Life’s Little (and big) Ups and Downs

Here it is the middle of September and my summer is now at an end. It is back to school/work and being a productive member of society once again.

It has been a bit difficult because everyone wants to know if I “had a good summer” and the truth is, our summer was very stressful and filled with health difficulties for both my husband and myself. I took a bit of a break from blogging – both writing and following – because my head was not in a good place.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I have lymphocytic colitis and severe IBS. Sometimes these conditions don’t bother me too much and sometimes they make my life miserable. I have been very sick most of the summer, suffering since May with constant bouts of colitis. I went to see our new family physician who prescribed a new medication, then I proceeded to go back to the colon surgeon who was treating me last year, who then referred me to a new gastroenterologist. I am now on a very restricted diet – no wheat, dairy, or high fiber fruits or vegetables -and also a new regimen of OTC meds. Hopefully I am on the way to regaining my life.

My husband has also been dealing with his own issues. For the past few years he has been experiencing episodes of memory loss, difficulty concentrating, struggling at work, trouble driving, etc. Our new doctor ordered an MRI and the results showed something called Global Volume Loss and Atrophy. This was a very frightening diagnosis for both of us, as it can sometimes be a precursor to early dementia. It took months to get an appointment with a neurologist who specializes in memory loss and dementia. In the mean time he was evaluated by a psychologist who determined he has all the symptoms of mildly-severe ADHD without it actually being ADHD. While we waited to see the neurologist, we began to get our house in order, having our wills drawn up, getting durable powers of attorney, etc. and discussing options should he become unable to work. Suddenly our future looked very different than it had a short time before.

Finally in late August we saw the neurologist who looked at his MRI, did some in-office tests and asked a lot of questions. She declared she didn’t see anything concerning on the MRI and basically said she didn’t know what is wrong with him and sent us on our way, referring him to other specialists for more evaluation. Even though this was “good” news, we left that office in a state of shock and frustration and anger. Instead of celebrating we left there with more questions than answers. One specialist she referred him to is a neuropsychologist and the earliest he can be seen is January! In the meantime, he is still experiencing the same symptoms he’s had all this time. We both feel frustrated and a bit bewildered.

In between all our appointments we have managed to go up north a few times.  The work on our place up there continues at a positively glacial pace. The new septic tank and leach field is in and operational. The new well has been dug but has not been hooked up yet. Not one other thing on our long list has been accomplished. Instead, we have mountains of dirt in our back yard, a bulldozer in our front yard, and mess everywhere. (I know, I know, it WILL all be worth it in the end!!)

Here is a gallery of photos of some of the work.

The weekend of August 20th when we were up there we actually had some very good birding opportunities and I added several species to my list including grasshopper sparrows, clay-colored sparrows, and I finally got to see and photograph a brown thrasher! I was so thrilled!

The birds were active in our yard, too.  We have had many northern flickers and I got some really good shots of an ovenbird.

Over Labor Day weekend we didn’t do too much because of the high heat and humidity.  A couple of days it was all we could do to function!  We did go to a lot of garage sales and one night we drove out to Sportsmen Dam Lake in the dark and watched the northern lights.  On Labor Day the temperatures fell enough that we could take a nice hike on the High Country Pathway. We drove up to Tomahawk Lake and did a four mile trek.  We didn’t see anything of interest, but it was a very pleasant hike and it sure wore the dogs out!

This past weekend we went on a little local adventure, driving up to Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan for the broad-winged hawk migration.  It was a really awesome experience!  I didn’t get any photos of the hawks as the “kettles” they fly in were way too high up, riding the thermals.  They were very hard to see with the naked eye.  There was a very nice group of hawk counters there, from Hawk Watch, they were very helpful and encouraging.

The hawk counters and watchers.

The hawk counters and watchers.

 

We also walked two different trails while we were there and saw plenty of birds.  Along with adding the broad-winged hawk to my list, I was also able to add black and white warblers, pie-billed grebes, Philadelphia vireo, and black polled warbler.  As many of you know, I’m Miss Perfectionist about my photos, so I was intensely disappointed by all my shots from the day.  Here are two of the best and they are not very good.

I posted a few others on my Facebook page, so you can check them out there if you wish.  Despite my frustration, it was a lovely day and we had a great time.  We may go back this weekend.  Watching the hawks was certainly a thrill!

Now that I am back to work, we won’t be free to go up north as often.  We hope to go up for Elk Fest the last weekend of this month, but it will be a very quick trip.  Then I will be off to Tennessee with my six sisters for our annual Sisters’ Retreat the first weekend of October.  I hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis and want to catch up with all my blogging friends.  I really have missed you!

I send my best to all of you and hope your summer was better than ours! 🙂  God bless and thanks for reading! ❤

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20-Day Photo Challenge – Day 4 – Capture Reflections

We spent the past five days at our northwoods hideaway. I didn’t do journal entries because we weren’t doing much that was worth writing about. I plan to do a summation of our stay in the next couple of days.

Even though we didn’t have much in the way of exciting adventures, I was able to complete the fourth photo challenge from the book Better Photo Basics by Jim Miotke. The fourth challenge is to Capture Reflections.

Last evening after dinner, Mark suggested we drive back to Sportsmen Dam Lake which is back behind our place, and tramp around for awhile. I was able to capture several reflection shots that I have to say I am really pleased with.  These are all pretty much the way they came out of the camera, I didn’t mess with them at all. (Click on any photo in the gallery to see a larger view.)

As a bonus, we were also able to enjoy a lovely sunset.

If you have any tips to share on capturing reflections, or you just want to give me your two-cents worth on my photos, please leave a comment in the section below.

If you would like to see the previous challenges – Flower Macro, Scenic Landscape, and Inspired by Nature – check my archives to the right of the screen.

You can also join the challenge on Facebook by clicking the link at the bottom of the page. I love seeing and sharing photos by my friends!

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A Walk On the (Kinda) Wild Side – Part II

This is the second installment in my series on a trip my friend Juli and I recently took to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. You can read Part I here.

After spending a good amount of time in Africa! Juli and I took the bridge from the north side of the zoo across the Anthony Wayne Trail to the south side. Just a short sidebar here, in the “olden days” the zoo had a tunnel that went beneath the Anthony Wayne Trail from the parking lot to the main entrance to the zoo. But this was deemed impractical due to all the people taking strollers that had to be lugged up and down the steps, plus it was wet and crumbling, so a new bridge was built across the road. I guess I should have taken a photo to give you a better idea of what it’s like now. I have to say, although the bridge is convenient (especially if you are pushing a stroller or pulling a wagon) I do miss that old tunnel. It had a unique atmosphere and mystery about it.

Across the bridge, you can choose to go down the steps or taking the spiral ramp. There is an enclosure with two bald eagles that were injured, have been rehabilitated at the zoo, and are unable to be released into the wild. The two are there to welcome visitors to the main part of the zoo.

A pair of bald eagles greet visitors.
A pair of bald eagles greet visitors.

After stopping to admire the flamingos and various ducks near the entrance, Juli and I made our way to Tembo Trail, taking a moment along the way to take a few photos of these lovely lilies.

Lovely daylily.
Lovely daylily.

I have been experimenting with my Digital Photo Professional editing software, but that photo was not edited at all!

Tembo Trail is really an extension of Africa! because this is where you will find hippos, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, etc. This iron sculpture greets you at the entrance to Tembo Trail.

Iron elephant at the entrance to Tembo Trail.
Iron elephant at the entrance to Tembo Trail.

My favorite part of this area, hands down, is the Hippoquarium where you can observe the hippos close up from the underwater viewing platform. Several years ago visitors were even able to witness a live birth of a baby hippopotamus at this site. Sadly, no baby hippos were being born today. LOL (Click on any photo in the galleries to see a larger view.)

I wish I would have been able to get better photos of the elephants, but unfortunately there are these thick cables forcing visitors to stay back! What is up with that? LOL There was not a viewing area with a clear view.

There was one REALLY wild animal on Tembo Trail — this eastern fox snake basking in the sun. There were two zoo employees standing by to tell visitors about the fox snake – and also to protect it, I’m sure. (Eastern fox snakes are often mistaken for poisonous snakes and killed. They are a threatened species in this area.)

A REALLY wild animal at the zoo!
A REALLY wild animal at the zoo!

