What I Was Up to Last Week

Saturday afternoon we returned to sticky Lower Michigan after a perfect weather week Up North at Camp Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, 2015

As always, we were up there during the 7th and 8th grade week, with my husband serving as camp pastor (copastor, actually, with one of his former campers who is now a pastor and attending seminary). We also brought with us a new friend and recent transplant from Zimbabwe.

Lake Louise, 2015

My responsibilities amounted this year to being the Fire Guy — building and lighting the campfires each night — and the occasional odd job that needed doing.

Lake Louise, 2015

The rest of the week, the boy and I were free to enjoy participating in the games, the morning and evening sessions of worship and teaching, and various lakeside activities, such as sandcastle building, kayaking, collecting rocks, taking photos, sunbathing, and speedboat riding.

Lake Louise, 2015

We were blessed with incredible weather, sunny and breezy and absolutely gorgeous.

Lake Louise, 2015

The lake was so high with all the snow and rain from the last year that in order to get to my secret rock harvesting spot we had to wade most of the way there. And the peninsula I normally spend some time on in order to get more varied angles of the lake and surrounding woods was practically submerged. Trees and bushes that had been tiny in years past are beginning to block views.

Lake Louise, 2015

Besides the fun outdoor activities, I found time to revise a manuscript on our cabin’s deck while listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds of (mostly) happy kids running around. And I got the happy news that this very manuscript has reached the final round of judging in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s Rising Star contest.

Lake Louise, 2015

Now we’re back home, sorting laundry, buying groceries, and facing the reality of getting back to work. But in a couple weeks I’ll be back up there again with the boy for his first time as an actual camper. It may be hard to adjust to not just doing whatever we want while we’re up there.

Lake Louise, 2015

But I think we’ll manage.

The One Thing You Need to Photograph Wildlife

Busy Chickadee hollowing out a home at Fenner Nature Center

At Fenner Nature Center on Sunday I observed a chickadee couple hollowing out a stump to nest in. I think chickadees are my favorite small birds. It took me a while of slowly creeping near to get close enough for a good photo. Then a jogger ran by and off the chickadees flew. I stayed in my spot for another few minutes, and they did come back.

The key to photographing skittish wildlife is always patience. Stay there, stay still, and they will eventually come near. It will always feel like it takes longer than it should, and because we’re programmed by everything in life not to wait silently you will want to give up, get up, and get on with it. Don’t. You have to force yourself to be still and be ready — that means you have your camera trained on the spot you believe the animal will appear, you have it focused, your eye is at the viewfinder, and your finger is on the shutter button. You can’t move your head or the camera or your hand after the animal has appeared, because that movement will frighten them. You have to be ready and you have to wait.

I guess one other helpful attribute is the ability to notice. I almost missed seeing this deer and her companion across the little pond where I was hoping to get a better look at the frogs I kept hearing.

White-Tailed Deer at Fenner Nature Center

One thing’s for sure: you will always miss moments like this if you never look away from that infernal smartphone. Life is out there. Go look for it.

“In the solitary forest, by the rushing Taquamenaw…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second day of our hike, Alison and I ran across a number of areas with young maples sprinkled between the pines and firs and showing off their fall colors.

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The ferns in the open areas were browning and made an interesting color combination with large patches of fuzzy seafoam green lichens.

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The woods through which the second half of the Wilderness Loop winds are alternately close and open. The open areas would be hot in sunny weather, but we had clouds and some breeze the whole way.

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Here Alison takes a moment to enjoy the color in a rare ray of sunshine. I believe she is preparing mentally for the many more soggy spots we will encounter as we race the thunder on the way to Clark Lake campsite. (Little does she know at this point that her right foot is soon to be ankle-deep in cold, black swamp water.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is one of the very best “bridges” Tahquamenon has to offer in the backcountry.

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Seriously, this was one of the most sound structures on the trail, and it looked like it had been decomposing for nigh on a decade. There was one real bridge. As we passed over it we realized we were also passing yet another beaver dam, this one far taller than the last.

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So, campers, what have we learned from the above diagram? That’s right! The Department of Natural Resources can build a bridge…when it so chooses.

We passed by the wetland created by this second industrious beaver…

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…and soon arrived at the Clark Lake campsite where we were again the only people. We took a two-hour nap that afternoon as rain pounded down on the tent. It was glorious.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And we happily made use of this very handmade bench.

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We filtered water from Clark Lake. It’s always a little unnerving to drink brown water, even if you know the microbes and nasty little beasties have been filtered from it. Here’s some of the leftover water in a clear glass at home so you can see the tannins leeched from the cedars, which gives the falls their distinctive color.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe week after this hiking trip, my mother came to watch the boy while Zach and I traveled to St. Louis for ACFW. She was nice enough to wash all of my clothes–not just the really nasty ones from the hike, but from all of the hampers and baskets and dividers in the house.

The packs are still in my sunroom, waiting to be returned to storage, where they will wait patiently…for next year.