Saturday, May 23, 2015

Scenes from Leelanau Peninsula

When we left Sleeping Bear Dunes our hearts were heavy-leaving such beauty behind was difficult.  But we knew we had more adventures ahead of us. The sky was overcast and grey-that made it a tiny bit easier to leave the gorgeous blue waters.  As we ventured north we started seeing more of the Michigan beauty that we had experienced around Sleeping Bear.  We were driving down the road when we spotted this handmade wooden gate blocking entrance into the forest-it looks like a path into a little magical spot doesn't it ?

And the Shetland Schoolhouse built in 1871 and still standing- a nice pop of color in the middle of green and grey today.

I don't know what kind of cows or animals these are but I felt like I had stepped back about 300,000 years in time-seeing their long shaggy coats.  Seriously , I expected a Viking warrior to come running out of the woods to protect his herd.

When I read about Leelanau Peninsula one of the stops I knew we wanted to make was at historic Fishtown in Leland-and I was not disappointed.  It's an old active fishing shanty town and the fog and grey weather just made is more authentic.

Can't you just imagine hearing the clop clop clop footsteps of the fishermen home from their being out on the sea, walking along the dock ?

This net strung out along the dock was so beautiful, almost mystical when I started thinking about the fishermen who had used it and the fish caught in it.

I knew we had to stop at the Village Cheese Shanty and pick up some cheese-the raclette is local-which is what we bought.  We also tried the Northshore sandwich-excellent and highly recommend it. It's a large sandwich and we split one which was quite filling and oh so delicious.

Another stop I knew from my research-Carlton's-it was recommended by another Roadtreker too-they said try the smoked whitefish and we did-ohh so good.  Plus we bought some smoked whitefish pate and Stone Oven dried baguettes for the road.  That turned out to be our dinner for the evening with a bottle of red wine.

A little whimsy outside a shoe store-perfect !

The Leelanau Peninsula continues to warm our hearts and surprise us with every turn in the bend.  We are heading to the state park for some camping-really looking forward to that.

Happy Trails my little fishermen and fellow travelers-Safe Travels.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eric -THE Morel Man on Leelanau Peninsula

Once we settled into our campground at Platt River in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we started to talk about what we wanted to do and see around the area. Hiking, taking the scenic drive,heading up to Glen Haven, checking out the Cherry Republic and getting to know the area better.

I started Googling things to do and see around the area and stumbled upon Leelanau Adventures. It turned out to be one of my best Google finds ever .  It's a small adventure/tour company run by the incomparable Eric Lapaugh.  When I got to his website I discovered he was offering 3 hour morel hunting classes out in the woods.  Wow-what better way to learn about the area then to hike the woods and search for a local woodland jewel-the morel . So, after getting Jim to go along with my idea we signed up for the course. The best money we have ever spent.

Eric met us in Glen Haven and took us to one of his favorite off the road spots. We carefully followed his instructions for how to slowly walk through the woods, eyes down on the ground, scanning left and right and behind you for the morels. Stoop and look low so you don't miss the tips just barely peeking through the leaves , Eric advised.

After about 40 minutes of scanning and stooping, no morels. But I wasn't disappointed. After knowing Eric for only an hour I felt confident that we were going to find morels. He is one of the good guys-a gentle spirit walking the earth. He has a respect for the earth and an enthusiasm that is contagious.  Even if we wouldn't  have found the morels it would have been a pleasure just spending the afternoon with him roaming the woods.

But, aha, we did find morels, plenty of them. We felt like little kids again-so excited with our discoveries. We wanted to comb the entire woods-just the earthy sweet smell of them and the thought of how they would taste kept us going.

Eric taught us well,take only what you need and leave some for the woods.

The best surprise of the day, Eric had brought some grey morels that he had gathered the day before -so they were ready to cook. He showed us how to prepare them in butter,garlic and onions with a little salt and pepper.  Oh the heavenly taste-nothing better than eating something that you know came directly from the earth; and eating it in it's own environment-priceless.

We cooked up our treasures that night for dinner-and that's all we ate. We savored every single bite and talked constantly about Eric and what a cool guy he is, thinking how great the world would be if everyone thought and acted like him.  So if you are in Michigan during the morel season-early Spring-contact Eric at Leelanau Adventures and take one of his classes-trust me on this one-absolutely fantastic !

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sleeping Bear Dunes Michigan

We have entered a world we never knew existed.  We have heard all about Michigan and it's beauty, but never in our wildest imagination did we expect to find the beauty and surprises we found on our journey through this state.

Jim thought we were back in Florida when he saw the blue green crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan.  And with the temperature reaching 80, I though we were too !  Every little turn we took brought more ohhs and ahhs.

Our first exploration away from the Platt River Campground, was the Pierce Stocking Scenic drive-scenic doesn't begin to explain it.  We got out and explored every stop along the way-but the most gorgeous were the dunes overlooks.

