Wild and Woolly

There’s an old saying in Michigan (probably in every other state, as well) that goes something like this….”If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes – it’ll change.” So true!

The weather news had been full of high wind warnings for the latter portion of the week. So, I bustled around in the early days (warm, bright, and sunny) getting yard work done. November has been a spectacular month weather-wise, with many days where it was warm enough to enjoy being outside without a jacket. Rare, indeed. But that all came to a screeching halt on Thursday when West Michigan got walloped with cold and wind.

So, what do we do when it gets windy like this? Head to Lake Michigan to watch the action, of course. Wind gusts of up to 40mph for a couple of days had the Lake whipped up like I’ve not seen in years.20151113_132506 How windy was it? So windy that the current in the channel was actually running backward – IN from the Lake, instead of OUT to the Lake. Incredible.20151113_132312So, I braced myself as well as I could and snapped a few photos. The beach was full of folks with camera with huge lenses – there have been lots of terrific photos posted on Facebook this week. 20151113_131415We hung around for awhile, and left when it started to sleet. It felt like the wind was driving the ice pellets right into my face. Nasty!

Here’s the best of the photos I took. The lighthouse at the end of the pier stands 36 feet high – and waves were smashing up over the top.  What a crazy Michigan day.20151113_130746There was so much sand blowing around that the City was running front end loaders up and down the street, plowing sand.20151113_133222For those of you who have never camped in a Michigan State Park, this is what passes for a campground along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. I know, it looks like a parking lot – incredible that the competition for these spaces is intense in the summer. We met some folks from Indiana who mentioned that they were so close to their neighbors that they were unable to put out their slide. We don’t camp here.20151113_132622And, a few more videos, just to top things off. As I write this, it’s beautiful and sunny. Temps back up in the low 60s.  For now, I’ll take that.

Wheeling Around the UP

I can hardly remember the last ten days.  I’ve come to depend on having enough signal to produce a blog post every few days, and when that routine is interrupted, my brain jumbles everything together into one big blur.  But, here goes…..

Continuing our navigation around Lake Superior, we land at McLain State Park, about halfway between Calumet and Houghton. wpid-20140921_144350.jpg Once again, our campsite is just yards away from Lake Superior.  We’ve yet to see the big angry lake we expected – this meek body of water barely generates waves most of the time.  Surely this placid surface can’t be responsible for all the freighters that lie on its bottom.  Must be something else, right?

Calumet is a photographer’s dream.  This area was right in the heart of the copper rush, and thus drew residents of all nationalities.  Of course, each had to build their own church, resulting in a skyline dotted with crosses of various shapes and sizes.20140924_15503220140924_155908 Some still function as churches, others have been repurposed into galleries or storefronts. 20140924_160116 A few appear not to have any further use at all.  Banks, government buildings, and other impressive structures have been built of huge red blocks, which have elegantly weathered the last century.20140924_15523320140924_140547 Blocks of working-class, two-family houses reminded me of the Detroit of my childhood, where my grandparents lived for years.20140924_155706 I really wished that I had a different camera (or perhaps more skill/patience to capture better images with the one I have).20140924_155533We decided to tour the Quincy Mine in Hancock.  Perhaps the coolest part of this tour was the cog railway which took us down the ridge to the mine itself.  With a grade of 33%, it would have been a tough hike, without this transport. 20140923_124630 We entered the mine at the 7th level, the lowest currently accessible.  The levels below that (down to the 92nd level, nearly two miles beneath the surface) are all flooded now.20140923_12223320140923_121531 Perhaps the part of the tour with the greatest impact on me was discussion of the miner’s miserable working conditions, which led to a bitter nine-month strike in 1913/14.  Ten hour days, dangerous conditions, and low pay kept miners enslaved to the company, which owned their houses, and the stores from which supplies were purchased.

The community was severely divided by the strike.  On Christmas Eve 1913, a party for strikers’ children was held at the Italian Hall, with hundreds of children and family in attendance.  Someone opened a door, shouted “Fire”, and a stampede for the exit ensued.  60 children and 13 adults were crushed.  There was no fire.  The site of the Hall is now a small park, and a remembrance ceremony is held every year on December 24.

Following the mine tour, we continued our day of mineral exploration with a visit to the Seamon Mineral Museum on the campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton.  Had to climb one of the steepest hills ever on our bikes to get there – two blocks of it were too steep to pedal.  (Naturally, we found a better route AFTER we got to the top!)  The Mineral Musuem is a Rock Hound’s (or wannabee’s) dream.20140923_14485820140923_14400320140923_143822 My fingers twitched to touch these gorgeous specimens, most of which were in locked cases.  Geodes, gems, phosphorescent minerals…..all so beautiful.

Of course, we had to treat ourselves to a brew at the Keweenaw Brewing Company.  The big attraction of this spot (for us) was the cheap beer – $5 for two pints.  The beer itself, was middling.  But, it was a great day for the 40 mile round trip bike ride, so we were happy.

The rest of the time here is a blur in my mind.  A few more photos to view, then we’re off to Porcupine Mountain State Park.20140924_16073020140924_15152420140924_15143520140924_151711Took a tour of the old (built in 1908) Calumet Theater…..where I was treated to a private concert by the guy tuning the piano.  It was grand.20140924_134535Last, but not least, the troll murals in the bar at the Ambassador Restaurant in Houghton.20140923_15370820140923_153652

Quietsolopursuits and Me

Quietsolopursuits is one of my favorite blogs.  Jerry is a superb photographer, and his blog reflects his love of nature, specifically birding, but all things outdoors. 20140713_130721 His Photo Life List is to document all of the bird species found regularly in Michigan, and he’s about halfway through that project.  Every day, he goes walking with some of his amazing camera gear and documents what he sees, narrating animal behavior in an always-entertaining style.  It’s a great blog.

After following the blog for a while, it was obvious that Quietsolopursuits actually lives somewhere in the Grand Rapids area.  Eventually we struck up a conversation of sorts, and I asked him if he would mind if I tagged along on one of his walks – volunteering to carry The Beast, as he calls his 4-pound Sigma lens, or any of his other gear.  We finally got together for a stroll at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve last Sunday.  What a treat.20140713_11374720140713_12053120140713_12304720140713_115224

Jerry has a keen eye for movement, and was snapping away at birds I couldn’t see.  Little bits of wildflowers, flying insects, birds…..everything catches his eye.  We walked mostly in silence, me trying to stay out of the way, and not be too annoying with inane chatter.  I did carry the tripod, which went unusued, except as a backdrop for a few photos.  It was interesting to stroll in this manner – slowly, searching the ground and skies, looking for something to photograph.  Birds are out of the question for my cellphone camera and slow reflexes.  I spent most of my time watching Jerry, and looking for interesting fungi.  So, here’s a collection of my shots for the day.

Thanks for letting me tag along, Jerry.  Hope we can do Quietduopursuits again sometime.

These tiny fungi (all together) were no larger than my pinky fingernail.

These tiny fungi (all together) were no larger than my pinky fingernail.

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe