Last month, the Michigan State Park System celebrated its 100th anniversary. With 103 parks, there are a lot of places in the state to enjoy natural Michigan. From Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Western Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in the Detroit River, Michigan State Parks encompass miles of freshwater shoreline, hills, waterfalls, and forests. There is a state park for whatever type of recreation you are looking for.
Mackinac Island was actually the first Michigan State Park as a gift from the Federal Government after a brief stint as the second National Park in the country and became the nation’s first state park (wiki). In 1917, the state of Michigan purchased land to make Interlochen State Park the second state park. By 1919, the Michigan State Park commission was created to “oversee, acquire, and maintain” state parks for the enjoyment of the people. Up until that point, many of the beauties of the state were privately owned and there weren’t places for the average person to go visit in their new automobile (govdelivery.com).
I love how forward thinking the state of Michigan was back in the early 20th century. What else was happening around the country at that time? In 1919, the Grand Canyon became a National Park. Isle Royal, the only National Park in the state, didn’t become a National Park until 1940. Other state park systems didn’t exist until the 1930s.
Back in 2012, I set a goal to visit every Michigan State Park. By my estimation, I have visited 49 so far and I have many more parks to explore! Through my explorations, I have seen some pretty amazing places! Of course, I have shared on here my absolute love of Ludington State Park. I probably visit Ludington more often then some parks which are closer to home. I’ve seen the unique beauty of the big spring at Palms Book State Park. I have witnessed the history of Fort Wilkins and Fort Michilimackinac. Just this past weekend, I camped along the shores of Lake Michigan at Fisherman’s Island State Park. I greatly appreciate the experiences I have had at these wonderful parks and I look forward to many more!
Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
While our recent cruise wasn’t a photography-centric trip, I can’t travel without taking pictures. If I don’t have pictures, I don’t have content to share with you! Since we were planning on snorkeling and river tubing, I knew I wanted a camera that I could get wet. I considered getting one of those underwater cases for my iPhone, but those don’t protect against dropping it underwater and I really didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars replacing my phone, I began searching for inexpensive waterproof cameras.
After hours of searching Amazon and technology review sites, I found the AKASO EK7000. It is a small, GoPro sized, action camera that came with more accessories than I know what to do with! I think one of them is supposed to be a helmet clip but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to put it together. It has wifi so it can connect to your phone to share your pictures/videos on social media and supposedly it shoots 4K video. This camera is ridiculously highly rated on Amazon so for less than $50 I decided to pull the trigger.
Once the camera arrived, I understood all of the 5 star reviews, and its not because of quality. In the box with the camera was a sheet with several accessory packages you can get for free if you show proof of a 5 star rating on Amazon. Right there, that made me incredibly skeptical of this tiny camera’s performance. I played with it in the house for a little bit before we left, but I wish I would’ve messed around with it a little more (this is a lesson for purchasing any new camera gear, really). While snorkeling, I couldn’t figure out how to put it in photo mode as opposed to video mode. Afterwards, I realized it had date stamped all of my photos with the factory date of June 2000, which really messed up Lightroom when I imported the photos when I got home. After getting back to the room, I was able to figure all of that out, but it would’ve been nice to focus on taking pictures while snorkeling as opposed to just working the camera.
Once I stopped panicking about getting out of video mode, I realized that I could pull still images out of the videos so I was able to get some usable shots. This camera did perform pretty well underwater (top), but when it came to taking daylight shots (above), it didn’t do so hot. And lets not even mention the photos that I took inside the cave. My iPhone 7 takes MUCH better pictures than this. The videos did seem to come out better, though. AKASO claims that with the waterproof housing, it doesn’t record sound, but if you watch these, you’ll see that that’s not exactly true. Is that sound 100% clear and articulate? No, but it is nice to capture some of ambient sound. Watch the videos below to see how this camera handles video. And just a reminder, I’m a photographer, not a videographer!
Overall, I think this camera is worth its $50 price tag. Does it perform like the GoPros that are priced 6x+ higher? Of course not! But for capturing vacation memories and not having to worry about accidentally damaging your phone, I think its worth it! Click here for more information about this camera.
Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
Looking back on our Spring Break cruise, I have to say that I really enjoyed my time on the Norwegian Breakaway. Even though it is a “mega ship” it didn’t feel much bigger or more crowded than the Gem. Of course, the bigger ships come with more amenities and more dining venues and it was fun to explore them all.
