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Day Tripping Mackinac Island

A few years ago, my wife and I biked on Washington Island in Wisconsin. This year, we biked Mackinac Island. If you have not biked on an Island, even better an island without any cars, it is a fun treat. We did not take our bikes to Mackinac Island as we thought we would have a better time with rental bikes for just a half day of riding. It was a good choice for us.

Every journey to the Island involves a boat ride. We had an enjoyable ride and were dressed for the cool weather on the lake. In the past we have had to purchase sweatshirts after arriving on the island, so we knew what to expect and were prepared for the winds on a cool northern Michigan day in the middle of summer.

Our first stop in town was renting some bikes and getting them set for the exploration. It was cool when we arrived, but the day warmed up and was enjoyable. We were happy they included water bottles and helmets with the bike rentals along with a good map of the island for biking.

We would have circumnavigated the island, except a part was closed for repairs. We did get as far both ways as we could. We also rode on the interior of the island, more akin to hiking or mountain bike trails that made us happier to have rented the island bikes.

Our first ride was to Arch Rock as the road was closed after this point. We decided to get off the bikes and climb to the top of the rock up several stairs.

Ride to Arch Rock

When we got back to the bikes, we noted that from the road we also had a great view up to the Arch Rock formation.

After viewing Arch Rock from above and below, we biked over to the British Landing, an easy ride on Lake Shore Boulevard, State Highway M-185, that wraps around the entire island.  This was the other road closure point, preventing us from the 8-mile loop on M-185.  

With the road construction and after exploring the British Landing, we needed to find out where we wanted to go. We decided to bike the interior of the island. We headed to the interior of the Island from the center of town as the Landing Road posted no bikes (my guess is the hill is too steep for most bikers). From the center of town, we biked past the Grand Hotel and the Fort ending on Arch Rock trail. We followed the Arch Rock trail toward the airport where we saw the crack in the Island and then back to town for lunch and a change of pace to walking.

Our walking tour was after lunch. The whole town was in full bloom and it was good seeing how many other people were out enjoying the island.

All in all, we saw a lot on the island. I had not recalled seeing the miniature Statue of Liberty on the island. It has been there since before I was born, so it must have been present. We had all been to the island before and were amazed at how full the shops were in summer.

We have spent the night on the island and it is worth the experience. The island has a different feeling once the last ferry boat leaves. A one-day visit was all we needed to get refreshed and enjoy the beautiful island between Michigan’s two peninsulas. After a perfect day exploring the island, we got back on the boat for the lake crossing.  

On the boat ride back from the Island

Lessons learned:

A family bike ride on a vacation island is not a race; the pace is designed to take in all of the scenery that I would not normally see on some of my rides. As I look back to my normal routes, this was by far the prettiest of the summer, being surrounded by the Great Lakes and the view of the Mackinaw Bridge.

Other fun:

We brought back fudge, still the best I have tasted since I remember going to the island to eat fudge as a kid.

We sent a picture of the fort to our oldest as the memory of “shooting” off a cannon at the fort would still be a pleasant memory. They now offer, for a fee, the ability to load and fire the cannon. We did not visit inside the fort as we had done so many times before.

No cars and a lot of fun biking the Island

Prelude to a Proposal

We went out to see our daughter in North Carolina. We were supposed to get together with her and her boyfriend earlier but COVID got in the way. This was the next best opportunity for all of us.

One of the reasons for the visit was so her boyfriend could ask my permission to ask her for her hand in marriage. My job, knowing what was coming, was to find out if he will take care of my daughter and that he is the man to do it. Spoiler alert—I gave my blessing and I trust the proposal will have occurred by the time this is published. We did manage a 9-mile hike in the South Mountain State Park in North Carolina. We began hiking together on the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail and really enjoyed the 80 foot high waterfall. The weather was perfect and we had a good view of the falls from the trail.

Other fun On our hike with my prospective son-in-law, we were talking and having fun and not paying attention to a map. As a result we went on the Saddleback equestrian trail.

