Monday, June 27, 2016

Beaver Island - That's a Wrap!

Last Saturday, we finished all of our packing and cleaning, sent out final packages to our new home in the Alaskan bush, and boarded an airplane that would take us off of the island. We were, as we have so often been on the island, very blessed to know such wonderful people.  Friends stopped by our house in the morning and more met us at the airport to say one last goodbye. It was odd to leave the island and know that we probably won't be back any time soon.

This year was an interesting one on the island. There are many things I will miss about Beaver Island, like the sunsets over Lake Michigan, or cruising around the island with friends.  As a reflection of my time on Beaver Island, I've compiled a pros and cons list for living there (just like I did when we left Juneau).

Pro::The Beaches:: Beaver Island has some of the most stellar beaches in Michigan...maybe even in the United States.  The beaches are completely pristine  with crystal clear water and perfectly smooth sand.  For the most part, you can have these beaches completely to yourself, except maybe on a packed weekend in the height of summer. Cody and I used the beaches for recreation in every season.  We swam in the summer, went snowshoeing in the winter, and watched sunset over Lake Michigan all year.

Con::The Cost of Travel:: Traveling off and on Beaver Island is pricey because it has to be done by boat or plane.  The ferry is a slightly cheaper option, but it also takes 2 1/2 hours to get to the mainland, has limited run times, and isn't available year round.  Flying costs about $100 round trip, which adds up for two people and two dogs. This made it difficult to go visit family. Even though we were thousands of miles closer to our families than we were in Alaska, we still didn't see them very often because of the sheer cost.

Pro::The People:: Some of the best people in the world became part of our lives while living on the island. I met best friends and people I know I will keep in touch with for a lifetime.  There was also no shortage of incredibly helpful people on the island who would, and have, dropped everything to help Cody and I when we really needed it. I also had the opportunity to work with some of the most caring and wonderful teachers in the world, and in turn got to work with some of the most amazing children and families too. We couldn't have asked for a better experience with making friends, interacting with coworkers, and finding a support system.

Con::The Gossip:: Beaver Island is small and isolated, which can occasionally breed some nasty gossip.  I personally was pretty affected by gossip after finding out that, before I even moved to the island (or met anyone that lived there), a post had been made about how I shouldn't have been hired to teach at the school on the public forum.  Parents, students, and community members that I had to face daily gossiped about me before even knowing me (and they did it publicly where I could easily read it) and that was tough for me to swallow. The gossip was a pretty consistent part of our lives there for the entirety of our two years, especially in the winter when there isn't much else to do.

Pro::The Outdoor Activities:: The recreation on the island is pretty fantastic, especially for the Midwest. There are abundant hiking, birding, and biking trails and numerous inland lakes for fishing and boating.  Cody and I took advantage of the recreation most weekends.  We climbed dunes with the dogs, biked to the beach, and kayaked on inland lakes.  The wildlife was abundant on all of our outings and we had a blast getting to accidentally sneak up on the occasional turkey (and even a coyote once).  It's a great place for outdoor-oriented people to visit, or even to call home.

Con::The Cost of Living:: Coming from Alaska I was expecting our move back to the Midwest to be a great chance to cut some costs (especially considering I took a 50% paycut to leave my job in AK). Unfortunately, that just didn't happen for us on Beaver Island.  Our housing costs went down by only a couple hundred dollars a month, and our grocery, gas, and travel costs stayed sky high. On top of that, our first winter on the island saw temps in the -20's, which caused us some horrendous utility bills that made the difference in rental costs disappear entirely.

Overall, I loved our time on Beaver Island.  It's as beautiful geographically as it is community-wise. For the right type of person, it is truly an island paradise.  For Cody and I, it was a fun adventure, but it was also lacking a few of the things that we had grown so fond of in Alaska, which is why we chose to return to our beloved 49th state. In the future, I really believe we will return to the island, but this time just as tourists.

