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Autumn leaf on snow

Autumn leaf on snow

Yes, yes, yes.

We woke up to snow on the ground.  At least two inches of the white stuff on the cars and the deck.  Maybe one inch on the warmer earth.  We stared mesmerized at the beauty.  And caught our breaths as we walked outside into the freezing cold.  It’s Autumn in the U.P. of Michigan.  Snow can spread her white beauty on us any time it desires.

And it desired this weekend.

Snowman near Houghton

Snowman near Houghton

Remember how I blithely told you yesterday that the snow never stays on the ground in mid-October?  How it melts away so quickly? 

Mother Nature made me a liar within three hours after writing that sentence.  My visiting Mom and Dad, Barry and I headed up to Houghton to meet my nephew Doug and his roommate Gabe for dinner at the North Shore Grille.  We barely passed into Houghton County before we began to witness Snow on Cars.  Then Snow on Lawns.  Then snow–Everywhere.

When we spotted the above snowman, I begged Barry to turn the car around for a photo.  He is so used to this request these days!  He easily turned the vehicle around.  He, however, wanted me to walk up into the front lawn of the snowman-builder and take a picture with a red-leafed tree in the background.  I was too chicken.  I stood closer to the road, ready to make a get-away in case anyone came out of the house.

Instead, you can see another red-leafed tree surrounded by snow.  This is the scene to which we awoke this morning.

A dash of color in the snow

A dash of color in the snow

After we shared our morning coffee, I headed downstairs to dig out Grandma’s old blue snowmobile suit from the 1970’s from the closet.  Time for the snowmobile suit!  I pulled it over my pajamas, grabbed a pair of winter boots, hats and mittens and dashed outside for snow photos.  (It’s truly amazing how beautiful the first snow of the season looks.  Compared with the thirtieth snow of the season when all you want to do is buy a ticket for southern Florida.)

View from the deck just before searching for the snowmobile suit

View from the deck just before searching for the snowmobile suit

Oh how exhilarating it is to romp in the snow just after dawn!  (And later in the day Mom and I walked up the road for a good half hour…but by then every last flake of snow had melted and disappeared.)

Snow and grass

Snow and grass

It’s funny how quickly it melts.  One minute there is a white frosted snow-laced world.  The snow hangs heavy on the red and orange and yellow and green leaves.  Some trees lean over like hunched-back men, straining under the weight.  The white snow cleans and scours everything.  You breathe out a cloud of breath-smoke.  Your boots squish in the water-laden snow.

By noon, it’s all gone.  It’s a memory.  The cold north wind still blows frigid, but you’re suddenly back in autumn.  Thank goodness!  Stay away for another month, Winter, at least.  Please stay away.  We beg you.

Red-orange leaves heavy in the snow

Red-orange leaves heavy in the snow

I just asked my mom if she wanted Grandma’s snowmobile suit back.  I mean, maybe she was the one who gave me this precious object.  Maybe SHE wants to wear it downstate in HER backyard when it snows.  But she just stared at me dumbfounded with her eyebrows raised.  Guess she doesn’t want it back.  Maybe she thinks the neighbors would stare.  Guess I better keep it here in the woods…

And it all melts away...for now...

And it all melts away...for now...

Barry just said, “I think we need a picture of you in the snowmobile suit!”  I said, “TOO LATE!!!”

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

The Anishinabe (or Ojibway) call this October moon “The Moon of the Falling Leaves”.  This one isn’t hard to figure out.  The leaves are falling everywhere.  They’re not falling like they will fall in a week or so, but now they trickle down from the trees, splashing their red and orange and yellow colors everywhere.

It’s still raining.  Here’s what happens:  rain pours non-stop from the sky in a flurry of wet showers.  Then it ceases.  The sun even sometimes peeks briefly from behind the cloud-studded sky as if to say “Is it safe for me to come out yet?”  But then quickly ducks back in just as another rain shower pours from the heavens.  Yep, that’s how it’s been for days now.  The temperature stays in the upper 40’s or lower 50’s.

Three Leaves

Three Leaves

Today, in between rain showers, we pulled up the brown tomato plants and threw them in the woods.  Most of the tomatoes were rescued from freezing the other night, so the ripe ones already sit inside on the kitchen countertop and the green ones lie in the basement sandwiched between newspapers.  Just before we finished, the rain unexpectedly drenched us as another shower passed through.  I don’t know why I said “unexpectedly”.  These rain showers are getting quite expected every twenty minutes.

Colors lined up in a row

Colors lined up in a row

Good news!  The phone just rang and it was my mom.  She and dad are (hopefully) planning a trip up to visit next weekend. Hurray!  (This, however, means that I will need to spend a great deal of time INSIDE in the next several days cleaning up the house.)  But don’t worry, the outdoor commitment will still happen.

Here are some interesting photos from our trip to Houghton last night.  We drove down near the lift bridge when Barry said, “Look at that girl!  You have to take a picture.”  He prepared to stop the car.  I was full from dinner and muttering something like, “I don’t WANT to take a picture…” but the car was stopped and he gestured over toward the bridge supports.  I reluctantly opened the door.

But what a surprise!  How cool!  Some graffiti artist had drawn cool-looking figures on the supports.  Now, I know some people think this is defacing public property, and maybe it is.  But I loved all three figures!  Great art on the construction site.  (Much nicer than looking at all the construction vehicles.)  What do you think?

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Somebody wants Change

Somebody wants Change

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

Reflection of "Third Bridge" in water

You know how you travel the same roads, day after day, or month after month, or year after year?  And how many times do you actually stop the car, open the door, and go outside to explore? 

We travel “up the road” to the Houghton-Hancock area maybe 40 times a year.  Two weeks rarely pass without one of us traveling  north on US-41.  We’re headed for the Keweenaw Co-op to buy our organic vegetables or other natural foods.  Maybe we’re aimed for Walmart to purchase something we can’t find easily in Baraga County.  Or perhaps to a coffee shop (that would be me) or a restaurant (that would be both of us) or someplace else.  This year, thanks to this blog, we’ve explored more interesting places than in the previous ten years.

But we rarely simply stop several times along the way.

The problem is this:  when you see an interesting sight, you’re already past it by the time the brain registers.  You’re 50 or 100 feet down the road thinking, “Hey, that would make a great photograph!”

Today I decided to turn around at least four times, back up, get out of the car and actually take the pictures and, sometimes, explore.

The first stop:  Third Bridge.  I never knew that was the name of the bridge at the Head of the Bay, but Barry insists.  I was acting like a tourist, trying to capture the bridge reflected in the water (have wanted to do this at least a dozen times this summer but never mustered the energy to actually stop the car.)   While moving around and changing the angle of the shot, a car whizzing by on the road started honking.   So who was that person?  Which friend was it? 

Now close your eyes or scroll down the page really fast if you don’t want to see a dead coyote.  That was the next stop.  It was lying in the road across from Carla’s Restaurant.  I did a huge backing-up maneuver and walked over to the animal.  It was really sad.  It was probably just crossing the road last night and a fast-moving car clipped it and killed it.  It could have been any of us drivers.  The animals sometimes move so quickly it’s hard to see them.   However, it’s unusual to see a dead coyote on the road.

Dead coyote

Dead coyote

Next I drove by a beautiful garden filled with sunflowers waving in the breeze.  However, just kept on driving, not wanting to tun around.  So I vowed to stop on the way home, and did.  And the gardener-lady herself was working in the hot sun.  We enjoyed a lovely conversation.  She moved here seven years ago from her former residence in Ohio and is amazed about how many people appreciate her garden alongside the highway. 

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

A bit farther down the road, the eyes spotted a turnoff near the Keweenaw Bay which I have never explored.  Ever.  Hard to believe you can live in an area for thirty years and there’s still new places to explore!  The eyes had never seen this particular view of Lake Superior.

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Fallen tree in Keweenaw Bay

Red and brown and yellow and gray rocks littered the shore everywhere.  But the find that seemed the most interested today was green beach glass.  Don’t you love how glass looks when it’s been in the lake for a very long time?  No longer sharp and cutting, it now shines like a jewel in the sunlight.

Beach glass

Beach glass

Then…be still my heart!…the absolute best gift of the day.  Two symetrically stacked piles of stones sitting upon a log.  Oh, enchanting!  I took photos from eight different views, but like this one best:

Just look at how high that pile of flat rocks is!

Just look at how high that pile of rocks is!

My question is: did Cindy (faithful blog reader, commenter and friend) stack those rocks?  Cindy, was it you?

Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Gabe (on left) and Doug (on right)

Another family member has become a Yooper.  A resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

It’s my nephew, Doug.  He’s attending orientation tomorrow at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  And, lucky us, he traveled up north with my brother, Scot, his wife, Karen, and sister Keely. 

Tonight I am coming to you live from the Cyberia Coffee Shop in downtown Houghton after hours and hours and hours of outdoor adventures.  I am soooo tired.  But will attempt to type faithfully, upload photos and stammer out a narrative.

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

Scot and Karen on the Downtowner deck, overlooking the Portage Canal

We  ate a rather nice meal sitting out on the deck at the Downtowner Bar and Restaurant watching the sailboats and power boats and talking about Mount Ripley and winter skiing.  Doug already seems to know more about the Keweenaw after one day than I do after thirty years.  (Well, maybe not, but that kid sure knows a lot!)  His roommate, Gabe, seems like a nice fellow and I’ve promised to call them when I’m up in Houghton.  Maybe we’ll even come back to this coffee shop some morning in between class.  Or perhaps we’ll meet for lunch.  I am SO thrilled to have an extended family member this close.

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

Me and my beautiful niece, Keely

After a leisurely dinner in which we sat next to other friends, we wandered downtown to watch…are you ready for this?…the band “Wolfgang” play for the Thursday night concert series.  And guess who plays bass guitar in the band Wolfgang?  You guessed it, I’m sure.  My husband, Barry.

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

Doug, Gabe and Keely listen to the band

The streets in downtown Houghton have been torn up for most of the summer.  They have been digging up the old street and replacing it with brick.  You have to maneuver through a series of detours to make your way around the city.  It’s been challenging.  The concert series was probably intended to keep folks in the downtown area. 

Wolfgang plays classic rock ‘n roll.  It’s fun to listen to them.  A lot of the time they play bar gigs or weddings, so I don’t have an opportunity to hear them that much.  It was especially fun to sit on the curb between Scot and Karen, swaying to the music and sometimes singing along.  Keely bought some fudge.  It was a lovely warm summer evening; a novelty in the Copper Country this summer.

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Wolfgang playing on the Houghton street

Yawn…  Oh excuse me.  It’s really past my writing time.  I would drink some real high-potency coffee just to make the hour-long drive home, but that would truly interfere with sleep.  So I am nursing a decaff iced coffee americano or something similar.  I am still thirsty.  But you probably don’t care to know those kind of details, so we’ll return to a photo of Scot and Keely:

Keely and Scot

Keely and Scot

We’re planning a hike to the Sturgeon River Waterfalls tomorrow, if it’s not raining cats and dogs.  If it’s drizzling lightly, we’ll go.  We may even do more sightseeing around Baraga County…trying to figure out where to take guests…and which places might make a good outdoor blog!

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

Silhouette on rooftop listens to music way down below

It is this kind of summer night which sustains us through the long cold winters.  Memories of twilight wearing shorts and short sleeves, moving to the beat of good music, spending time outdoors with family and friends.

Ahhh, we are blessed…

The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

The Denis Sullivan Schooner (Barry's photo)

I called my friend Jan today.  We’re trying to arrange a trip to a tea house in Houghton next Friday.  Along with another friend, Joanne, we’ve been planning this trip for a year or two now.  It seems we can never arrange a day when we’re all available.  It looks like this Friday might hopefully work.

Jan said, “You’ll never believe what I did yesterday!”  I was all ears, but never expected her next sentence at all.  “I was sailing on a ship from Keweenaw to Huron Bay.”

Jan was one of the passengers on the three-masted schooner that Barry and I waited for yesterday for two hours in the rain!  As promised, here is the photo of the Denis Sullivan ship.  The expedition was offered in conjunction with Michigan Technological University and the Keweenaw Land Trust. Participants, as the flyer announced, were challenged to work aboard the traditionally rigged Great Lakes Schooner while exploring important links between land and water conservation.

Jan said she stood near the operations and watched the crew work with great interest.  She marveled how they made precise nautical adjustments with such skill.  It sounded like it was a fantastic experience.  Her story sounded so fun and intriguing I almost wished I was on board ship rather than wandering along the shore of Lightfoot Bay for two hours peering for the sails on the horizon.  Which we never saw.  Barry eventually photographed the ship from Witz Marina near 6 p.m. when I was cozily at home writing yesterday’s blog.

