Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan

If I could live anywhere (in Michigan, that is!), I would hands-down live in Ann Arbor. Not only is this trendy college town known for the University of Michigan, but there’s a special charm here that’s unforgettable.

Juan, Linley and I were supposed to wake up at 6:30am yesterday morning and head four hours north to Traverse City; I wanted to see all the fall colors near Lake Michigan and go on some epic hikes. Our plans abruptly changed as we discovered that it would be rainy all day, and because Juan pulled an all-nighter on Friday. I decided that we would all spend the day at the University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum instead. I’ve never been but am thankful we visited yesterday.

We all soaked up the fall foliage, miles of hiking and the crisp, autumn air. This goes without saying, but I think Linley enjoyed himself the most 🙂

Photos taken Saturday, October 17, 2020

Zip Lining and Problem Solving

My love for zip lining began in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on a family vacation. The freedom and thrill associated with it is empowering and so exhilarating!

I’ve been zip lining a few times since our Smokey Mountain adventure: once with my Little Sister and twice with a friend in metro-Detroit.

If you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights, for a family-friendly activity, a team-building exercise or something fun to do outdoors, zip lining might be the perfect pastime for ya!

If you live in Michigan or Tennessee, feel free to message me for company suggestions and additional information 🙂

Media taken August, 2019 and October, 2020

Friend & Family Breakups

I wanted to put a pause on my regular travel posts and write about something that’s been lingering in the forefront of my mind this year.

I’ve been struggling with long-term extended family estrangement and somewhat short-term immediate family drama, as well as some pretty upsetting friendship breakups. I won’t go into specifics in order to protect those around me, but I’ve been in a dark place for about a year or so now. As one can imagine, this has taken a toll on my mental health.

I recently heard a quote on one of my favorite podcasts that goes a little something like this:

“Depression is the greatest acting teacher. I can smile through anything even though I just want the ground to open up and swallow me whole.” If that doesn’t hit you like a semi truck, I’m not sure what will…

I’m not a therapist or licensed professional by any means, but I wanted to share some strategies I’ve been applying to help with the pain of broken friendships and family relationships. It’s important to note that all of these points coincide with each other and this is the “flow” as I see it. Remember: everyone’s journey is highly personal and individual.

1. Don’t change who you are for those around you.

I have a lot of people in my life – family members in particular – who will never be proud of me, no matter what I do. In the past and present, I have been laughed at or mocked for my dreams and ambitions. Family members have and will continue to make me feel small to build themselves up. About five years ago, I chose to let them go as opposed to clinging onto the gaslighting and the guilt (e.g.: “well, I guess it’s your choice if you don’t want to be here” comments when THEY were the ones hurting ME).

2. Create your own closure.

Oftentimes we find that friendship and family breakups seem abrupt, without true closure. I was best friends with someone for nearly 12 years and I’ve been thinking about our good times lately. But with that, I’ve also been thinking of the bad. The truth is that she was like an older sister to me, whereas I was her “plan b”/“second choice” friend for a very long time. Write a goodbye letter. Get rid of photos. Do something that allows you to create your own closure. Remember, don’t change yourself to fit others’ narratives of you.

3. Try not to hate the person on the other end.

It would be so easy for me to say, “She was a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.” Although there are times I’ve been hurt by family and friends (and honestly still am hurting from recent experiences), I try my damnedest to acknowledge that we all have flaws and shortcomings. I realize this is much easier said than done, but I’m hoping this will make me a better, stronger person in the end.

4. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings.

Conversely, it’s okay to be angry, hurt, frustrated or upset. As long as you aren’t taking it out on the other person, allow yourself to reflect on your feelings in the present moment. Thinking of a past memory you miss? Cry. Thinking of how good things were in the past? Smile. The more you hold back and shove your feelings into a corner of your mind, the longer it’ll take you to move on.

5. Focus on yourself and the great relationships in your life.

I may never have a best friend who reminds me of an older sister ever again, but I do have amazing friends in my life. I feel loved every day, even if it isn’t by a family member. I may never be close with my family, but I have several friends-turned-family relationships that fill my heart. Be around like-minded, supportive people who will always be there for you (and always be there for them, too!).

Every day of 2020 has felt like an overwhelming struggle, but I am much more resilient than I was before. “When life hands you lemons, they say to make lemonade, but you can’t make lemonade without any sugar.”

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me 🙂

What will you do with your “hyphen”?

While listening to one of my favorite people on one of my favorite podcasts (Mayim Bialik and Freakonomics, respectively), I was moved by every word she relayed to her listeners.

