Friday, November 23, 2012

Lake Michigan

I finally looked at the calendar and realized that Logan had/has 5 days off from school this week.  I had been hoping to take him to Wisconsin/Michigan next week, but it made more sense to just go.  I knew I wouldn't be able to do much walking, but the vast majority of our trip was driving or stopping at beach areas where I could slowly hobble around and look at birds while Logan tore around and climbed dunes and threw rocks in the water.  I am SUPPOSED to be walking some- just not overdoing it- so the past 3 days turned out to be a perfect trip.  Logan was disappointed to not be missing any school, so I took him out on Tuesday.  That turned out to be a very good decision because the three days we were gone, temperatures were in the 50s and 60s.  Today's high dropped into the lower 30s.

Tuesday morning we dropped Kaylin off at school at 7:25am and headed up to Chicago.  We checked out Montrose beach and found lots of gulls, geese, horned and red-necked grebes and a few loons.  We saw a peregrine falcon and a Cooper's hawk, but pretty much the only other birds were American tree sparrows and ring-billed gulls.  We drove slowly up the lakeshore, stopping at different beaches.  Logan's favorite of the trip was Illinois Beach State Park, where he got to climb steep dunes and jump off the sand "cliffs" into soft sand.  We continued up to Kenosha, but it got dark so we found our way to the interstate and drove up to Manitowoc for the night. 

Wednesday morning we drove to the Manitowoc lakefront.  I was terribly impressed by a huge WWII submarine at a downtown museum. Logan didn't quite believe it was a sub and thought it was stupid.  We had a good time on the beach and then went to the zoo.  It was small and easy to walk, but had some interesting animals.  Our favorite part was when a small flock of sandhill cranes flew right over our heads and interacted with the zoo's two cranes.  We kept driving up the lake and stopped at a nature center, but found out that Wisconsin's firearm deer season is this week and apparently hunting is allowed just about everywhere.  Pffff.  We got back on the highway and drove up to the Michigan border town of Menominee and spent the afternoon checking out the parks and beaches.  Our best bird find of the day was several flocks of tundra swans and a huge flock of sandhill cranes.  I love driving up north and seeing bald eagles along the highway.  I also love the birch forests.  Beautiful.  We headed back down to Green Bay where we spent the night at a hotel with a basketball hoop in the pool.  Logan swam for two hours while I read.

Thursday morning we headed to another nature center in Green Bay and were completely shocked by what we found!  I was thrilled to find a nice lake area with a huge variety of ducks and geese.  We walked back on a path and found a small zoo!  It was really nice, with lots of native animals who were all very active and interacting with us.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the interpretive center open on Thanksgiving morning.  It was a huge building with all kinds of educational exhibits and two large viewing areas with bird feeders.  We stayed a long time.  We then checked out the bay, but found only steep rocky areas or dropoffs.  We got a great view of a northern goshawk in a tree.  We got back on the interstate and headed south to Racine, where we once again creeped down the lakefront, stopping at every interesting beach and having a good time.  We had originally planned to come home Friday, but it was supposed to rain late Thursday and then be cold and windy.  We'd already had tons of beach time with relatively warm wind and both agreed that after the beautiful 3 days we had, icy, whipping wind would be intolerable.  I had wanted to go to a huge, inland national wildlife refuge, but found out that deer hunting basically closed the place to non-hunters.  We decided to head home. 

One thing that is great about driving on major holidays is the absence of trucks!  We drove all the way from Green Bay to Racine (passing through Milwaukee) and I only passed 3 trucks.  There were more trucks in the Chicago stretch, but not too many.  It started pouring rain just as we exited the Tri-State onto I-55 and we were in and out of heavy rain for the rest of the drive home.  Otherwise, the weather was amazing.  The trip was really fun.  We both had a great time being outside, taking in the beautiful scenery and being together.  We saw lots of birds, collected dozens of rocks and shells and filled my car with more sand than I want to think about.  Everywhere we went was free, so the only money we spent was on gas, cheap food and two nights of hotels.  I'd like to do it again sometime in the spring.

Oh, I totally forgot...  When Logan packed his stuff he took a small suitcase and filled it with books.  He took at least a dozen books, ranging from reptile field guides and snake care manuals, to several of his favorite American Chillers novels.  He read during the highway parts of our drive.  He read in the hotel.  I couldn't be more pleased :)

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