When we had to take off our shoes and socks to wade across the river as no bridge could be found up and down the river bank, we should have turned around, except we were already 6 miles into our hike. No bridge, no big deal in August. But when the river is running in the spring it is a bigger deal. Here is the trail description from the website—wish I had read it prior to setting off: “The trail crosses the Jacob Fork River and ascends to Raven Rock Trail. This narrow trail is single track for horseback riders.”

We were able to visit some friends of ours in South Carolina, just south of the boarder. The visit was fun, and as he is a bee keeper we were able to enjoy local honey. They raise bees on their property and it is quite the operation. Check out his site: https://bigbeedaddy.blog/blog-feed/

Lessons learned:

Next time, read the guide prior to setting off on the hike! Review and follow a planned hiking route.

Staying at a hotel for the first time in a while was a good experience. We had contactless check in and out and my smartphone served as our key. It was simple. Even breakfast was a go bag and it was easy for us to move about. People were enjoying the pool and the lobby as well.

Being ready to answer a question makes you a poor conversationalist. A 9-mile hike with getting to know a prospective son-in-law makes me a worse communicator. I appreciate his respect for me and my daughter that he wanted to ask, and I am excited to welcome him to our family.

No bike rides on this trip. The bike is all tuned up and ready to go once the weather cooperates.

Happy Holiday from Shawnee State Park

The weather outside was not too frightful. We decided we would spend a few days at the end of December hiking in Shawnee State Park. The park is next to Shawnee State Forest located at the eastern edge of Ohio at the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains.

During Covid-19 as our traveling has been limited. A close by state park with over 60 miles of hiking trails sounded to us like just what we needed. So we packed up the car and headed to the hills.

I have long defined vacation as doing something different. This was a wonderful getaway. Hiking out in the woods is not our normal walk around the block.

The drive to the park was pleasant and it had snowed in Ohio right before Christmas. No snow where we live, but as we got closer to the Appalachian Mountains, more snow and colder weather were evident. We were only at over 600 feet above sea level at the start of our hikes and did make it over 1,000 feet above sea level on occasion. Ohio’s highest point is 1,550 feet above sea level so we were not at the peak in Ohio hiking on this trip.

We had several pleasant hikes in the State Forest and the State Park. All of the trails were well marked and the paths easy to follow. The weather was close to freezing. At times we wished it was below freezing because the paths were muddy, especially dangerous when you are not paying attention to the fallen leaves on downhill trails. We did fall once and it was no big deal. We were careful.

I think our favorite hike was the hike around the lake. We had great views and yes, part of the lake was frozen. This was a good all day hike. We even stopped for lunch (that we carried in) and enjoyed the scenery.

We started our adventure with the simple lookout trail that is near the lodge. It was an easy mile or so hike.

The hiking trails and the entrance to both the State Park and Forest were free. We hiked several miles in the park. The long hike was too long for our visit in December and will have to wait for another time. We did hike several trails and see the disk golf course, which looks very challenging. The trails benefited from the CCC workers and they did good work in this park. It is amazing to me that after so much time the work that was done is still in use and serviceable.

The lodge inside the park was richly decorated for the season and the rooms were pleasant. We enjoyed the more than 50 Christmas trees on display inside the lodge. The local garden clubs assist with the decorating and it either took a lot of people or a lot of time.

Other Fun We managed to have a wonderful shake at the Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. We drove by on the way to the park and could not resist the building on the way back.

I will be excited when the sign on the door no longer requires a mask inside. It was not an issue, just saying, like the rest of America is saying, let’s get this COVID-19 behind us and move on with life.

Lessons learned

Go out and do something different. People were at the parks. Not too many on the trails with us as it was cold. We were happy to see others out enjoying the Lodge, and I am sure the employees were as well. We felt like we were away and yet we had not gone too far.

