Category Archives: Family & Friends

Taking Stock of the Day

It’s been a roller-coaster ride these past two weeks, full of random things I’ll play catch up on at some point in the not-too-distant future, but today… today was a much-needed return to (our version of) normalcy.

There were macro shots in the morning…

An Elk Rapids excursion this afternoon…

And downtown tree-lighting festivities this evening.

I found solace getting back behind the camera and into nature, Jim savored the intensity of the Winter landscape (and a gigantic  margarita), and Jackson was elated to glimpse Santa and catch the Christmas spirit. We spent time with some of our favorite people, ran into more of the same, and capped the night off with a tour of Christmas lights.

It’s late, so that’s the abbreviated version, but today was sublime. One of those days that makes it hard to narrow down your answer to the question we pose to Jackson (and ourselves) every day:

What was your favorite thing about today?

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Playing Catch Up: U.P. Camping Near Fiborn Quarry

Okay, before this season ends and the timing of this recap becomes wholly inappropriate, it’s high time I play catch up on our camping trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula earlier this Fall.

Camping was something I immensely enjoyed doing down in Georgia. My primitive North Georgia camping inclinations transitioned into more comfort-oriented outings once we had Jackson, but we still made it a point to go at least once a year. I cannot tell you how much I miss camping on Jekyll Island.

We had every intention of getting back on track with our camping excursions after moving to Michigan, but instead we found ourselves busy moving, settling in, adjusting to our new climate, then moving and settling in again.

Life finally regained it’s rhythm after we closed on our house this past Summer (did I forget to mention that here?) and we were stoked when our friends, Marty and Terri, invited us to join them for some camping in the UP the last weekend in September. Finally back on track!

Camping the UP
Our journey carried us to a remote spot near Trout Lake, just north of Epoufette Bay. It was there that we (us Cliftons, our hosts – the Rytkonens, and about 10 of their extended family members and friends) settled in for a few lazy days alone with nature (us) and some hunting (them). 😉

This was my first time over-nighting it in a pop-up camper rather than a little ole’ tent, and I have to say – after seeing the bear that some fellow woods-goers passed by with (shot, as I’m sure you can imagine) – I was happy to have the extra elevation. I know, I know. Those bears could care less about me, and I realize I was in 10-man-deep-and-well-ammuntioned good company, but still – a girl’s imagination can get a little carried away in the woods.

(I don’t have a photo of said bear, but Jax was awe-struck by it. Okay, I was, too.)

Most of our camping time was spent relaxing, taking in the scenery, and spending time with our elated little ones (Jackson and Parker, who towers over Jackson despite his being a year younger. It’s good to have friends, right?) 🙂

While the big guys enjoyed quad rides exploring the land, our little guys enjoyed cruising toy trucks down two-tracks, playing with the pups, blowing bubbles and catching falling leaves (Terri’s inventive distraction for kids who swear they couldn’t possibly finish a walk).

Fiborn Quarry
On day two of our three-day weekend, we trekked over to the near-by Fiborn Quarry ruins. The former limestone quarry, which supplied Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, from 1905 to 1936, is now part of the Fiborn Karst Preserve. Remnants of the railroad house and ore-care loader still linger on the expansive, dug-out landscape.

The Preserve also houses a series of caves, most notably the Hendrie River Water Cave, Michigan’s longest known cave (about 1,500 feet). We didn’t venture into any of these, on account of 1) having kids in tow, 2) my serious claustrophobia, and 3) the bats that reside within.

The quarry was genuinely unlike anything I’ve seen before and being there felt like stepping back in time. Terri’s mom and I (the resident photography-lovers) reveled in our photo opp and the streams that disappeared underground around it. I honestly can’t wait to go back for more photos.

(You can check out some great additional shots of the ruins that I found online here.)

The Little Things
The weekend’s weather was quintessential for camping. Our days were bright and sunny, and the nights were chilly, already living up to the new Autumn season in a way that Georgia ‘seasons’ never synced up.

We otherwise spent our evenings around a well-maintained campfire (thanks, guys!) sipping beers and swapping stories. While the UP may well be the South of the North in many ways, beer proclivities vary greatly between the regions. Some gentle ribbing from our cohorts for my campsite beer selection of PBR quickly reminded me that, even in the UP, Michigan is still the Midwestern craft beer mecca. Next time, I’ll bring the good stuff …along with my PBR. 😉

Scenic detours on the way home: the Mackinac Bridge & Deadmans Hill overlooks…

We can’t thank the Rytkonens and their people enough for helping us finally scratch our camping itch. We’ll definitely be back, provided they’ll have us. We also have our sights set on a few new campgrounds for 2014, including Twelvemile Beach along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Bay View near Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay.

Do you have any other must-see Michigan campground recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

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Absolute Autumn: Orchard Day in Pictures

After a week’s worth of Indian Summer, seventy degree days, yesterday’s temps hovered in the fifties, ushering in what finally felt like Fall. That Autumn weather was all the motivation we needed to decide the day was ripe for some apple picking and pumpkin selecting, so we teamed up with the Highams and headed to Rennie Orchards.

We didn’t get the bright and sunny day we had when last we made the venture, but the overcast skies still made for a seasonally appropriate backdrop. After our apple, pumpkin and cider selections were made, the kid’s hay maze defeated, teepee explored, and coffee consumed along the way home, we ventured back to our place for a hike through Hickory Meadows.

The still-cloudy skies mixed with peeking sun, lending a luminescance to the fall color currently blossoming in Traverse City. As our friends headed out post-hike, I got a text from Heather hinting at some anticipated sunset action (thanks to those cracks in the clouds) that she would unfortunately miss due to a dinner date they had to keep. With the guys settled in comfortably after dinner and more cider, I made the quick walk down to West Bay alone, and wasn’t disappointed with what I found. Quintessential Fall day contentment: check!

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