Even though I was unable to get clear photos of the elephants, I was able to get decent shots of the rhinoceros (rhinoceroses?). I got a close-up of the one’s horn. Check out how thick that thing is!!

Probably the most fun Juli and I had on Tembo Trail was watching the meerkats. They were so funny. There were several look-outs and you could tell they take their jobs very seriously! They would look one way, then look the other direction, always on the alert for trouble. I mentioned in Part I that I took way too many pictures of them! I pared my photos down considerably for this gallery. 🙂

Perhaps this is what the meerkats were on the lookout for. Although this lioness doesn’t seem to be on the hunt.

Sleepy lioness.
Sleepy lioness.

I love how the orange of the building looks almost like a sunset.

After our adventures on Tembo Trail, there was still plenty of the zoo to be enjoyed. My next and final installment will give you a glimpse of some of the groovy reptiles and colorful birds housed at the zoo and I will also share with you our close encounter with the polar bears.

I hope you will join me again next time as we finish our walk on the (kinda) wild side at the Toledo Zoo!

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20-Day Photo Challenge – Day 3 – Inspired by Nature

Once again I let more days pass between photo challenges than I had originally intended. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the weather changed from cool and rainy to hot and humid, meaning it was hard to be inspired to do anything more than veg in the air conditioning. Second, I felt the premise of this challenge – to be inspired by nature – was a bit vague.

The instructions for this challenge merely said to take a nature walk and be aware of the things around you such as flowers, birds, animals, etc. There are two sample photos with this chapter, one was more “artsy” and the other was a landscape. So, I let a few days pass trying to discern what it meant to be “inspired by nature”.

Even though it is still very warm today, I finally decided I should just take a walk with my camera and see what jumped out at me. I just went out back, down the path I normally walk the dogs. Due to all our rain, large sections of the trail are still under water. We haven’t been able to walk the dogs back there for the past few months.  I was smart and wore my knee-high rain boots!

I’m not sure how many of you will appreciate just how hard it is to be inspired by nature while simultaneously being devoured -bite by bite – by clouds of swarming mosquitoes but I did my best. I also came home with plenty of new bites, especially on my hands. I think the shutter finger on my right hand got multiple bites in the same spot! In the gallery below are my six favorites from my outing. (Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Please be sure to give me your opinions, tips, or tricks in the comment section below. If you would like to join me on the 20-Day Photo Challenge, click the Facebook tab at the bottom of the page and join me on this photographic adventure!

For more on Day 1 – Flower Macro – Click here.
For more on Day 2 – Scenic Landscape – Click here.

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A Walk On the (Kinda) Wild Side – Part I

Wednesday, July 1, my friend Juli and I went on an excursion to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. I came home with 200 photos, many of them pretty good in my estimation, so I have decided to post them in increments so as not to be too overwhelming!

Last year I did a short post on the zoo (you can see it here) and in it I mentioned the aquarium that was undergoing renovation. The aquarium had its Grand Opening earlier this year and I have heard wonderful things about it. Even Mark was very interested in the new aquarium, so I decided to purchase a zoo membership so we can go whenever we want to. Unfortunately, on this day, the line to get in to the aquarium was too long, so Juli and I did not get to check it out.

We had a “picture perfect” day for our visit. Since we have had so much rain this year and this was the first rain-free day in weeks, the zoo was packed. But we still had a wonderful time. We began on the north size of the zoo, which is much newer, and includes the Arctic Encounter (polar bears), wolves, and Africa! The photos for this post are from the time we spent in Africa!

I begin with the African crowned cranes.

East African crowned cranes
East African crowned cranes

 

The Masai giraffes were being particularly cooperative and photogenic. (Click on any photo in the galleries to see a larger view.)

I had fun watching these African white-backed vultures. The one went over and got some hay from the ground and took it back to their log. I don’t know if they were considering making a nest or just what. It was all very interesting to watch!

The kudus and the white-bearded wildebeests decided to put on a sparring exhibition for all the on-lookers. When we went back later in the day, the kudus were playing “king of the mountain” – or king of the cliff, I’m not really sure what you would call it.

My perpetual favorites are the zebras. For a long time, the zoo did not have any, and then it seemed like whenever I went, they were indoors, so I was very happy that they were out in plain view this time. I got plenty of photos!