Here are two websites for interested readers:  http://voyage.pierwisconsin.org/ds/schooner.php shows a virtual tour of the ship and answers the intriguing questions A) Who was Denis Sullivan?  B) Why did they build a schooner and, most important,  C) What is a schooner?

http://www.discoveryworld.org/denisSullivan.php tells interested folks how they can become a part of day, multi-day or semester-long voyages on this ship.  It says:   The S/V Denis Sullivan is a modern educational sailing vessel with two 180 hp diesel engines, a scientific laboratory, two computer workstations and a modern communication and navigation equipment. She maintains single bunks in co-ed areas, shared toilets (heads) and showers, and limited storage. The vessel can carry up to 21 participants overnight and 50 passengers on day sails. She is complemented by a professional crew of ten.

Circles in the sand

Circles in the sand

While Jan was sailing in Lake Superior, feeling the wind and rain on her cheeks, I was wandering around with my camera admiring the many beautiful images and natural art on the shore. 

Sand and water art

Sand and water art

I loved the way this reddish branch lay planted in the sand, sideways, dangling over the rhythmic rush of the waves.  See its reflection?  If you look closely you can even see glistening raindrops.  And this pollen-stained indention of the pond also looked so intriguing.

Inland pollen bay

Inland pollen bay

And a gift for the land from the magnificent bald eagle.  He (or she) dropped a tail feather onto this beautiful shoreland, perhaps to honor the sand and waves, the commitment of the Keweenaw Land Trust members, the memories of children who once built sand castles here, the cold June rain, the frozen snowy winters or…maybe the tail feather simply was ready to fall from sky to earth and rest gently between the green beach grasses.

Beautiful eagle feather

Beautiful eagle feather

Finally, some of you may have noticed I changed the header photo.  The red berries are gone!  Time for another view.  A wider more expansive view, at least for now.  (P.S.  today’s outdoor adventure involved taking a walk along the road in the rain. It’s been raining for days now, it seems.  And it’s cold.  In the 50’s.  Since when did the 50’s become cold?  My mind kept trying to convince me how miserable it was…until finding those wild ripe strawberries.  If it wasn’t for Part 2 of the sailing ships the title of the blog would have been:  Eating Wild Strawberries in the Rain.)

Ripples in an inland pond

Ripples in an inland pond

Did we ever think we would hear those words, let alone utter them aloud?  Yet, I do believe yesterday we may have heard those famous three little words.  Might have even come from our California guests.  Even our son is no longer used to Michigan humidity.  When it’s in the middle or upper 80’s and no wind, one wilts and sweats quite profusely.

The kids meander ahead on the nature walk

The kids meander ahead on the nature walk

We thought a stroll along the Nara Nature Trail (also known as the Pilgrim River marsh) might be a nice diversion before eating out in Houghton yesterday evening.  Remember when Barry and I hiked along this short trail earlier this spring? 

But, my goodness, was it hot.  Very hot.  And not very shaded.  By the time we returned to the car the air conditioning felt extremely welcome.  I thought about the challenges of going outdoors when it’s freezing cold versus boiling hot.  Different scenarios, but both demanding at times.

Perhaps crab apples?  Beautiful pink against the green leaves.

Perhaps crab apples? Beautiful pink against the green leaves.

At one point during the walk I settled on my hands and knees photographing whorls in the wood of the boardwalk.  Barry seemed a bit impatient.  Perhaps didn’t think a simple whorl would make a good photograph.  I beg to differ.

Close up of whorl in wood

Close up of whorl in wood

The earlier rain had roiled up the river into a murky muddy silty flowage.  Bits of weeds and flowers and debris floated by in the brown waters.  I liked this view from the trestle bridge.

Floatin' down the river on a lazy hot June afternoon

Floatin' down the river on a lazy hot June afternoon

On to Houghton for dinner and shopping.  I could tell you what everyone ate and who we saw and some of the interesting conversation.  But none of that part was outdoors, so you’ll have to imagine! 

After dinner we did walk around town and look at the construction and buildings before strolling down to the Portage Canal.  A welcome breeze blew in across the canal.  All the summer sounds ensued.  Children laughing, jet-skis howling, machinery drilling, families talking.  We felt so happy to be joined with our family members on such an evening.  I even texted Kiah in New York City to tell her we wished she could be with us.

