Fieldstones

Leelanau County, Michigan was shaped during the last ice age by the continental ice sheet that covered the area.  While that geology is a subject I intend to write about at a later date, my focus in this post is the town of Suttons Bay.  This little hamlet has become one of our ‘go-to’ place for services, as it sports a laundromat and grocery store.  It is also home to many unique shops and restaurants, along with a Saturday farmer’s market.  While driving on the back streets of town, we began to notice something very different about the village: the heavy concentration of fieldstone homes.  As many of you know, the glacial ice sheet that covered the northern United States deposited a layer of rounded stones in all shapes and sizes.  The soil in the Leelanau region of Michigan is full of them.  As a result, the local architecture reflects the presence of the stones, as they provided a cheap and abundant building material.

  
This is a charming home that uses natural fieldstone for all of its exterior walls.

  
Many of the homes use the stone for the foundation only.

  
This beauty took that a step further to include a fieldstone chimney.

  
This one appeared to have concrete below the decorative fieldstone. 

  
There was a builder’s trailer parked in the driveway of this home.  It appeared to be in the process of being renovated.

  
One of my favorites was this bungalow.  Take a close look at the detail in the railing of the porch.  The insets in the center of the railing employs the use of smaller diameter stones.  The gargoyles are the ‘piece de resistance’, as this structure really stands out among the others.

  
The stones are also used to construct retaining walls and borders throughout the town.  Wild Cherry Resort has also used fieldstone in this manner.

  
The use of the stones is not limited to older structures.  This is actually a modern home that sports a layer of the rounded rocks.

The crown jewel of the town is Union School on St. Mary’s Street.
 
This charming structure was built in 1907.  It was recently converted to four condominiums.  Looking at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the children who took this building for granted, only to realize as adults how fortunate they were to attend classes in such a beautiful school.

If you find yourself in Suttons Bay, get off the main road and check these structures out.  It is worth the few minutes it takes to drive through the town.

What sorts of indigineous stone have you noticed being used in the buildings in your area?

A great day for a paddle

There is nothing quite like getting on a lake.

One thing we had been wanting to do for quite awhile is to get out on the water in our kayaks.  We had plans to do so in north central Florida, but we chose to push farther south to Naples instead.  We had an opportunity last weekend, but thunderheads rolled in before we could get out there.  Well, today was the day.  The temperature climbed to 80 degrees, and the rains were supposed to hold off until mid afternoon, which they did.  Time to get out there!  🙂

For today’s paddle, we chose School Lake, located within the boundaries of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

  
School lake is connected to the smaller Bass Lake by a channel that might allow a kayak to get through.  The reason we chose School Lake is that Bass Lake borders right on M-22, and carries some traffic noise.  Except for the boat launch, School Lake is all natural.

  
The launch is decent, even for small, trailered boats.  There were two aluminum boats on the lake while we were there.  The lake itself measures in at approxametely 2/3 of a mile across, and is somewhat round in shape.  The bottom appeared to be sandy, and the water was clear.

  
There is a fairly high ridge that runs south of the lake.  The wind was coming from that direction today, and we found the calmest water along that shore.

  
To the north, there is a large dune that is actually the back side of Pyramid Point, which we showed in an earlier post.  Today, we witnessed a Bald Eagle skimming that end of the lake.  We also saw (and heard) a loon.  Both of those sightings made our day.  🙂

  
Here is Ketchup and Mustard, ready to go!  We did not take any photos on the lake, as we have to still get a waterproof case for one of our phones.  If anyone has recommendations, we are all ears!

  
We asked a young couple who were mushroom hunting to take our photo.  They were kind enough to oblige.

One other thing to note about Sleeping Bear, are the ‘facilities’.

  
This beauty was at the boat launch.  It was extremely clean, had no odor, was handicap accessible, and had fully stocked hand sanitizer and toilet paper dispensers.  The interior is all one piece, no-seam Fiberglas, so they are easy to keep clean.  Very nice, indeed.  🙂

Changing subjects, here is a wildflower update:

  
Diana spotted these Jack-in-the-Pulpit up near the yurt at Wild Cherry.  They were huge!

  
She also spotted these marsh marigolds after we got off School Lake today.  They are popping up everywhere.

One of the places we visited a couple of weeks ago was Good Harbor Beach.  We decided to drive out and take a look today, as it is just up Bohemian Road from School Lake.  We got there, and we were the only ones there. 

  
Hmmmm…  80 degrees, partly cloudy… What is up?

  
Not a soul on the beach…except for the flies.  Tons of them!  Yikes! We know that the northern Great Lakes can be iffy for flies in late May and early June, so we will have to keep tabs on the conditions.  It may have been because there was rain coming in.  At least they weren’t biting, and they were confined to the beach itself.

All in all, it was another great day!  We were able to get the kayaks back in the water, and that was a great thing!

Do you have a favorite body of water you like to paddle?  We would love to hear about it!

