Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Guess what!  1,100 miles and thirty less degrees later, Braeden and I are home!  Back to the Yoop.  The Keweenaw.  Da Harbor.  Our little house on the rock.  Ahhhh.

On the drive home, I expected to see more snow.  Now, I try not to have expectations in general, but we drove during the first week of April, so some snow was not out of the question.  I didn't see much.  The areas with the most substantial amounts of snow at that time were Twin Lakes, Calumet and Lake Medora.  I think Lake Medora still has the biggest piles.  They seem to have the longest winters.  And that lake is still frozen!

Then, while coasting down the hill from the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, I saw her.  She was dazzling in her blue gown.  Lake Superior in all her glory for the first time in three months.  I got all choked up, of course.  I mean, don't you?

Once I got to the blinking light, I shot down to the nearest beach, put the van into park, and jumped out to the shore.  I swished my hands in the icy water and smacked it onto my face.  Oh, it felt so good.  Right down to my soul.  There really is no substitute for Her Majesty, Lake Superior.  I was giddy, grateful and relieved all at once.

I got back the day before my birthday, and I only had one birthday wish (besides being back home).  That was to go for a bike ride.  Luckily, Annele was still with us, so she could watch my little man.

I had conquered some hills there in the Ozarks, and I wanted to see how it translated to the Keweenaw.  Well, the actual bike trails were too snowy and wet to ride, so I opted for the snowmobile trails.  Not any better, but at least I wouldn't get in trouble if I rode those!

Arkansas must have built up some strength in me because that hill up Manganese Road was like cake.  I wasn't even breathing hard!  I just gunned it through the hard-packed snow areas, and enjoyed the ease of the pavement.  I'd say proportions were half and half.  Probably less snow by now.  I hope to take Brady P up for a ride there today, so we will see.

Then up Trail 134 was a bit more difficult because of the mud, but I went as far as I could before I would have to push my bike.  That is not fun, so I just found somewhere else to go.

It was slow and wet, yet it was amazing.

That's how I know that I have a new love for mountain biking.  In fact, I am taking an instructor certification program through the International Mountain Bicycling Association this June, so I can teach other people how to mountain bike effectively and lead group rides.  Woohoo!  I am stoked.

Other than that, my return was anti-climactic, yet peaceful.  I'm sure you always feel a sense of peace when you get here, but it was different this time.  It was like my whole life is peaceful -- not just the fact that I'm here.  But that fact totally helps because I don't have to drive through traffic-laden towns.  Or go past tall buildings.  And it is still quiet.  Spring is  so lovely here.

I am still working on my memoir.  I have finished the first draft, actually!  There's still a lot to add and edit, but it is coming along!  It can only go as fast as a couple nap times a week. 

Well, I am looking forward to the best summer ever, but I'll let spring roll along first.  I hope you are well.  Maybe I'll see you up this way!  Take care.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rural Arkansas Tour

It seems like they are having quite the winter up in da Keweenaw.  Man, it's really weird to say "they" when talking about the Keweenaw.  And the U.P.  It is my home, but here I am soaking up the sunshine in Arkansas.

This is the first winter I have cheated (it sure feels like cheating) in my whole life.  And the people down here say that this hasn't really even been winter either!  It's only mid-February, but buds are forming on the trees, the grass is greening up, and new shoots are coming out of the ground.  I am getting a suntan too.  I can't lie, though.  I like it.

Here's a little tour of some of my favorite natural beauties in my current place of residence near Kingston.  Remember, I am not a photographer.  The lighting is bad and things aren't focused well, but I am using an old iphone.  Like an iphone 4S that isn't even connected to a tower.  Haha.  I am still a yooper at heart!

Anyway, here we go!

Some landscape shots.

A pan of the Ozarks and a beef cattle field

A fifteen foot high rock pyramid
(Photo does no justice)

The Kings River at a low crossing

Some cool boulders -- perfect for a picnic or sunset

My favorite tree

Brady P. overlooking the valley

That little boy.  He is eating a granola bar, so pardon the messy face.  Aaron took that picture, that's why it looks so good.  Plus, well, Braeden makes everything look better.

How about some fauna?

Aaron and Brady P. calling the cows

Horses at sunset

Not pictured are the turkey vultures that consistently circle the skies.  Or the lovely birds of prey that sit in the trees after a rain.  Or the deer that scamper out of site when our family crests the hills in the side-by-side.

That's kind of the jist, really.  This area is rural, hilly and quiet.  I would come back here next winter for sure...  Don't judge!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Howdy from Arkansas!

