Dauphin Island, Alabama

We have been going to Dauphin Island, Alabama for almost 30 years, we consider it one of our favorite places on the planet.  We haven’t been there since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April of 2010, but this year, we decided it was time to go back and reconnect and relax on our favorite island.

Dauphin Island map

It is considered a ‘barrier island’ so when a tropical system does come into the area, it tends to take the brunt of the wind, waves, and surge.  A few weeks prior to our arrival, Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Nate went over the island, thankfully, none of the houses on the island sustained major damage, but the storm surge moved the Gulf of Mexico beach onto the island.  We were told that there was six feet of sand covering the main road that traverses the western end of the island.  Which explained the 10-15′ high piles of sand on either side of the road, and also the police barricade we had to pass through when we traveled the island.  Slowly but surely, the island is getting back to normal.

After getting settled into the house we rented, the adventures began.  My main curiosity was the state of the wildlife after the oil spill, and numerous hurricanes since 2010.  Thankfully, I was treated to a daily encounter of wildlife every day.  Here are some of my favorites.

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This Kingfisher was present every day, and he was very vocal about our presence in his ‘fishing area’.  At the same time, he was a treat to watch.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

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The above Great Blue Heron fished the canal in front of our house every day.  Each morning, we would look for ‘Rodney’ (we had to name him because he had such a elegance about him/her) and would pride ourselves in locating him, his stealth is amazing.

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Pelicans are one of my favorite birds.  I’m not sure why I’m drawn to them, I think it may be instinctual, but they are a magnificent bird in my eyes.  I wondered how the populations fared after the spill, but during a day of kayaking and witnessing so many of them, I knew that they were going to be ok.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

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The island is also home to an Audubon Society Bird Sanctuary and we were able to enjoy a stroll through it with various family members on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  There are numerous turtles, even a ‘soft-shelled turtle’, which I’d never seen before, and a baby alligator.  Unfortunately, we didn’t encounter any birds, but the other wildlife made up for it.

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This lounging kitty knows how to enjoy ‘island life’.  Although he was spotted eyeing Rodney, I believe Rodney would win that battle!

To cap off our wonderful stay, our last day there, we spotted numerous sun dogs, and even inverted sun bows.  Unfortunately, my camera didn’t capture the inverted sun bow which was above all the other ones.  It was truly an amazing sight, one that I’d never witnessed before, and may never see again.

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I was truly sad when the time came to leave the island, but now I know, we will not let as much time pass before we go back.

Peace,

Sheri

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Hike 100 Challenge Complete!!

After returning from a 12-day tour of Germany on Tuesday, I was experiencing some awful jet-lag.  So I decided that a hike was in order to maybe reset my sleeping times and at the same time, I couldn’t pass up a beautiful fall day in the woods.  I thought that if I exhausted myself, I would start to sleep at more normal times for the eastern time zone, instead of Germany time (which is six hours ahead of us).  I also wanted to finished my Hike 100 Challenge before we leave for the Gulf Coast of Alabama because the weather in Michigan in mid-November (when we return) is very unpredictable and I really didn’t want to finish in snowshoes!

The fall colors looked to be just about peak, and although I had 11.1 miles to do, the beautiful scenery made it very enjoyable.

Came upon a beaver dam which in turn probably caused the wipe-out of the bridge during the winter months.  Took me a while to get to the other side, but thankfully, a makeshift ‘bridge’ was available over the water, and then I was able to work my way to the other half of the bridge.  Not easy, but at least I didn’t get wet!

The trail I took wound it’s way along the Jordan River, and it is truly one of the gems of Michigan.  It is a beautiful and wild river and would love to explore more of it.

Robert snapped this picture as I was approaching the end of my hike.  I really was exhausted but also happy to have completed the Challenge.  I never thought I’d be able to hike 100 miles in a summer, but it’s amazing what a person can do when they put their minds to it.

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Peace,

Sheri

 

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Right Place, Right Time

Sometimes when I capture a great picture, I think “wow, I’m glad I was here to see that!”  Other times, when I don’t have my camera, I think “wow, I’m glad I was here to see that!”  I have learned to appreciate every awesome moment in nature, whether captured or not, because nature, weather, wildlife, etc., doesn’t wait for me to run and grab my camera.  Here are a few awesome moments captured a couple of days ago from my home.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This little guy, (along with his siblings, cousins, parents, aunts, and uncles, etc…) has decimated our marigolds this year.  Thankfully, the marigolds are hearty enough to take the abuse, and keep producing flowers!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Enjoy every moment you can when in Nature.

