Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A new Bay Area hot spot: The Barlow in Sebastopol

Have you heard of it? You might not have just yet. Its grand opening was on November 2, 2013 and is located in Sebastopol, CA off HWY 101 (N) using the 116 West exit about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Barlow consists of 18 buildings, several of them large warehouse style structures, set on 12.5 acres of land that is now home  to a blend of wine makers, organic coffee, hand-crafted beer, food producers, and artisans that visitors can not just shop from, but interact with.

Links to all of our stops are at the end of the post

From the moment I'd learned that ZAZU Kitchen + Farm restaurant would be a tenant (relocating from their previous Santa Rosa location) I'd been wanting to visit The Barlow even before it opened. You may recall I had the pleasure of meeting ZAZU's co-owner John Stewart at the Wine Road's Wine and Food Affair last November. His Ribollita soup left an indelible impression that day and though I'd tried to make it to ZAZU a couple of times since then, it just never worked out.

So, you can just imagine how thrilled I was to be invited to a media tour of The Barlow that included dinner and visits to tasting rooms. I wasn't sure where the dinner would be but I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be at ZAZU. What other stops we'd make would also be a fun surprise.

We began our afternoon at Taylor Maid Farms, an organic coffee bar.  We were in the middle of one of the coldest cold snaps I've experienced in the 2+ decades I've lived in California and it was a particularly chilly day so a warm beverage sounded great. I loved the milk paint look of their name on the front of the building. It definitely made it feel more farm-like.

Inside was warm and cozy. The glowing warmth from the polished wood countertop stood in contrast to the more raw, lighter colored wood beneath and the stained timbers spanning the vaulted ceiling and front wall combined to create a wonderful rustic ambiance.

One of the first things I thought was I'd love to live in this building. Make the upstairs loft my bedroom, the central work area/coffee station my personal kitchen, and the rest could be living space. Maybe someday I'll have an empty building and I can do just that, have a home where the kitchen is literally the heart of the house.

Taylor Maid offers pour-over coffee where each cup is individually brewed using a small dripper. That's a ceramic dripper and small carafe in the picture to the left.

The upper right was my cup of organic peppermint tea. I have to tell you a few things about the tea. One was I ordered it because it was after 3:00 and I can't drink caffeine after 3:00 or I'll be up until 7:00 AM. Also, the decorated tree inside the shop made me crave something that tasted like Christmas. Last of all, I don't even like peppermint tea. LOL. At least I never had before. But Taylor Maid's Pure Peppermint tea was phenomenal! It reminded me of the fresh mint, liquid nitrogen ice cream I had at Smitten in San Francisco. The mint flavor was so pure it actually tasted beautiful. I don't know that I've ever wanted to describe a flavor as beautiful before but this was so pure, strong, soothing, and natural it was.

Best thing is they sell their tea to take home. Worst thing? I didn't realize that while I was there. But I'll be back for more the next time I head north on HWY 101. If you don't live in the area, lucky you can order some online.

Our next stop was really a treat. The Tibetan Gallery & Studio is where Tashi Dhargyal (a Tibetan Thangka Master and Teacher) is creating an incredible piece of art. Tashi is a native of Tibet and the first Tibetan to be producing an authentic Thangka painting in the United States.

The canvas frame is Douglas fir and the cotton was sourced in Healdsburg.

We learned all about the design, process, and religious significance of his undertaking. It will take five years for him to complete the 15' x 20' painting. At that time it will be displayed in the United States before being donated to a monastery in Tibet. To create it simply building the canvas was a tremendous undertaking that required both time and machinery to rotate the canvas as it was stretched. The pigments to create the painting are hand ground from stone. We were able to see and hold a sample of cinnabar which will be used to create the red pigment.

We also learned about thangkas (upper image), stupas (middle row left), and mandalas (middle row center and left). I'd read about mandalas before but hand't ever seen one in person. Made by Buddhist monks they are highly intricate colored sand pictures delicately poured from a tool like the one above beside the mandala. It's a long, almost horn-shaped funnel that drops a few grains of sand onto the canvas from its narrow tip. After the mandala is completed it is usually destroyed, swept away with a broom. It represents impermanence.

I recall reading about a mandala Monks created in the Bay Area several years ago and was disappointed I learned about it too late to view before it was destroyed. I did find it touching that after it had been swept apart some of the sand was given to visitors to take home as a blessing.

You can visti Tashi and see him at work on his thangka Wednesday-Sunday at his Barlow studio. There is a small gift shop to support his efforts and donations are accepted.

When one is in Somona County one should expect to taste some wine. And we did at La Follette Wines.