How y'all doin?

Haha.  I learned that in Arkansas.

But really, how are you?  I sure hope all is well.

All is well here.  I can't say I have felt deprived of one single snowflake while I bask in the sunshine wearing a t-shirt.  It's pretty chilly now, but one lady said that this sure is unusual weather for now, so we should enjoy it.  Enjoy it we do.

The only picture I took so far that doesn't have Braeden's extraordinary cuteness in it is this one.  It's the view from the back porch of the old B & B that we are staying at.  I thoroughly enjoy staring out the window.  We're in the Ozarks!

View from the back porch

Yes, in the Ozarks just south of Kingston.  Kingston is a tiny town, perhaps the size of Copper Harbor.  I haven't spent much time there yet, but they do have a quaint little downtown square that looks interesting.  Once a week, Annele and I make the 50-mile journey to Fayetteville to do all our grocery shopping for the boys.  She is the cook, so she needs to stock up because these ten trail-workers eat as much as 30 normal people.  Ha!

In that way, it's kind of like being back in the Keweenaw.  Travel an hour from our quiet little nature scene to the big town.  But Fayetteville has a sign that says 73,000-some people live there.  That's enough to get us out of there before rush hour traffic.  We made that mistake once, and podunk Amanda doesn't enjoy the stress of that!

Aaron and his crew seem to be enjoying their time building down here.  They surely enjoy the mild temperatures.  The land they are working on is quite majestic.  The Kings River runs through the valley.  Rocky bluffs extend high above the valleys.  The rock formations jut out in unique designs.  There is a really fat, old tree that I want to get a picture of for you.  Horses and beef cattle roam their spacious pens.  I hope to do a post on the project area.  It would be a nice office for a trail builder or a writer!

Brady P. likes it here.  He enjoys taking walks without being bundled to the gills with snowflakes pelting his face.  He loves to see dad and the guys when they come home.  He loves to eat Cheerios and throw them on the floor.  He loves to do puzzles.  He is a little too good at them -- I have to get him puzzles for a three year old because he does the other ones too fast!  What a guy.

So it's a good thing we like it because we plan to be here through March.  I miss all my harbor friends and watching the lakes freeze, but this is where I am now, so I'll make the most of it!  Spring will probably arrive here before we leave, so that will be a welcome sensation.

Well, just wanted to check in.  Y'all take care now, ya hear!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Love Note

Hello.  How about a love note?

It has been two months since your eyes feasted upon my words.  Two months since I have tickled the keys for your pleasure.  Has your heart grown fonder?  Or has it turned away, feeling neglected and hurt?

My love for you has not dwindled.  It is always there, whether I reach out or not.  May this unconditional love set you free from expectations.  Free from feeling fault.  It's not you.  It's me.

Well, that was kind of corny, but I like to spice it up, you know?

As I look out my window or walk through the woods, I see the green and brown of the ground.  Yes, green and brown.  Maybe some red and gray, but you get the drift.  No snow yet.

I hear there's a storm a-coming, so perhaps things will look a little brighter soon.  Until then, I'll just enjoy the days where I can push a stroller on the damp pavement with ease.

Maybe we will have snow for Winter Wonderfest this weekend.  That event is Saturday, December 10th in the Grant Township (Copper Harbor) park and community building.  It starts at 10 am with crafts and a bake sale.  Santa comes with presents at 4 pm and the park lights up at 6 pm.  Who knows what will follow after that? 

Snow or not, it is always a fun time.  Maybe I will see you there.

Then guess where I am going after Christmas.  Arkansas.  Yup, going to try it for a month with Aaron and the Rock Solid crew.  They are building trail in the middle of the Ozarks.  It sounds like a beautiful spot.  We'll see how long Brady P. and I last; it will be an adventure.  I'll take pictures for you!

My memoir is coming along very well, thanks for asking.  And yes, that's still why you've been neglected.  Brady P. only takes one nap a day, and I want to get that baby ready to be published.  I'll let you know when it's ready.  Probably a few months yet.  But, boy, I am addicted to it right now.

That's kind of it.  The bell buoy is gone.  The garden is pulled.  The house and yard are ready for winter.  Brady P. and I are just enjoying each day together.  Good thing he likes me!

So, I'll probably catch you down south next time.  Remember you are in my thoughts.  Be well.



Saturday, October 8, 2016

A "Fall" Adventure

Well, the Switch-keeper just flipped it to fall.  It turned to fall two nights ago.  Three days ago Brady P. and I were out in t-shirts.  Now we have to wear winter coats and hats!  Happy fall!