Really close to a pidgeon

Really close to a pigeon

A pigeon lingered in a flower box outside the window of a store.  It refused to move.  We could have reached our hands over to pet it.  Most likely it would have pecked us or flown upright in a flurry of indignation.

An old building and sign in Houghton advertising Wilcox Studio

An old building and sign in Houghton advertising Wilcox Studio

We liked the Wilcox Studio sign painted on that building probably half a century ago.  Maybe a century ago, who knows?  It looks kind of artistic, don’t you think?

Portage Lift Bridge

Portage Lift Bridge

Now we’re caught up to today.  And I suppose someone might be wondering about the outdoor experience for this fine hot Wednesday.  Barry and the kids headed out before 7 a.m. for a fishing trip on a friend’s boat, but I have a meeting tonight and needed to work.  So…about 1:00 p.m…I hauled the lawn chair into the shade beneath the umbrella on the deck and snoozed.  Just lay there half-awake and dozed and listened to the noisy woods with birds calling and squawking and the neighbor’s rooster making his strange half-hearted holler.  Ahhh.  Summer.  Doesn’t get any better than this, especially in the cool shade with only a couple random no-see-ums biting.

Picture this scene.  It’s still fairly dark outside.  You’re sleeping in bed, covered only with a sheet, due to the steamy summer night.  In the distance thunder begins to rumble.  And rumble.  And rumble.

Closer it comes!  Lightening streaks through the bedroom window.  Flashes of silvery light illuminate everything.  The thunder now claps resoundingly, almost urging you to get up, even though it’s barely 5:30 a.m.

Then you hear the whooosh of rain falling.  All around, outside.  The rain pours so hard you can imagine the wildflowers and garden lettuces shivering with the intensity.  Suddenly…the dreaded sound…icy pellets of hail spitting against the house.  Clink, clink, clink.  You try not to think of the garden vegetables, but your husband is already groaning about the possible hail damage.

As quickly as the hail starts, it stops.  The rain continues to fall outside, but you drift (almost) back toward sleep.  Except you really can’t return to the depths of sleep.  So instead you enjoy the lulling patters of rain and thank the Universe for the moisture.

Raindrops on lupine leaf

Raindrops on lupine leaf

OK, let’s now move into awake day-time mode.  I checked the rain gauge and we received over 1.5 inches of rain during that early-morning excitement!  Very nice. 

Lots of plants lay sprawled tipped over on their sides.  The garden lettuce and spinach look a little flattened, but they are perking up as the day progresses.  They seem to be shimmering in the hot sun.  It’s 85 degrees just past mid-day.

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

Perennials drooped over the hose (sorry, don't remember their name)

The kids–although should one be calling those near the age of thirty “kids”?–picked some wild strawberries last night out by the road.  Christopher’s girlfriend had never seen strawberries that tiny.  They are the sweetest taste, though, the wild berries growing in between the daisies and the buttercups.

Wild strawberries on a leaf

Wild strawberries on a leaf

I was going to put another flower photo in next, a picture of an orange hawk-weed.  However, Chris just examined the photo selection and requested a viewing of the summer sky.  He, perhaps, is getting bored with flower shots.  I told him straight, though.  How in winter all there is…is snow.  Then in early summer…blooms.  Later, we’ll get in the fruit & vegetable mode.  Finally, we’ll get bored by autumn leaves before returning to the vigilance of snow.  Everything in their season, you know.  I’m sure he was impressed by the explanation.  He still wanted to see the sky rather than flowers.

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

The blue, blue sky sandwiched in between the green, green trees

We’re taking the kids out to dinner up in Houghton within a few hours.  We may wander along the boardwalk near Chassell once again.  We shall assuredly enjoy this sultry late June evening.  We will not be thinking about our long winter.  And if anyone complains, “It’s too hot!”  we will reminisce about the brave hardy souls who jumped into the Portage Canal for a Polar Plunge on that 4 degree afternoon in January!  Click here if you want to read that story!

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

I was tired of the swamp and the woods today and decided to drive north to Houghton and Hancock to run errands, buy organic food at the co-op and indulge at the coffee shop.  Today’s outdoor adventure would be a walkabout around the two cities.

