Browsing Tag:


    Trumpeter Swans on Magness Lake

    While we were in the States over Christmas break, we traveled south to see my mom in Arkansas. She heard about some other northern visitors, and we drove to Heber Springs to check them out.

    Arkansas hosts hundreds of trumpeter swans every winter! The swans migrate from the Midwest to Magness Lake and enjoy the warmer temperatures from November through February. Trumpeter swans are the largest of waterfowl in North America and are the rarest type of swan. Their wingspan can reach up to 10 feet! The first three swans came to the lake in 1992; researchers think they were knocked off course by a storm. Swans mate for life and they teach their young their migration routes. Now, as many as 150 swans can be seen on the lake at a time.

    We stopped by the lake in the afternoon and saw around 25 swans, along with other ducks and geese. If we had stayed a little longer, we might have seen more fly in after their day out hunting. A friend gave us a bag of cracked corn to feed the birds. They were beautiful!


    Magness Lake swans


    Trumpeter swans on Magness Lake


    Magness Lake in Heber Springs


    Cracked corn on Magness Lake


    Flock of trumpeter swans


    Trumpeter swans through brush


    Cracked corn


    Holding cracked corn


    Trumpeter swans swimming


    Trumpeter swans


    Trumpeter swans


    Trumpeter swans


    David, Leah, Mom at Magness Lake


    To see the swans, take Arkansas 110 east from its intersection with Arkansas 5 and 25 just east of Heber Springs. Go 3.9 miles from the intersection to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, marked with a white sign. Turn left onto Hays Road. Parking spots are available. The swans are best seen in the mid-afternoon to dusk hours.

    We look forward to visiting the swans over winters to come!



    Benedicts in Turkey: Tuz Gölü

    Have you ever seen a pink lake?

    After two days in Ankara, we stuffed people and bags into the rental car and headed southeast towards Cappadocia. Along the way, we stopped at Tuz Gölü.

    The name literally translates to Salt Lake. It’s Turkey’s second largest lake (after Lake Van) and provides over 60% of the country’s salt. It classifies as a mesosaline lake at around 33% salinity. It is also an endorheic lake, which means it’s a closed basin with no outlet other than evaporation. (The Dead Sea is another example of a endorheic salt lake. Yes, I had to Google all of that.)

    I’ve passed by this lake many times and was excited to finally see it! We wanted to stop when my mom visited us in November, but it was the wrong time of the year; the weather was cold and the lake was incredibly muddy. From what I see online, the summer months are better.




    There is free parking at the site and a museum we did not visit. Instead, we walked past the shops to the free (ücretsiz) “beach” entrance. (Be wary of the vendors. They will try to get you with their cream samples.)

    We had a gorgeous blue sky day. I couldn’t get over how PINK the lake was! Seeing the reflection of the clouds in the tinted waters was so very cool.


    Pink Tuz Golu in Turkey




    There was no sand at this beach – just salt crystals and salt balls. It hurt a little to walk on:


    Salt at Tuz Golu


    Salt deposit ball


    Ball of salt




    Salt deposits on a chair


    Turks are big believers in herbal medicine and natural treatments. We saw many people scrubbing their skin and bathing in the mineral water. See the man is sitting in the clear blue spot? There was a natural spring in that area of the lake:


    Turkish man bathing in the salt lake


    David’s family visited Great Salt Lake in Utah years ago. Dad said Tuz Gölü was much cleaner and nicer because it was bug-free. We didn’t swim, but waded a bit. The sandbar (saltbar?) went out a ways. Our legs needed a good rinse afterwards.


    Benedicts in the salt lake


    David and Leah at Tuz Golu


    David and Sam in Tuz Golu




    Chacos: David. Dress shoes: Turks.


    Shoes at Tuz Golu


    Man wading in the Turkey salt lake




    If you’re ever traveling from Ankara to Cappadocia, stop by Tuz Gölü! I can’t find an address, but the free entrance is along E90 on the northeast side of the lake. You can’t miss the sign (the first photo in this post). We didn’t see any, but maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the flamingos that hang out there!



    Benny’s Arkansas Adventure

    While David’s parents and brother were on a service trip to Haiti, we traveled back to Arkansas and took Benny with us. It was Ben’s first time visiting Arkansas. We drove two cars so we could take one to Mom. One car didn’t have air conditioning, and the day we traveled was one of the hottest days of the summer. Guess who had the car with the AC? (Hint: David is too good to me.)


    Arkasans welcome center


    Mom’s still working on her house, but her fifth wheel worked well for the four of us. And we took full advantage of the lake! We spent one afternoon at the Heber Springs Dam Site Park, and the boys had a blast jumping off of the cliffs into the water.


