Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Another fast get away

Sunday  May 31, 2014
Brighton State Recreation Area
Brighton MI



What STUPID Directions!

We make another fast get away this morning.  I am really liking this earlier morning exit stuff.   After 233 miles, the last 5 of it on the worst washboard dirt road poor Winnona has ever driven on, we arrive at Brighton State Recreation Area just after noon.



I love it! Both the early arrival and this place.  What I do not love is that the Michigan State parks website is atrocious in my opinion. They need a new webmaster so things are easier to find and especially decent directions.

Both my phone and google maps took me the shortest way which was the stupid way down 6 miles of dirt pot holed washboard road. We came in the back and finally got to the paved road just at the campground. 6 miles of 5 miles an hour.  There was a perfect paved road coming into the campground from the other direction. A little longer but a lot easier. So if you ever decide to come for lake front camping get directions from me.  

No pictures of the very LONG 6 mile drive in.  I don’t care to remember it thanks!



I love our site and this campground.



Only site 85, which is lake front, would have been better than the one we have.  Of course that’s largely true because there are only about a half dozen campers on the 60 sites in the Lower campground loop.  But I love our site.

There is also an upper campground loop with 47 additional sites.  We have electric, no water at the site so you need to add water when you arrive.  There is a dump station.  Sites are $20 a night PLUS a $9 park pass fee.  SO if you are coming to Michigan and plan to stay more than 3 days in any of their state campgrounds, parks or recreation areas, it pays to just buy the non-resident annual pass for $31.   We’ll be in Michigan Parks for 12 nights total so that makes it about an additional $2.60 a day on top of the site fee. 

The bathroom alone here makes it more than worth that.  Brighton wins the best shower award.  Individual show rooms with clean tile, great water pressure, a separate changing alcove with hooks and a bench.  It’s up town for sure.



 Lake Bishop is calling my name.



This is another place we had planned to be for several days but like the National Park, it got squeezed down into one afternoon.   There are several interesting looking hiking trails here as well as two mountain biking trails.  But for me the big draw is the lake or rather what turns out to be a lakeS and wetlands system.

David put it very well when he says “They sure are just begging for us to go paddling”. 


It’s a bright sunny hot day here in middle Michigan so we decide to wait until early evening and stay out until sunset.  Once way from shore, David looks like a tiny spot in the middle of this lovely lake.






Ah ha, a narrow water path!




As we head around the shore I see one of those narrow inlets that I can’t resist.  It takes me through reeds and grasses, Red winged blackbirds are singing on all sides.   And then shortly I find myself in another lake with other boats.  Well never mind. I circle back and head further around our lake.










Follow that sound.


While paddling around the lake we keep hearing the calls of what sound sort of like turkeys but not.  So when I find another opening through the reeds in that direction, I take it.








This path leads me into yet another lake and the calls are closer.   They are coming from across the lake but now I realize they are not turkeys at all.








Do you see them?




Hey!  I know you.





I get out the binoculars to see if I can spot them.  Sure enough.   I get out my camera to see if I can get a quick shot before they disappear into the sky.  Sure enough.  There they are, and I know who they are.  Sandhill cranes.  I had no idea they were in Michigan.  But I guess if I came here to get away from the heat of Florida and Virginia, maybe they did too.






But the picture is from too far away.  I want to get closer.  I paddle across the lake.  Once I am about 50 feet or so I begin to paddle very shallowly and only when they aren’t looking.  Luckily I have black rather than white paddles so I’m not so noticeable. 

And then I coast in.  I keep thinking they are going to leave but they don’t.  They are too busy and are being harassed seriously by a pair of red wing blackbirds.

I spend a very LONG time listening to them do what I call trilling or purring.  A deep in their throats noise that is really unique.  Wish I knew what it meant.  But then do we ever know what animals mean?  I spend that same LONG time watching them picking things up off the ground and tossing grasses aside.  I figure they are looking for things to eat.  I know that some of their favorite meal items include seeds, plant tubers, grains, berries, insects, earthworms, mice, snakes, lizards, frogs and crayfish.

It appears that they must have chosen their lunch site too close to a red wing blackbird nest.  I don’t think they eat blackbird eggs or chicks but I’m not sure.  Hope not.




I think based on their body color that these are two on their way to adult juveniles.  All the adults I’ve seen have been gray.  But these two clearly have the distinctive Bright red head.





As the sun sinks lower in the sky, I think that this has been about the most fun anyone can have on the water and I decide to head back leaving them wandering off in another direction.



But the fun just keeps on.




The sun is setting so it’s back through the little channel we go.  And then I see something zig zagging back and forth across the water in front of me.  When I first see it, the picture I get is again too far away.








So who is this?  I have my guesses.

I paddle faster. S/he swims faster. I get out my camera and take several closer pictures before my subject has had enough of me and goes under water only to reappear seemingly seconds later far out in the lead. So who do you think I’ve been following?






So who is the odd man out here?

Back in Bishop Lake, there are canada geese floating and one white something off in the distance.  I get out my binoculars.  It is a swan.   A lone swan.  What kind of swan?





I paddle over to take a closer look.

I get very close to the swan who swims a bit away from me but is clearly not afraid.  I later find out that this is a Mute Swan and is not native to Michigan or to North America like starlings, house sparrows and Rock pigeons.  It was brought here in the 1800’s to adorn city parks and large estates. 

Now they are a recognized problem in Michigan and steps are being taken to substantially reduce their numbers.  Apparently they are they are among the world’s most aggressive water fowl and have been known to attack humans who come to close especially during breeding season and especially canoeists and kayakers.   NOW they tell me.

Well this one was not at all aggressive and was very lovely to boot.  But I’ve been warned.  And now so have you.  Watch the swan with the orange bill.