On the Road to Perryville

I was able to convince a few friends into visiting the well preserved Civil War battlefield in Perryville, Kentucky. This is a Kentucky state historical site. The battle was a dramatic and short (less than 6 hours) fight for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As a border state between the North and South, Kentucky declared neutrality. So of course both the North and South invaded with the desire to use Kentucky as a base to defeat the other side.

Perryville and the cemetary

Perryville battlefield at the cemetery–Ready for a hike

The North and South forces met in Perryville with the resulting battle costly for both sides. The information provided by the state park was that more soldiers died in the short hours of this battle than at Gettysburg. They are speaking of the death rate per hour of battle and not of the overall number who died in the battle.

Perryville Battlefield Museum and visitor center

The Perryville site does a good job of presenting how the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army and, if they had stayed, would have been able to claim a victory. At the end of the day, the Confederates left the field and moved out of the state to Tennessee. So, this was a technical Union victory. When you are on site and see the movement of troops, you can better understand the results.

We appreciated the site and how we were able to visualize the battle during our almost 2-mile hike around the battle grounds. It was hard to put ourselves in the place of the soldiers on either side going up and down hills. This is the type of place that a map and knowledge of the battle is a good idea. A healthy imagination is also a good benefit.

Perryville line of battle

Line of battle in Perryville KY Civil War site

 

Before we made it to Perryville, the group of guys I was traveling with decided we could go to Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is a 200 year old continually operating distillery; of course continually operating for 200 years takes some talent as most distilleries were shut down for prohibition. Buffalo Trace was open as it was able to supply medicinal bourbon during prohibition. This is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and on the way to the battlefield (kind of).

BT Visitors Center

We arrived early in the morning and were able to take one of the free tours. You need to plan a few months in advance for the scheduled longer tours and, being guys, we planned a few days in advance to go and did not have the longer tour. The free tour was a very good tour. The tour had us walking the beautiful grounds. We were able to see a short film, ask questions and go into a rick house complete with a secret entrance. We were able to see the bottle filling and labeling as well. At the end of the free tour, we were able to taste test the product. As a result, or it could have been planned, our group purchased a few bottles of Buffalo Trace products at the gift shop.

After a lunch in Frankfort, near the Old State Capital, we went on a tour of the State Capital. This is a wonderful building with interesting statues in the rotunda of both Abraham Lincoln (dominating the center) and Jefferson Davis (much smaller and off to one side). Both were born in Kentucky, about 100 miles away from each other. If you know history, we were heading to a Civil War battlefield, and these two were in charge during the battle.

 

Lessons learned.

Everything is better with bourbon here in Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Knows Coffee Shop in Frankfort. We had a good time talking with Tony, the owner of the store. And yes, we also purchased coffee beans.

Burbon Coffee

You can read about history and then walk the fields to see the hills and sweeping fields of fire. Even reading the markers and then walking the grounds sharpened how we took in the scope of that effort by both sides. I am a proponent of being on site. Thank you for the preservation of this historical battlefield.

 

Travel with friends and explore what they want to explore. One in our group had heard of the bourbon coffee shop. It was a fun place to explore.

 

Support the local businesses, helping them and yourself. I am so happy we made a stop at the distillery and visited the capital building. We are not alone and need to continue to explore.

 

No biking was done on this trip.

bike in garage

Bikes left in the garage

 

A Cool Walk on the Beach

Our trip to Florida proved that there is nothing quite like a Florida sunset even when it is cold outside. Watching the sun set is something we rarely do at home. With the weather near a not “Florida like” 30+ degrees (0 C) we were joined in viewing the sunset by several other tourists, most of whom did not get out of their hotel or condo during the day. Of course for us, no matter how many times you witness the sun going down over the water, it’s always a magical experience. We managed to get out every night while we were in Florida to see the sun set over the water. Sometimes it was with a glass of wine and friends. Other times it was just a few of us brave souls watching the sun set in the west.