So you might be thinking, "Well, that's great, Amanda.  Why didn't you tell me sooner?  I mean, where was your nice Color Report that you did the last few years?"

I've been busy, sorry.  And actually, that's why I took the time to write today.  To a) tell you that the leaves are AWESOME if they didn't all blow off already.  And tell you that the fungus is amazing too.  Dozens of species up here for you shroom lovers.

And b) I wanted to tell you what I have been writing in my spare time.  Usually I don't like to leak things too far in advance just in case something tragic happens, and I don't finish.  But I am really excited about it.

I am writing a memoir.

Oh, geez.  Now you are probably thinking, "A memoir?  But you are like 12 years old!"

Yes, I say to you.  A memoir.  You don't have to be old to write one.  You just need a mighty experience that you want to share with the world because you believe it's worthwhile.  And it helps if you actually like writing... and you don't mind sharing your personal details with whomever reads it... or risking people getting mad at you because you wrote something that offended them.

Yeah.  I can do all that.

Besides, I am about 80% finished with the first draft.  "What?!?"  You sound surprised.  Well, why do you think you didn't get a color report?  I got stuff to type before I forget it all, man!  And don't get too excited yet.  The first draft is like the framework of a building.

I am really stoked about this story.  Can I tell you what it's about?  I know, I made you read this far, so I may as well.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my little boy and I had a rough first year of his life.  I mean, medical stuff that I never, ever fathomed happening to anyone's child, happened to my little boy.  He survived open-heart surgery, urethra surgery and several emergency room visits.  That's the jist of the hard part.

He was also, unbeknownst to us until after his birth, born with Down syndrome.  Now, if I would have visited a gypsy with a crystal ball ten years ago, and she told me, "Amanda, you will be kissing and hugging and loving the snot out of a person with Down syndrome in a few years," I would have said patooey.

I know, right?  I was a jerk.  

So it is more than perfect that he came into my life.  I have never been sad about it, by the way.  It is part of this journey of life.  My community, my family and I are all better because of that precious little boy.

I know.  Tears.  Well, through my wit, rawness and charm, that's what my next book is about.  How hardship and stress and the unexpected can turn out to enrich our lives beyond what we ever thought possible.  Going with the flow, and being grateful for each new lesson.  I mean, why else are we here?

It doesn't have a title yet, but you can be sure that I have a whole list of them written down, and sometimes possible titles come into my head and keep me up at night until I write them down.  I also don't know when it will be ready.  How can I predict that?  Just give me time, and hope nothing tragic happens... even though it's part of the journey.  Wink.

Anyway, you've been so patient while I spew about my personal life.  Here are some pictures from the U.P.  Luckily, I went to the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA) conference in September, so I took my camera on some cool adventures... mostly waterfalls!

The conference was based in Bergland, Michigan surrounding Lake Gogebic.  I was excited to explore this territory just over one hundred miles from my own house.  The following pictures were taken in the Black River Parkway Falls area just north of Bessemer.  So worth a trip.  I mean, there were 5 cool falls within less than eight miles of each other.  My friend and I didn't realize that the North Country Trail connected them all, so we drove to each one separately.

The first was Great Conglomerate Falls.  We saw so many mushrooms along the way, we were like little kids!

Great Conglomerate Falls

Way cool red mushrooms

Then we drove to the next spot where we could walk to two falls: Gorge and Potawatomi.  These were awesome as well, with their own set of mushrooms.

Gorge Falls

Potawatomi Falls

A little yellow guy between the rails of the overlook

Haha.  I really need to get a mushroom book.  "Little yellow guy?"  That wouldn't pass in my wildflower world.

Past these were Sandstone Falls and Rainbow Falls.  Both awesome as well.  Rainbow was too big to capture on my camera to do it justice, so you will have to take my word for it.  We lucked out, though because it rained in the evenings, so the falls were much more voluminous than they would be during a dry spell.  Falls in the fall?  I highly recommend it.

Sign before Rainbow Falls
I love the warning on it

The next day two friends and I visited O kun-de-kun Falls.  It was totally worth the mile hike, but let me tell you that you might want to wait until someone redoes that trail because it was a muddy slip-and-slide.  If you are agile and don't mind the mud, go for it.  That one is just off of Highway 45 between Bruce Crossing and Watersmeet.

And there are so many other falls in that area that I just didn't have time to get to them all.  If you ever need a waterfall fix, check it out.  Any area visitor center should have a map of all these falls and more.