Juli and I spent a long time in Africa! We went back again later in the day, before we left. I’ve included two photos in the galleries above from later in the day (one of a giraffe and one of the kudus). Before we left, Juli and I posed with the bronze lions. I’m not sure why these sculptures are in this part of the zoo because the lion exhibit is in the historic south-side part of the zoo.

I hope you enjoyed this little visit to the world-class Toledo Zoo.  Join me next time when I will give you a glimpse of the animals seen along Tembo Trail. Just to forewarn you, I took way too many photos of meerkats! LOL

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20-Day Photo Challenge – Day 2 – Scenic Landscape

I knew I wouldn’t be able to accomplish 20 challenges in 20 days, but I hadn’t meant to have so many days in between. Several things got in the way of being able to shoot a scenic landscape; I haven’t been feeling well, there were several appointments and obligations on my calendar, the weather has continued to be uncooperative, and most of all I was having a hard time coming up with a scenic landscape to photograph.

Today we were finally blessed with a lovely day, I only had one appointment early on in the morning, and I was feeling well enough to take a short excursion for a photo shoot. I finally came up with the “brilliant” idea of driving to nearby Dundee, Michigan to attempt photos of the Raisin River, the dam and the historic mill.

Dundee is a wonderful little historic town. It is picturesque and peaceful with great walkability. It boasts some really great restaurants, cute shops, lovely old homes, and to top it off Cabela’s – the outdoor superstore – is just outside of town.

Since my camera does not have a landscape mode as suggested in the book (Better Photo Basics by Jim Miotke, for those new to my blog) for this assignment, I decided to use the DSLR recommended settings. I put my camera on Aperture Priority mode, used a small aperture (f-8) and a low ISO of 100. I have included a gallery of four of the best photos from this outing. (Click on any photo to see a larger view.)

I am not sure I’m completely satisfied with the results, I think I have a little ways to go in truly understanding landscape photography and developing an artistic eye. But these aren’t horrible considering I don’t live in an area rife with scenic landscapes to shoot.  I think my favorite is the last shot, although I might have gotten too much of the tree in the foreground, I like the effect of the railing.

After I left Dundee, I attempted to drive the back roads coming home, hoping to spot a scenic barn or silo, but unfortunately it seems in this day-and-age you can no longer meander along country roads at a slow pace. It seemed like every road I chose to travel I ended up with someone on my bumper, even when I was doing well over the posted speed limit.

Please share your comments and tips for getting good landscape shots in the comment section below. And if you would like to participate in the 20-Day Photo Challenge, please join me on Facebook via the link at the bottom of the page. Come along and join the fun!!

If you are new to my blog, you can see the results of the first photo challenge – Flower Macro – here. Happy Shooting!

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20-Day Photo Challenge – Day 1 – Flower Macro

I mentioned in a couple of my Northwoods Journal entries that I have been reading a helpful book titled “Better Photo Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like the Pros” by Jim Miotke. I have really been enjoying this book and will write a full review of it soon. Whether or not I will be able to “take photos like the pros” when I am done is anyone’s guess, although I am guessing no at this point.

Anyway, Step 3 in the book is a chapter with 20 Popular Photo Assignments. One thing I like about this book is that it is for both point-and-shoot cameras – like mine – and DSLR cameras. (Well, my camera is a point-and-shoot with DSLR-type options, so I could actually use some of the DSLR settings.)  For each photo assignment, he tells the preferable settings, which is really what I need. Someone to take me by the hand and say, “this is how it’s done.”

It is my hope to complete each photo assignment. I doubt I will be able to do 20 assignments in 20 days, but I hope to post each time I have done one of the challenges and show my results. The first assignment is to photograph a flower close-up. I went out this evening at the “golden hour” hoping for good light, but most of our new landscaping/bird sanctuary is in the front (east side) of the house and therefore shaded in the evenings. But still, I came away with six acceptable images. Even though the instructions said to turn the flash off, I experimented using the flash a few times, just for kicks, and one of those images is included in the gallery because I rather liked that way it turned out.

Click on any photo in the gallery to see a larger version.

Please leave me your critique in the comment section below and include any advice you might have to help me improve my photography. Also, if you would like to “play along” doing the challenge, please join me on Facebook by liking 45 Degrees North via the link below and post your photo challenge photo on my page. The more the merrier!  Let’s all have fun making photos together! 🙂  (Jim Miotke says we don’t “take” pictures, we “make” them.)

