Cold Water

If more people spent a quiet hour along a river, listening to the currents run and break and bubble over rocks and washed-down tree limbs and branches, and reaching in, feeling the cold streams icy on fingers and toes, I believe we, collectively, would treat our water, trees, land, and selves, better. There are few places where our connectedness is more apparent, where our system of give and take, the cycles and rhythms of nature and seasons and ecology–ours, our earth’s–is present, perfect, but now, unfortunately, fragile.

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetWhen we convene with cold water, we remember. If we are lucky enough to inconvenience a few trout, gently, for a minute, we remember why cold waters are important. These fish are trophies, not for size, or for keeping, but for giving back and remembering that the smallest ones can have the biggest heart, the most spirited fight.

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We can fight like them, for them, and for us. For if the trout leave us, if we destroy their cold waters and rich streams, we have nothing left. Or, as angler and author Thomas McGuane wrote,

“If the trout are lost, smash the state.” 

A warning, not for political rebellion, but for us to remember our responsibility to keeping our waters healthy, clear, and cold.

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If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend watching Cold Waters, a Conservation Hawks short film, as a starting place. And let us continue to do what we can, when we can, to limit our impact, to keep our streams clean, to pick up after ourselves and others, to let the little ones go, to take a quiet moment stream side, to feel the cold waters and hear the life in their steady stream, and to remember that we are all connected.

“Eventually, all things merge into one,
and a river runs through it.”
– Norman Maclean

Woodland Wandering

Last weekend’s adventures found us making our way toward Munising, Michigan.

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Miner’s Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The weather was perfectly moody, cloudy, foggy, and, perhaps inevitably, rainy. Precipitation suits me well, it is my preferable order for the day–and the weekend rain did not disappoint. Watching the fog and clouds and rain roll across the Lake Superior coastline, particularly in early summer when the waters are calmer and the storms gentler, is especially soothing. Plus, it electrifies the forest and makes the greenery glow.

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The trilliums carpeted the forest floor,

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and all the paths rewarded meandering steps.

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After a long yet relatively mild winter, full of grey and white and quiet, the endless green and sound of rain was a welcome celebration of the “Official Start of Summer” (or in our case up here, Spring).

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Wander on, friends!

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“Wander” print available here

 

This Art Helps Protect U.P. Land

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This is my first art endeavor for the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy (UPLC), and I’m excited to share this piece with you! 10% of each online sale of my “Superiorland” art print and greeting card is donated to the UPLC, and I’m working on a few new watercolor paintings to add to the UPLC collection as well.

UPLC_ad2The Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy (UPLC) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to permanently protect the conservation values of natural areas, working farms and forests, and recreational lands in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. UPLC performs this work for the benefit of the public by holding conservation
easements on private lands, establishing
conservation preserves on UPLC-owned lands, and by conducting educational programs.

Click HERE to view upcoming UPLC events, and learn how you can get involved today!

Click HERE to order the “Superiorland” art print, shown above, or get the greeting card HERE.

For more information or to make a direct donation to the UPLC please visit www.uplandconservancy.org

Thank you for helping us to protect Land Today for Life Tomorrow!

Duluth in Black & White

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Last week, John & I took an early weekend off to head North (our favorite direction). Admittedly, we live pretty far “up north,” near the Marquette shore of Lake Superior (and yes, there’s still some snow on the ground), so going north always involves going West first–otherwise we’d be in the lake. When we’re able to put a couple days together to get away, we usually stay in Michigan and head to the Keweenaw Peninsula: Houghton/Hancock, Eagle Harbor, Copper Harbor. We’re homebodies at heart, and love Michigan, but it was time to venture out. Duluth was calling.

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Marquette feels like the perfect home for us–it’s like a mountain town without high mountains but lots of lakes and rivers–so while we figured we’d like Duluth, another Lake Superior city, we weren’t quite expecting to like-like Duluth, love-like-we-could-move-there-tomorrow Duluth. But we could move there tomorrow, Duluth.

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We’re not “city people,” but…
We only had a couple days to explore this part of Minnesota, and with the North Coast beckoning, we didn’t actually spend much time in Duluth proper. We wandered the streets a little bit, walked the waterway and visited the parks (I bet they’re even more beautiful in the summer when everything’s bright & blooming!), found a few places we definitely have to come back for–Fitgers, The Snooty Fox, Blacklist Artisan Ales, to name a few, but we wanted to spend most of our time outside the city and in the woods.

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Not to keep comparing Duluth to Marquette, but…
Both cities are industrial, hilly, Great Lakes shipping towns, and the wild nearby means you’re able to get out of the city and into the middle of nowhere fast (this is a compliment). Our destination for the day: Split Rock Lighthouse. On Instagram, I follow lots of folks from Minnesota, and over the past couple of years, I’ve “loved” more photos of this light than I could count. Visiting Split Rock likely wasn’t my idea–I’ve been “inceptioned” by all the MN IGer’s!

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We took a leisurely drive, and spent a couple hours hiking around Gooseberry Falls State Park–definitely a must see if you’re visiting the Duluth area, from my limited experience. I’ve got a separate post in the hopper for Gooseberry Falls (in color!), so check back later this week for more waterfall photos. Most of our morning was spent here, wandering the trails, watching the waterfalls, and wishing we’d brought our fly rods. The State Park itself was incredible, with well maintained trails, signs, and a beautiful visitor’s center. It’s such a wonderful resource, protecting nature and making it accessible for everyone to learn more, bathe in beauty, and get wild.