Can I brag about one thing?  I entered an article into the MOWA craft awards, and it won first place in the "Best Feature" category.  It was about the "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" event held each winter in Big Bay, Michigan.  If you are a woman, I recommend attending it.  If you want to read it, the link is here.

Wow.  You made it all the way to the bottom of this post.  Thanks for your eyeball endurance.  Not many people will read this many paragraphs in a row these days.  Kudos to you.

Now I better see what else I can get done while my little boy naps.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Going Out More Often"

Hellooooo!  Guess what.  I'm actually beaming to you from da Harbor this time!  As I sit in my comfy rocking chair, the cross-breeze blows past my face, and I hear the rustling of the leaves on the trees.  I hear some birdies and squirrels by my back porch.  I also hear all the motor vehicles whizzing by because, well, it's August.

Can you believe it?  August.  

If you have been with me for a few Augusts, you know what that means.  So I will spare you the rant, and show you this cool picture of a cloud from a couple weeks ago.  I've never seen anything like it.  The sun shined up from below, hit the bottom of the overhang, then extended its rays beyond.  Pretty cool.

Setting sun through a cloud shelf

The other evening, at sunset, the sky was illuminated with a copper color.  A friend said that it was going to rain copper from that cloud.  Well, it didn't, but lots of people took pictures of that sky too.  I wasn't one of them, though.  Sorry.

So how does a person get to see cool sunsets and clouds?  How does a person get to experience the wonders of this land?

Go outside.  More often.

With technology making it so easy to stay indoors these days, it can be easy to get stuck in front of a screen.  Here are some ways that I make sure to get out.  Eventbrite has a whole project dedicated to going out more often (GOMO) as well.  Check it out, and maybe you will get some of your own GOMO ideas!

First of all, I just plain love to be outside.  People and machines made all the things in my house, so they are not really all that intriguing to me.  Except my cast iron pans.  I love to cook with those.  And my fridge too.  Yeah, cuz sometimes I have leftovers, and it's 80 degrees outside.  This chair is really comfy too, actually.  I'm grateful for that.

But I digress.  Do you want to know something that I don't have in my house?  I have't owned one of these for years.  A television.  That's right.  No 42 inches of HD for this girl.  Not even a 13-incher in black and white with the little turny knobs.  Nothing.  Well, except for this computer screen that gives me a headache after a while.

Not liking to watch stuff on screens also really helps me go outside more.  The great outdoors presents a screen that I can feel, smell, touch and taste (if I know -- or hope -- it's not poisonous).  The wonders out there were NOT made by people or machines, and I marvel in their perfect existence.  Everything has its place, and I love to explore that.

Secondly, (or am I on my third now?) I love to make sure I have gear.  Living up here, conditions can change, and I want to make sure I don't always have to change my plans.  So I have rain gear, snow gear, biking gear, ski gear, camping gear and half a dozen different ways to tote Braeden around, so he can accompany me.  

Okay, time for something cute.  Here's a picture of Brady P. in his new wagon.  The wagon is great because he really doesn't like to be strapped into a stroller or backpack all the time.  Plus, the wagon provides cargo room for our garden harvests.

Brady P. in his wagon

The garden itself is a great way to get out more often.  It's a wonderful place to sit, pull weeds, talk to the person in the plot next to you, ponder the universe, get a suntan, eat vegetables and simply marvel at those perfect creations.  It brings a person to a new level of gratitude and accomplishment.

So, heck.  Here is a picture of the garden from a couple weeks ago.  It contains about a dozen plots from different people in da Harbor.

Copper Harbor Community Garden 2016

Ain't she a beaut?  Delicious too.

I suppose I am a part of events as well.  For instance, I was in charge of the bake sale at last weekend's Art in the Park.  Over Labor Day weekend, I'll probably volunteer for the Bell's Beer Copper Harbor Trails Fest.  When other events come up in town, I often volunteer or meander through them if I am available.

So, you've seen my adventures in the past.  You know where my curiosity and lack of marbles takes me sometimes.  I always love to share them with you.  Thanks for being a part of them so far.  But sharing them with you through a computer screen is hopefully more than just screen time for you.  I hope it inspires you to try some things on your own.

Now, if you live in a crowded city in a little apartment with your tiny dog, you might think that it's not fair because I live in the most majestic place in the world.  Well, I have two thoughts for you right away.  One, your tiny dog needs to get outside to run around and carry out its duties.  Unless you have it potty trained in a little box by your shower.  If so, you might actually have a cat.  Not sure.  And two, go on a vacation!  Take a trip!