Their tasting room was spacious and elegant adorned with photos of the people who grow and make their wines. As we gathered around to sample wines produced by one of the world's top winemakers, Greg La Follette, I tried the 2011 Sangiacomo Chardonnay and two other wines but as usual my supertaster taste buds held me back from enjoying the experience the way the other writers did.

With no hope of an affirmative reply I asked if La Follette produces any dessert wines. One thing I've learned in all of my days of wine tasting in Sonoma County is for every 30 dry wines I sample there's one dessert wine that was produced in very limited quantities. Imagine my shock when I was told "Yes," La Follette did in fact have a dessert wine.

Following the first three samples I was offered a glass of La Follette's 2011 Late Harvest Chardonnay. A botrytis wine, sweetened by a particular fungus that naturally occurred in the vineyard, it possessed that wonderful sweetness that mellows the harsh acidity my taste buds simply can't handle in the dry wines. It was a delight to be able to sample such a special wine and was definitely a highpoint for me that evening.

There are also small shops and boutiques at The Barlow. We made a quick stop in Tamarind, a boutique that offers predominately women's apparel but I noticed a table of men's items towards the rear of the shop. If you know a guy who loves skinny ties they had some nice ones there. They also had jewelry and quite possibly the cutest French Bulldog I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Basil was adorable but wouldn't stop wandering around long enough to get an unblurry picture of him. He didn't move fast but he was always on the go or would look away when he saw the camera on him. You'll have to drop in and see for yourself how cute he is.

We walked past the Marimar Estates tasting room earlier in the day and I had to stop and take this picture of their dog-riding-a-bike-with-a-basket-full-of-wine sculptural sign out front.

It wasn't unti later when we stepped inside on the tour that I realized family is an important theme at Marimar Estate and part of their family are their Springer Spaniels, hence the dog in the sculpture. You can see photos of their pet dogs right on their website home page.

One of their best selling wines, Chico's Run, is named after one of their dogs :) That made me smile. I loved that.

Their wine club, Club Marimar, offers a plethora of opportunities that will interest both the novice wine consumer and the connoisseur. From workshops to luncheons, dinners, wine tastings, vineyard events, and even a trip to Spain, there's something for everyone interested in learning more about Marimar Estate's splendid Chardonnays and Pinots.

After two wineries it was time to break things up with beer. At Woodfour Brewing Company there is no shortage of beer. When we walked in there were already flights awaiting us. Historically I've never cared for beer (I blame my supertaster taste buds) with the exception of the very sweet apple and strawberry beers I once tried that had been imported from Belgium. So I held back on sampling upon our arrival.

Plus I was too busy taking pictures. Woodfour is quite the photogenic venue. I particularly loved their beer bottle display wall. I was told by a local that all of the available beers are on the wall. When one sells out someone goes up with a ladder and covers that bottle with a brown paper bag. What a fun system!

While sitting at the bar I noticed their tap system was also unique.

The taps come straight out of a the chalkboard-sign wall. Very cool.

There's also a kitchen. I can only assume the food was good because every table I saw that had food was either on it's way to cleaning their plates or their plates were already empty. Dining at Woodfour is now on my list of things to do the next time I visit The Barlow.

And I did sample a beer, but not just any beer. This was the coffee porter. I love the way coffee smells but don't enjoy the flavor at all. Deep and dark the coffee porter tasted the way coffee smells and was much more palatable to me than actual coffee, or beer. Go figure. It wasn't bitter or sweet. I did mention that a scoop of ice cream wouldn't hurt it, kind of like a coffee beer float. Hmmmm something to think about. Maybe a scoop of coffee flavored ice cream in a glass of coffee beer on a hot summer day, or a cold winter night. Sounds good to me.

Our final stop was the restaurant I've been looking forward to trying for over a year! Can you believe it? I'd waited more than a year to get there! ZAZU is the creation of Duskie Estes and John Stewart. They are a husband and wife team and certainly two of the most outstanding chefs in Sonoma County, or for that matter, the entire country. Duskie may be familiar to Food Network viewers for her appearances competing on "The Next Iron Chef."

I love everything about their business model: Fantastic food, humanely raised farm animals, using all parts of the animals (there is virtually no waste), sustainable organic produce, and dishes that feature local ingredients in-season.

The interior of the restaurant was expansive, cozy, and inviting. A long row of tables set with rolled linen napkins that looked like dish towels and aqua blue Ball jar drinking glasses set a casual picnic mood.