    Greers Ferry Lake map


    We rented a pontoon another afternoon. Mom looked right at home behind the wheel!


    Mom driving the pontoon


    On the pontoon




    Aside from the lake, we all got in some reading:


    Reading in the fifth wheel


    The weather cooled off later in the week. We saw a lot of beautiful sunsets:


    Sunset and mist over Greers Ferry Lake


    Ben fishing at sunset


    The boys camped one night at Blanchard Springs and Caverns. They explored the caves and caught a few trout!


    Blanchard Springs and Caverns


    David holding a trout


    While the boys were off doing their thing, Mom and I visited my alma mater Harding University. A trip to Searcy wouldn’t be complete without a meal at Doc’s Grill! It was one of the first restaurants we visited back in 2006 during my college visit.


    Doc's Grill in Searcy


    We stopped by the fountain to see my brick. Mom got it for me as a graduation gift:


    My Harding brick


    There wasn’t a lot of progress on Mom’s house while we were there, but the builders did deliver the timbers the day before we left:


    Mom's house timbers


    We had a blast and are so excited to see Mom’s cabin on the lake the next time we’re back in Arkansas.


    Family at sonic




    Summer So Far

    We’ve been back in the States for about two and half weeks for our summer break. Here’s a peek at some of what we’ve been up to…

    Eating fresh berries from Sam’s patch:


    Summer strawberries




    David grilling


    Spending time with two of our favorite people:


    Grandma and Grandpa


    Meeting our niece Claire:


    Dad with Claire


    Hanging out with her brother Jonah and family:


    Jonah sliding into the pond


    We drove to Tennessee for my sister’s wedding (more photos from that soon):




    Seeing my mom’s new property in Arkansas and the progress on her house:


    Mom on her new property


    Enjoying the lake near my mom’s:


    David fishing


    Arkansas Lake Shore


    Meeting up with dear friends from college:


    Heber Springs with friends


    Enjoying a Michigan summer at its finest:


    Deer in a field


    Pond at sunset


    Seeing David’s brother play ball:


    Ben in the Gus Macker


    What are your summer plams?




    South Haven, Michigan at Sunset

    We spent 5 days camping last week in Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan with David’s family. South Haven is on the coast of Lake Michigan.


    Southwest Michigan map


    David’s family used their fifth wheel camper, but we had our own private camping suite. The Christmas after we got married, David’s parents gave us camping supplies including a huge 8-person Coleman tent. They also gave us a queen air mattress that takes up about half of the tent. It’s a great set up!

    The first day was really overcast. When we went to check out the water, it was hard to find the horizon! We had some rain the next two days, but it made for good sleeping weather in the morning.


    Foggy day at Lake Michigan


    We spent our days biking, looking at shops in the downtown area, and swimming at the beach. David’s dad had to work during the day, but joined us in the evenings. After we made campfire and RVQ dinners, we’d head into town for ice cream. We ate twice at Captain Nemo’s for their delicious Sherman’s Finest ice cream! (We weren’t as impressed with Kilwins… it was good, but really overpriced.)

    One evening we walked down the South Haven pier to catch the sunset.


    South Haven, Michigan


    South Haven, Michigan


    South Haven, Michigan lighthouse


    We are so spoiled by Michigan beaches! Unsalted and so beautiful!


    Lake Michigan with ducks


    Family on the pier


    We watched the sailboats come into the dock for the night:


    South Haven, Michigan sunset


    South Haven, Michigan Sailboat


    Pure Michigan:


    South Haven, Michigan Sunset



    Life is Better at the Lake

    My aunt and uncle own a lake cottage and invited us up north last weekend. (Up north is a very Michigan term… it usually refers to the top of the mitten.) Oh, the memories we’ve made at the cottage! My family has visited the cottage during summers and Christmases for as long as I can remember. There’s 10 cousins on that side of the family and the girls are all stair step in age to each other.

    We had lots of fun playing with my cousin’s daughter, Cammy! She’s 2 and a half and absolutely precious. She loves to swim, build castles, play with Yo-Zoe (Zoey the dog), and blow bubbles:


    Blowing bubbles with Cammy


    We laughed and laughed that she had named her doll Lois. Here’s Aunt Lois and Baby Doll Lois:


    Aunt Lois and doll Lois


    It’s tradition at the cottage to write your name on a cup and reuse it during your stay. We had two Davids this weekend, so my David got a little creative with his cup:


    Weekend cups


    David purchased a fishing license and woke up early to go fishing with Uncle Marv.


    Sunrise while fishing


    They caught 4 or 5 fish the first morning:


    David holding a fish


    We had large mouth bass for dinner and they were delicious. David learned how to fillet them!