The sun makes a marvelous exit.

The sliver of moon rises in the sky to close off this wonderful day.  We take the boats out of the water and put them on top the car for our move tomorrow.   There are many more paddles to take on this lake and trails to hike but sadly we must move on to catch up to future “holiday” reservations and doctor’s appointments.

This is a really nice spot and I wish we were free to stay longer.  You should consider it when you are in Michigan especially if you have a boat.   The water’s right there, outside your door if you pick the right campsite.






THE END – remember, he has his eye on you!



  1. Outstanding blog today! Loved the pictures.

  2. Bummer that you don't get to stay longer. Beautiful spot!

    1. Nice to see you back in the kayaks! Love the pics! How has the solar been working? Is it easy to use?

  3. You did awesome at capturing the wild life. That is the hardest thing for me.... I am always a day late and dollar short!! Great job!

  4. Beautiful!


  5. What a wonderful place !!! Your photos are magical !!!

  6. really nice. . .and the mosquitoes didn't carry you away? They've been so bad. . .

  7. Bite the bullet on mosquitoes and ticks. I have a marvelous lake for you two to paddle...Lost Lake. Think loons and trumpeter swans... :)

  8. I saw Sandhill Crane last Thursday here in southern Michigan. Our host, Deb, says that they are "thick as thieves" in this area and described the same vocals as you did. I am keeping my eye out for ore on my daily walks.

  9. Finally! A perfect campsite in a perfect location so you can get back to what you do best and enjoy the most, paddling amoungst amazing wildlife! What a great day you had. :c)

  10. You are hilarious, even when you're cranky about directions/potholes/etc. :-) What a gorgeous paddle you had -- and most excellent sandhill crane photos! How about mosquitoes? I've heard they're atrocious in Michigan.

  11. You made me laugh tonight Sherry when I read your frustrations with the pot holes. But in the end it seems it was all worth it. Beautiful Pictures!!

  12. Great photos and it looks so wild, considering you are about an hour from Detroit. Hope you enjoy the area and keep taking wonderful pics.

    1. Just to clarify, we are over 200 miles north of Detroit Tom. 213 or something like that.

  13. I have mixed feelings about Michigan's state parks. I loved the northeast coastline on Lake Huron. I don't know how you manage to get such great bird pictures.

  14. My first thought, or I should say second thought after enjoying the beautiful photos, was what about the mosquitoes? Seems like they should be just thick around that part of the country. There were certainly a lot of them when we camped on the other side of the state in the UP.

  15. Of all the roads we traveled this winter the ones here in VT are by far the worse and I haven't been on any dirt roads yet but can only imagine how bad they are. Nice you got to find your friends the cranes, what a perfect way to end the day.

  16. I've been reading so many horror stories about mosquitoes and ticks in that area, so I was glad to hear they apparently weren't bothering you. The wildlife is so different up there. Good to know about the swans. I would have been right over there trying to photograph it too, so now I'll know better. Safe travels.

  17. I've come to rely on Google Earth!!! I take a CLOSE look at the roads we will be driving if they are new roads to us. Especially any back roads!! But sounds like you finally arrived in one piece and got to enjoy a beautiful paddle and wonderful paddle:o)) Is that a beaver you are tracking in the kayak?!?!

  18. I am so glad you are back on the road traveling again. I have missed your posts and pictures. These are beautiful and like you, I'd be sorry to leave this place after only one night.

  19. Love the Sandhill Crane photos. They do have the most interesting throaty warble.
    Wonder if that beaver is related to the one that gnawed Judy's tree.
    Looking forward to an update on the solar. Bob is emailing back and forth with AM about what we might need for our setup.

  20. Great blog! I'm jealous! Beautiful water, birds ans sunset. Michigan sounds dreamy except for the washboard roads!

  21. Great pics of the Sandhills. Be careful with those swans.

  22. Sitting in Elkhart, wish a tad closer as I would have driven over to meet you!! Some beautiful countryside up this way...roads are iffy for sure and parks lacking funding but a must see state for sure. Cant wait to you get to Mackinac :)

  23. What a beautiful lake and a nice sunset. Glad you can finally 'settle down' and enjoy life instead of solar issues. Looked like a beaver to me too! We're seeing some beavers in our lake here, they have such cute faces :)

  24. Very nice blog and pictures today. That certainly looks like an inviting lake to paddle.
    I really don't like the MI parks policy of charging an additional fee for entrance if you are already camping there.
    (Just hide it in the camping fees and make me feel better!) LOL

  25. I love your kayaking adventures. The swans are beautiful. I can attest to their nasty natures, though. Many years ago one dragged a 3 year old into the water and he drowned.

    When we were in Nevada we say a black swan. I think the town was Ely. I never knew they existed. I have pictures, but they are 35mm. He was among some white swans and ducks in a small lake/pond right in the middle of town.

  26. Thanks for warning me about the swan, I followed one into the lily pads 2 years ago but when I got too close it just flew away so I guess I got lucky. I'm hoping to crack out the kayak this weekend on our lake so your timing is perfect. As you know we love a Michigan State Park, but I agree that their website is horrible. Wisconsin's site is lovely, and we've found quite a few other state park sites very detailed and easy to navigate as well. How is the mosquito situation? I know along Lake Michigan we were surprised at how low the humidity and mosquitos were, but we haven't explored "inland" Michigan yet.

  27. The Sandhill cranes are really pretty as is the swan. Looked like a fun paddle!

  28. Was that a beaver you were following?

  29. Nancy, Page, Teri and Laurel know their beavers. He sure was fun to follow for as long as he'd let me. I'm very surprised he didn't SLAP the water with that tail.

  30. Really great pictures of the Sandhill cranes and beaver! My eyes just could not see nearly as clearly as your camera did.


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