Tag Archives: Michigan

The Porcupine Mountains

Looking over the Porcupine Mountains

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a friend I went to college with for a few days camping at Porcupine Mountain State Park which resides in Northern Michigan otherwise known as the U.P. I was hopeful to see a porcupine since I assumed that’s where the name for this park came from. As we learned while there, the name actually comes from the shape of the mountains. They look like humped over porcupines. It is possible to see a porcupine in this area but not overly likely.


Yurts are available for rent at this state park making it so a tent or camping trailer is not necessary. There are cabins also if a person prefers that. One of the nice things about the cabins and yurts is they are more remote than the rest of the campground giving you your own little area all to yourself. The challenging part of these yurts and cabins is lack of running water or electricity so using a bathroom with both of these things requires a bit of a walk to get there. Our camping spot was next to Lake Superior. Fortunately the weather was nice and calm so the lake was also. At night we were lulled to sleep by the waves lazily crashing against the shore for a peaceful nights rest.

Sun setting over Lake Superior

There are several ways to spend your time at Porcupine State Park with several miles of trails to hike leading to mountain tops or waterfalls, Lake Superior providing water activities such as boating, kayaking, or swimming in the warm summer months, or just sitting next to your fire watching the flames dance between the logs. While spending some time at our campsite a Least Chipmunk would entertain us with its acrobatics off and on as it collected ripening fruit from several nearby trees.

Acrobatics of a Least Chipmunk

In July the sun sets quite late in this part of the United States so it didn’t actually get dark until after 10 p.m. Eastern time. That really threw my time off because it seemed so late but was still light out to make an evening meal and eat it in the waning light. By the time stars began making their appearance it would be getting really late. One night we decided to find an area to view the Milky way and take some photographs instead of going to bed. After a few hours of doing that there was discussion on whether we should go to bed or find a place to view the impending sunrise. Thankfully our senses returned as it was off to bed for a good nights rest. Spending time in the U.P. of Michigan was definitely peaceful and relaxing.

Milkyway in Porcupine State Park

Preparing for Isle Royale

In my previous post on ‘Planning for 2017’ I wrote briefly on going back to Isle Royale. I find this desire to backpack here very humorous because the last time I did this with the rest of my family I was adamant that backpacking was not for me and I would never do it again. I was glad to have experienced it once but that was enough. And now I can’t wait to return and hike further and for more days. What happened?

One of the shores of Isle Royal

Either I’ve gone crazy or have gained more knowledge on backpacking. First lets figure out why there was no desire to backpack again. Most of this came from hiking with a lot of extra weight on my back causing pain in my shoulders and back every time my pack was hoisted back onto my shoulders. The second reason is that sleeping was cold and uncomfortable leaving me tired much of the time longing for a good nights sleep. Other than that, I enjoyed the time on the island.

Getting up close to a moose can be very exciting if done safely for the animal and the viewer.

So what’s different now? A number of things have changed my opinion of backpacking bringing on an excitement to do it again. First is all of the information and experience I’ve gained since then increasing the confidence to be able to hike with extra weight and actually enjoy it. I now have a good idea of what is involved in preparing for an extended hike which includes hiking locally with a heavy backpack for a couple of miles each time along with biking a couple of days a week for several miles putting me in better shape. Also I have a nicer camera that I really enjoy using and Isle Royale is a great place for beautiful photographs adding to my excitement to be there.

A portion of the beautiful trails on Isle Royale

If I do this right the training backpack will be heavier than my actual pack making it seem like no big deal to carry all day long. Add to this increased muscle strength to be able to carry the weight while working around rocks and tree roots, using trekking poles to keep better balance and weight distribution, and bringing fewer items reducing my overall back pack weight should combine to make a fun hiking experience.

Sleeping in the solitude of Isle Royale can be difficult to get use to.

A few weeks after returning from Isle Royale the last time I began to go through our supplies and determined how I would pack differently another time to reduce the weight I was carrying. It was amazing how much different things felt for each pound we removed either in food or water weight making the pack lighter. We definitely brought too much food last time and heavy food at that. That is an easy place to reduce weight by several pounds. Also, sleeping gear last time was heavy lugging small air mattresses, cotton sheets, and blankets. This time a sleeping bag, light sleeping pad, and maybe a small pillow which should eliminate more weight. My only concern is increased weight in camera equipment so I will have to watch that part. As far as sleeping goes, I know there won’t be great sleep so I’m prepared for that so it should be less of a concern.