As we perused the menu I was served my seventh sample of wine that evening. To be honest at that point I was more interested in photographing it than drinking it. Six wines and a beer sample and I hadn't eaten in over seven hours. . . So, I got out my macro lens and got to work figuring out my shutter speed and aperture settings so that I'd be able to photograph dinner when it arrived. As I played with the camera settings I did compose this shot which turned out to be my most favorite of the entire day. I really love the barely decipherable red "ZAZU" on the menu and that the wine was swirling in the glass.

Without a word our servers appeared with each of that evenings appetizers. Clockwise from the top left were: Chick Pea Hummous + grilled zasumac flatbread (center), Tumeric Roasted Cauliflower + preserved lemon, Backyard Barlow Radishes (not pictured) + bagna caude, and Backyard Ruby Beets, verjus, pine nuts.

Of the four entrees offered that evening I chose the Petaluma Chicken Under a Brick with black rice, romanesco, persimmon, and agrodolce (an Italian sauce). The dish was delicious. In part of my effort to only eat the most humanely produced and slaughtered meats I hadn't eaten chicken in ages. But I did that night because I knew the meat on the menu at ZAZU would meet my standard.

The funniest part of my meal? I thought the orange cubes were squash and marveled at how deliciously it had been prepared. It tasted so good it didn't even taste like squash! Well, that's because it wasn't squash, it was persimmon. LOL

This dish inspired me in several ways. First of all I went to the Farmers Market two days later and bought a romanesco for the first time. I'll take pictures when I prepare it and show you what I did with it. It also made me realize that to add a sour profile into a dish that was both savory and sweet can make it even better. I can't say I'll undertake making an agrodolce but the flavor reminded me of some pickled beets I have in the fridge that would be equally delicious incorporated into other dishes, not always served as a side dish.

I'd barely finished my dinner when dessert arrived. A luscious, moist, rich, fig and chocolate, pannatone bread pudding. *Gasp, gasp, thud.* It was as wonderful as it sounds. I could taste a bit of citrus in each bite and learned that pannatone has bits of dried fruit in the bread. What a treat! The dish had a warm and cozy feeling to eat, almost like you're eating a hug :) It left me feeling that good.

After dinner we stepped back out into the cold evening air where ZAZU's giant metal pig, perched on the corner of the building, stood as sentinel of The Barlow, it's eyes glowing in the darkness as it surveyed the street below. The sculpture appears to be constructed of two horse water troughs, a metal barrel and a few other pieces of metal. It was created by local, Sebastopol, eco-friendly, junk artists Patrick Amiot and his wife Brigitte Laurent. If you were in doubt as to what The Barlow is all about its presence creates part of the vibe that lets you know you're in an authentic artsy community.

Because it was late (almost 10:00 PM) by the time dinner was over, we were offered lodging for the evening at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Sebastopol. It was a two hour drive home for me so the gesture was very much appreciated.

The staff at the Fairfield was kind and helpful and the rooms were spacious, fresh, and clean. I made use of the in-room wifi checking my emails before turning in for the evening.

Because I wanted to beat the morning rush hour traffic back to San Jose I came up with the brilliant idea of leaving Sebastopol by 5:00 AM. Um, remember that cold snap I told you about?  Yeah. This is what it was like at 5:00 AM.

Of course I had no ice scraper with me. I live in California for Pete's sake. Cassette tape cases are a thing of the past so what to do. . . *Thinking*. . . I realized I had a camera lens filter case in my camera bag. It's made of the same hard, clear plastic as a cassette case so I dug it out and used it to scrape all of my windows clear. And I really had to scrape. The ice was thick and firmly attached to the glass. I would have taken an after photo but my fingers were too frozen to feel the camera. LOL

An hour later I was driving through San Francisco and was surprised by how little traffic there was on the streets as I made my way down to the freeway. Was it worth it? Leaving Sebastopol so early in the morning? Turns out it was but not to beat the traffic. The best part was the sunrise I saw on the way home.

For the opportunity thank you to Lou Hammond & Associates. And for their time that afternoon and evening thank you Tim Zahner and Birgitt Vaughan from Sonoma County, Sara Cummings from Sonoma County Vintners, Sean Carroll from Sonoma County Winegrowers, and April V Karr from Social Elements. I know I'm going to have a fantastic time whenever I get together with any of you, all of you and I know it's going to be something special!

