Up north, we have an abundance of fall color on the trees and (seemingly) few truly beautiful days to enjoy it. With the time change, it’s already dark when I get home from work so that means more morning runs to get some daylight and enjoying the outdoors on the weekends as much as possible. This past weekend was, as far as I can tell, the peak of color season on the Old Mission Peninsula where Sam and I live. The entire 18 miles out to the end of the peninsula were brimming with gorgeous colors and the weather was a crisp 40-50 degrees outside, making it absolutely ideal for some hiking adventures at the historic Old Mission Lighthouse. Plus, our friends Mark and Rachelle (and their little Yorkie, Tanner) were visiting, so we had every excuse to take them out into the wilderness.
While there are lots of trails to hike on out at the lighthouse, few people know about the two-track dirt roads you can take straight out to the edge of East Bay. I was told these are called the “Fire Roads,” since back in the day they provided easy access to East Bay in case there was a fire in the area. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it makes a good story. Plus, I am a sucker for off-road driving so I really look for any excuse to ride on them.
The road ends just feet away from the East Bay coast, far at the north end of the peninsula. No matter how many times I look around at the beautiful bodies of fresh water up here, it never ceases to amaze and captivate me. It always feels like home. The water always makes me feel small, but also infinite in what I am capable of doing with my life. We really are too lucky to be able to call this place our home.
Once the wind got the best of us out there on the edge of the water, we made our way back in towards the shore and hiked around some more, moving towards the lighthouse. The whole world was covered in a red-yellow-orange-brown quilt, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Autumn makes me feel so alive; it is my favorite season. The wind, chill, and rain are all just reminders about how vulnerable and temporary we are, and I embrace that reminder as a a chance to direct all my actions towards living the best life I possibly can. No other season makes me feel that like Autumn.
We made it to the lighthouse and saw a few other people milling about the building. We took Mark inside the lighthouse (I’d never been in there before!), and as it turns out, we got free admission up to the top since we are officially residents of Peninsula Township! It was another confirmation that we bought the right house all those months ago. We were pretty ecstatic and headed up to the top!
As expected, the view was fantastic from the light keeper’s post at the tippy-top. It was also, as you can see from the above photo, a bit alarming to see how much the water levels have dropped. When I was seven, the water came up to where the “from the top” text is in that photo. Now it’s way off in the distance. The water level has dropped 8 feet in Lake Michigan since they started recording the depth many years ago–meaning that the depth of the water in the entire lake is 8 feet lower than it once was. These sort of images emphasize the importance of conservation and eco-friendly living, reminding me to not take advantage of anything in life. I can only hope my children get to experience the same beauty of the Great Lakes someday.
We came down from the top and wandered along the mucky shore where the water line has receded for years. It’s breathtaking in its own way: things change a little each day, and sometimes it takes years to realize the enormity of the impact. Perhaps I just need to pay more attention, but I feel that there are larger forces at play here than just my own attention span.
Visitors to the lighthouse have taken to moving rocks and building shapes and patterns with them on the vacant, exposed sand. Some people wander way out to the water’s edge, but each time I do that it saddens me more than anything else. Still, the surrounding natural area was in such pristine form that I couldn’t help but be in high spirits the entire hike.
An hour or so later, we made our way back to the car and out for lunch in town. Few things are as satisfying as a warm cup of tea after a brisk walk outside!
So, I guess this post was a bit more emotional that I intended it to be, but it really was a fantastic and gorgeous day at one of my favorite places in the world. Autumn adventures are the best, especially when shared with good friends (and a little furry woof-woof friend, too). This is the time of year to enjoy all these things in our area, since tourists aren’t around our town as much right now. Open parking spaces and less crowded parks are truly a thing to take advantage of while we can. Come up and visit!