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Michigan - a recreational wonderland.

June 2022

One of the first things we noticed about Michigan was it’s series of incredible roadside travel stops. Got a Little Rock beach? Let’s put in some tables and porta potties. One of the many memorial nature conserved areas? Great - parking and trailhead signs. In the northeast on Lake Huron there’s a bike path that always has some people using it and various pullouts short of the state park where we could take the dogs. We found some amazing variety of rocks there also. (Although the second time we went the dogs and I were engulfed in biting flies despite my insect repellant- we realized why we saw people leaving after just a couple minutes! They hadn’t been there before so I suspect the 90 degree heat dome day brought them)

We took to saying “Thanks, Michigan DOT“ every time we saw one of the rest stops. We also found some favorite small places like the Antrim Nature Preserve. There are trails through the woods and a section of beach that’s pretty good for finding Petosky (and Charlevoix) stones and others. It had been a vacation camp then owned by a family that let generations enjoy it, then the town bought it to preserve for everybody. We went here several times and there were usually only a few people there. Once we found ourselves in the middle of a college field trip. On our last visit I put my art bag with the markers and sketchbook I occasionally work with on the back of our truck. We were halfway back when we realized it hadn’t been stowed away. Although we hustled back it was gone. At least I had photos of all but one sketch and I console myself with the fact that the one other group there was a family. I hope one of the kids has it and gets inspired to do art.

Some rocks we found - it’s easier to see the colors and markings when wet. Can’t wait to see some polished. As for the previously mentioned Petoskey and Charlevoix stones - there’s one on the far right in the picture. (We had potato chip grease on our fingers which is why it looks shined up!) This whole area was a shallow sea in the prehistoric era..these stones are fossilized coral. Petoskey has larger hexagons in it’s pattern, this one is likely a Charlevoix (smaller patterns). The names come from two towns but those aren’t the only or even best place to find them.

Another jewel of Michigan’s public lands are it’s state parks. I’ll cover the ones we camped at in another post but we went to several just to visit for the day. Wilderness way up in the north tip of the mitten we went to on a weekend thinking surely no one will be up there. Well, it’s Michigan. And it was free fishing weekend. The drive there took us through the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ area along the Lake Michigan side. Then we were on a roller coaster ride up and over drumlins through the middle. There were a fair amount of horse farms and even a polo practice facility. Since the dogs weren’t allowed on the beaches there we took them on a hike through the woods, way down at the end of the road. There was an amazing selection of wildflowers for those inclined to notice. I also saw two deer walking along a sand bar off the kayak launch area.

And then there are recreation areas. Rockport Recreation area outside Alpena: “Let’s see - we’ve got this old quarry with piles of abandoned limestone, many with fossils. Snakes that live in the rocks. Some rusted metal. A beach for rock hounds and cairn builders. Trails through the woods and some sinkholes. (Although not as big as the ones that have their own park! An old pier half crumbled and shipwrecks off shore-we can put steps in for divers! Let’s make it a park!” Yes, please. The day we were there there were many families and couples all enjoying it their own way. My favorite was the toddler who looked like he thought he’d gone to rock heaven. We almost stepped on several snakes. Chloe was freaked, Jackson oblivious. Jim found a couple of fossils and some other rocks. Every park you go to there are rocks placed on picnic tables - the last step is evaluating the ones you found and deciding on the keepers. Later in the week he went back with the dogs and found some even better.

After awhile I went back to the truck and got my painting supplies. Jackson sat by me for most of the painting session, accepting pats from all comers while I tried to keep the wind from blowing my easel over. Then Jim finished his rockhounding and got both dogs. The scene I’m painting is the photo at the beginning of the blog. This is along the Maritime Heritage Trail. A whole area of the lake is protected and full of shipwrecks from the last 100 years or more. Everywhere are signboards telling you the history of the nearby shipwrecks

On a rainy Monday we drove to another area mentioned in the excellent tourism booklet- Partridge Point. This side of Michigan has a different geology a bit - the park is a flat grassland the meets pavement style limestone bedrock from the Devonian period. The fossils here to me look more like they were the edge of the sea rather than the coral on the Lake Michigan side. I am becoming inspired to do more reading about the area’s prehistory. The Sunrise Coast birding trail goes by here also but with a steady rain coming down we were the only ones there.

I am enjoying taking pictures of rocks and fossils in all their variety. It might be interesting to try abstracted paintings from them in the future.

Above is Partridge Point Park. And now to end this post with one more from the Rockport park, the beach along the quarry piles.

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