I'll definitely be returning to The Barlow to watch Tashi's work evolve, to pick up some peppermint tea at Taylor Maid, to dine at Woodfour, and to return to ZAZU. If any of my friends would like some company on their first trip to The Barlow let me know. If my schedule is clear I'd love to join you :)

The Barlow
6770 McKinley St
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 824-5600

Taylor Maid Coffee
6790 McKinley Street, Suite 130
Sebastopol, California 95472
(707) 634-7129

La Follette Wines
180 Morris Street Suite 160
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 827-4933

180 Morris Street #170
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 861-9513

Marimar Estate
6780 McKinley Street
Sebastopol CA. 95472
(707) 823-9910

Woodfour Brewing
www.WoodfourBrewing.com and on Woodfour Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon
6780 Depot Street
(Entrance at 6780 McKinley St.)
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-3144

ZAZU Kitchen + Farm
6770 McKinley #150
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 523-4814

Fairfield Inn & Suites
1101 Gravenstein Hwy S
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(800) 627-7468

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Glampette's first television appearance!

After returning from the Midwest The Glampette and I were guests on The Jennylyn Show at KMVT Studios, Mountain View California's Public Access Channel 15. You can watch the full interview below using the embedded video player from Youtube.

The word "glamping" is a blend of two concepts: Glamour + Camping. You can tell by what we were wearing that Jennylyn was the glamorous one, and I was the camper. LOL

That's Robin planning his lighting strategy.

A big thank you to the show's entire team. And a special thank you to Production Tech Robin Frank for setting up the lights so nicely on The Glampette. You certainly made her look more glamorous than usual!

Jennylyn Gleave is a friend and had asked earlier this spring, even before the trailer was finished, if I would bring it on her show. I promised her I would and here she is, The Glampette in studio, starring in her first TV appearance. It was a lot of fun. Thanks so much for having us on your program Jennylyn!

Click on the arrow to watch the interview.

The interview touches on:
  • Why I wanted a trailer in the first place
  • The Teardrops n Tiny Travel Trailers forum that inspired me to try to build a trailer
  • The design and build process working with Fred (an experienced builder) in MI while I was in CA
  • The Camp-Inn tiny trailer rally in WI
  • Some of the high and low points of my first season of travel crossing the country a couple of times racking up 13,331 miles since June
  • You'll also see my tiny MSR camp stove and vintage grill I use as a cooking platform
  • And you'll see my new fingerless mittens that keep my hands warm when the temperatures dip below freezing
  • And safety tips, both parking overnight and driving on the road, when traveling with a small trailer
The only disappointment was that the cameras were not able to show inside the trailer, which is the really glampy part. In case you've never visited the blog before here's a peek at what wasn't included in the show:

The Interior

This is my travel buddy Kitai

And the hail storm in Gillette, WY in June

On a side note I decided to do the interview the way I camp and travel, with no lipstick :) In fact, since October 2013 I've only worn lipstick on three occasions. What a change that is after wearing it 99.999% of the time since I was a teenager.

A special thanks to my friend Elley Ho who came just for fun but then took some photos for me with my camera while the taping was taking place or I wouldn't have had the first image in this post.

If you ever have any questions about The Glampette feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to share any information I can if you've been dreaming of designing or buying a tiny trailer of your own.

For the curious the "Trailer Build" category of this blog lists all of the early design ideas as well as the actual build as it progressed.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cheryl Strayed's Wild, have you read it?

My very dear friend Tracy sent me a book as a special gift. When she read "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, a non-fiction memoir, she decided I also needed to have it and sent me a copy.

For the past few nights after I was done working on my computer I got back into the habit of reading. I also cried (a lot), laughed (a little), and felt emotionally wrecked (in a good way) after finishing it this morning. When I say "in a good way" I mean that I've always enjoyed the process of exercising my emotions as in I'd rather experience rapturous joy and the pain of heart breaking despair than spend my life in an emotional purgatory of neutrality. It's a yin/yang kind of thing. Having experienced despair so awful I almost didn't survive it, I've often thought that's why I'm also able to feel sheer joy and elation. One created the opportunity for the other to exist. That was the silver lining of the bad part.

The back of the cover describes the book this way:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Maybe it's just me but I didn't see the "sparkling with warmth and humor" part. If I were to describe Wild I'd say it was gritty, gutsy, courageous, sometimes fool hardy, and perpetually full of angst. But not in a narcissistic way. Strayed is so vulnerable and eloquent as she describes what she's lost, the mistakes she's made, what hiking the PCT was like, and the realizations she made that I couldn't help but be carried away by her honesty.

While my time with The Glampette hasn't come anywhere close to being as risky, painful, or exhilarating as Strayed's hike was, there is a common thread in the desire to be independent, to be alone, fearless, and being unafraid to search for something that conventional wisdom might tell you not to seek. . . While it seemed like Strayed was running away from her life, in the end she finds forgiveness, courage, acceptance, and herself.