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Sunrise Side Surprise

Northwoods Journal
Monday, July 6, 2015

It was already warm and humid when we got up in the morning. The forecast was calling for a hot day and they would be right. We ate a simple breakfast out on the porch and watched the birds.  There was a female and male rose-breasted grosbeak this morning.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.
Female rose-breasted grosbeak.
Male rose-breasted grosbeak.
Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

I didn’t dawdle watching the birds too long because I had to wash up and dress so we could take the dogs for a short hike. We went out through our woods to the clear-cut area then up Stevens Spring to the ATV trail and followed it back to the marshy end of Sportsmen Dam Lake. Even mid-morning it was already too hot to go very far. We saw an indigo bunting and a great crested flycatcher but I didn’t attempt to get any photos.

We had agreed to do something “touristy” today but couldn’t seem to agree on just what that should be. Since it was going to be a hot day, a drive sounded like a nice idea so we settled on taking a tour up the Sunrise Coast of the state, north of Alpena and hoping to get to Mackinaw City. I packed us a nice picnic lunch and we set off.

Mark took the “back way” to Alpena down Long Rapids Road and it was a really nice drive with plenty to see along the way. Much prettier than taking M32 across. Our plan was to stop first at the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and this time we DID find the entrance, only to find that the park is under construction and there was no access to the Island Park. This was disappointing, but now that we know how to get in, we will make a visit another time.

We continued north on US23, stopping at a roadside park next to Grand Lake for our picnic lunch. Unfortunately there were no picnic tables in the shade and the sky was still hazy with a very harsh light. It wasn’t soft light like on a cloudy day, but a hard light that hurt the eyes. I decided to try the polarizing filter on my camera to see if that would help defuse the light, but I’m not at all sure I liked the results. Here is the view from our picnic spot.

On the shore of Grand Lake north of Alpena.
On the shore of Grand Lake north of Alpena.

I thought this sailboat looked inviting, but it really was out of range of my camera and the bright light didn’t help matters.

Sailboat on Grand Lake.
Sailboat on Grand Lake.

After our lunch, we continued up the coast and wouldn’t you know, not too much farther north we found a nicer picnic area right on the shore of Lake Huron! We got out and walked down to the beach to take in the view. I was wishing I had brought my flip-flops so I could stick my toes in the water. You can see from this photo that the hazy sky just about blends in with the surface of the lake!

A hazy view of Lake Huron.
A hazy view of Lake Huron.

There were two birds in the pine trees next to the parking lot and for a few minutes we thought they might be Kirtland’s warblers, which caused us some momentary excitement. I tried to get a couple of photos shooting from underneath, but none of the shots turned out and after consulting the field guides, Mark decided they weren’t Kirtland’s after all, so nothing to get excited about after all. They were probably yellow-rumped warblers.

We hadn’t gone too much farther when we saw a sign for Hoeft State Park. We had never been to this park before so decided to check it out. It turned out to be more of a camping state park, kind of like Clear Lake near our cabin. But they have a day use area so we decided to see what there was to see. We had barely stepped onto the trail that leads to the beach when we saw a tiny ball of fluff on the ground – a baby bird right on the trail!

Baby bird calling for momma.
Baby bird calling for momma.

Of course I immediately dropped down to start taking photos and it wasn’t but a moment when the mother (?) arrived to feed the fledgling.

Yellow-throated vireo feeding baby.
Yellow-throated vireo feeding baby.

Whether the baby fell out of the nest, or just failed at fledging, I have no idea. I must have taken at least 50 photos, creeping closer every few minutes. I spent at least a half-hour on the ground watching these two, and warning passers-by to not step on the poor, helpless baby. Mark went back to the car for the field guide and after much discussion and referring back to my photos, we decided this is a yellow-throated vireo!

Yellow-throated vireo and baby.
Yellow-throated vireo and baby.
Yellow-throated vireo with bug to feed baby vireo.
Yellow-throated vireo with bug to feed baby vireo.

Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, my photos did not turn out very good. Most of them were blurred in one way or another, probably because the baby never stopped quivering and the parent(s) flew in and out so quickly. I wasn’t thinking well enough to switch my camera to Tv and use a fast shutter speed. (Although I did remember to take off the polarizing filter!)