The Nuts and Bolts of our Leelanau Adventure

With every destination that is reached in life, there is a spark or impetus that calls you to journey there.  With us, being on the Leelanau Penninsula for the summer can be traced back to the early 1970’s when Diana’s Aunt Ellen bought an old hay barn in the village of Fife Lake, about 20 miles southeast of Traverse City.  She turned that barn into a beautiful home, with an apartment upstairs for her sister Clara.  Upon seeing the area, Diana’s parents bought a cottage on the shore of Fife Lake a few years later.  Over the years, Dad renovated it to eventually make it their retirement home.  As a result, we have a long history in this region, having made countless trips up from downstate Michigan.  We made numerous day trips to Leelanau County, and ended up wanting to spend more time here.

Many people have asked us, “What is it that you will be doing at Wild Cherry Resort this summer?”  Well, how it works is like this:  We work two days a week, generally in a row, 9 to 5.

  
Diana works in the office, taking reservations, checking guests in, managing the office and alerting me to any guests that will be arriving that day.

  
I, in turn, make sure the campsites are cleaned and edged, and the firepits are cleaned out.

  
On the mornings I work, I drive the park, pick up the trash from each site and deliver the newspapers.

  
To start the season, I have been cleaning spillways of matted leaves and doing general cleanup. I’ll also be spraying weeds and driving the golf ball retriever on the driving range throughout the season, along with helping Rex mow the lawns.  So that somewhat sums up our duties.  In exchange for our work, we receive a free campsite for the season. Water, electric, sewer, and newspaper are included.

As you may remember, we had a dream laundromat that we used in Grand Rapids.  We knew that we were unlikely to find as nice a place as that again, but we at least wanted something clean.  There is a laundry in Suttons Bay that is decent, but it isn’t very large.  So on Monday, we set off for a place on the northern fringe of Traverse City.

  

The road to Traverse City, the infamous M-22, runs right along the western shore of the western arm of Grand Traverse Bay.  We stopped along the way at a roadside pull off to have a picnic. 🙂

  
Give me a bag of plain M&M’s and not only will I smile, but my jacket will also!

  
The laundromat was decent, but nowhere near as nice as what we were used to.  The view out the window made up for it.  🙂

I also wanted to pass along an update on the spring foliage.

 
We saw several Jack-in-the-Pulpit in the woods at the park.

  
The Trillium have also bloomed.  We saw these green and white ones, along with the all white varieties.

  
There are thousands of them in the woods in this area right now!

  
The sweet cherry trees are in bloom right now, and they smell amazing! 

 

And the sunsets have been outstanding.  This photo was taken from our campsite.

  
And turning to look behind me, the entire sky had lit up.  We feel so fortunate to be able witness this.

On Thursday night, we drove up to the tip of the Leelanau Penninsula, about 20 miles north of the RV park.

  
This view is looking back along the western edge of the penninsula.  The air temperature was about 80 degrees Farenheit, even at the water’s edge.

  
Grand Traverse Lighthouse has been protecting sailors from this point since the mid 1800’s.  They offer tours, for those interested.  Last time we took it, we thought it was very well done.

We also experienced an interesting phenomenon that occurs around a large body of water called a microclimate.  Within the 20 miles on the drive back home, the temperature fluctuated between 80 and 61 degrees Fahrenheit twice! Luckily, it finished up at 80.  🙂

On Friday, we took a day trip back to Grand Rapids to check on Diana’s mom.  While Diana was tending to her mother’s needs, I ran errands in town. We headed back north by mid-afternoon.  On the way back, we decided to stop at Fife Lake to see what was happening, as it had been awhile since we were there.  We stopped at the cottage first, which had changed hands twice since Diana’s parents sold it in 2007.  It had recently undergone a major renovation, so Diana wanted to knock on the door to meet the new owners and possibly see the renovations.  They were coming out of the home as we were getting out of our car and they invited us inside, once we explained who we were.  They had done an outstanding job on the place, and were very interested to hear about why certain things were the way they were when they first bought it.  They even retained many of the features that Diana’s dad had incorporated into the home, which brought tears to our eyes.  We were glad we stopped.  🙂

Next, we went by Aunt Ellen’s old property.  Being located on a busy intersection, it was recently purchased and the barn was torn down to make room for a Family Dollar store.  The garage was still standing, as it was further off the intersection than the barn was.  To set the scene, Aunt Clara was a flower gardener extraordinaire, and she had planted every flower imaginable around the property.  Of course, when a developer comes in, they practice a ‘scorched earth’ policy, so we weren’t expecting to see anything.  But, to our surprise, there along the garage…..

  
…Aunt Clara’s Lily of the Valley was popping up, a reminder of hers’ and Ellen’s will and determination.  We miss them both, along with Diana’s dad and Aunt Bernie…four hard working and strong siblings who were great examples to us of how to live our lives.  It is a great history to have as a family, and one I am proud to be a part of.  🙂
 

Wildflowers and the dunes

A wildflower in the spring is an announcement of the approaching summer…

Saturday evening, I took Diana for a ride through Wild Cherry Resort on the golf cart, as she had not seen the outer reaches of the property.  Towards the back of the golf driving range, we discovered a sea of wildflowers blooming.

  
We saw this trillium, one of the first to open.  There are hundreds more that are ready to go.

 
The Dutchman’s Breeches were everywhere.  Notice how they look like they are hanging on a clothes line.