Where is somewhere you've always wanted to go?  What events are going on in your city that you might want to experience?  What part of your own town are you curious about?  Take a walk.  Take a drive.  Sniff some flowers (please, always look for bees first).  Sit under a tree and watch people go by.  Identify a new flower.  Find a new restaurant.  Do a pub crawl with a friend.  

You have options.  See that?  Wow.  This world is pretty amazing, isn't it?  Maybe tonight you can go out for an evening stroll just before the sun sets.  You might get to see copper clouds yourself.

Be well, my friend.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer to the Max

Haha.  I guess the only time I take to write a blog is when I'm at my in-laws' house in the Wisconsin Northwoods because here I sit again on their couch.  Always too much to do at home, you know?  Hopefully my little man will sleep until I finish this.

Oh, my little man.  Can I tell you how he is?  He is amazing.  I mean really.  He is so stinkin' cute.  He steals the hearts of all the ladies (and even some men) at the grocery stores when he smiles.  He makes us laugh til our faces hurt.  He is so healthy after his heart surgery.  He tries so hard to do the things that other kids do.  He can walk about 4 steps and stand up on his own.  He is on Braeden time, but that is just perfect for everyone because he will teach us so much more than milestones in this life.  He is a gift to the world, and we are grateful.

He loves practically anything with a motor, so here is a picture of him with Dad in the CAT.  Aaron is working on a new campground in Copper Harbor.  It's called Trails End Campground, and they should have sites up and running by August!  That Aaron.  He never has enough to do, but at least he loves to spend time with his little boy.

Brady P. and Aaron digging big holes

So life is just wonderful right now.  I actually have time to go mountain biking!!!  Hooray!  I can slowly introduce death-defying sports into my life again.  I feel so ALIVE!  I even got my season shuttle pass from the Keweenaw Adventure Company, so they can take me to the top of the mountains, and I can ride down and practice my skills.

What else is great?  The berries are starting to come!  I ate a couple blueberries and bilberries before I left, so those should be raring when I get back.  Thimbles are not far off and I bet razzies are about ready too.

The wildflowers are beautimous as usual.  I found a couple new species this summer when I visited a new spot.  Bog rosemary and buckbean, which is a protected wildflower.  Oh, I was so excited when I saw the buckbean because I knew what it was from the  pictures in my books.  I also found a couple new ones here in WI.  I am a junkie when it comes to identifying flowers.  I just HAVE to know what it is, or I get all itchy and can't sleep.

Another amazing thing is the Copper Harbor community garden.  I meant to take a picture of it for you, but who brings a camera to the garden?  Perhaps when I have tomatoes and peppers hanging I'll snap a shot for you.  It's encouraging to see all the plots in the garden.  Quite a few people really take the time to work their spot.  It's something to be proud of, and it's nice to share good food with others.

I have jumped in Lake Superior twice so far this summer.  She's starting to warm up -- especially since my first dip in April!  Talk about invigorating!

And guess what else I haven't been able to do since I had a baby in my belly.  Go kayaking.  But in June, Tim the hawk-counter and I paddled the sloughs at Bete Gris.  Oh, man, it was a picture perfect paddling day.  Luckily I took some photos!

A view of Mt. Bohemia from Lac La Belle

A lone trumpeter swan on the lake

The opening of the Mendota Canal in the distance

We parked at the end of the road in the slough zone and paddled to most of the dead ends, turned around and paddled to the next one.  It was great exploration.  Our plan was to paddle to the Bear Belly Bar and Grill for lunch.  What we didn't realize was how far it was from the channel.  

Luckily we are both positive, go-with-the-flow kind of people because we were huuuuungry way before we were even close.  We almost clubbed the swan to eat for lunch.  (Okay, some of my jokes are terrible.)  But just before we gave up hope, I smelled french fries!!!  Suddenly we were renewed, and my blistering hands paddled a little faster to the shore.  Mmm, french fries.

Other than that, we all survived the Independence Day festivities.  And now it's July, so all my friends are busy working.  Well, at least they got a break!  Mama don't get a break!  But I don't mind.  I think I'd rather hang out with B than make fancy cocktails at the speed of light.  Everything has its season, you know.  

And now that I'm not serving tourists, I like them much more.  I even go out of my way to help them when they look confused.  I take interest in where they came from and what brought them here.  I wonder what they like to do while they are here.  Yes, Brady P. has taught me that we are ALL people, and we all deserve respect.  There is some good in everyone, and that is what I look for.  Life is a struggle enough without having to feel judged by others who have no idea what you're going through.  Maybe he will be president someday.