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Dunes Day

Friday June 6, 2014
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Empire, Michigan


We’re going Dune Hiking.




We are out early again to get a start on the day. We plan to hike up the main dune here at the lakeshore. The one drawback to the really nice Platte River Campground is that it is 10 miles south of the main section of the park with the Visitor Center and the Dune hike and drive.  

It’s about 7:30 when we pull into the parking lot and see one car and a man, woman and little boy near the top of the dune as we start out. They are the little specks just to the left of the middle in this shot to the left.

This is a huge dune. It seems to me that it is much bigger than the dune in Kitty Hawk NC.




Once we get high enough up, we can see Glen Lake just behind the parking lot on the other side of M-109. Notice the cars in the parking lot, ours and theirs.  We have beaten the crowd.  Hooray!!


So where is Lake Michigan?

Once we are up there and looking out over the parking lot at Glen Lake, we also notice that behind us is not Lake Michigan but an enormous vast dune system.


Behind us – notice the empty parking lot



In front of usIMG_4049





We make our mark in the sand before heading onward.

After making our mark in the sand we find marker zero for the start of the 3.5 mile Dune Trail to Lake Michigan and back.  This is a sand trail up and down and over these giant sand dunes.   So we look both ways.  We look back down and wonder if we should just do as most folks do and climb to the top, give it a high 5 and head back down.  Or should we head into the dunes?  Of course you know what we did.






Here’s where we are going, up that hill.  The path looks pretty short until you get closer and see how steep it is.





I’m looking back as David is climbing up.   The higher we get the more we can still see Glenn Lake.




We get to the top and guess what’s over there?


Another dune. 
Down and up.  Repeat



We don’t really have a sense of how far 3.5 miles over a sand dune is. So when we come to an up hill, we are always thinking Lake Michigan will be on the other side but after a while we just give up on that thought and enjoy the fun sandy down hills and the slow up hill climbs.










Over the sand and thru the dunes to Lake Michigan we go.




Can you even see me on my way down?

I am there just going over the top between the trees.
This is a big place.
It makes us feel very small.







The sand dunes are just amazing as is the life grabbing hold and making a go of it there.   The only disturbing thing is of course what people have done in their refusal to respect the fragility of the dune and not staying on the trails but making their own paths which then take untold years to erase with new vegetation which grows so slowly.












Whoopee, made it to the top.

He’s celebrating.




And then down and up over there.





David helps out a little guy.





It is amazing how much life there is here including wildflowers and beetles.  This fella had gotten himself turned over in someone’s footstep and could not right himself so David gave him a hand.  Where he was going and what he would eat up here we haven’t a clue.   But he makes beautiful tracks in the sand.















We can see the lake.  It can’t be far away now, can it?





Ok, it’s time to quit the teasing.

We climb up past pole #12     Where is this lake?   No lake on the other side.




We can see the lake again at Post 14.  It seems at least a little closer, doesn’t it??




Post 18 is up there








I’ll save you the agony of the remaining 9 posts.


Post #27 is the last one before the decent to the Lake.  We stop and take a picture before we head through the final doorway.  This time it really is just on the other side.  As we’ve gotten closer, the wind has gotten stronger.  My hair is a bit of a giveaway.







And there it is.  Someone has kindly provided an arrow as if you could miss it. 



I want to shake this hiker’s hand.

We meet up with the young man who walked this entire way by himself with his parents.  I tell him I want to shake his hand.  He gives me a BIG smile.  He’s quite proud of himself as he should be.  He’s only 3 years old.   I hadn’t told David I was going to do this so he didn’t get the handshake on record and I’m sorry for that.  What a darling little boy.  What a trooper.  He was just as happy as he could be throwing the rocks back into the lake.   They are the only other people we have seen since we started the hike.





Time to enjoy the fruits of our efforts.




We set off for the walk down the beach we’ve earned. The waters of Lake Michigan are spectacular shades of blue.  The rocks are many and varied.  No shells on this beach.  More like  Maine. 













Deer have been along this way today too.



There is a wooden ship or what’s left of it along the shore.





David is walking at a distance behind me.  Beautiful clouds behind him.



In front of me are the dunes coming almost down to the water.  They actually calf into the water at times.






What a glorious place.

I sit for a while and just soak it all in before it is time to turn back for the return trip back over the dunes.





The camera fails to catch the spectacular and varied shades of blue of the waters of this truly Great lake.





Looks like an arrow coming in and a smiling face going out. 
Very clever. 
Are we smiling about walking back out?
Actually we are. 




We start the trip back at Post 27.

Only 26 more to go.  :-)



As we move further and further away, we get one last look back and then we can’t see Lake Michigan any more.







We come across some strange critters in the sand.

There is a group of them.  They are not flying around just wandering around together.  Who are they? And what do they want out here?   They certainly are colorful.



Post 13, we’re nearly half way back.




When we finally come up over that last hill, what a surprise.

Good grief, where did all these people come from?
We didn’t see a soul other than our little friend and his parents until we got to post 3 coming back and then there were a couple of groups of young people going out at mid day.

We had jokingly guessed on the way out how many cars would be in the parking lot on this Friday when we returned.  There were two when we started out and one of those was Ruby.   I guessed 15, David guessed 25. 