Since we watched for so long, I decided to switch to video and I even managed to edit the video once we got home, convert it, and upload it to YouTube. I am going to attempt to post it here. I hope this works! You might want to take a dose of Dramamine before watching. I’m no videographer. LOL

While watching the birds, something high in the trees caught my eye and I glanced up to see this red squirrel dangling by its toes from a branch. What a hilarious sight!

Acrobatic red squirrel.
Acrobatic red squirrel.

Eventually, I got up off the ground so we could leave the vireos in peace. Before walking on though, I did use my hand to scoot the baby off the trail so it wouldn’t get stepped on. It was hard to leave them to their own devices. I could have sat and watched them all day! All I can do is hope that baby finally started to fly before the day was over.  (And you notice I limited the number of photos I posted here.  I did take A LOT! LOL)

As we walked toward the beach, a flash of color high in the canopy caught my eye. Hmmmm, this is an odd bird! 🙂

Someone lost a kite.
Someone lost a kite.

The park has a very nice shelter house with picnic tables, a fire place, bathrooms, etc., down near the beach. We stopped there to inspect the photos I took and consult the field guide some more, trying to make sure of our I.D. People were coming up from the beach complaining that the biting flies were vicious, so I was glad I was wearing jeans! This is the view down to the beach.

Boardwalk down to the beach, Hoeft State Park.
Boardwalk down to the beach, Hoeft State Park.

Here is the life boat. It probably would have made a better composition if the light wasn’t so washed out.

Lifeboat on the beach.
Lifeboat on the beach.

We walked one of the hiking trails just a short way, to another access point to the water.

Lake Huron as seen from Hoeft State Park.
Lake Huron as seen from Hoeft State Park.

It was way too hot to walk far and the flies WERE biting, even through our T-shirts! Baby vireo and parent were still there when we walked back to the parking lot. On our way out we stopped at the check-in station at the entrance to see if anyone there was well versed in birds and of course it was just two teenaged girls who didn’t really know a thing. We told them of the baby vireo on the ground and said perhaps someone should check later to see if it was still there. I can only hope it had a good fate.

By this time the afternoon was quickly disappearing and we still had the dogs back “home” to worry about, so it was obvious we weren’t going to make it to Mackinaw City. We never even made it to Cheboygan! Mark did drive a bit farther up the road and we stopped at a boat launch area where I got to add another bird to my 2015 Big Bird List – a spotted sandpiper! Finally, a shore bird!

Spotted sandpiper.
Spotted sandpiper.
Spotted sandpiper on the shore of Lake Huron.
Spotted sandpiper on the shore of Lake Huron.

Again, not the most stellar photos, but I will take what I can get at this point!

There was also this huge flock of common mergansers. This photo is awful because they really were too far away, but I’m posting it only to show how huge the flock of ducklings were. When we really blew it up on my computer screen, Mark and I counted at least 24 ducklings! We think there might be 3 adult mergansers in there, too, but we can’t be sure. I tried to walk closer, but the farther I walked up the beach, the faster they continued to swim away from me.

Huge flock of common mergansers.
Huge flock of common mergansers.

Before we left, I made another attempt at flying bird photos. Does this look like I’m improving any?

Flying sea gull.
Flying sea gull.

Leaving the boat launch, we decided it was time to head back home. We really were only minutes from Black Mountain so five hours after leaving the cabin we ended up only about 40 minutes away! I’m not sure how that worked. I was hoping for ice cream on the way home but we never passed an ice cream place. We made tacos for dinner and sat out on the porch, then had to take the dogs for another short hike, since they had been cooped up all day. We saw three deer on our hike. I didn’t even bother to take my camera and figured we would be sure to see an elk! Thankfully, we did not. Even though it was still incredibly hot and humid, I made us a blueberry cobbler for dessert with the last of our home grown blueberries. It would have been even better with ice cream! 🙂

It was so sticky-humid when we headed to bed, I was hoping for a rain shower during the night to break things up.  I went to bed feeling quite pleased with our day, especially our surprise encounter with the baby vireo.