For all you non-Yoopers (Yoopers are folks from the Upper Peninsula), Houghton houses about 7,000 residents and Hancock 4,323 as of the 2000 Census, at least according to Wikipedia.  You might not even want to call them cities.  You could call them large towns.  But for folks who live near the really small towns (or in the woods) we think these cities are really big

Downtown Houghton

Downtown Houghton

Driving around Houghton these days keeps one alert and focused.  If you haven’t visited recently, there’s new routes and roads and pathways to follow. The city is doing a streetscape project for the next several months, tearing up the main street and replacing it with brick pavers.  New sidewalks, street lights, and water/sewer pipes will grace the downtown. 

The above photo shows the initial construction which goes south from the bridge for a couple blocks.  I heard rumors they dug up old streetcar or trolley tracks beneath the pavement.  Isn’t it fascinating to think of the history which might be uncovered digging down through the layers of soil?  Years ago I spent a week on an archeology dig in the Ottawa National Forest.  It’s so interesting (well, and sometimes a tad bit boring) to sift through the dirt, finding recent and prehistoric treasures.  Seems like we found a chipped prehistoric stone tool on that dig, if my memory is even slightly accurate.

Slant of sun through an alley

Slant of sun through an alley

After wandering around Houghton, I attempted to follow the directions to cross the bridge to Hancock.  Mission:  a success!  It really wasn’t hard, once you figured out where to go.  I parked the car at a great little bookstore, Northwind Books, and started the walkabout through this city.  Wanted to wander through a neighborhood and see what interesting photo opportunities presented themselves.  (Believe me, lots presented themselves.  Fifty photos were uploaded, just to prove it.)

Cool picket fence

Cool picket fence

It was really hard to decide whether to post the picket fence photo or the gate photo.  Or the step photo.  Or the bench photo.  Or the Yooper snow scoop photo (every backyard had one to help them shovel out the 250 inches of snow each year).  Or the raven sitting on the phone wire.  Or how about the guardrail with this most magnificent plant/weed growing upward near it?  I’ll tell you, deciding which photos to post is a real challenge.

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

For some reason, this fire escape really looked interesting.  Doesn’t it just look like you can keep walking up into the sky from it? 

After the walkabout, one more stop beckoned.  Time to go to the Keweenaw Co-op.  It’s a regular stop.  Best place in town to buy natural food, organic produce and all sorts of cool eclectic healthy products.

They feature panels of hand-painted murals on the side of the building.  For your viewing pleasure, here’s one:

Art on the co-op wall

Art on the co-op wall

I wish you all could have enjoyed the luscious piece of melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate and the cool berry ice tea.  Very delicious.

A delightful walkabout in the cities!

Precious red berries dangling over river

Precious red berries dangling over river

The marsh beckoned us as we drove south of Houghton.  We decided on an outdoor adventure along US 41, after a rather mediocre Chinese lunch and three errands at local stores.  I had walked this boardwalk last fall, but Barry never wandered along the shores of the Pilgrim River before.  We said goodbye to the car, wondering if we needed boots for snow, and started out.

No boots were necessary.  Almost all the snow had melted away.  We barely reached the river’s edge when I saw them:  the prize red berries hanging out over the rushing river.  Of course I had to leap off the boardwalk, maneuvering perilously close to the river, attempting to get as close to the berries as possible.  (You all know how much I love those berries, don’t you?) 

Clouds reflected in the river, with the Portage Canal up ahead

Clouds reflected in the river, with the Portage Canal up ahead

The boardwalk leisurely maneuvers on both sides of the river.  First the walker may attempt to follow the right-hand side down to the Portage Canal.  If you re-trace your steps back to the bridge and walk up hill a short while, you can meander down to the canal on the left-hand side of the river.

Oh it’s lovely to visit a marsh!  Especially when one is dry atop the boardwalk, skimming over the swampy areas.  The river rushes out to the canal, brown and blue and fierce.  All around cattails and alders and dried grasses wave in the breeze.  The temperature today settled between 45-50 degrees which translated into warm when the sun shone, and cool when it disappeared beneath the clouds.  Barry took off his coat, then put it on again.

A steelhead fisherman plies the river

A steel-head fisherman plies the river

A lone fisher-fellow tossed his bait out into the quick-moving river, attempting to lure steel-heads from the depths.  I’m sure Barry wanted to join him in seeking the elusive fish.  Instead, we walked and shared memories of childhoods playing in marshes.  There’s a trick to walking in swampy areas.  You have to step from elevated grass patch to elevated grass patch.  If you miss…you get soaking wet feet.  Fortunately, today we stayed dry on the boardwalk.  Except when one of us grabbed the camera and dove for the elusive photograph. (But, our feet stayed dry!)