A couple who were getting married for the 2nd time took this picture of us. We laughed at how much we had in common since Jim and I have been married to each other twice. They got married the first time in Adelaide,Australia and were getting married here in Michigan so their US family and friends could celebrate.  Jim and I got married in the US,divorced and remarried on a beach in Tasmania. We wished them well and good luck and continued our hike.

This was the little historic town of Glen Haven, everything was still closed since we are in the off season but it was so stark in it's beauty and we had a gorgeous day to visit.

And we couldn't miss stopping at the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor-and we stocked up on jam; dried cherries; cherry salsa and dark chocolate dipped cherries-we are in the cherry capital after all !

We had been told by some fellow Roadtrekkers that Arts was the place for a good burger and Arts didn't disappoint-very cool tavern with tons of local atmosphere and very good burgers and brews on tap.

Everything is in bloom and it's so nice.  The forest smells fresh and earthy and the leaves are the color of lime with the sun shining through them. Laura, another fellow Roadtreker told us we were in a magical place and she did not exaggerate. We planned on about a week or two in Michigan and that has turned into six ! And with plans to come back in the future during the Fall, I can only imagine the beauty of the trees then.  You all know I'm a beach girl at heart but the forest has such a calming effect and always makes me feel like Merlin could be hiding behind a tree. And listening to the wind and the birds-just soul soothing. If you haven't, get yourself to Michigan, it is truly amazing.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Back to the Wild-Hartwick Pines, Michigan

Sunrise Glory Lake

It's been a week since we said our sad goodbyes to family and friends in the Detroit area.  It was difficult leaving them, but not leaving the city.  We were ready for the wildness of nature again. We headed to Hartwick Pines State Park since it was close to the Au Sable River where Jim wanted to do some fly fishing.

Ruby in Site 15

The park was fairly empty when we arrived-only about 7 other campers.  It was wonderful-so quiet except for the birds and we could hear them like a little symphony, early in the morning was the best.
This is a well maintained campground,with enough space between the outer loop campsites to offer some privacy. The inner loop sites are in the wide open area so you don't get the same privacy. Showers are hot and clean-my favorite.  And it has really nice hiking trails.  We were regulars on the trails to Bright and Glory Lakes.  And we did the hike down to the Au Sable River which is another nice trail.
Sunrise Glory Lake

Early morning Glory Lake

Another early morning sunrise,Glory Lake

One of my favorite shots, sunrise reflection on Glory Lake-I've been fooling around trying to teach myself HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography and I like how this one turned out !

The view along the Au Sable River trail-it was a perfect day-sunny and 85 !

 Bright Lake before a rain storm -it only lasted a short time

Fishing spot on the Au Sable River
We drove to the Lovell's area, about 18 miles from our campsite so that Jim could access a good fishing area on the Au Sable River.  It was just beautiful, we took a dirt road off the highway about a a mile to the river access. There was a small parking area, but I'll bet you could get away with boondocking for a short period-it wasn't posted as no camping.  We returned a second day for more fishing and while the weather had changed-no sunshine and about a 30 degree drop in temperature, it was still just as beautiful.

A view down the Au Sable

Italian Sausage and bean soup
Since the weather turned, I thought hot soup would be appropriate and it was-so good and filling when we got back to our campsite. Also fairly simple to make. I found this one on
This makes 12 servings, so I have 8 servings frozen now ! But you can cut the recipe in half.
2 pounds Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Italian-style stewed tomatoes
2 cups sliced carrots
2 (14.5 ounce) cans great Northern beans, undrained
4 small zucchini, cubed
4 cups spinach - packed, rinsed and torn
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Parmesan cheese for topping
1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, brown sausage with garlic. Stir in broth, tomatoes and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.
2. Stir in beans with liquid and zucchini. Cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
3. Remove from heat, and add spinach. Replace lid allowing the heat from the soup to cook the spinach leaves. Soup is ready to serve after 5 minutes.
4. I sliced of thin pieces of Parmesan and sprinkled them over the soup-oh so good !

The campground started to get a little busy on Friday, but still not very crowded. We stayed here from Tuesday May5th and left on Sunday May 10th. It's definitely a park we would return to-great access to Grayling to, either by car or a paved bike trail.  And Jim loved the access to the Au Sable River. We missed seeing the tail of Hailey's comet due to cloud coverage but the skies were still amazing. That's another benefit of getting out of the city !  

Since we had been in the city for 2 weeks we allowed ourselves enough time to settle in and get acclimated to Ruby and nature again-a very easy process. We discovered we are both so much happier out on the open roads (and not the interstates !).  We plan on spending more time than we originally thought exploring Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We probably won't head into Canada until about the first week of June or maybe later-who knows.

Happy Trails and Safe Travels, and to all of you who gave us ideas and suggestions on what to see and do here and the Upper Peninsula-thank you so much!