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A Day of Rest

Northwoods Journal
Sunday, July 5, 2015

No place to go today, so we had a very nice, relaxing day. And, the birds began showing up at the bird feeders today! So, I have several photos to share.

Mark fired up his Coleman stove and fried bacon for breakfast while I made French toast with some thick Texas toast bread. I even made some homemade blueberry “syrup” with fresh blueberries from our bushes back home. (The wild blueberries look terrible this summer, so no picking up here.) We ate out on the porch and enjoyed the birds.

There were goldfinches this morning.

American goldfinch.
American goldfinch.
American goldfinch.
American goldfinch.

And this northern flicker found some ants in the fire pit. He first landed on the right side of the fire ring – unfortunately my photo of that was blurry – then he jumped down in the fire pit. I managed to get a shot of him peeking out from the pit.

Northern flicker in the fire pit.
Northern flicker in the fire pit.

Then he hopped back up on the other side.

Northern flicker looked for ants.
Northern flicker looked for ants.

Eventually we got around to go for a nice hike. Mark wanted to go back to the area we hiked yesterday because we had seen where the High Country Pathway crossed the trail we were on, so he wanted to go back and hike some of that. We parked near the fallen log where we rested the dogs yesterday.

Hiking the Pathway is a little bit of a challenge with three dogs. It’s much easier to walk them on ATV trails that are wide. The High Country Pathway is a pretty narrow trail in most places we’ve hiked. I was keeping my eyes open for interesting landscape or macro things to photograph, but Mark wasn’t much in the mood for stopping for me to play photographer. He will tell you that he’s very supportive of my hobby, but at times his support has limits and they can be fairly short. I did manage to try a macro of this moth on a fern. The moth was much whiter that it appears in this photo.

White moth on fern.
White moth on fern.

It was quite hot and humid so we didn’t take the Pathway too far. When we got back to the fallen log, we stopped to water the dogs who had worked up quite a thirst in the heat.

Three beagles, one bowl.
Three beagles, one bowl.
Darling Daisy.
Darling Daisy.

We decided to explore a bit more of the trails in this area and so drove a short way and found another interesting place to hike. The trail took us into this huge rye field where there were some pretty views.

Huge rye field with pretty view.
Huge rye field with pretty view.

The dogs were forced to take another rest in the heat.

Beagles taking a rest in the shade.
Beagles taking a rest in the shade.

Later Mark would look up this area on the satellite map and there are plenty more trails to hike through here, so we will definitely be coming back again. It was a really pretty and quiet area.

Back at the cabin, we ate our lunch on the porch and enjoyed the quiet. I love the day after a big holiday weekend, when everyone else goes home and the peace returns to the north woods! I spent some time reading more of my Better Photo Basics book, playing with my camera, and taking photos of the birds.

There were white-breasted nuthatches.

White-breasted nuthatch.
White-breasted nuthatch.

And more goldfinches.

American goldfinch.
American goldfinch.

The downy woodpecker made an appearance.

Downy woodpecker.
Downy woodpecker.

And the yellow-bellied sapsucker. We’ve been seeing quite a few yellow-bellies this time, but not at the feeders.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker, the rock star of the bird world.
Yellow-bellied sapsucker, the rock star of the bird world.

Then I noticed two small brown birds in the trees. It turned out they were two female rose-breasted grosbeaks. They were fairly small and stayed together, so I think they were sisters from the same nest that had recently fledged. They were very timid.

Young rose-breasted grosbeak approaches the feeders.
Young rose-breasted grosbeak approaches the feeders.
Young rose-breasted grosbeak (f) at the feeder.
Young rose-breasted grosbeak (f) at the feeder.

Later in the afternoon we went for another hike. I asked Mark if we could go over to Lookout Ridge and hike the western ridge where there is a really pretty view. It’s a bit of an uphill climb to start but once you get to the top of the ridge it’s a really nice hike and the view on the western edge just can’t be beat. You could almost believe you are in the mountains!

One of my favorite views.
One of my favorite views.

You can see a bit of a haze in this photo and the landscape photo from our earlier hike. Later we would learn that the heavy haze was caused by forest fires in Canada. It would be even worse the next day.

It only takes about a half-hour to climb the hill, walk across the ridge and come down the other side and then back around to the field where we parked. Considering it was still very hot, a half-hour was just enough.