Waves of swamp grasses

Waves of swamp grasses

Do you see the undulating waves of swamp grasses?  The bump-formations arise after a winter of heavy snow lying upon the grasses.  We took at least a dozen photos of the swamp-grass bumps from twelve different angles.  Barry jettisoned from the boardwalk and took a magnificent photo of the grasses up close.  However, we both decided the overall vista shows more of what the land actually looks like. 

Fishing pole holders await fishermen

Fishing pole holders await fishermen

It really was a lovely afternoon.  I love it when you do something different, something unexpected.  How often have we driven past this particular wetlands, also known as the Nara Nature Park, without stopping?  It’s so often worth it to step out of the ordinary routine, to try new walks, new vistas.  I hope we stop again, perhaps in the summertime, to see the wildflowers and leaves and grasses.

Here is the elusive trout lily, the leaves just beginning to unfurl and burst forth from the earth:

Trout lily leaves.  No flowers blossoming yet.

Trout lily leaves. No flowers blossoming yet.

We drove through Chassell on the way home.  There’s the oddest sight south of Chassell.  Someone has placed a snowmobile in a giant trap, dangling way above the road, outside a local business.  We’ve stared at this, puzzled, for months.  What in the world…?  There’s a t-shirt hanging below it that says something like “Trapping in the Upper Peninsula” or “Trapped in the U.P.”, I’m not sure which.  We had to stop and get a photo, just to show you.  What do you think of this? 

Snowmobile in giant trap.  Honest.

Snowmobile in giant trap. Honest.

Looking up to a world of gray

Looking up to a world of gray

You people who live in spring-country.  You people who are enjoying 40 degree or 50 degree or 60 degree days.  We’re all envious of you now.  Because do you know what the weather was like today in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?

The thermometer barely nudged 30 degrees.  A cold biting wind nipped in from the northwest.  And the skies stayed leaden gray all day.  (Well, make me a liar.  My husband said the temperature has inched up to 33 degrees as evening settles in…and the sun is poking through the clouds.  Go figure.  Just when you start stating facts, things change…)

Anyway, you get the drift about the weather most of the day.  It was so gray it settled into everyone’s spirits.  People here are ready for spring.  They’re ready for sunshine.  They’re ready for green.  This is the season where we wait it out.  We are prepared for spring, but we settle for this in-between season.  Sometimes cheerfully. Sometimes with gritted teeth. 

Birch face says:  "Don't sweat it.  Spring's coming soon."

"The Scream" in white birch!

We traveled up to Houghton today to buy organic vegetables, grains, beans and other supplies at the co-op.  We drive there once every week or two to get supplies that can’t be found in our small town.  We planned to stroll leisurely around town, maybe along the canal, snapping photos and enjoying an outdoor experience in the “real” city. 

But no.  It was too cold.  We weren’t dressed properly in heavy winter coats.  The thermometer up there mocked “24 degrees”.  The wind whipped around buildings.  Snow covered the path by the icy canal and we wore shoes rather than boots.

Instead, I walked through the woods after returning home.  You’re sheltered in between all those trees.  It’s almost pleasant.  You have your boots and warm winter coat and mittens.  Besides the gray skies attempting to envelop everything, it’s almost pleasant.

Yesterday we experienced sun.  So don’t think it’s always gray here.  I sat in the woods on a log and watched shadows play.  Look at the balsam shadows dancing on this fallen tree:

Forest shadow play

Forest shadow play

But back to our gray discussion.  Maybe if we experience a good rain the dust and dirty snow might disappear.  In the meantime, we wait.  It’s only April.  One year, who knows what year, the temperature reached 90 degrees in late April.  No fooling.  It happened.  (My husband just said it was April, 1980, and my parents came to visit with cross-country skis atop their car.)

Anything is possible!

The stream behind our house is running merrily with melted snow-water down toward the bay.  Doesn’t it look cheerful?  I’m guessing we’ll be warm soon.  If we get beyond tomorrow’s possible lake-effect snow forecast, that is…

Tiny waterfall in stream behind house

Tiny waterfall in stream behind house

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