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From the falls, we journeyed farther north, and arrived at Split Rock on a bright, breezy, and a bit chilly afternoon. What a sight! Lake Superior was pretty calm, yet seeing the light atop a rocky cliff brought to mind windswept shores and wavy, riotous waters. Or misty, foggy, rainy days. Or! I wonder what’s it like in the winter, with ice and snow and the vast expanse of Superior. Obviously a return trip(s) is in the works.

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After a full day of hiking and exploring waterfalls, woodland trails, and a new swath of Lake Superior’s coast, we ventured back to Duluth, seeking a sit-down and brews. After circling the block a few times, we managed to find Bent Paddle Brewery (it was surprisingly difficult to find despite knowing exactly where it was), and sampled a flight while scrolling through photos of the falls and making plans for a return weekend. I’m not one for IPAs or light-colored beers of any kind (too “piney” for my unrefined palette), so John enjoyed the pale ales and bright, bitey brews while I savored the chocolatey and coffee-y? stouts. Clearly I’m not the one to tell you about the beers themselves (the stout was great! yum! and other non-conissuer words), but it was the perfect post-adventure place to hang out.

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Another micro-adventure in the books! I highly recommend a visit to Duluth if you’re nearby or planning a trip to the Great Lakes region (and I hope you are). For us, the trip to Duluth is only about a five hour drive, and we were able to find two consecutive days off to make it happen. John’s blog post on micro-adventures (ala Alastair Humphreys)  talks more about how to squeeze more adventure into everyday life, how to get out, get wild, and get a break, without taking a week off from work or having to spend a lot of money. We splurged a bit on this trip, staying in a hotel rather than camping, but found a decent deal online and spent most of our time outside enjoying nature. It was a welcome respite and reset, and now we’re geared up for a busy week and inspired to take on our new projects + goals (stay tuned!).

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In short, Duluth is rad. Lake Superior’s coast is beautiful. Make some time to get outside. Got some Duluth recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

 

Our Peninsulas Have Peninsulas

Hey Michigan, I see what you did there.

On a trip to Mackinac Island during the shoulder season, before all the tourists and peak summer season craziness, John and I were on the slow ferry, the horse shuttle, over to the Island, with a small group of locals who camouflaged our non-islander status. If you’ve ever caught that particular boat, the really slow one, the non-tourist-season one, without the speed or high-tail spray, you’ll know you’ve got a long, leisurely ride watching small crafts lap you to and from the mainland and island. John and I were planning our adventures–empty, quiet, late night hikes around the market streets and closed up fort, pedaling around the island without fear of horses (there are no cars on the island–save for the few maintenance ones kept secret during this time, but shh! don’t tell!)–when we got to thinking about just how awesome Michigan is. There’s so much to do, and see, and though we’ve lived here our lives, there’s always something more to see, and do, and explore. Secluded on an island between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, we got to thinking–not only does Michigan have peninsulas (upper + lower), but its peninsulas have peninsulas: the Keweenaw and Leelanau among our favorites.

Hey! Our peninsulas have peninsulas!”

An idea was born, and from it, one of my favorite sweatshirts. I’ve added a sweatshirt and a few tees with this design to my Etsy shop, and I’ve got new items with this phrase on the way for the new season! Where’s your favorite Michigan peninsula?

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Protect Our Best-Kept Secret

When I lived “downstate” in SE Michigan, I met several people who, as native & non-native Michiganders, had never been north of Ann Arbor, and didn’t know about Michigan’s gorgeous, breathtaking, beautiful, capable-of-rivaling tropical beaches along Lake Michigan. Having never really thought about them, or their potential existence, I can only assume they thought even less about Lake Superior’s shores. I’m unapologetically biased, of course, about the beauty of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, and Lake Huron too (though I spent less time on the East Coast), but it got me thinking, as much as I want to protect this surprisingly best-kept secret, I also and always want to protect the lakes. And in order to get people to care about them–the lakes–they need to know them, see them, think about them, love them. So I’m making it part of my artistic mission to celebrate and share them whenever possible.

It’s a small step, I think, sharing a love of the Great Lakes through photos and art, but it is a step, and it’s something I can do. Whenever we (@the_michigander and I) go to the lake (or the woods or the park or the trails) we try to leave them better than we found them in some way (John’s a pop-can-collecting fiend), and we try to share these places with others through our mini-adventures in hopes of contributing to, and possibly inspiring, a passion for the stewardship of the wild nearby.

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Where are your favorite places along the Great Lakes?

 

The Great Life

If you’re anything like me, the Great Lakes hold a special place in your heart. I grew up in a (very) small town along Lake Michigan, and from our school (our one-building school that housed K-12), we could see our inland lake that led to Lake Michigan. Spring, Summer, Winter, or Fall, the view of the big lake was always impressive–smooth, expansive, cold, and clear, or tumultuous, roaring, wavy, and wild–it always had, and always has, a personality of its own. When I moved away from the lake for college, I made an effort to return, even for a moment, to the shores to reconnect and recharge. My family would laugh and ask if “the lake was still there,” and thankfully, fortunately, and blissfully, yes, it was. After college, and after grad school, an opportunity came to move to the U.P., or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to Marquette, Lake Superior’s Queen City. The really big lake. And here I am today.

 

There’s something special, powerful, wonderful, about the lakes, this region, this third coast. Connecting to them, connecting with others who love them, celebrating them, protecting them, taking care of them, that’s all part of living “the Great life” for me.

Do you love the Great Lakes? What do they mean to you? I’d love to hear! Comment below or reach out on Instagram @thebiglakemi 🙂