|We met in Traverse City, rented a car, and headed north.....over the Mackinac Bridge....|
|....to the UP, where people there refer to themselves as Yoopers. :) Heavily featured were shops selling|
smoked fish, pasties, and fudge. Oh, and firewood, lots and lots of firewood. But no farm stands.
We stayed at a place that was entirely new to Marc (the whole thing being entirely new to me), because the other place he has stayed before was fully booked. I was glad, for a lot of reasons, and we were both just so happy with the place. We had a huge cabin, with two bedrooms and a large living room, a small kitchen and a place to eat. A large deck (which honestly we didn't use -- but we could've! -- because it took the late afternoon sun directly). It was comfortable and we would both be so happy to stay there again. There was a large satellite TV that we didn't figure out how to use until the end of our stay, and one night we listened to 70s music all evening which was more fun than I can possibly say.
|our sweet little cabin, #9|
|the view to the right|
|the view straight ahead -- that little stand of young birches was sweet|
|And our pier -- that's our boat on the right, in the middle with the motor.|
Marc said that walking through the airport holding fishing rods was an invitation to male bonding, which totally cracked me up. He carefully packed rods and reels, assembled a little box of tackle and brought his net. I was looking forward to seeing him fish; this idea has tickled me from the first time I learned that he likes to fish, because he never seemed to me like a guy who would like to fish. (And he's not that guy. The other men in neighboring cabins were very much that guy, though they were all nice enough to us and always asked if we caught anything. Which frankly started to feel like too much pressure to me. :) ) We got to the cabin late afternoon, unloaded the car quickly, and went to town for bait, a fishing license, and a bit of new tackle. Then we headed out into the lake for some fishing:
|Marc selecting new tackle and getting a fishing license from a VERY cranky clerk....they all were, wherever|
we tried to buy something. Very bizarre for a place that relies on tourism!
|The bait options -- we bought minnows and night crawlers, and a super cheap minnow bucket|
(but no leeches, gumbo or otherwise).
|A bit of prep to the rods and reels and then....|
|....out on the lake! It was thrilling to me, watching Marc drive the boat and fish. It's always great to see|
your loved one be very good at something, especially when it's unexpected.
|There's Burnt Island, a landmark on our side of the lake. His family had a cottage for generations within|
sight of Burnt Island. We drove to see the new place that has replaced the old cottage, which has
been torn down since he was here 18 years ago.
|This is mostly what fishing looked like to me --- I didn't fish, but was always happily responsible|
for dropping and raising the anchor.
Unfortunately, our week at Manistique coincided with the mayfly release (so said another guy staying at the resort) and for some reason that meant the fish weren't biting. And boy, they really, really weren't. Marc caught three perch that were barely big enough to keep, several that were not big enough to keep, and this baby Northern Pike that was also not big enough to keep:
On the second day, before fishing we headed to a little creek that connects to the lake and when we got to the edge of it, Marc cut the engine and rowed us in. It was an extraordinary experience: the sky was so blue, the clouds so puffy, the water so still, the bullfrog song and birdsong so sweet, the temperature just right.
|Marc-power instead of horsepower|
For me, the fun of the fishing excursions was riding around the lake, watching Marc do something he enjoys doing (including how much I loved watching him cast -- he did it so beautifully), and just being outside doing that together.
|I loved watching him cast -- he was so graceful|
|and the sky was almost always beautiful to look at|
|though fishing, for me, often looked like this|
|I was just so happy to be there|
|I just happened to glance up and see Marc silhouetted against the setting sun and caught this beautiful shot.|
|And this one too -- the setting sun is on his face (accidentally caught him with his eyes closed).|
|One morning it was SO FOGGY and Marc went out fishing very early. I took this picture about an hour after he left,|
so it was much foggier when he was first out on the lake. He said (rightly) that I'd have been scared out there.
Because he had planned to be cooking fish for us every day, Marc came prepared with his own skillets and knives, and with two homemade sauces. The kitchen was fully stocked, we'd been told, but he wanted to be sure he had his pans and knives.
|Thai garlic sauce (L) and homemade curry paste (R)|
|Just as I do in NYC, I enjoyed watching him cook for us...and of course I enjoyed the meals. :)|
Well. It was a scene. There was a disco-type light situation, a DJ who seemed to play YouTube videos, as best we could tell, a long table shuffleboard, a pool table, and all the locals getting their drinking on. The DJ also queued up karaoke songs, and our waitress took her turn. There was something a little bit sad to me about the place, with probably the same set of people going there regularly hoping to find someone. I don't know, I could be wrong of course, it just felt that way to me. But the burgers were good enough, and as I always do when we travel, I tried the local beer.