Monday, December 2, 2013

theflirtygirl is on Instagram!

Like many of you I find the sheer number of social media platforms overwhelming. Where should I spend my time? I don't want to be online 24/7.

In the past I've struggled with Twitter. I've always felt the time investment to be present there was more than I could give. But, after my recent four week trip to Mauston, Wi, Michigan's UP, and Toronto, Canada I realized when I'm on the road tweeting is the best way for me to keep in touch with, well, everyone!

So I began tweeting.

That's when I realized it would be beneficial to open an Instagram account and share pictures from Instagram on Twitter. To be present on two social media platforms instead of just one. When I post an image on Instagram, I have the option to simultaneously share it on Twitter and Facebook. Because I don't want to inundate my friends/followers with redundant content I've decided to use each platform the following way:
  • Instagram is where I can share photos taken on my iPhone. I am choosing to share them in limited quantities through my Twitter feed.
  • Twitter shares my blog posts through an RSS feed, has organic content written only for Twitter, and some shared photos from Instagram.
  • My Facebook professional page shares my blog RSS feed and I go as needed to answer questions and thank visitors for their comments.
If you click on the names of the platforms above you can find and follow/friend me and I will friend/follow you back :)

If you have any great tips for me on best ways to use Instagram please feel free to share them in the comments. I'm starting from scratch and could use some help on my learning curve.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Camping with Fred in Michigan's UP

If you're like me, a non-Michigander/Michiganian, you may be wondering what UP means. It's Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the area north of Lake Michigan south of Lake Superior. It's a wonderland full of the beauty of nature, trees, lakes, waterfalls, and campgrounds.

In the UP the people who live there call themselves "Yoopers." If you Google you'll find a lot of humor written about the "Yoopers," particularly for their regional speaking dialect.

That's Fred's Northern Lite Traveler to the left of The Glampette above.

And if you're wondering who Fred is, he's The Glampette's builder I met on the Teardrops n Tiny Travel Trailer forum in June. Some of you may have been wondering what he looks like because I've been posting about him here and there for the past 11 months but hadn't ever shared a photo of him. Why? Simply because I didn't have one to share. LOL

When I left Michigan in June I realized I hadn't seen much of anything in the whole state except for the inside of Fred's garage, house, and the local grocery store. He said the next time I came back he'd take me camping and at the very least, show me Lake Michigan. Well, he's a man of his word. Not only did he meet me at the Camp-Inn Camp-Outt rally in Mauston, WI in September, after the rally we headed north and camped along the UP for five days.

The funniest part about the trip (to me) was after it was over Fred told me when I drove away towing The Glampette behind me in June he watched the trailer going down the road away from his house and thought to himself he'd never see it again. But there she was back in his garage just four months later :D

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

As in all of life's experiences there was good and bad. The good was that we were there to enjoy the colors changing in the thousands of trees that lined the roads and highways as we drove from campground to campground. Also, it turned out that Fred was a perfect travel companion. We got along just swell. I'd imagine camping would be a real drag if you ended up stuck with someone you don't get along with or who gets on your nerves. So, choose wisely.

And the bad? I did mention there was some bad. Well, there were still a lot of mosquitos around and they devoured me. One night I had so many bites my left forearm and hand swelled up so badly that Fred was concerned enough to offer me an antihistamine.

Then there was the flat I almost had when I picked up a screw in the trailer's tire. That actually happened on my way to WI. I noticed the head in the tire while we were sitting chatting the day after my arrival in WI. But, there was a silver lining because it never did go flat and the next day (as an added travel tip bonus) Fred taught me how to patch a tire with my handy new patch kit that I now keep in my tool box.

And there was the ugly. On our second night of camping is when the government shut down. We were in a National Park at the time and the next day the closure prevented us from camping at the National Lakeshore Park we wanted to stay at.

Our first night after the rally was spent at Holtwood Camping Grounds, an rv park, in Ocanto, WI. We arrived just before dusk and chose two spots along a picturesque river running along the outer edge of the campground. When we went to self-register we found out that they were "premium" slots that cost $2 more than the regular interior slots. We decided to live a little and be big spenders rather than opting to move to a more economical location. LOL

Everything about the campground seemed great. The grounds and restrooms were clean, the location was nice, everything seemed fine until a train blew through town just a block up from the other side of the river and blared its horn all the way through town several times that evening. I know people say you get used to those kinds of things when you live somewhere long enough but I just can't imagine ever getting used to a train that close and loud.

The next morning we slept in, got up, made a simple breakfast, and hit the road. I soon learned sleeping in is part of camping. It's not something I'm good at at home but I was getting the hang of it by the end of the week.

