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Michigan - State Park living……..

June 2022

We camped at three of the Michigan State Parks in June. Ludington State Park, seen above on a rainy day, was by far the favorite. We knew it was along a beach - what was a surprise was the forest paths, lake and kayak trail on the other side. The day we got there a light drizzle was coming down. The campground was still full so we knew it was popular. We leashed up the dogs and headed for the trailhead from the end of our row. We had been given an excellent map by the ranger and at trail intersections are posts with numbers relating to where you are and where they head so we were easily able to head towards a promising trail that went out into the lake across some islands. Along the way we came across a playground that felt like it was in the middle of the woods (the other campground was actually just over the hill). Jim and I both noticed the late seventies style equipment - the really tall metal slides, the swing sets that look like you can get them rocking. How lucky the kids are they can still have that experience!

We also came across the old Cemetary from when early European settlers were there. There are only two gravestones left. I enjoy the peace and layered memories of older graveyards as well as the history noted on the signs.

When we got to the lakeside there were kayaks stacked up and mor cool playground equipment. The mist made everything look even more mysterious. We could see the sign out in the water for the canoe/kayak trail and Jim was really tempted. The trail itself was fantastic - island hopping by way of bridges and boardwalks. We saw a muskrat and swamp lilies and people fishing out on the water.

The next day we took the trail through the forest to the dunes and lighthouse. There was still a mist in the morning. Halfway there the forest started giving way to dune and the smell of cedar and pine mixed with beach smells. When we first saw the lighthouse it was emerging from the mist the way worried ships might see it. At the lighthouse we noticed that the plank pathway down the sand was composed of donated planks. Not sure which I like the best - the memorial benches at views everywhere through Michigan or this idea!

We walked back along the shore sand road trail (no cars allowed mostly). There were informative signboards telling us about the life in the dunes and about the lifesaving coast guard station that used to be there. I walked out and stood where that had been. This was around the time of the Uvalde shooting and in reading about the life savers I noted the quote: “You have to go out. You don’t have to come in”. Hmmm. Made me think that’s how they steeled themselves to do the hard scary heroics they were there for.

When we got back I grabbed

my art backpack and began walking back, intent on painting the lighthouse. I got a good impression from the dunes although by the end the mist had lifted. I had a family on the way back offer to buy it right there but I could get no cell service. Unfortunately despite taking my campsite number they never did come by - but that painting was just sold to another patron from seeing it posted! Later Jim and I took the dogs for a walk in the dunes the other way and to see the dam. There is a historic trail with signs too that was quite interesting about the logging town that was there. We also saw several deer. By the end of the day I had walked 11 miles - believe me when I say I was ready to relax!

We also went into Ludington while we were there- saw the beachfront and lighthouse and the SS Badger, the last ship crossing the lake with passengers and vehicles to Wisconsin and back. In days gone by there were many of those.

Before Ludington the first Michigan state park we camped in was Fisherman’s Island State Park Just past a delightful lake town called Charlevoix. Jim was a little dubious as we drove towards a large limestone quarry plant but then a left turn took us to the water’s edge in a nice little forest.

That first day we walked a trail through the woods and up and down hills to the beach at the end of the park road. I had picked this park because of the descriptions of wildflowers. Although some were present they were not in as abundance as I hoped. However the beach gave us plenty to look at in the form of all kinds of interesting stones! We spent some of each day walking it in various directions. There were plenty of seagulls and amazingly to me some swans! We even had a bald eagle swoop over us one night but I wasn’t quick enough with my camera.

I was also able to spend a whole morning doing a larger plein air painting perched on the rocky shore midway down. One thing that struck us is Lake Michigan’s bands of various teals, ultramarines, pale cobalts etc. so hopefully I was able to capture a little of that under a changeable sky.

We did take a scenic drive through the countryside fortified by coffee from a Charlevoix shop, Harwood Gold from which we also got maple syrup infused with saffron and nectarine. We stopped at the excellent Bier Art Gallery where I would have gotten one of the ceramic plates decorated with bug art if we had room and would have gotten a large rhinoceros statue if I had money!

But mostly we honed our rock hunting and painting skills.

The third state park campground was in the Rifle River area. I had hoped to see what the interior of the state was like. I can report to you that that weekend it was muggy, buggy and full of ticks! The area was lovely but the first evening the wind kept dropping gypsy moth caterpillars down on us. Although much of the forest was overgrown making it hard to see the river we did find on lovely vantage point with dragonflies and butterflies flitting around.

We did take some hikes, some through beautiful meadows. We then were finding ticks on the dogs and me mainly for hours. (I had taken them on a long hike through the meadows and forest plus I had stood painting with my backpack in the dirt beside me.) This was the first place we were actually glad to leave after two days. It was still pretty to have seen though.

And for a last shot - day is done at Fisherman’s Island:

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