One of the biggest things that made me want to try out a bigger ship is the entertainment. For Norwegian, the Breakaway class ships are the ones with Broadway shows. On the Breakaway it was Rock of Ages and even though I saw the movie years ago, I didn’t really know anything about the show besides the fact that it was raunchy. And raunchy it was! I was surprised by the amount of children present! The story was okay (I liked it better than I remembered like the movie), the acting was fine, but the music was phenomenal! Which was a theme for this trip.
Every time we heard the musicians around this ship, we were blown away. Especially when compared to the music on the Gem which we lovingly described as a guitar, a drummer, and a computer. The music at Rock of Ages was great. The piano players at Howl at the Moon (the dueling piano bar onboard) were amazing! The addition of having a live band playing music at dinner in the Manhattan room every night was a great touch. We wanted to check out Syd Norman’s, the rock club, but it was so popular we could never actually get in!
The pool deck was huge and had plenty of deck chairs, but we tended to avoid the area and could typically be found hanging outside out on Deck 8, which is known as the Waterfront. Most of the specialty restaurants had outdoor seating available and several bars had outdoor bars with seats along the waterfront. Until the final sea day, this area was deserted during the day and was a great place to sit in the shade and watch the water. More cruise ships need to made use of the view like the Breakaway!
The Breakaway also had a lot of activities to keep you occupied during your time at sea. From the aqua park to the mini golf course to the ropes course the adventurous had lots of options! There was also shopping, the spa, and lots of other planned activities to keep cruisers busy.
With a large ship like the Breakaway comes a shocking number of dining options. We tried most of them and with one exception had great experiences. One thing that was great about this ship is that no matter what you were looking for, it was offered. From sushi to Spanish tapas to French food and pizza, there was a restaurant for your tastes. Even the buffets had theme nights that seemed to relate to our sailing. Since we sailed out of New Orleans there was a Creole night and another night was a Mexican night. They even had ice sculptures which I thought cruise lines get rid of years ago!
The one exception to the stellar food was a O’Sheehans, the 24 hour bar and grill located on NCL ships. It was really sad because we LOVED O’Sheehans on the Gem. But, after waiting almost an hour from when we sat down to when our food came after getting back on the ship in Belize City, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I was telling someone about this and they responded “but you’re on vacation right?” Of course, but I wasn’t planning on spending all that time on a meal that was supposed to be quick. The next time we sail Norwegian, I would try O’Sheenhans again, but I wasn’t wasting my time on this sailing.
If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.
While planning our cruise, I knew that I wanted to see some Mayan ruins. Through my research, I learned that that was an option at several ports. I examined the shore options in all the ports and decided the best option was to see the Chacchoben ruins in Costa Maya. This was a short port day for us; the all aboard time was 1:30, so I knew we didn’t want to risk this excursion through an outside company, especially because a lot of the shore excursion companies had the all aboard time as later in the day. Even though it was more expensive, we booked this one through Norwegian. As soon as the ship docked, we were off to meet our bus for our hour long drive to the ruins. This was one of the most popular excursions from Costa Maya and it was great to hear the history of the Mayans from our knowledgable guide, Alejandro.
Chacchoben is Mayan for place of the red corn. The Chacchoben ruins are a fairly recent archeological discovery. Discovered in 1972 when an American archeologist noticed some hills that didn’t fit in with the local landscape. Excavation began in the mid 90’s and the park opened to the public in 2002.
One thing our guide told us is that the Mayan people did not disappear as many people think. If you explore the area the Mayans are still around and the Mayan language can still be heard in the area around the ruins. It is believed that between 1000 AD and about the 1800s there was a draught that it made it impossible for the agrarian Mayan society to continue so the people dispersed and joined the other neighboring communities.
Alejandro also explained the Mayan numeral system which made my head hurt. I think they should teach this in school instead of Common Core math. Future generations would have a much greater understanding of math if they could figure that out!
This visit really made me want to explore some more Mayan ruins. I am hoping to return to Mexico some time in the future to explore Chichen Itza or Tulum. Our guide in Belize explained that many of their Mayan ruins are still open for climbing, while many of the Mexican ruins are more protected. He also told us that the old Mayan buildings are some of the tallest buildings in Belize today, which is pretty unbelievable.
Anyway, if you cruise to Costa Maya, I highly recommend taking a tour of Chacchoben. It is great to get a taste of the history and the guides are incredibly knowledgable. Yes, there is a pool and a beach right at the port, it is good to get out an get a taste of Mexico’s history.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our cruise, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.