Peace,

Sheri

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Quiet Beauty

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.  It just blooms.”

Zen Shin

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I hope we can all take the time to appreciate the quiet beauty of flowers.

Peace,

Sheri

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Surprises from Mother Nature

Every time I step into nature, I never know what I will encounter.  Whether it’s a planned hike, or a walk around the countryside, or sitting on my back deck watching the sun come up, I am continually awed and inspired by what Mother Nature shares with me.

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend the day with a childhood friend whom I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.  We went to an island park that I hadn’t had a chance to explore yet, so it was a new experience for all of us.  Mother Nature did not disappoint!

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KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still Camera

Even from my back deck, I am treated to awesome surprises!

Peace,

Sheri

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Upper Peninsula Blueberry Picking

Mid-August brings our annual trek to the Upper Peninsula for wild blueberry season.  Our ‘super secret spot’ is no longer so super secret.  When we arrived in the late afternoon, we found that we had to wait to get down the two-track that takes us to ‘our’ spot due to other vehicles parked on it.

Since we planned to ‘car-camp’ for the night, we decided to check out the other two-tracks in the area and see if we could find a cool spot.  And yes we did!!

We came across this lake with a clearing perfect for camping.  But before setting up camp, we still had to pick blueberries, so we went back to our spot, and all the vehicles and people were gone-too bad they didn’t take the mosquitoes with them!  The Upper Peninsula’s mosquitoes are legendary, and believe me, they lived up to their legend, and then some!  We sprayed ourselves, donned hooded jackets, and began picking.  It didn’t take but a couple of hours to fill our containers (unfortunately, no pictures were taken, too busy picking and swatting).  We then loaded up and headed to the campsite.

We decided to car-camp this year, mostly to see if it was doable in a Jeep Compass, and if it was successful, it may open up new opportunities we hadn’t thought of.

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As you can see, the back of the Compass fits us just fine.

We brought a log (pressed wood with wax) to burn and settled in for the evening.  As you can see from the pictures, no wind.  It did not take long for the mosquitoes to find us, and they were hungry!

Called it a night once the log was burned and found that since we had to leave a window cracked, the mosquitoes knew just where to find us!  It was a night with no sleep and knowledge that we were being chowed on.  So overall, the concept of ‘car-camping’ is a good one, but only before or after the ‘mosquito season’.

Peace,

Sheri

 

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‘The Jewel Is In The Lotus’

Went for a paddle around our lake the other day (8-9-17), mostly for enjoyment but also to photograph the lotus flowers or water lily as some call them, while they are still out.  The title of this post is loosely translated from the most popular Buddhist mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’.  Lotus flowers are amazing in that their roots are in the mud or muck of a pond or lake, yet the flowers are amazingly beautiful.

No, I didn’t tip over in my kayak!  Sometimes the reflection is more beautiful than the actual scene.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Hump!! Didn’t realize we had beaver on the lake.  Very industrious building engineers!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Until later…

Peace,

Sheri

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Valley Of The Giants and Dollar Lake

Another great solo hike on the North Country Trail (8-5-17).  Clicked off another 7.2 miles towards my 100.  Cool and wet this morning, so it took approximately 20 steps to get my shoes and pant legs soaked!  But that’s ok, they were dry by the time I was done.

 

Robert met me at the Mayfield Road crossing, had a quick bite and replenished my water, it’s nice to have a support vehicle if it’s needed.

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After leaving the crossing, hiked down the two-track and re-entered the woods and began to work my way down a very large ravine.  At the time, I didn’t know I was entering the “Valley of the Giants”, but I did notice a lot of huge, old growth oaks and pines.  Also crossed Twenty-Two Creek, which meandered at the valley floor.

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There was no way I was going to fit this ‘giant’ into one picture.  After a few miles of following the creek, I began the long climb out of the valley.  I noticed a sign handing over the trail and when I turned around. . .

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Aah Ha!  I guess I came in through the back door, I kind of wondered why everyone I met was going the opposite way??  Not far up the trail, someone had built this beautiful sign next to a hug oak.