Along the way to our first official National forest campground we made a quick stop so that I could see Lake Michigan for the first time, up close and personal. There were a few things I couldn't help but notice:
  1. It was big enough to look like an ocean since you couldn't see the other side.
  2. Instead of seagulls there were swans and Canadian Geese along the shore.
  3. There were bright rusty colored reddish streaks in the sand. Fred said it was iron. I Googled and learned that it is probably hematite, a type of iron ore/oxide.
  4. It struck me as odd that a lake has a sand beach, just like an ocean beach. All of the lakes I've ever been to in WA, ID, and CA have gravel beaches. 

Just a short drive 2 hour drive from our lodging the night before and we were at our next destination. Standing between our two trailers this was the skyward view at our campsite at the Hiawatha National Forest. Gorgeous! At night the sky was full of stars. I would have set out my camera on a tripod and tried to do some long exposure photography but it was cold, dark, and Fred had already gone to bed. . . So, I wimped out.

We'd chosen to stay at the Flowing Well Campground, a small, rather intimate camping area where each campsite is secluded by forest on three sides with one side openly facing the entry road. We were the only ones there that evening. Fred pointed out that in the future if I'm alone this would not be a safe way for me to camp.

On the bright side there were no signs warning about bears so I felt fairly comfortable that evening except for the hordes of mosquitos that attacked me when I went to register our campsite at the self registration booth. I would have taken a picture of the booth but seriously had to get out of there as quickly as possible due to the sheer number of mosquitos lurking about waiting for an easy meal.

Most of my life I've told people that I enjoy looking at nature more than actually being in it. Well, between my new'ish love of nature photography and now camping I've decided that I really don't mind being in nature all that much. In fact, I rather enjoy it. Just to see the fern fronds, a paper hornet's nest, and the lichen growing on the bark of a tree gave me a rush of peace and serenity. I think I'm hooked.

The Sturgeon River runs right alongside the campsites.

Because of the iron the water is the same rusty color as the streaks were on the sand earlier that day. I read online that the water available in the campsites has a funny taste due to both the iron and sulfur, but it is safe to drink. Given my issues with not enough iron in my diet I was thinking I should drink up while I was there!

That night I received a text from my mom that the US Government was going to shut down at midnight if an agreement about the debt ceiling couldn't be reached. As we all know now that shutdown came to pass. But in the morning we slept in and made breakfast. . . I have to say it was nice to feel removed from the dramas that consume the news cycles.

Part of what I loved most about my time camping with Fred was finally learning how to cook while camping. There were many small tricks like cooking food ahead at home and keeping it in an ice cooler to reheat at the campgrounds. We also had a nice variety of produce and dry goods. In the cooler Fred had milk, sour cream, some cheese, and a few other staples that were enough to make our meals interesting and delicious all week long. Every couple of days we'd stop somewhere for a fresh bag of ice. It wasn't nearly as problematic as I'd envisioned it would be keeping a cooler cold for a week straight.

Fred the Navigator charting the day's course on his trusty atlas.

And this is Fred. Some of you may have been curious what he looks like since I've been talking about him since last December when he started building The Glampette. This post is the first time I've shared any photos of him. One thing we have in common is that neither of us like to have our picture taken. I kind of snuck this one in while he wasn't looking. That became our MO on the trip, to take pictures of the other person on the sly. LOL. But I was glad he did so I had some to share to prove I was there.

Even though we were in a National Forest at the time of the shutdown we saw no sign of anything amiss in the late morning, no park rangers came to evict us, by the time we headed out to visit a couple of tourist stops and move on to that evening's campground.

Upon our arrival to visit Miners Falls and the Pictured Rocks reality reared its ugly head. The road leading into the area was cordoned off by big orange barrels due to the government shutdown. I, being a goody goody would not have gone in. Fred, being a bit of a rebel, reasoned that if the government was shutdown there wouldn't be anyone there to arrest us if we did go in. . . So, in we went as the park rangers had left enough room between the barrels for cars to pass.

A little blurry due to using a long exposure with no tripod :)

Was it worth it? You bet. Miners Falls was gorgeous! A short hike on a clear path through some beautiful trees and we spotted the waterfall probably around the same time we heard it. Up close it was something to behold. The photo above has a man in the lower right corner to give you a sense of scale. At 40 feet tall it is one of the area's most visited waterfall attractions due to its accessibility. Turns out there are hundreds of waterfalls in Michigan. It would be fun to return someday and hunt down more of them to photograph.

