This past weekend my son asked me to go along with him on a photo taking trip to the upper Peninsula of Michigan. Normally going out to take photos is at the top of my list of favorite things to do. However, with the recent COVID-19 virus, like many others I was feeling the stress of hearing updates from the media, worrying about health concerns, financial concerns, and the unknown future. My instinct was to just stay in the house. But I didn’t want my son to go alone and he was going one way or the other. I decided I would go along. We packed all of our food and drinks so we would not need to stop much along the way. We left in the dark at 4:30 in the morning and arrived at our destination just after sunrise.
The upper peninsula looked like a winter wonderland! Being someone who loves winter photography, I was thrilled to see the snow. We had the entire place to ourselves. We both went in separate directions in search of the perfect point of view we were each envisioning. For me a spot along the bank of the snowy river was where I knew I needed to be. Time was of the essence and I quickly got set up. I was in the zone, with my camera on the tripod at a low angle to capture the flowing water and snow covered trees that made up the background. I was thinking about my composition and what elements I wanted to include in the foreground of the photo. I clicked a few shots and checked my histogram, made a few adjustments and clicked the shutter again. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a bit of brown motion. My first thought was that it was someone’s dog. When I looked over, I realized I was very close, and face to face with a deer. I’m not sure who was more surprised, myself or the deer. I could see the startled look on the does face when she noticed me. Just as gracefully as you can imagine, she stepped into the water and began to swim across the waterfall to the other side. This all happened so quickly and I was in awe. About the time it registered that I should be trying to capture this moment with my camera, she eloquently exited out of the river to the bank on the other side. With water dripping from her coat, she dashed off into the woods. All of this took place in a very short amount of time. I’ve never seen a deer swim before, especially not through a waterfall, in 2° temperatures. I sat there a minute reflecting on the animals instinct and what they endure to survive those long U.P. winters with lots of snow and cold temperatures. When my son and I met up again a little later I shared the story with him. He told me that he had caught a glimpse of a deer earlier that morning as well and we wondered if it was the same deer.
The path to the bottom of the falls was treacherous and glare ice. Not wanting to risk breaking a bone and needing to go to the ER with everything going on in the world, I decided not to take the path. We realized there was another way to reach the bottom. In the summertime there’s a parking lot and a very nice assessable walkway. Of course in the middle of winter that was not available. We were able to park and hike down the long hill to access the bottom of the falls. The hike was easy we just had to trudge through some snow. It was well worth the hike, as everywhere I looked was picture post card stunning! It reminded me of a Hallmark movie I watch at Christmas time. After many more shots and time spent just enjoying the crisp air and beauty, it was time to make our way back.
By this time I was getting pretty tired, as I had recently been ill and still didn’t feel as if I had a 100% of my strength back. About halfway up the hill I told my son I was going to stop and rest. I told him to go ahead and I would meet him at the car, I was going to take a little bit of a rest. I’m not sure what possessed me to do this, but I decided to just lay down in this fresh white clean snow. Since I was well insulated in snow pants, down jacket, and winter snow boots I was well protected from the cold. The snow was extremely soft and fluffy. I felt my heart rate start to slow. I looked up above me at the beautiful blue sky with wispy white clouds. The contrast of the white snow covered Pine trees and that blue sky was so gorgeous. To add to this whole experience I could hear the running water from the waterfall in the distance. I felt an extreme sense of peace and well-being. Once again I felt a connection with nature, and thankfulness for its restorative powers. In this particular moment in time everything was good, and I was so grateful to be experiencing it. After a quick prayer of thanks in my head, I hopped up to continue my hike up the hill. I took a moment to look at the outline of myself in the snow and was reminded of making snow angels as a kid. This made me smile as I hiked the rest of the way up the hill, and soon I was back to the car.
We did some more exploring and hiking, waving at the people in the two cars we passed the entire day. Way up in the U. P. I was able to put thoughts of the coronavirus aside for a little while. Life felt normal and good. Just like the deer did what it needed to survive, so will we. We will get through this and come out stronger on the other side. I feel gratitude for those who are tirelessly working the front lines to treat the people who are ill. I’m grateful for the folks working in the grocery stores, and the delivery drivers, the doctors and medical staff, and everyone else doing what they can to help. My thoughts and prayers are with us all. I know that the next time I need a break I’ll be heading outside for a hike with my camera remembering to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.