Pursuit of the Road — Memories, Part II

Back to the regularly scheduled programming…

(Day 6)
My favorite quote of the day comes from Neil. Upon arriving at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, he said, “Whoa, that’s a big sandbox!!!”

We headed over there for most of the day to climb the dunes and have a picnic. At the top of the first dune, Ryan turned back. Halfway up the second one, Neil sat down and said he was tired. He and Calliope were quite happy to sit and play in the sand. Bryan, however, was anxious to get to the top of the dune because he heard that you could see Lake Michigan from there. I couldn’t be in two places, and I wasn’t going to carry Neil, so I watched Bryan finish the climb. He came back to report that he could only see a tiny bit of water and that the next dune was just as big as the others. But that was okay since we got to run and roll all the way down to the bottom of the dunes.

Now, if you’re thinking about the little piles of sand that many beaches call dunes, you’re probably thinking we’re wimpy. However, these are real, manly dunes. The first one is over 200 feet high at a 75 degree slope. The others are slightly smaller and slightly less angled. The national park stated that a round trip to Lake Michigan and back is a very strenuous 4+ hour 3 mile hike (not including time to play at the lake). So, you see, I never planned to walk to the Lake (at least not with my kids along).

Regardless, the kids had lots of fun and we enjoyed a spectacular, panoramic view of Lake Glen and the surrounding area. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a nice breeze and temps in the 70s. This made it a perfect day for a picnic as well. Afterwards, the kids played in the sand some more and chased sea gulls all over the place.

We got back just in time for a little swimming at the lake, while Sheri’s dad cooked his signature dish, Chop Suey. It was quite good and the company of Sheri’s family was even better. Of course, it made me miss the rest of my family!

(Day 7)
It may have been a lazy day with no big plans, but you can always find some stories to share. 🙂

Shawn, Garrett, and Lori (Sheri’s siblings) spent the night at the house with us, along with Lori’s children. So, I did the proper southern thing and cooked everyone breakfast. There were a few hitches, however. First off, I forgot how different it is cooking on an electric stove (I have a gas stove at home). So we lost a few of the scrambled eggs to the frying pan…no big deal, we’ll just make some toast. Oh yeah; there’s only two big burners on this stove and one’s being used for grits while the other one is burning the bottom layer of eggs. Well, we’ll just microwave the sausage like I often do at home anyway. But wait; this microwave is from the 70s so it took 15 minutes to do the sausage instead of the typical 5. With a sigh of relief, I am thankful that the signature part of the meal, slow cooked grits, will be awesome. Then I taste the grits…they are SALTY! I salted straight from the salt container since there’s no shakers and was apparently a “little” heavy handed. Make more toast!!! Oh, and did I mention that the coffee maker will only use half of the water that you put in, and it takes an hour to make a (half) pot of coffee??? I consider myself to be a good cook but Sheri’s family will never believe it! (In all fairness, everything was good except for the grits…which were fine if you mixed them with cheese, eggs, and sausage plus ate some toast!)

We spent the rest of the morning chillin’ out…watching cartoons and playing video games. After lunch we took a stroll around downtown Northport. We took several pictures of the charming metal statues around town and strolled around a few shops. We visited Sheri’s old school and played on the playground. We even had a tetherball “tournament”, in which Sheri stomped the adults, and the kids complained about how tetherball isn’t a nice game. Walking back into town we came across the largest blackberry plant I’ve ever seen (I’d really call it a tree since it was over 20 feet tall). The owner was outside and told us to help ourselves, so we did. Those were the sweetest blackberries I’ve ever had! Even the kids liked them…so much so that everyone had slightly red palms all day. 🙂

While we were out, we got ice cream cones at a local store (the cheapest, biggest cone I’ve ever seen). We hung out at the park until everyone was done and then we strolled along the boat docks. Now my kids want to live on a boat! While on the docks we could see Gull Island across the bay. All you can see are two chimneys (the house is gone) and lots of white specks. The specks, I’m told, are hundreds of sea gulls that took over the private island and made it uninhabitable. As a side note, we’re on the bay, so I keep arguing that these birds can’t be called sea gulls…they must be called bay gulls (prounounced “bagels” if you want to be cheesy like me).

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful but nice. We made taco salad and enjoyed dinner with Lori, her kids, Garrett, and Sheri’s dad (who brought delicious Leelanau Great Lakes red wine for dinner). Anyway, after dinner we just enjoyed some nice conversation and looked forward to another day together.

(Day 8)
It was a gloomy, chilly day until about 6pm when the drizzle finally stopped and the sun came out. I believe the temperature topped out at 65 degrees.

We still had some fun around the house though. We bundled up in blankets and watched movies and played board games while Ryan boiled peanuts all day. There was much silliness, snuggling, snacking, and napping. The weatherman keeps saying that “tomorrow” will be sunny and warm, but it would seem that tomorrow never comes.