After we left Miners Falls we drove a bit further to the Pictured Rocks. The water looked like the Caribean ocean. It wasn't Curacao blue but it was a stunningly vibrant aqua green color you wouldn't expect to see in a land locked body of water in North America. At least I didn't.

I was really glad Fred didn't let those orange barrels stop us from going in. Having seen Miners Falls and the Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore I can't imagine driving all the way there from CA only to have been turned away.

Our next stop was the Twelvemile Beach Campground just a few miles away. The one downside of traveling with a friend and two tiny travel trailers between you? All of the time you'd normally be able to spend chatting with them is solo time. You're all by your lonesome in your car either being followed or following them. Fred was in the lead so this was my view that week. Not too shabby. I'd imagine the drive is also pretty in the summertime but I'm sure it can't compare to mile after mile of autumnal hues lining each side of the road.

When we arrived at the Twelvemile Beach Campground this is what we saw. Other entries into other National parks and campgrounds were similarly blocked that afternoon. Even a lookout was cordoned off but we drove into it anyway. I swear I was feeling like such a rebel if there'd been a crosswalk I would have jaywalked, on purpose. At the lookout lot we learned about a dirt road just past Grand Marais that would take us to the Lake Superior State Forest Campground where a couple we'd just met said there was still room available if we made it there before all of the other campers being evicted from Twelvemile Beach Campground beat us to it.

We found the dirt road no problem. I had it easier following Fred. Every time I saw his trailer fly up in the air from a particularly deep rut in the road I moved over to the left or right to avoid it. After what felt like more miles than we actually traveled on that dusty, rutted road we finally arrived at the campground.

In the top photo you can see the blue of the lake just over the top of my car.

Unlike Flowing Well, the campground at Lake Superior was full of guests and from one campsite you could see into several around yours. Which was fine. We even got to know a couple two sites down with a teardrop trailer. That's the thing when you have a tiny trailer and you're in close proximity to someone else with a tiny trailer, one of you will walk over to make an introduction and the next thing you know you're chatting away about both, or in this case all three, trailers :)

It looks and sounds like the ocean. It just doesn't smell like the ocean.

And another camping lesson learned. I'm such a newbie I was ready to relax at the campsite and start preparing dinner. But Fred said "Come on, let's go." Go where? Down to the lake before it got too dark to see it! Just a short walk through the two nearby campsites and a path took us right over a very small ridge to the beach.

The expansiveness of the lake was rather awesome, like it left me in awe. It is so big, and so loud, we could hear the crashing of the waves from our campsite that evening. Fred told me this is where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank. I'd heard the Gordon Lightfoot song before but had no idea it was a real life event or that one day I'd be standing and looking out upon the very waters she sank in.

Realizing that real people had drowned in that historic event made it a little odd in that moment to appreciate just how beautiful the water was. It may not be much of a shot but I did love this one because of how monochromatic it is. The blue of the water and shadows on the sand and stones go together in a cool and soothing color palette that helps me to remember what it was like as we, and other campers, sat on the shore as the sun went down.

But before that there was just enough time and light to take a few photos. Fred captured this fun shot of me hiding from his camera behind my camera. And I didn't even realize he'd taken pictures of me walking down the beach photographing the lake. I did get one of him taking a picture of me but it didn't come out as good as the one he got of me. I really need to practice photographing people sometimes too and not just food all of the time :P

In the morning another walk down to the beach was in order. It looked so different by day. Fred got another picture of me. I'm working on that whole aversion I have to having my picture taken so I even posed for a few.

We hit the road again and were off on a new adventure.

Honestly, I can't even tell you where we were. I have no idea. I was following Fred and when he pulled over on the side of the road near a bridge I parked behind him. I thought we were stopping to take a break but we'd arrived at a very special river he wanted to share with me.

When he was younger he'd canoed down the Two Hearted River, Ernest Hemmingway had written about in the Big Two Hearted River, with a friend years ago. He'd asked if I wanted to try canoeing down it as well but when I replied I'm not a strong swimmer that kind of put an end to that discussion. LOL

For the record I do know how to canoe, I was a Girl Scout after all. The summer I went to Camp Four Echoes I even had to take a tippy test where you purposely tip your canoe over in the lake and swim to shore. But that was decades ago and canoeing a winding river is very different than canoeing on a calm lake.

Fred beat me down to the river.

Once there I was not only able to photograph the river, I did get Fred to pose for a picture. As we stood beneath the bridge I caught his profile with the river behind him and told him I thought it would be a nice shot. I think in return for posing for the pictures at Lake Superior that morning he returned the favor and let me take a few of him.