Mayim discovered that our lives are hyphenated (e.g.: Catherine Olivia Spader, 1993-20??). She asked us, “What will you do with your hyphen?” My jaw dropped. It’s never been explained so simply.

Life isn’t a dress rehearsal: this is our one chance to do something amazing. Although 2020 has been the most challenging year of my life – and has been for many others – I’m going to focus on exploring sights unseen, as well as the true passions of “my hyphen.”

September Sunsets

You can fight me on this all you want, but golf courses are the best places to see the sunset!

~

On an unrelated note, I’ve been filling out a TON of job applications and have been drafting all kinds of cover letters. One of the latest asked me to tell a story about the products I use for my favorite recreational activity. Here’s my story; I hope you enjoy!

Dear Fellow Product Junkie,

I remember when my dad took me to get fitted for new golf clubs nearly ten years ago. “Why would it matter what kind of clubs I used?” I thought to myself. “If I’m good, I’ll still be good. And if I’m awful, I’ll still be awful!” 

Boy, was I wrong. What a difference your equipment can make!

If you haven’t already guessed: I LOVE GOLF. I’ve been playing ever since I could carry my own bag. Even though my golf hat, shoes and pants were baggy as a youngster, the course has always been my comfort zone. 

It wasn’t until high school when I really took the game seriously. Before age 14, I would go with my dad and brother almost every weekend, no matter what the Michigan weather gods decided that day. As my focus improved, my scores did as well, and it was time to take my game to the next level. 

Golf technology has evolved since its conception in 1764; now we use multi-part golf balls as opposed to leather sacks of feathers and wool! When I was fitted for clubs in 2011, I discovered that my old clubs weren’t doing me any favors (they didn’t help my hooks and slices, gave me no control off the tee…). My dad and I visited a professional who could analyze my swing and tell me which clubs would benefit me the most. 

After over an hour of swinging into a screen and viewing my swing patterns, two sets of clubs stood out: the latest Callaway’s and the new Ping G15’s. And since I needed irons with lots of forgiveness (or maybe “fore”-giveness!), I chose the Ping’s without hesitation. 

Maybe it’s the memories associated with the clubs that make them impossible to part with, or maybe they are simply that phenomenal! Whatever the case may be, almost ten years and multiple outings later, I won’t play a round without them. 

My best,

Cate Spader

A Smile for your Saturday

Politics. Protests. Pizza cravings for the seventh time this week. Oh my!

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a cluster…! My husband took some photos of me and had me pose according to his scenarios. I hope this makes you smile and laugh today 😅

“Look like you just won an Oscar, but are trying to remain humble” pose:

“You accidentally dropped your Oscar in front of millions” pose:

“Did you really think I’d drop this precious Oscar?” pose:

“Who am I kidding? I’m not even an actor!” pose:

Our Pup’s Birthday/Gotcha Day!

Three years ago today, three-year-old Linley was dropped off at my parent’s house. After a rigorous adoption application process consisting of filling out a packet and researching animal health problems, multiple reference calls, a meet-and-greet and a final home inspection, Linley instantly became my best friend!

September 9, 2017
September, 2019

I’ll be spending all day with our beloved pup, but I wanted to share some past photos and posts in the meantime 🙂

https://adventureinspades.com/2019/07/14/going-places-with-your-pup/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/01/02/everyday-resolutions/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/01/28/my-dorky-dog/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/05/28/lake-michigan-with-mom-and-linley/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/06/20/petoskey-michigan-with-the-pup/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/08/18/munising-falls-michigan/

https://adventureinspades.com/2020/08/24/back-to-the-beach/

Soo Locks Boat Tour

So dad and I spent Friday evening hanging out in downtown Sault Ste. Marie (“Soo Saint Marie”) and had an awesome hiking adventure at Tahquamenon Falls on Saturday: what else could we possibly fit into our weekend in the upper peninsula? Well, we certainly couldn’t leave Michigan’s oldest, historic town without taking a tour of the locks themselves. On Sunday, August 23rd, that’s exactly what we did…

If you don’t live in Michigan, you may not even know about this engineering technology; as a born and raised Michigander, this is something I couldn’t live without seeing!

Sault Ste. Marie sits between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, bordering Ontario, Canada. There’s actually a 21-foot difference in height here on the St. Mary’s Rivers, which makes the Soo Locks so incredible.

These are two parallel locks permitting ships to carry iron ore and other materials between Lake Superior and the rest of the lower Great Lakes. The locks are run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and have been around since 1855.

My dad has always been intrigued by ships. His great, great grandfather was one of the first freighter captains in Michigan (and if you didn’t already know this, we’re very proud of our lakes here!). We loved learning more about the locks but our all-time favorite part was actually going through them! We headed west toward Lake Superior first (which raised us 21 feet). You couldn’t even feel the movement of being lifted. The only indicator was watching the wall disappear and seeing ongoing spectators.

Before…
…after!

After about an hour or so, we looped around through the Canadian locks and headed toward the dock. Although the Canadian locks were not nearly as large or as well-operated, they were cute nonetheless!

US/Canada Border
Canadian Locks

My dad and I had an amazing time on two and a half hour tour. It was the perfect way to end our time in Sault Ste. Marie. I was sad when we got to the car, but I highly recommend visiting, taking this tour and spending a weekend with someone you love (it’s good for the soul!) 🙂

Wear your mask!
Ignore my noodley hair!

Photos taken Sunday, August 23, 2020

Tahquamenon Falls: Round II

The evening of Friday, August 21st was relaxing: dad and I watched some ships pass through the Soo Locks and enjoyed some adult beverages across the street 🙂 As we were spending some long-overdue quality time together, we were planning on what to do the next day.

We headed back to the hotel relatively early (because we both like being in bed before midnight) and discussed our next day’s plan as we watched 100 Days Wild on Discovery.

“Hey Cate, did you and Juan visit Tahquamenon Falls last weekend?”

Why, yes we did! Although Juan, Linley and I enjoyed some epic views at the falls, we didn’t see both sets of falls, nor did we do much hiking there.

My dad and I decided that we would do the full eight-mile hike, which connects the Upper and Lower Falls through some rougher terrain. We enjoyed some crepes at a lovely place near the hotel, and arrived at Tahquamenon State Park around 9:30/10. Neither of us visited the Lower Falls in our lifetime, so that’s where we started.

The Lower Falls are very different from other falls I’ve seen in the upper peninsula; there are a series of smaller drops and there’s even a plateau that visitors enjoy for swimming! My dad and I had the opportunity of great viewing sports since we arrived before 10am.

Enough pictures, more hiking… this hike would easily take about two and a half hours one-way. Let me say it was well worth it! I didn’t take any photos during our venture to the Upper Falls because my dad and I were either chatting, soaking in the scenery, losing our breath when hiking uphill, nearly tripping over tree roots, or a combination of all the above! It was worth it once we hit the Upper Falls.

The two of us visited the pavilion for some tacos and rest (one of us needed to rest more than the other!). Dad made friends with a squirrel who befriended him during lunch, but we had to part ways and head back the other way. We already knew what to expect but were somehow just as excited to walk the other way.

As dad and I jammed out to his Bob Seger, Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel playlist on speaker, we survived another two and a half hour hike! We might have been a little more sore, but this was the perfect time to take pictures of the trail and to rinse my feet from all the mud (yes, I wore yoga sandals on this hike… don’t judge me!). We returned to the car around 3/3:30, making this a total of nine miles and about a six-hour adventure!

Our evening consisted of watching more freighters, enjoying a nice dinner with some whiskey sours, and peanut butter chocolate ice cream, as well as a great night’s sleep!

~

The truth is that I’ve been struggling to write posts of my daddy-daughter weekend due to some extended and immediate family drama. I’m beyond grateful to have had a wonderful weekend with my dad last month 🙂

Photos taken Saturday, August 22, 2020

Daddy-Daughter Weekend: Sault Ste. Marie

Juan, Linley and I returned from our adventure up north on Monday, August 17. I knew that my dad was planning a daddy-daughter weekend for later in the month, but I didn’t know any specifics. Coincidentally, he texted me that Monday evening, asking if I had any desire to return to the upper peninsula (to which I of course said yes!). I’ve only been across the Mighty Mac Bridge – splitting Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas – four times in my life, and two of them were last month. Although I visited the U.P. two weekends in a row, the quality time with my dad was entirely different.

We left around noon and headed north toward Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Sue Saint Marie). This is the oldest town in the Midwest and is famous for its locks. These locks are an obligatory Michigander destination because this engineering raises and lowers ships between Lake Superior and Lake Huron (there is an approximate 21-foot discrepancy in water elevation here!). Visiting the locks was not only something my dad and I had never experienced, but important to him due to his heritage. My dad’s great, great grandfather was one of the first freighter captains in the state, who transported iron ore and other materials for construction within the Midwest and northeast.

Since we arrived in town later on Friday, August 21, we walked around, ate at an Irish pub and enjoyed watching the ships at the local park!

China Cafe or China Cate? Coincidence? I think not…