Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Northern Lights make an appearance in Michigan

The State of Michigan got a special treat normally reserved for our neighbors to the north.

The Northern Lights appeared all across the state, from the base of the Lower Peninsula to Lake Superior. The explanation was that a large system of high pressure over the Mississippi Valley displayed the colors across the Midwest and parts of the South. The Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, are created by solar particles colliding with atoms near the North Pole.

I went out to my window to try and find the lights, but couldn't see them in my apartment in northern Lenawee County. Apparently they could be seen south of me in Adrian, so I may have not been able to see them because of the flood light on my apartment.

Hearing all of this talk of the lights reminded me of the first and only time I've seen them. It was 2002, and I was in Canada on a week-long canoe trip. It was roughly 12:30 at night, and we were cooking steaks over the fire. We saw these strange beams of light running down the sky, and they didn't stay still. It wasn't like some images, but it was enough to notice sitting by the campfire. If you were lucky enough to see the lights last night, savor the chance, because you never know when the Northern Lights will be back.

I've taken some of the photos taken last night, as well as reactions from across the state, and gathered them together below. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The view from Sterling State Park: Lakeshore, Great Egrets and .. nuclear power?

The view of Fermi power plant from the shores of Lake Erie at Sterling State Park.
Not exactly the ... prettiest site in the world, but a nice reminder of the power
of man in a very natural setting.
I've lived in southern Michigan since January, and I've been waiting to hit up Lake Erie since then. I finally got my chance Saturday.

Living less than an hour away, I was able to travel to Sterling State Park, just east of Monroe, Saturday with my girlfriend, whom I had wanted to take there for sometime, seeing how I love going to any Great Lake.

With the amazing weekend weatherwise, the beach was the first stop. Most of the picnic tables are put away right now, but few remained for visitors, which there were a few dozen.

Fermi isn't the only factory in sight. This is the view from
the jetty out near Lake Erie, looking back toward the beach.
The first big way you know you're on Lake Erie near Monroe? The view of Fermi Nuclear Power Plant. The new towers from the nuclear reactors are one of the first sights you see, and coming from someone used to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, it was slightly unsettling. It is a reminder of modern meets natural on this park, which is clearly designed to protect what lakeshore property there. The beach is a nice view of the lake, sans the two nuclear reactors right across the way.

The real beautiful gem we found was the trail system across the road. The looping trails, which had a connector to downtown Monroe, was a beautiful system through some lagoons. The trails, which were concrete and provided excellent access for bicycles and other wheeled vehicles. The Lotus Pavilion had several posters full of information, including some about the birds that were out in the lake.

From the Lotus Pavilion, looking out into the lagoon there were six or so Great Egrets, white birds that look like storks. The pavilion provides mounted long-range binoculars to view the birds. With a little help from my new device, the HTC Incredible 2, I was able to get a closer-up view of an Egret from the lakeshore:

See that white, upright thing on the lake? Great Egret. 

The trails looping around the lagoon provide great opportunities for those not completely comfortable with camping and hiking, with the wide, concrete trails that are used by runners and casual hikers. The lagoons are chock full of wildlife, including the Great Egret and swans, as well as other birds. It was a fantastic way to spend a warm, October afternoon. I just wished I would've worn shorts.
The view of the pedestrian bridge, which have visitors access to the trails
and Lotus Pavilion.