  
While the trees have yet to show their leaves, the weather is outstanding!

  
From the back of the range, you can literally see for miles.  This vista is looking to the south.

  
The setting sun in the leafless trees is a mid-spring treat in Northern Michigan!

Afterwards, we drove down into the lower woods and checked out the tent sites and the yurt.  Along the way, we spied more flowers.

   

I am fairly certain that this is Bloodroot that has not fully opened.

We headed back up to the office to drop off the cart.  We have to be careful pulling into the cart storage, as a robin has found a nice place to build her nest.

  
Good thing the resort owns more than one ladder!  Momma robin has 4 eggs in there.

On Sunday, Diana and I took a drive down the Lake Michigan shore to the town of Empire.  That is where the visitor’s center is for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  We were in need of our annual All-Access Pass, which gets the two of us into any national park for the next year.  At $80, we feel it is an amazing bargain.  After securing our pass, we headed back up the shore to our destination for the day: Pyramid Point.  This particular dune forms the western arm of Good Harbor Bay.

  
The 1 mile crushed gravel trail starts out fairly level through a grassy plain.

  
Further into the woods, the trail steepens.  This photo is deceiving, as the temperature was 79 degrees!

  
Diana spotted Yellow Trout Lily blooming along the trail.

  
Once at the top, this sign gave ample warning as to what lay ahead….

  
Per my iPhone compass, we were 420 feet above the surface of the lake.

  
Diana found some firm footing for a photo….

  
….as did I.  🙂

  
While we were there, the Philip R. Clarke steamed by.  This ship is a sister and fleetmate to the Arthur M. Anderson, which was the ship that was following the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank in Lake Superior.  Both ships are 767 feet long and can haul 25,300 pounds of cargo.  We are able to follow ship passages on the Great Lakes Seaway and Shipping website, making vessel identification a breeze.

This area also is home to many shipwrecks, and there are several lighthouses that aid in navigating the waters.

  
Here is the Manitou Passage Crib Lighthouse….

  
…and the South Manitou Lighthouse further in the distance.  We hope to further explore this sentinal later this summer.

After leaving Pyramid Point, we headed east along the shore to the beach at the end of Bohemian Road on Good Harbor Bay.

  
This is a wide, sweeping bay that faces due north.  

  
Even with the prevailing southwest winds clocking in at 30 miles an hour on Sunday, the water at the shore was dead calm….hence the name “Good Harbor”. The rocks extend a few feet and then the bottom is sandy.

  
As you can see in this distance shot, the water was a bit choppier farther out.

  
From this point, we were able to see northward along the western shore of the Leelanau Penninsula.  The town of Leland is up along there somewhere.  That is where we saw the sunset from the other night in our previous post.

For the first few days of May in this area, the weather has been marvelous. As the wildflowers have announced, Spring has definitely arrived in Leelanau County!

North to Leelanau and a slice of paradise

Oh, my…..it is so much more beautiful that we remembered….

It had been nearly two years since we had found ourselves in Leelanau County, Michigan. On Thursday, we packed up the rig in Byron Center and prepared to head north.
 
A very big thank you to Richard at Woodchip Campground in Byron Center, Michigan for providing such a wonderful resource to the community by keeping the park open through the winter.  We had instances where the temperature dipped to 16 below zero, and we were never without power, water or sewer.  We encourage anyone needing a campground in the Grand Rapids area to contact Woodchip.

We made the three hour trip to Lake Leelanau in the afternoon, arriving at Wild Cherry Resort around 4 PM.

  
Take a look at our site!  We are parked at Latitude 45 degrees, 0′ 28″ north…less than 1/2 mile north of the 45th parallel.  For all intents and purposes, we are halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. 😃

  
And Diana is extremely pleased with her new commute!  Once we were set up, we had a very nice chat with our work camping colleagues, JoAnn and Paul.  We are really looking forward to working with them!

Following our chat, Diana and I headed a few miles west to the town of Leland to catch the sunset.

  
We arrived in plenty of time to watch the sun set over North Manitou Island, several miles out in Lake Michigan.  South Manitou is to the left.

  
Once the sun actually set, we were treated to a spectacular light show in the clouds!

On Friday, Diana worked with JoAnn, beginning the learning process of how to run the office.  I worked with Paul out in the park, setting up the lion’s share of the picnic tables.  Paul also gave me a tour of the resort, which is far larger than I thought.

After we finished up for the day, we were all invited to happy hour by Rex and Nellie.  They were full time RVers for 18 years, before coming off the road.  They have been summering here every season since the park opened, better than 10 years ago.  Rex mows the lawns in the park.  He is a D-Day veteran, and it is an honor to be in his presence.
  
Also present were Rex and Nellie’s son Bruce,  Jim and Sandy, owners of the park, and Camilla, who will be helping some in the office.  She just started a new job as the executive assistant for the Leelanau Peninnsula Vintners Association.

  
Everyone had a great time.  It was a very nice way to start the summer.

We look forward to posting more of our Northern Michigan adventures, as we plan on doing a lot of exploring throughout the summer. Stay tuned as we show this little slice of paradise!