Thursday, September 13, 2018

Finding New Treasures as We Dodge the Raindrops

We spent a couple more days exploring the area around Traverse City, but we've had to adjust our schedule around rain showers. Even though Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay are the most famous waterway in these parts, we found many inland lakes that have that same turquoise blue water. After it rained most of the morning, we spent the afternoon visiting Torch Lake, and Elk Lake, and Lake Skegamog . . .

Besides vineyards of wine grapes, we are seeing wild grapes that are ripening in the area. With two seeds in each tiny grape, we found there isn't much fruit to actually eat.

We stopped in the lake town of Elk Rapids, where we had read about an outdoor sculpture park. We walked the trail (still wet from the morning rain), taking pictures of our favorite sculptures. Denisa is standing beside the recycled bird, made out of things like old skis, tires, sleds, and hubcaps.

Mark is on the beach beside the over-sized aluminum sand pail and shovels. The rain clouds are lifting by now, and it has turned into a beautiful afternoon.

We also stopped at the beach near Elk Rapids. Even with the recent rains, the water in Lake Michigan is perfectly clear and looks like a beach in the Caribbean--minus the salt. We see advertisements that urge people to take a salt-free beach vacation here in Michigan. Prior to experiencing it for ourselves this summer, we had no idea that the beaches and water here were so lovely.

We have been relishing in summer temperatures with highs in the 70s, so today we are complaining about the fact that we got all the way up to the 80's. But the higher temperatures meant the water was inviting us in.

This is a sandy beach, with a ridge of stones at the water edge. We are here on a rock hunt for something called Petoskey stones.

If you see them dry on the beach, they look like plain old gray rocks.

But if you scoop them out of the water, you see they magically transform when they are wet. They are fossilized coral. Each circle inside the stone was a living piece of coral that fused together in a coral bed many years ago. The scientific name is actually Hexagonaria Percarinata, but they are better known by the locals as Petoskey stones. Found only in northern Michigan, you might recognize that as the town where we recently camped and attended a festival.

We were also lucky enough to find a couple of special tiny gray rocks in our search today.

These are made from a smaller and more compact fossilized coral that formed a honeycomb-like structure. These are locally known as Charlevoix stones--named after another beach town we visited recently. It's like finding treasures in Lake Michigan that are masquerading as plain little gray rocks. We have wandered into more of God's wonders!

Our final stop was at a nature preserve across the highway from Lake Michigan. A long mowed trail led us through the fields of the nature preserve.

The clouds are kicking up more rain in our forecast, but they are beautiful this afternoon.

We didn't find the wildlife that we had hoped for, but the treasure we found here were the trees full of ripe wild apples. They made a nice snack on our hike.

The weatherman called for two days of rain, so we were pleasantly surprised to get to do so many things in the afternoon after it rained all morning. The next day, they were forecasting afternoon rain, so we headed out on an early morning bike ride. We started in the wooded area north of Traverse City, heading north up the Leelanau Peninsula.

Just like the Old Mission Peninsula we drove up a couple days ago, this area is an agricultural mecca. We've never been on a bike trail with tractor crossing signs, but we were prepared to stop at the first sight of a John Deere.

It's a paved and flat trail, and we were entertained by the apple, pear, and cherry orchards that we rode beside. Some were the old-style orchards with large trees . . .

while others were the miniature trees that are planted close together and look more like vineyards.

We also rode past this unusual crop. These tall poles and strings are supporting a crop of hops--one of the main ingredients used by the beer breweries in the area.

We are excited to see hints of red and orange in the trees now, as fall is definitely approaching.

The Leelanau Trail stretches for 17 miles, and is well-used. Some of these bikers must be rowdy, as some farmers have to request them to be quiet please.

We started this trail in the middle, so it was only eleven miles to the end at the town of Suttons Bay. It has been a great ride! But here we must make a decision. Do we turn around and ride the eleven miles back to our car, or do we try to find the bus station in town? We've heard there is a local bus that has bike racks that can take riders back to town. But we're not sure if they could take us back to our parking lot six miles from Traverse City, so we make the decision to ride our bikes back.

We couldn't help but notice that the clouds were building up as we turned our bikes back south.

We made a couple stops at the wild apple trees next to the trail. With ripe apples falling on the trail, we found a new reason to wear a bike helmet this morning. After eating a couple apples, we have new energy to continue the ride home.

It's starting to sprinkle as we encounter our first wildlife on the bike ride. A big flock of wild turkeys calmly split on both sides of the trail as we approached.

We would have taken longer to get a good wildlife picture, but the sprinkles are getting closer together by this time, and the trail is already wet.

We rode in the sprinkles for several miles, but the last four miles were in the rain. No lightning or thunder, so we felt safe (but soggy) as we continued toward our car. It looks like we should have looked for the bus option for this return trip.

After our 22-mile bike ride, we were soaked to the bone. With continued rain, we spent the rest of the day inside. We did some shopping, and we were glad when our clothes finally dried out. When we first entered Michigan, the weatherman was talking about the drought. Since we made our trip back to Oklahoma, this area has seen ten inches of rain to break that drought. The last couple of days we have gotten to experience a little of that moisture as we continue our soggy wanderings.

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