my favorite things to do in Ludington Michigan

in about 7 weeks, I'll be heading back to Michigan for the summer. though I've been living in Taiwan for the past 3 years, and on the east coast of the US for the 5 before that, I think I'll always be a Michigan girl at heart. I spent many summer vacations camping and visiting Lake Michigan on the west side of the state, and Ludington in particular. in fact, my family loves Ludington so much that my parents purchased property and plan to retire there. I'll be lucky to stay with my parents for a few weeks in June and July and soak up the mitten state magic. today I want to share with you 7 of my favorite things, which you MUST do if you ever visit Ludington. [I know I plan to check these all off my list this summer!]

visit the state park

Ludington State Park is the most popular of the state parks in Michigan for good reason. if you need an excuse to camp, being able to view the spectacular sunrises over Hamlin Lake might be it. for those opting to stay in town- you can buy a park pass to visit during regular hours for hiking, biking, kayaking, floating down the Big Sable River in an inner tube, or just lying on the beach at Lake Michigan.

grab a cone at House of Flavors

this place is a Ludington landmark, and was once featured on the cover of Life Magazine. it's been renovated several times over the years, but still clings to the 50's diner/soda shop feel. House of Flavors has a full-service restaurant, and a separate counter for ice cream only. you can grab a cup or cone, or take home a whole pint or quart. I highly recommend their specialty flavor: Blue Moon. behind the restaurant is the ice cream manufacturing facility which creates and packs flavors for many Midwest and national grocery brands.

wave to the Badger

The SS Badger is a historic carferry that runs across Lake Michigan from Ludington, MI to Manitowoc, WI. during the summer months, it departs from Ludington twice daily - once in the morning and once at night. tourists and locals alike head to the marina or walk down the pier to wave hello and goodbye to passengers onboard as it sails by.

explore downtown

there are at least a dozen antique shops in the walkable downtown area of Ludington. hunt around for some finds, stop into one of the many apparel stores for a tshirt, or pop into Redolencia Cafe for a coffee or Le Serving Spoon for a sweet snack. you can also stop by the local farmer's market on Thursdays and sample some delicious Michigan produce.

hike to Big Sable Point Lighthouse

one of West Michigan's most iconic lighthouses, Big Sable Point is only reachable by hiking or biking through the state park. [I would suggest hiking, since the trail is quite sandy and you may end up walking your bike most of the way.] the state park has 18 miles of trail to explore, so if lighthouses aren't your thing, there's still plenty to see. inland lakes, sand dunes, forest trails, and of course Lake Michigan.

have a drink at the Mitten Bar

this venue serves all Michigan-made products. you can sample some of the best beers, ciders, wines, meads, and spirits that "the mitten state" has to offer here. on weekends they also have live music. check their Facebook page for information on performances and drink specials.

watch the sunset from Stearns Park

jutting out from Stearns Park Beach is a half-mile long pier with the North Breakwater Light at the end. if you arrive a bit early you can pass the time by playing shuffleboard in the park, or by taking a tour of the lighthouse. during summer hours you may also be able to catch the Badger car ferry heading back out to Wisconsin for the night.

from sunup to sundown, I hope I've given you a few good reasons to visit Ludington. I am SO excited to soak in the West Michigan magic this summer. no matter how many places I travel around the globe, this town will always hold a special place in my heart.

does anyone else have a town like this - not where you live, not where you grew up, but still feels like home?

look familiar? this originally appeared as a guest post on Route Bliss


cruising Milford Sound: part 1

Milford Sound was the most remote location we visited in New Zealand. and when you drive all the way out into the Fiordlands where there is no cell service or gas stations, you make the trip worthwhile. I think 100% of people who have visited Milford Sound will agree there is one thing you MUST do while there: take a cruise. seriously. this ended up being one of my favorite things we did over our entire 3 week trip.