Marc took me to some familiar-to-him places each day to give us an adventure during the time of day when we wouldn't be out on the boat. We went to Lake Superior, to Tahquamenon Falls, to the Seney National Wildlife Reserve, and to the city of Manistique. We also took a little hike in a floodplain across the highway from the resort, and I ended up with a tick, so now I call that spot "tick farm."
Lake Superior -- We went to a couple of spots along Lake Superior. One was called the Log Slide, and it's a place loggers used to slide logs down into the lake for transport. Some people (not me) walk/run/slide down it and then walk back up, but there was no way I could go over the edge. No. Way. For a variety of reasons I tried hard to force myself to do it but I was paralyzed with fear and if I'd done it, it would've been idiotic of me. So here's a picture or two from the top:
|This is the edge over which the logs would be slid....|
|There's Marc on the left -- doesn't look like it could be so bad, right? Well...|
|This is a side view so you can see how high and steep the slide is. I'll just enjoy the picture.|
|The beach was mostly empty.|
|And gosh, it was a beautiful day.|
|Even the rocks out in the water were gorgeously colored -- look at that red one!|
|This river ran into the lake, wish we'd been wearing our swimsuits so we could've sat there.|
|Even though you're not allowed to do this, I filled both my pockets and one of Marc's with rocks to bring home.|
|And the cool thing to me was that right under the skim coat of sand on the beach were millions of rocks,|
mostly small ones like this but also big ones, so large I couldn't find their edges.
Tahquamenon Falls -- Another day we went to Tahquamenon Falls, which is brown because of the local minerals and vegetation. It was really beautiful, and the water is naturally foamy at the bottom because of the vegetation and minerals, too.
Seney National Wildlife Reserve -- While we were standing in the visitor's center, we looked through the big binocular thing they had trained on a bald eagle's nest (the slightly taller tree in the middle of the picture below, just kind of lacy-looking to the right of the middle) and sure enough, saw a bald eagle sitting on its nest. That was pretty cool. We hopped into the car and drove through the reserve on yet another spectacularly beautiful day. I'd brought my nice binoculars from Austin, and saw loons swimming around, the very first time I've ever seen them.
|We had such a good vacation.|
|Lake Michigan sure looks different here than it does around Chicago. More marshy grasses.|
|There's the lighthouse....|
|And there it is, too.|
|It was a windy day, but still beautiful.|
Our last day in Curtis, it mostly rained all day—thunder, lightning, the whole thing—and there wasn't a beautiful sunset as there had been the other days. Still, even that was beautiful. Here's that last day, but first many of the sunsets that came before it.
It was hard to leave because we really loved our little cabin and enjoyed the stay so much (even though the fishing was so poor). But we had to get to Traverse City, where we'd spend the last night of the trip. Here is my quick summary of Traverse City, a place I never need to visit again:
- Everything is crazy expensive, and the hotel room we had -- which cost more than our whole cabin -- was super crappy with a terrible, terrible bed, way too much stinky air freshener, and very thin walls. Oh, and "log" furniture.
- The cherry festival? Entirely over-rated. $5 for a cup of bad cherries. Nothing special, just your standard "unpack the box" festival.
- The food was unremarkable. We ate at the highest-rated pizza place (meh, but with a bad crust), and we had breakfast at the highest-rated diner (meh again).
|SUPER high-looking dune! I kept humming the theme song to "Lawrence of|
Arabia," and imagining I heard a boy cry, 'awrence! It wasn't nearly as
hot as this picture makes it seem. I wasn't sure I'd make it to the top but....
|...we did! That's Glen Lake in the distance, and the parking lot below.|
|We don't look any worse for the wear, do we?|
|Then we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Loop, which let us pause at various overlooks including this one,|
which shows the dune landscape as a whole.
|An accidentally great shot! We were overlooking yet another dune, here.|
|Ready to say goodbye to the dunes and the lakes and head back to our dreary little motel room.|
|The scenic loop took us through very magical forests with beautiful light.|
It was a beautiful trip. I read The Small Backs of Children and Half of a Yellow Sun, and started The Crime and the Silence but couldn't finish it. I saw such beautiful sights I'll never forget them, I got to hear more about Marc's life and watch him in a context that means so much to him, and I got to share it with him so now I'm part of it too. We rarely vacation in the US (exceptions are Maine and New Mexico), so it was among our least exotic vacations, but it was peaceful and quiet and beautiful and I will always remember it with a deep, happy smile.