We’re about halfway through home leave. Our departure for Afghanistan seems far enough away, but I know how quickly a few weeks can go by. Time flies when you’re relaxing and spending time with loved ones.Kail and I spent a week and a half in Western Michigan, where my in-laws live. Other than a brief overnight stay last summer on my way back from Canada, I had previously only been to Michigan for Thanksgiving. Michigan is cold. But in June? It’s lovely.We arrived on the cusp of summertime when the sun-heated days are warm but not hot or humid, and the nights are cool. When the days are stretching ever longer and the fading light is still visible at 10 p.m. When the lush, green landscape is speckled with the bright rainbow colors of blooming lilacs, tulips and other flowers. Lovely indeed.We took a short trip to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw — the way Mackinaw City is spelled), about a four-hour drive and 15-minute ferry ride away. There are no cars or even golf carts on Mackinac Island, and since horse-drawn carriage or bicycle are the only ways to get around, it has a charmingly quaint feel.Kail and I rented bikes to make the 8.5-mile journey around Mackinac Island. Other than the main strip, which is lined with fudge shops, restaurants and other tourist attractions, the rest of the island is pretty undeveloped; they’ve made an effort to preserve the island’s natural beauty.Natural limestone arch.Being on Mackinac Island reminded me of the week I spent in Kingston, Ontario last summer: right on the water with lots of biking, running, kayaking and other outdoor activities. We did not rent a kayak on this trip but perhaps on our next visit — you know my love of kayaking!Devil’s Kitchen.I know I have said this a lot, but after living in El Salvador, where pedestrian mobility is very limited, it has been so nice to be able to walk, run, bike and just be outside. We’re trying to soak in as much as possible because we’ll be similarly (even more extremely) confined in Afghanistan.Mackinac Island also reminded me of Kingston because we visited the British-built Fort Mackinac, which recalled my visit to Fort Henry last year. If you had asked me whether I thought I would be visiting not one, but two forts that were active in the 19th century in the span of a year, I would have said no. Nor would I have predicted that I would be visiting two different canals within a year.Soo Locks.On our way back from Mackinac Island we took a little detour farther north to the Upper Peninsula, or the U.P. I had previously only been to the mitten-shaped part of Michigan so it was my first visit to the U.P. We stopped in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (just across St. Mary’s River from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada) to see the Soo Locks.And we actually saw a boat go through, a nice surprise after a disappointingly traffic-free visit to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. It was neat to see the whole process of the boat’s arrival, mooring the boat, slowly draining the canal and the boat’s eventual passage to the other side. You can see in the two photos above how much water is drained so that the rail around the boat is eventually level with the height of the dock.I enjoyed visiting new parts of Michigan, seeing some of the state’s natural beauty and learning a bit about its history. Have you ever been to Michigan?