat to still do what makes me happy and since being outside makes me happy, I said yes when asked to join a quick evening paddle trip last night even though the evening temp was just over 90 and the humidity was thick in the air. 

The Thornapple is a pretty river that I've paddled quite often and it's just a couple towns South.  It's not too heavily used, has a slow but steady current, it's clean and teeming with wildlife. Quite lovely actually. We put in at Irving Road and paddled a couple hours into Middleville.

 Just a couple hours, but enough to let go and feel the calm. So lovely, and floating down the river with my feet dangling over the side of my boat was very refreshing. Ahhhh...