    Uncle Marv holding a fish




    The weather was perfect and we enjoyed swimming, boat rides, and tubing. My arms are still store from hanging on so tight:


    Wiping out while tubing


    It was the first time my cousin Kendra’s boyfriend had gone tubing:


    Kendra and David tubing


    Cammy loved, loved, loved her watermelon. She had 3 big slices one meal. “I need more watermelon, Yee-ah!”


    Cammy loves watermelon!


    We had so much fun catching up with everyone, playing games like Four on a Couch and Loaded Questions, sharing meals together, and getting some sun. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or company!


    The family at the cottage



    Vacationing with the Benedicts: Wisconsin and Pure Michigan

    My side of the family planned a summer vacation starting in the Wisconsin Dells. However, we had a day to burn before meeting up with them and decided to pay a visit to Leah’s cousin in Chicago. We had a lot of fun staying with Kendra and meeting her boyfriend, David. While in Chicago, we enjoyed Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free – we highly recommend it) and a delicious Mexican restaurant.


    Visiting Leah's cousin in Chicago


    Leah and I were a little ahead of the rest of the family. We were commissioned to locate a restaurant and found a Denny’s down the road. However, after realizing Wisconsin is home of Culver’s, Mom and Dad asked us to find one. One of the most common phrases on the vacation was, “There’s a Culver’s – how much you want to bet Mom and Dad stop?”

    Once we had our first Culver’s fix, we continued to the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells are sandstone rock formations that surround the Wisconsin River. We got a close-up view on a Wild Thing jet boat ride. We enjoyed getting whipped around as the boat captain thrashed us into 360 degree turns and plunged the nose of the boat into the water.


    Benedicts before the jet boat ride


    There are over 20 different water parks in the Dells area. We went to Noah’s Ark, who claims to be America’s largest waterpark. My favorite attraction was the Scorpion’s Tail. At the top of the tower, I stepped into a capsule. As the glass closed around me, a voice counted down toward zero (I felt like I was about to join the Hunger Games). When the countdown got to zero, the floor dropped out from beneath me and I plummeted ten stories before doing a loop and reaching the end of the slide 400 feet later. It was the most intense water slide I’ve ever experienced, and it couldn’t have taken more than 7 seconds.

    One night, we attended the Tommy Bartlett Show. The show consisted of aqua athletes performing breath-taking stunts on boats, skis, and wake-boards. There was also a stage show that featured acrobats, jugglers, and comedians. Other than a comedian crossing the line of acceptable family humor, I recommend taking a family to this show; it was suspenseful and filled with humor.

    After a few days, we packed up two tents and a thirty-foot trailer to travel onward. Joe and Brittany had to head home early, but we were glad to have had time with all of the immediate Benedict’s.

    Several Culver’s stops and hours of driving later, we settled down in Door County. Door County is a peninsula on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. We did a lot of shopping and were amused by Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, where goats live on it’s grass roof. We swam at a few beaches and enjoyed riding the car ferry to explore Washington Island.


    Goats on a roof in Door County


    One of the highlights and musts of Door County was the Pelletier’s Fish Boil. Fish boils originated in Door County and are unique to that area. A fish boil takes place outside over a fire. A cook fills a giant pot with water and adds potatoes and onions, and fish are added later. As everything is cooked, the fish oil rises above the water. The cook then pours fuel on the flames below the pot, causing a giant flame to ignite the fish oil. I was standing so close that I almost singed my eyebrows! The result is a delicious meal. We enjoyed the fresh-caught (same day) white fish and potatoes. The food was delicious, but the service was so-so.


    Door County Fish Boil


    Next, we made our way into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We passed through Escanaba (in the sunlight) and floated across the springs of Kitch Iti Kipi. I was excited to show Leah the springs since it was a place I visited as a child.

    We settled near Lake Superior in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We enjoyed viewing the falls and wading in the river. We also spent some time at the Michigan Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. We walked the beach and learned about the many shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s crazy how a freshwater lake can stir up such wild sea-like storms.


    Whitefish Point


    While in the Tahquamenon area, we also visited Oswald’s Bear Ranch . This ranch has 29 live roaming bears. We were able to get up close and personal, and Benny fed the bears apples. We were hoping to pet the bears, but due to a new federal law, we missed the opportunity by just a few weeks.


    Oswald Bear Ranch


    We were so blessed to be able to join my family on this trip. Mom and Dad were so generous and found the most interesting places to visit. I spent lots of time bonding with my brothers, and we had many interesting game nights. The campfire food and morning breakfasts were fun to make together, and we faced the challenge of sorting individual marshmallows out of a big bag of them melted together. Leah and I left a few days early to prepare for more Northern Michigan with Leah’s family. I had the privilege of driving Leah on her first trek across the Mackinac Bridge!