Making our way back to where we parked.
Making our way back to where we parked.

Mark made a fire and made some BBQ chops on his tri-pod grill. We ate outside on the porch for all three meals!! It’s kind of funny because we have a nice patio at home and rarely eat outside in the summer, but when we are here we rarely eat inside!

We were both very sweaty from the heat so washed up early and had a quiet evening. Friends of ours surprised us by driving up the driveway in their Mule. We had a nice visit, which was the perfect ending to our restful day!

(Be sure to check out my next post where I share an exciting encounter we had on the Sunrise Side!)

P.S. I don’t know what is going on with WordPress, but I am having problems with formatting my posts.  I get them all set up and then when I look at the preview there are big gaps and spaces between photos that I did not put there, and the fonts are changed in the captions.  So, I apologize if anything looks bad!

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Celebrating America!

Northwoods Journal
Saturday, July 4, 2015

No lollygagging around this morning. Mark had seen in the newspaper that there were garage sales north of us going toward Hillman and Long Lake so we ate a quick breakfast and got out the door.

It was a lovely day for a holiday, and for a drive, but the first two sales – which were quite a drive to get to – ended up being a waste of time and gas. Eventually we made our way down to Hillman and then back toward Atlanta. Along Pleasant Valley we finally hit pay dirt. A BIG sale with lots, and lots, and lot of junk. We were there for more than an hour and we both found plenty of things to buy. We came away with two big boxes of treasures for $30! Before we could go home for lunch we had to stop in town at the Baklava Shop for enough shortbread and raspberry thumbprints to get us through the weekend. 🙂

Lunch was eaten out on the porch. Still no birds at the feeders, except for the hummingbirds, which refuse to let me take their picture! After lunch we made a bowl of Mark’s favorite macaroni salad (his mom’s recipe that I’ve been making for 30+ years now) to go with our dinner later and then it was time to take the dogs on their hike.

Mark drove quite a ways over to the area of Rouse and Roth Roads. There are some good trails in this area and we haven’t hiked there in awhile. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything worth taking a photo of, but I did get a picture of the beagles when we stopped to give them a rest. This log was very convenient for looping their leashes over.

The beagles aren't that fond of resting.

The beagles aren’t that fond of resting.

The 4th of July parade was due to start at 6 p.m., so we didn’t have much time to spare between getting home from our hike and heading into town. Really, if you haven’t experienced a small-town 4th of July parade then you haven’t really experienced America!! The parade seemed shorter this year – no Uncle Sam on stilts! But the town was packed with families. It’s always nice to see Atlanta bustling with activity. That doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. I have made a gallery of parade photos.  Really, I must talk to the town council about having the parade start from the other end of town so that photographers don’t have to shoot straight into the sun! 🙂

The parade lasted less than a half-hour and by 6:30 we were heading home for Mark to grill our steaks and to enjoy our dinner out on the porch. The hummingbirds kept us entertained and a couple of hairy woodpeckers finally found the suet.

Dishes needed to be done and then near dusk we headed to town for the fireworks show at the high school. At the end of our road we both noticed the incredible color of the setting sun. I was able to take several photos, but of course they don’t convey the deep colors. This one is about the best of what I took. (Later I read in my new Better Photo Basics book how to get a better sunset photo.)

Incredible 4th of July sunset.

Incredible 4th of July sunset.

For a small town, Atlanta puts on a really good fireworks display. People turn out in droves for the show and the field is always packed with cars. People have fun playing catch or lighting sparklers. It’s fun just to people watch!  Another popular activity is launching Chinese lanterns. Here is a photo of a group of people preparing a lantern.

Group preparing a Chinese lantern.

Group preparing a Chinese lantern.

And here it is floating high in the sky.

Chinese lantern floating into the sky.

Chinese lantern floating into the sky.

I don’t have a tripod (yet) so getting good fireworks photos is impossible. Here is the best of my attempts, of the grand finale. I liked the ghostly look of the “cross” (telephone pole) at the bottom.  Since fireworks only come around once a year, it’s a little hard to practice!

Fireworks grand finale.

Fireworks grand finale.

The barred owl was calling when we got home. It was the perfect grand finale to our All American day!  I pray you and yours had a fun and safe 4th of July!

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