When it is cold, it sounds good to book flights to Florida. We imagined ourselves spending a week at the beach the first week of January, using plenty of sunscreen while walking on the beach and taking some bike rides nearby. When we looked at the local forecast and saw the highs at home would be cold, we congratulated ourselves on our planning, until we looked at the lows for the panhandle of Florida, in the high 20’s (-2 C). Okay, a few days it did warm up to almost 50 degrees (about 13 C), and it was generally 30 degrees warmer where we were staying in Florida than it was back home.  We managed to walk for at least an hour every morning before lounging around and eating breakfast. Warm coffee was great after a cool walk on the beach. I even put my bare toes in the cool sand, although not for too long.

FL Beach walk river

We did enjoy the sunrise in the early mornings.  We did all the things on a trip to Seagrove Beach, Florida, we anticipated; we just had on more layers and never got to wear the shorts we packed. A good day on the beach was better than shoveling snow at home.

We saw several shells and some wild life while walking along the beach. The sand pipers were fun to watch scurrying along the beach. A sea cucumber and the crab were interesting to see—although it was too cold for them on the beach. We saw the sea turtle signs although we did not see any signs of the turtles. Please let me know your suggestions for the sea shell collection we took home with us. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach that reminded us of snow. Of course, the cold weather may have influenced our thoughts.

We biked and hiked in the nearby Point Washington State Park. We were very impressed by the trails and the different plants that we encountered. We were pleased to be wearing long pants when we rode through all of the saw tooth palmetto bushes. I was amazed at the deer moss that was like a carpet. On our hikes we found a grove of cypress trees .

Kim and I are experienced road bike riders. We were able to borrow mountain bikes and ride in the state forest for several days. It was different for us to be on the mountain bikes, and riding in the sand is very hard. The state forest practices controlled burns; the sand is deep when trucks have been through in recent days. I am not sure who can ride on the deep sand-filled paths. I could not ride parts of this trail as the sand was over a foot deep for the width of the trail.

We did discover what we thought was a tree from Dr. Seus–the long leaf pine tree.

We enjoyed the aviation in the panhandle with a nearby air force base. We did stop at the fascinating Air Force Armament Museum and enjoyed our tour inside as well as outside. They have heat and air conditioning inside the building. It is a good place to go when you cannot go out on the beach.

Lessons learned:

  • Being cold on the beach is better than not being on the beach at all.
  • Bike riding in deep sand is just as hard as a tall hill; new respect for mountain biking.
  • Air travel in January is tricky with snow covering places all up and down the east coast.
  • Beach access is a consideration when renting or buying near the beach.
  • A month or two near the beach is a great way to spend a month or two.

FL Glen and kim at sunset last nightTrip by the numbers:

Mountain biking:  41 miles, longest 15 miles.

Hiking,walking on the beach: 14 miles, longest 3.75 miles in the forest.

FL Glen on bike bridge 2

The Enchanted State Park

Our weekend to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio began on Thursday. It is great to get away when everyone else is still working. Keep up the good work if you are among that group…

It was raining when we woke up on Friday morning. And then it rained until about 9:30 in the morning. At that point in time the porch in our cabin was a good place to be, but a hike in the woods sounded better. It was cool and misty when we started out for our hike from Old Man’s Cave parking area. If you have not been to this enchanting part of the park, access is free; it is well worth the trip. The GPS had a little trouble finding the park. As we found out, once we arrived, even a cool, rainy Friday, several people had no trouble finding the location, including us.

At the beginning of our hike, on the way to Old Man’s Cave, we first walked down to the Hocking River. The views looked like we were in a Disney movie and we half expected to find a troll or a gnome coming out from under one of the stone bridges.

After we hiked through the Old Man’s Cave, we took a longer hike out to Cedar Falls. We really enjoyed the quiet on the hike; the water was flowing due to the morning rain and sounded great. We could see the “just past peak” colors peaking out of the hemlock evergreen trees. The hemlock tree has “whispy” leaves and they are not thick. As a result, our views on the hike were better than they could have been if the park had cedar trees instead of hemlocks. We are planning on coming back during the week next year in October to see the colors at their peak. Past peak the colors were really good.