Your turn...What are some of the pros and cons about your current city/town?
Currently listening to...Doin' Time - Sublime

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Things to Do on Beaver Island: Kayaking

Beaver Island is a great place for outdoor-oriented people to visit and spend time. There are super accessible hiking and birding trails, the biking is stellar, the fishing is good, the bonfires are big, and there is never a shortage of wildlife to view.

One of my favorite outdoorsy activities to participate in on Beaver Island is kayaking.  We have seven inland lakes (yes, you read the correctly, we have seven lakes just on our little island). We also have the added bonus of being entirely surrounded by the stunning body of water also known as Lake Michigan. You can rent kayaks from Happy Paddle, and they also have bikes and paddle boards for very reasonable rental rates. Cody and I use their bikes often and highly recommend checking them out.  (Now, if you're like me you can also opt for the inflatable kayaking route.  I'd definitely rent/use a regular one if you want to go out on Lake Michigan, but the inflatable ones work well on the smaller lakes.)

Last weekend, my aunt and I went out on Font Lake in the inflatable kayaks that she brought with her to the island.  Font Lake is the second largest inland lake on Beaver Island, but it is quite shallow which makes for some fun viewing opportunities while paddling around it. It also happens to be a loon preserve.  The loons are constantly making noise while you're out on the lake and it is beautiful.  You can also see (and try to avoid) swans, look for giant turtles, or try your hand fishing for largemouth bass.

We kayaked all around the lake, which was a pretty big job because it is a rather large body of water.  There are small "islands" within the lake that you can paddle around, but we tried to avoid them because some rather vicious looking swans had taken up residence near them.  The wind can get a bit ferocious out in the middle of the lake, so my recommendation is to hug the shore as much as possible, with the occasional side trip out into the middle to check things out.

Kayaking is a fun way to see the lakes and beauty of Beaver Island.  You definitely get a different vantage point of the island when you are cruising around slowly at lake-level. It's an activity that is totally worth it.

Your turn...Do you like to kayak?  If so, where is your favorite spot?
Currently listening to...Bubble Toes - Jack Johnson

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Our Home on Beaver Island

Our moving date is looming ever closer. All of our belongings that we chose not to sell are leaving on a Uhaul trailer in seven days, and we will be following on a ferry boat barely a week later.  Moving is always a crazy and emotional experience, yet we seem to be fantastic at it since we've done it every two years since 2012.  This will be our third cross country move in six years. I assume we will eventually find somewhere that we want to "settle" and put down roots, but we haven't found it yet so we keep just keep exploring.

One thing that always makes me a little sad when we leave is disassembling our house.  As usual, our house was just finally shaping up into my ideal little space. We had acquired some nice furniture, the d├ęcor was (for the most part) hung in perfect little spots, and it looked the way I wanted it to. Less than  month ago, the house looked nice, quaint, and put together. Today it is in boxes.

Our home in October 2015.

Our home in January 2016.
I'll miss our giant sky lights that make the kitchen and living room so bright.  I'll miss our house being a scorching temperature all winter long due to the amazing wood stove.  I'll miss hauling wood through deep snow to fill up that stove.  I'll miss letting the dogs run wild in the yard, without fear of predator animals.  I'll miss sitting in our living room and sipping coffee with the numerous windows thrown open in the early morning. I'll miss the seemingly perfect summer weather in Northern MI that allows us to live for months on end without closing those windows.

The living room and sun room.
The kitchen/dining area.
With all of those things I'll miss, I am also excited.  Excited to purge my belongings, again. Excited to have a new adventure.  Excited to immerse myself in a new culture and lifestyle. Excited to do some traveling with my little family. Excited to shed some of the material "stuff" that has come to bog us down over time.

The bathroom.

The master bedroom.
Never the less, emptying a house that you've grown fond of is always a little sad.  Watching all of your belongings fall into boxes, knowing some of those items will undoubtedly get broken in the move. We will miss our little cabin the big woods, but now we are moving on to a little house in the big, wild tundra.

Your turn...What are some of your favorite things about your home?
Currently listening to...Wild World - Cat Stevens

**Note: Our house is for sale! Cody and I were renting it from a good friend, but it is now on the market.  If you know anyone looking for a little slice of island living, send them my way!**