After the sun came out, the kids had fun at the playground. They had a late dinner with Ryan and Garrett while the girls all went out to dinner in Sutton’s Bay. We had great food and good conversation, plus enjoyed a window-shopping stroll around town afterwards. When we got back, the kids were only halfway through movies so they got to have a late bedtime.

The adults stayed up late as well, enjoying the starry night and some more games before bedtime. So it was a relaxing, nice day. Hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow.

(Day 9)
The sun came out, and it was a gloriously beautiful day. It didn’t quite reach 80 degrees, but that didn’t matter since it was warm in comparison to the previous few days.

After breakfast we headed out to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. We didn’t climb up the lighthouse for several reasons. First, it wasn’t very tall. Second, the little kids didn’t want to do it. Third, they wanted $4 a person to walk up (on top of the $8 park entry for out-of-state residents). We did walk around the museum and shop though. The kids really loved the shop because there was a whole room full of Legos and “old-time” toys (like Jacob’s ladder). There was also a cool Lego replica of the lighthouse which made me think of Christian. We also walked down to the water to see all the waves on Lake Michigan. Naturally, we also had to play on the playground before leaving.

After lunch, we went out to Leelanau State Park. We hiked just over a mile through the woods and over a few small dunes to arrive at Lake Michigan. We practically had our own private beach. There was one family about a quarter mile away, but otherwise we couldn’t see anyone. The sand was soft and covered with rocks, small and large. We all got in the very cold water and played frisbee for awhile. Neil got out quickly and enjoyed digging up rocks at the water’s edge and playing in the sand. Ryan, Bryan, and Calliope stayed in swimming for quite some time. Sheri, Garrett, and I got out to enjoy just laying on the beach. I could’ve stayed there all day…listening to the waves…listening to the kids laughing…watching Neil play…wiggling my toes in the sand…feeling the sun and breeze on my face. It was bliss. But, all good things have to end eventually, so we packed up and headed out. On the hike back, the sun was streaming diagonally through the trees; it was so beautiful that Calliope said it was an enchanted forest. I’d have to say the only possibly bad thing about the trip was the amazing number of bugs in the woods. (I thought they didn’t have bugs up north??)

We got back and changed clothes just in time to head out to Peterson Park. We played volleyball, played on the playground, and walked down the trail to a rocky beach. Neil said it was the best rock garden ever! Sheri’s dad made breakfast for supper while we played. We ate as the sun set over Lake Michigan. While the grownups cleaned and packed up, the kids sat on a blanket and watched the stars come out. Even the ride back was eventful, as we almost ran over a skunk.

After we got the kids back and tucked in, Sheri and I went over to the grassy airport field to gaze at the stars. It’s so amazing to see the stars without city lights around. We saw several shooting stars and watched the moon rise. We would’ve stayed longer, but the chill of the night and the buzzing mosquitoes motivated us to get back home.

It was a beautiful day, filled with reminders of all the awesome sights and sounds God gave us. We enjoyed so many glorious things today: the sun setting, the moon rising, the blue sky, the starry night, the sound of waves, the sound of stillness, the warmth of the day, and the coolness of night. I’m so thankful to have the chance to enjoy these things and to share them with my kids. I’m just sorry everyone else I love couldn’t be here with me today!

(Day 10)
While it couldn’t match the day we had yesterday, today was a really nice day. We spent the first part of the day sleeping in and lounging around, since we were all up so late last night. We eventually got out and went to a local cherry orchard to pick cherries. The kids wanted to pick the bright red ones but Sheri explained that those were tart cherries. So, they happily went along with picking the darker, sweeter ones. Everyone had fun reaching to pick the biggest ones. Then there was an impromptu contest to see who could pick the biggest bunch still connected (without pulling a whole branch off). Neil got a double, Calliope got a triple, and Bryan got a quadruple; even I couldn’t beat that record. We also got to sample some queen anne cherries, which were a light, mottled red and tasted just slightly sweet. When we got back with all these cherries Ryan pointed out that we can’t carry fresh fruit into Canada. That would’ve been good information before the cherry picking…

After lunch we went down to the beach for a few hours. Bryan and Calliope went in the water for a little bit, but Neil wasn’t having any of that. He was content to play right at the edge with shovels, buckets, and rocks. The kids made a few rounds between the playground and the sand until Ryan was ready to pack it up. I just enjoyed hanging on the blanket and watching the kids play. (I’m getting pretty lazy on this part of the trip…the gym is going to kick my butt when I get back!)

The evening has just been a typical “last evening” of a trip. We’re doing laundry, cleaning out the fridge, and searching for missing toys. I’m actually going to be a little sad to leave Northport. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with Sheri’s family. I’ve also grown to love the weather; especially as I think about how hot it will probably be in Georgia when we get back. (It’s all relative, isn’t it?) Regardless, we still have several days of adventure ahead, so I’ll just look forward to that and ponder the thought that we might could come back and visit here again someday.

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