We did make it to cedar falls. Apparently the early settlers mistook (like me) the hemlock for cedar trees. The falls were nice to visit on our hike, and we were glad we hiked the trail. The trail on the way back warned of being strenuous. We now understand that the hike up away from the falls, on the several steps, was tiring and being on the cliffs looking down did show us how high we had climbed. It was not bad; the only part that strained was the initial climb out from the falls.

We enjoyed finding a suspension bridge on the hike. It was fun for us to take a break and cross it more than once. The path led to Ash Cave, another popular spot in the park. Apparently Ash Cave was the site for public gatherings for years as it has good acoustics.

We enjoyed hiking through the tunnels and over the stone bridges. We found many waterfalls and pretty sites along the way.

 

We enjoyed our during-the-week adventure. We are going to look for more of them in the future. This park did not have a lodge and closed at 5 PM during the week. We were able to get directions from a fellow traveler on how to access our cabin and how to get around. It is always good to ask for help from an expert. We recommend the park as an enchanted trip.

Hocking hills cedar falls

We did not bike this trip. We did hike over 8 miles in the park and could easily have hiked more.

bike in garage

Bikes left in the garage for the weekend

 

Murder Mystery Weekend

Part of the retirement joy is the ability to leave town during the week. We were able to leave for our murder mystery weekend on Thursday and enjoy the best weather day of the week on site. Leaving Friday after work, we would have missed a beautiful (cold) clear Friday as Saturday was cold and rainy.

Lodge welcome sign

Lodge welcome sign on Saturday.

Our visit to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky was great. This picturesque falls is known as the Niagara of the south. Fall colors were happening and the weather on Friday was perfect for hiking. We were able to start just after breakfast, on the trail at 8 AM, hard at work!

The fun part about Cumberland Falls is that it is one of two spots in the world where you can experience a Moonbow. If you have never seen one, a trip to this terrific state park should be in your future. The last time we made it here we stayed in a cabin and hiked the trails by day and saw the Moonbow by night. It is hard to photograph the Moonbow. It is great to experience it. Experiences are what we are looking to accumulate in retirement and not “things.”

Cumberland moonbow sign with Glen

On our Friday hike we noticed the fallen leaves looked like snow cover on the ground. The trees were raining leafs, including giant ones from the big leaf magnolia tree. It was fun to watch the leaves fall across our path.Big Leaf Magnolia on the hike--like snow!

The colors were vibrant in the park.

 

On our hike we saw turtles sunning themselves.

Two turtles on the cumberland river

But, the most interesting sound we heard on the trail was the “talking trees.” On our afternoon hike we stopped, as we generally do, to listen to what is happening around us. We heard a weird sound. Looking around we noticed that one tree had fallen into another and when the wind blew, as it was doing, the trees were trying to pull apart and made a sound. I do not recall hearing that sound before on a hike.

Cumberland Falls with Glen

The reason we went this weekend to Cumberland Falls was that the lodge was hosting a murder mystery dinner. We really enjoyed the interaction and the participation with the cast in solving the mystery. We made a few new friends as well. We are now planning on going with some of our friends to a local showing of a similar production put on by the same company.

One lesson stood out for us. The park was enjoyable for us because the park was purchased and given to the state for all to enjoy.  It made us think about our legacy. We are not heirs to a fortune, yet we can all give back in our own way.

Rainbow at cumberland falls

Other highlight: Late October is a great time to go to the southern part of Kentucky; all the trees were at or near peak. We also learned that the state park has fun with Halloween decorations and the staff got into the spirit with costumes.

Cumberland Lodge enterance

We did not solve the murder mystery, although a few people in the audience had the correct answer. We managed to hike over 9 miles. We do not mountain bike, so, no biking this weekend for us.

bike-in-garage.jpg

Bikes left in the garage for the weekend