Every year at about this time we get to go "walkabout" for a whole week, leaving our north-woods cabin and our dogs in safe family hands and then, in a typically haphazard Aboriginal fashion, taking off into the vast unknown to experience, investigate, and refresh.
And each time through some kind of magical convulsion, we end up doing more things, meeting more people, and having more fun than the previous year.
This year's adventure was no exception. But the competition is definitely getting tougher.
There was, for example, a truly memorable trip, several years ago, to the strange but romantic Beaver Island in the middle of Lake Michigan with its unique Mormon history, classic lighthouses, and great Irish bar in St. James. Another year, we had a lovely stay in an old-fashioned resort cabin in Hessel on the northern shores of Lake Huron in an area dubbed the "Last Great Space" by the Nature Conservancy where we kayaked through Les Chenaux archipelago.
Another summer had us scurrying around laid-back Nova Scotia watching out for whales and lobster pots and attending a busker convention in the harbor town of Halifax. And, of course, there was last year's week-long stay at the Grand Traverse lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, where we lived and worked with a couple of Zeelanders - and where the sunsets were simply spectacular.
This year's exercise, however, came together quite late. And serendipitously. But when all the parts ultimately coalesced they easily trumped our previous ideas - like a train ride to Montreal and Quebec City (two cities we've always wanted to visit and haven't yet); a week-long canoe trip down the length of the Au Sable River; or even hauling out the vintage Porsche for some kind of extended Dream Cruise.
But then out of the blue we got an invite from the tourism folks at Sault Ste. Marie to come up and witness firsthand what their small community was doing travel-wise in the place "Where Michigan Was Born." We'd be staying, they said, in the Ojibway Hotel overlooking the Soo Locks, a place we already knew and liked.
Then, a few days later, we had an e-mail from Toledoan David Chrobak, a Caribbean Islander, B&B owner, and sometime caterer, telling us about a dog parade and an adjunct festival of Michigan wines in Northport. There was also, apparently, a room in his eclectically decorated but exceeding comfy Old Mill Pond Inn with our names on it.
Dogs, wine, and fine food. How could we possibly refuse?
Coupling all this with a long-standing invitation from some travel pals with a family cabin on Batchawana Bay on the Canadian side of Lake Superior and a chance to revisit Hessel at Wooden Boat Festival time - it suddenly looked like a plan.
Now, back at the cabin, and scrolling through some of our digital photo reminders, we can't stop smiling at the memories, the people we met, and all the places we visited in just seven days and 750 easy driving miles.
•Driving over the Mighty Mac Bridge that just recently celebrated its 50th birthday.
•Hanging out with friends on Batchawana Bay on the Lake Superior Circle Route. And then riding high into the Laurentian Mountains on Polaris Ranger 4x4s to spend a night in a remote hunting camp on Pancake Lake with no running water or electricity. Just an outhouse, bears and moose, and loons and bald eagles - awesome.
•Getting to know more about Sault St. Marie through a local's eyes. Riding through the Soo locks amongst 1,000 foot long freighters. Visiting the lighthouse at Point Iroquois. And then taking a fascinating twilight walk in the historical district with a Celtic storyteller spinning tales and legends.
•A night spent in Hessel and kayaking through the off-shore islands with Water and Woods Eco-Tour owner Jessie Hadley.
•And finally, a stopover in Northport where 135 dogs dressed to the K-nines paraded through the streets. Michigan wines flowed to the tunes of a hot blues band. And David Chrobak hosted a grand post-parade party for locals and friends that even a sudden thunderstorm couldn't dampen!
We've no idea how we'll top all that next year!