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Finished this hike at Sheck’s Place Campground, (no, I didn’t see him!) had a nice picnic lunch and headed home

Two days later (8-7-17)…Since the wind was not conducive for Robert to ride another section of the North Central Trail, we decided to hike the next section together, which means an out-and-back hike.  We started at the Muncie Lakes Parking Area and hiked north to the Dollar Lake Trailhead and returned (8 miles).  Another beautiful day, low humidity and quite breezy, for August, this is quite a treat!

Didn’t realize we’d be hiking a cross-country skiing area, but that was fine with me, I knew the trail would be well maintained, and it was.

Taking a quick break before climbing this very large hill, thankfully there were switchbacks once we got back into the trees!

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We came to Dollar Lake and realized that there are very few lakes that are uninhabited, what a treat!

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Unfortunately, we came across some illegal campers and once we got to the trailhead, seen the damage they inflicted so they could drive their vehicle down the trail and to their camping area.  We turned around to begin our trip back and stopped for lunch at a bench that was just begging for some company!

Overall, it was a great hike.  Met up with some ‘fat-tire’ riders once we were back in the ski area.  I think we had the easier trek, the folks on the bikes looked like they were working much harder than we were!  This hike put me over half-way (53 miles) to my goal of 100 miles, so as they say…it’s all downhill from here!

Until the next adventure…

Peace,

Sheri

 

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Beautiful Day On The Trail

Could not pass up this beautiful day:  temps in the 70’s, beautiful blue skies, low humidity.  It’s hard to believe the calendar says mid July!  Picked a section of the North Country Trail about 10 miles south of the Fife Lake area where the trail runs along the Manistee River and the Fife Lake Creek.  Robert decided to join me today so it was an out-and-back hike, but still able to add 6.2 miles to my Hike 100 Challenge.

Not far down the trail, I spotted this ‘colored’ leaf.  Is this a sign of an early Fall!!!

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It was very buggy once on the trail, but a little bug spray and a head net and all was well.

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Thanks to the Grand Traverse Chapter for the trail maintenance and the great bench overlooking the Manistee River.  We took a nice break there on our way back.

Came across a lot of wildflowers which I was not expecting, but definitely was great to see.  The butterflies, bees and other little insects where hard at work as we hiked by.

After reaching 4 Road, which was our turn around point, we decided to do the ‘scenic spur’ which took us down to the Fife Lake Creek and eat our snacks there.  What a neat place!  Even spotted a little Brook Trout in the creek.

It was a beautiful day for a hike, and any day spent in the woods is a great day!

Peace,

Sheri

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Finally On The Trail Again

After my visit with family on June 20th, myself and my husband came down with nasty summer colds.  Being sick in the summer, in my mind, is the worst.  For some reason, it always seems harder to shake a cold in the summer than in the winter.   After three weeks of being laid out, I couldn’t take it any longer, and since I felt somewhat better, I decided to hit the trail yesterday and continue working towards my Hike 100 Challenge.  I had originally planned to do a couple of separate sections that would complete an area near Mancelona.  The first being 3.8 miles and the second being 4.0 miles.  After two days of severe thunderstorms, I knew the trail would be wet and buggy, and it definitely lived up to that!

When we found the trail crossing and I seen the overgrown area just beyond the sign, I knew my bug net (which is hanging out of my pocket) was an essential!  Thankfully it did clear up further down the trail.

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Last time I hiked in this area, the ferns were just emerging, now in some areas, they were almost up to my shoulders.  I felt like I was in some prehistoric area and needed to look out for dinosaurs!

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I really liked the original picture of the trail and decided to see what it would look like in a watercolor medium.  I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

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One of the two power line crossings that I was actually able to catch a breeze and take my head net off.

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This was a fresh break that I could only assume came just recently from the nasty thunderstorm that rolled through on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Came to a clearing that had been logged some years ago, and was surprised to see a large area of foxglove growing.  I’ve seen it in personal flower gardens before, but never in the wild.  It was quite a large area and the colors ranged from white to this purple.  It was quite a treat.

After my first 3.8 miles, Robert was waiting with the car to take me to my next 4 mile section, but unfortunately, my energy was totally depleted and I knew I couldn’t do another 4 miles.  So I called it a day and we headed into Mancelona for a picnic lunch and a gas station so I could put some dry shoes and clothes on.  I could definitely tell I have been away from the trail for a while, but it was quite a morale boost to be in the woods again.  Hopefully this cold will depart and soon!!

Peace,

Sheri

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