there are about a dozen choices for cruising the sound. you can take the quick version, the luxury party cruise, paddle yourself out in a kayak, or even stay overnight on a huge ship. we opted for something in the middle: a smaller boat that cruised the whole sound in about 2 hours, booked through Mitre Peak.

the small boat allowed us to get up close to the waterfalls and seals. between those, the misty mountains, and the rainbows... my camera and I were pretty much in heaven. there was a bit more cloud cover than I would have liked, but the recent rains worked in our favor to get the waterfalls flowing. Milford Sound gave us an amazing show - the only thing missing [that I've seen other people post about] was a school of dolphins. and maybe a mermaid.

as we crept out towards the ocean, the water became more turquoise and the sun broke through the clouds. I drank my fill of complementary coffee to make up for the lack of sleep while camping the previous night. and I waved in the general direction of Tasmania before the boat turned back into the sound.

while the number of photos in this post may suggest otherwise, I did put the camera down for a few minutes to just enjoy the ride. as much as I love being behind the lens, the breeze felt pretty good without the camera blocking my face.

[that being said... I still took enough photos that this will have to be a two part post.]

linking up with Nicole for treat yo self thursday


writing into the past

it's been a while since I've talked about my book manuscript. to be honest, it's been a while since I've made major progress on my book manuscript. after completing my first and very rough draft about a year ago, I took some time off for entertaining visitors in Taiwan and then traveling back to the US.

I managed to read through and mark my draft up for some edits over the summer. in the fall though, it seemed my time began to be sucked up by planning for and teaching my blogging class, and of course keeping up with all things on this blog as well.

I know that to many of you out there with full-time jobs it may seem like I have endless hours in a day to write, and therefore it is incomprehensible that I could not have finished this book yet. [or maybe that's just my inner self-critic talking.]

here's a little secret: writing a book is hard. digging in and finding the courage to write about the truth of your own life - baring all the gory details and hoping that strangers might maybe find them interesting - is absurdly difficult.

and then the realization that I probably need to completely rewrite my manuscript because the bulk of it is in present tense and it might make more sense in past tense? that was a gut-punch that stalled me on the floor clutching my ribs for several months.

eventually I started revising. but changing present tense into the past isn't as simple as adding -ed to every verb. some things just don't make sense when changing a present tense narrative to the past. things start to lose their immediacy, their intimacy. so I began to question if diving back into the past was really the right move. until I would come across a section or chapter that was originally written in past tense, and was changed to present to match, and then I was cursing myself while altering it back and pulling my hair out.

last week I reached the part of my manuscript where everything devolves into a mess of unfinished thoughts - complete with fragments of blog posts copy/pasted for dissection and expansion and random sentences I wrote and loved but don't know where to put. the last twenty pages barely represent what the last third of my book should be. I have been dreading this. and to be honest, I think that's why I've not been so diligent at working on my edits. because I know the end of the book is a mess and the level of revision and rewriting [and just plain writing] is daunting.

but rather than slug through the half-hearted edits I marked up last summer, I decided to restart.

I went back to the beginning of the manuscript to start it as it should be. which was actually revising the original start that I wrote and then moved. I'm going to frame the past as, well, the past. sort things into order and rewrite pages and pages and pages until I get back to the mess and then I can just fix it once.

the original title of this post was "when the past comes back to haunt you" but I just couldn't leave it like that. I recently had to unload about 1,000 photos from my phone [no joke] and going back through the past was almost like reliving it. my brain has always connected emotions with visuals. sorting back through shots from when we found out we were moving to Taiwan, our first months here, and particularly from when I started writing this damn book [as shown in this post] has been a journey I needed to take.

my life used to be a bit of a mess. in fact, it still is messy. but now the mess is of my own making, and I mean that in best way possible. seeing where I used to be - who I used to be - makes me proud of who I've become. delving into the past isn't always a comfortable experience, but sometimes it's necessary.

especially when you're trying to write a memoir.
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