When I tell people I camped the UP the first thing most of them ask is if I went to Mackinac Island or if I crossed the Mackinac bridge. Not only did we cross the bridge, we documented it. I didn't notice Fred stick his camera out the window shooting a few frames blind behind him. Not only did he catch me on the bridge, his pictures were all perfectly level. I in turn was shooting his trailer from behind. I didn't hang my camera out the window (it's too big and heavy) so the windshield diminished the clarity of my picture of his Northern Lite Traveler. But, what I lost in clarity I think I may have made up for in composition ;)

After crossing the bridge we drove a ways then stopped for gas and used the side of their parking lot to make a light lunch. Another thing Fred taught me: WIth a tiny trailer you can pull over on a quiet road or a parking lot and make lunch. That whole week we never ate at a restaurant. Not once. We prepared every meal ourselves. I loved that. As much as I enjoy good restaurant food I equally enjoy home cooked/prepared meals as well.

Unlike a traditional teardrop where the hatch swings upwards, his Northern LIte Traveler has a rear door that drops down and becomes a perfect work counter for cooking and preparing meals.

This time I knew to go look at the lake first before it got dark.

Just a little further and we arrived at South Higgins Lake, our final campground. It's another place that Fred last visited in his childhood. He said while the lake looked the same the campground had changed dramatically since his last visit. He recalled one could park right on the beach to camp. Now, the park is divided into dozens of RV slots with electricity, water available at posts in each area, and had the nicest camp showers on the whole trip.

The sun was setting when we arrived and the sky was lightly painted with colors that reflected in the almost still surface of the water. It was even more gorgeous than it looks in the photo. It had a peaceful, calm quality to it that just kind of took my breath away. Being it was the last night of our trip I enjoyed the view feeling blissed out and serenely happy.

Soon it was dusk, then dark. Thank goodness we had my dad's vintage Coleman lantern. It is truly a camp necessity as far as I'm concerned. Without it we would have only had the light of  Fred's galley and the campfire light to dine by. Which wouldn't have been bad, but having a light at the table was sure nice. Fred had cooked dinner so I did the dishes. The lantern light was very handy to be able to actually see that I was getting the dishes clean.

In the morning Fred got up and made hot water for coffee for him and tea for me. Since then I have made one cup of tea with my propane stove and have practiced in the backyard mastering making eggs (scrambled, over medium, and omelets) on my camp stove.

LOL I wasn't sure if I should show this picture or not. Because I'm still trying to naturally increase my omega fatty acid and salt intake I often have canned salmon mixed with diced avocado, apples, and a little soy sauce for breakfast. Though I offered some to Fred each morning I made it he politely declined fish for breakfast. I don't know why. I did tell him the next time we go camping together I am going to make him my salmon hash because it's awesome and it's fish for breakfast that I think he'll love.

After breakfast we packed up and headed back to Central Michigan where Fred lives. He was going to build out the rest of the interior of the trailer for me adding my new countertop and shelves that I had procrastinated building myself.

Here's the thing, though the UP may be more famous for its fall colors, Central Michigan has its own share of gorgeous locations including this old, double arched, railroad bridge in Belding. I don't even know the name of it. But if you know a local they might know how to tell you to get there. Fred had looked for it before and that week it took us two tries to find it. It was almost like going on a treasure hunt and well worth the effort.

Along with the autumn colors I also enjoyed the last flowers of the summer in Fred's garden. While I was there the temperature dipped one night leaving the yard covered with frost in the morning. Not only was it beautiful, it killed all of the mosquitos. After that night I didn't see another one the rest of the week. So there you have it, the best time to visit Michigan for me is after the first frost and before the first snow. LOL

To Fred I can only say thank you for being such a great builder and friend. You took so much time and care teaching me how to camp and I just wanted to say your efforts were truly appreciated. Your tips, advice, and the experience I gained that week I will use often in the coming years as The Glampette and I continue our bonding process.

P.S. I'm hoping we (You, me, The Glampette, and your Northern Lite Traveler) can make the Camp-Inn Camp-Outt followed by a week along the UP an annual tradition. Next year I'll have to try a pasty :)

For more information about the things I saw and the places I stayed at here's all you need to know:

Holtwood Campground (RV Park) -  website
400 Holtwood Way
Oconto, WI 54153

Hiawatha National Forest
Flowing Well Campground - website
Rapid River, MI 49878

Miners Falls - website
Munising, MI

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - website
Grand Marais, MI 49839

Lake Superior State Forest Campground - website
Newberry, MI 49868

Two Hearted River - 

South Higgins Lake State Park - website
Roscommon, MI 48653