A Hint of Spring in February

What a weekend. Two days of perfectly clear skies. Temperatures in the 40s. I used the occasion to head north to the Leelanau Peninsula . I had hoped for some dramatic wave action. The forecast of a steady 20 MPH wind gusting to near 40 got me hoping some big waves.

I started my day at Point Betsie, which is known for big waves and incredible ice formations. There were waves, but not the monsters I had hoped for.

Point Betsie Lighthouse 2-22-2020

Instead, Point Betsie was remarkably serene. There were waves hitting the sea wall that has been built to protect the lighthouse. Still, I had to keep wiping my lens to keep it dry, and I too got wet from the spray.

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But, I had Point Betsie to myself for nearly two hours.

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The beach at Point Betsie is littered with trees that have fallen into Lake Michigan. The Lake is at or near its highest level since 1986, chewing away at beaches and toppling not only trees but also houses into the lake. The fact that Lake Michigan did not freeze this winter has only exacerbated the problem.

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After Point Betsie, I stopped at Esch Road Beach, Empire Beach and Lane Beach on Point Oneida in search of big waves, but nothing. So I drove up to Leland.

Historic Fishtown has been in the news for months now because of high water threatening the old fishing shanties. I wanted to see it for myself. The water wasn’t as high as I anticipated. Nonetheless, work continues to save Fishtown. They removed the Cheese Shanty this winter to rebuilt and raise the foundation it stands on.

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Leland is the home port of the Mishe Mokwa (mother bear). which ferries day hikers and campers to South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
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Pancake ice in the Leland Harbor.
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Leland is also home to Van’s Beach. The water is an amazing shade of aqua.
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Whaleback hill juts out into Lake Michigan at the south end of Van’s Beach.
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Ice on Van’s Beach and on the breakwater that guards the entrance to the Leland harbor.
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On the way home, I stopped once again at Point Betsie. The wind had picked up during the afternoon and I hoped that meant big waves backlit by the setting sun.
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I wasn’t disappointed. They weren’t the giants I had hoped for, but they were enough for me to declare victory and begin the 3 hour drive home.
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Angry Lake Michigan

The “Big Lake” has been angry the past few days, with red flags warning swimmers not to go into the water. The lake has, sadly, claimed 19 people so far this year.  These photos taken yesterday at the Point Betsie lighthouse show the power and the beauty of the lake.

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The Point Betsie lighthouse before dawn.

Waves crashing against the bulwark that protects the lighthouse.

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Waves crashing over the breakwater at Point Betsie.

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