Nature turns me into a little kid and a sage elder all at the same time. The wonder of discovery and the stillness and greatness of the infinite all at once. This latest project has me deeply steeped in the wonder of it all.

Here is a Leelanau insider tip: hike these protected lands. The Leelanau Conservancy has a full guide to all their properties and which ones you can hike and what to expect at their Leelanau office or online. They provide docent hikes, which are filled with nuggets of nature wisdom, and highly recommended. Sign up for their email and check their website for more information. They also have, available for purchase, the book “The Trails of M22” — this is your new hiking bible. The scoop on all the best trails, their locations, their lengths, what you’ll see, etc., is available on the Leelanau Conservancy website.

Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of these magnificent properties and a look into how I work. It has never been enough for me to show up and paint a place; I want to know the story. I want to fall in love with the place through each step as I hike, feet touching the ground, and then again. Eyes wide open to discover its hidden treasures.

This fall, my big discovery is mushrooms. I will probably not paint them, but oh the joy of knowing they are there!

Ed and Karl, two rock star docents, patiently teaching me the stories of the land. The areas that were once part of Lake Michigan or other long-gone inland lakes.

Teichner Preserve on Lime Lake

Birding at Kehl Lake Nature Area

DeYoung Natural Area

Chippewa Run Nature Area

Whaleback Natural Area, as seen from South Beach in Leland.

A precious little jewel called a Witch’s Cap at Finton Natural Area

Lion’s Mane mushroom found at Clay Cliffs

More mushrooms found at Clay Cliffs on a docent-led hike.

The detail astounds me!