One of the Entrance Stations of Isle Royale

Training for hiking in the Rocky Mountains in 2016 and how successful it was and I was at completing a couple of 10 mile + hikes at higher elevations has proven to me that I can adequately train for this trip and go the distance with my backpack. In fact, at times I would even forget I was carrying my backpack loaded with clothing, food, and water all as a result of training before hand. The pack will be heavier this time as it will include more food, a tent, sleeping gear, and probably more clothing so I understand what I need to do to prepare. I’m so looking forward to this but there is much to do before then.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

While visiting a friend in Southern Michigan we ventured to Grand Rapids to explore the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in early September. We left earlier in the morning during a downpour hoping this was not a sign of things to come for the rest of the day. Fortunately as we neared the gardens the rain stopped, however, the dark clouds remained threatening to rain the rest of the way. We decided that we could always wander around the conservatory areas if the rain began again until it stopped so into the beautifully landscaped gardens we went.

Enjoying the gardens from across the pond

Initially we explored the gardens closer to the conservatory so we could duck in if the rain resumed. Fortunately as the morning progressed, the clouds dissipated and provided a nice day for touring the gardens and sculptures. As the skies lightened and a peak of sun or two shone through, we worked towards the recently opened Japanese gardens.

A beautiful water lily

These are very well designed and landscaped Japanese gardens with many manicured trees and shrubs all surrounding a beautiful pond which include fast moving waterfalls. Many paths have been created to showcase several different Japanese inspired areas which include buildings, bridges, bonsais, a moss garden, and sculptures all layed out in a relaxing arrangement.


One of my favorite areas of the Frederik Meijer gardens for sure. I’ve seen a number of Japanese gardens but they don’t seem to be able to design them to be as relaxing as I think they should be. Most likely they are not arranged in a pleasing manner that fit my interest so nothing against these gardens. Or maybe my appreciation is increasing for these gardens. Either way, the Japanese inspired and designed gardens at Meijer gardens are an enjoyable way to spend several hours taking it all in on a beautiful September morning.

A Japanese Maple hanging over a waterfall

While walking through a couple of people noticed we were being watched. Looking up I found a red tailed hawk paying attention to as many of the patrons as possible waiting for a potential meal scurrying about escaping the people as they explored. Unsuccessful he flew to another area soon after allowing a few photographs.

Being watched from above by a red tailed hawk

After completing the Japanese gardens we found ourselves on a boardwalk looking over a wetlands filled with turtles, frogs, and trumpeter swans. Another area to easily lose your thoughts as you watch animals swimming and splashing while taking in the emerging sun. I could have stayed longer but there was more to find.

Watching the past and the future swim by

There are a couple of other gardens to explore but were of less interest to me than those I’ve highlighted such as the Farm Garden which I grew up working on a farm so lacked an appreciation for such a display. The other main attraction is the sculpture garden which includes a number of pieces donated by the Meijers. My appreciation for most sculptures is still undeveloped as I have problems relating to or finding an interesting interpretation for many of them. My focus leads me more to the sculptures created by the forces of nature.

Relaxing by a waterfall

Continuing through the Frederik Meijer Gardens, the sound of rushing water lured me into areas which contained ponds with waterfalls stocked with plants and fish begging for as many moments as you will give sitting on rocks lining the pond. From here you can gaze into the water as fish glide from one area to another hiding under the floating pads from the lilies below. It was a nice break after walking several miles of pathways meandering through each garden.

Water lotus in bloom

What started as a cool, rainy morning morphed into a beautiful, sunny day. Reports from the city we started from said it had rained there almost all day. What a fortunate day to drive a short distance and escape that dreary weather. Our time here ended with a stroll through the conservatory which includes tropical and desert areas, both interesting but after a day full of plant viewing I had lost motivation to spend much time in these areas. One of the other nice features is the generous placement of restrooms throughout much of the park when they’re needed. If I was closer to this area I would enjoy re-visiting the Meijer Gardens and watch as it progresses through the season. One of the other nice features is the generous placement of restrooms throughout much of the park.

Reflecting on the gardens


Lake Michigan Labor Day

The Beautiful Sand

Is there a better way to spend a beautiful Labor Day than going to the beach? The water is about as warm as it will get for the year and the temperatures are still warm enough to sit in the sand and soak it in. A recent trip to southern Michigan brought the opportunity to explore Grand Haven State Park. This is essentially a state park on a large beach. The biggest issue with going here on Labor Day Weekend is the large numbers of people. Parking can be a challenge but the beach is definitely worth it.

Lighthouse and Pier

The sand is amazing – very soft. I’ve been to several beaches in the Caribbean, Eastern, Southern, and Western United States, and Mexico and this beach easily compares to many of those. At least during the summer months. If you grow tired of playing in the sand you can take some time to stroll on the pier and check out the lighthouse. There is also a large musical fountain that puts on a show during the nights. While it may be difficult to imagine, this area is basically a sand dune. When I picture sand dunes I think of deserts. This one has a lot of plants growing on it to cover most of the sand but where these plants have not populated or disappeared you can see the vast areas of white sand making this an area to enjoy.

The Sand Dune