I think there are 15 busses there.   Note to self:  Wherever you are, early June is the end of the school year and full of class trips.   But what do we care?  They are all having fun and they weren’t on the trail with us.  Perfect!!




It does seem funny to see them all set up with their beach chairs and coolers and blankets, some were in bathing suits sunning.  They are all facing the dune but there’s no water.   Must be a Michigan thing!





It’s lunch time!


By this time, we’re pretty hungry for lunch so we head across the road to a little park by Glenn Lake where we enjoy the solitude.  Not a soul there and we enjoy the fragrance of the wild lilac bushes that seem to be everywhere around here.  All along the roads.  In all the parks.  Everywhere.   I think I’m going to cut some and put them in a vase in Winnona so we can enjoy them even more.  There sure are plenty to go around.   Wild Lilacs – amazing!






Like most National parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes has an excellent Visitor Center.


We had intended to stop at the Visitor Center on our way to the Dune hike this morning but it didn’t open until 8:00 and we were on the well onto the dune by then.  So we drive back there and get some information on the bike trail and kayaking possibilities for later in the week.  We also enjoy their very informative museum about the natural history and geology of this place.  I do wish we had been here before we had done anything else so learn from my mistake.   Come here first and spend some time in the museum learning about what you are going to be experiencing.  It’s a small museum but very well done.  National Parks seem to be like that.







I guess temps in the 60’s must seem like summer here.

We decide we have just enough time to drive around the small village of Empire and while doing so, we stumble upon the city park.  Every place you go around here has a beach.  And this one you can drive right up to.  Now 7 mile hikes through the dunes.

NICE lunch spot.  I like it even better than the one we chose today.




We’re in long sleeves and long pants but the locals are sunbathing both here and at the base of the dune.  It’s in the upper 60’s.



Wonder what this beautiful spot looks like in mid winter with some of the over 200” of snow they had this year including snow on Mother’s Day.   Bet they thought spring was never coming.  No wonder they are out sunbathing in June regardless of the temperature.





Last thing for our day was dinner fixed and eaten outside in our wonderful screened in tent.  For those who asked, it is a 12X12 Sun Valley screen house by Wenzel. 

We sure had a wonderful day, Hope you enjoyed sharing it with us.




  1. Thanks for the memories. We so enjoyed this area last summer. We found the folks in Michigan really tough! 40 degrees and they were in shorts, t shirts and flip flops.....summer for them....winter for us. Such a great place! Be sure to take the Pierce Stocking Drive! Really a great drive.....Claudia

  2. That picture of all those people sitting in lawn chairs facing the dune is hilarious.

  3. wow. . .I would'a never, ever made it. . .I'm tired just reading about it! Goodness. . .no wonder you and David are so skinny. . .

    Sleeping Bear Dunes is directly across Lake Michigan from where we are at Sturgeon Bay. . .it's beautiful here too. . .enjoy your time!

  4. Love your names in the sand! The rocks are pretty but not quite the same as shells. I don't know if I could walk that far in sand.

  5. Sand is really hard to walk in, kudos to you. I really liked Sleeping Bear Dunes too.

  6. You guys sure are ambitious! There's another hike, somewhere near Glen Haven, that goes through the woods for awhile and then over a few dunes and to the beach. It's a nice one also, and not quite as difficult as the one you just did! Did you find any Petoskey stones? You'll probably see plenty of people floating on the Platte River on the weekend, too! 60 degrees is sunbathing weather!! :)

  7. I think you two are probably the most persistent people I can think of. I doubt if I would have gone all that way because I don't do well walking on sand. Congratulations to you both, and well done!

    I like the looks of your screen tent. Does it have a floor or does it sit directly on the ground?

  8. I've been to Michigan many times and have never walked that trail. I need to plan a summer road trip or workamping job to the Midwest, would be good to visit family, too.

  9. We climbed the dunes along Lake Michigan years ago, but never took the long trail. I didn't know the dunes went that far! We just saw a TV show about Brazil and they have huge sand dunes with no vegetation but with small pools of water in between. Really peculiar.

  10. You sure know how to get away from the crowds;o)) That was some hike, but what a beautiful reward. I'm sure very few people get to see what you saw...thanks for taking us along!!

  11. What a great hike, too funny - the picture of the folks sitting facing the dunes.

  12. I agree with Bill and Nancy...thank you for taking us along. I don't think I would do that long of a hike in the sand, but the beach was spectacular....so maybe.

    How funny all the people at the "beach".

  13. 3.5 miles in sand is a feat! Glad you made it to the lake. Love the rocks and the color of the water. Wonder how long your sand mark stayed; that was cute. Glad you beat the crowds-what a difference a few hours makes. Lucky all those kids weren't in the museum when you went. Sounds like a superb day! High of 87 here today. I could use some 60s temps- won't even get that at night!

  14. Oh my, can't believe you did that. Walking in sand is so hard. Loved the parking lot shots as that is what I remember well from the area. We were there very early in the season, so never had to deal with crowds at all. I can't wait to return to this area.

  15. One of our first stops four years ago when we began fulltimimg was in Empire. We were staying at the beautiful Indigo Bluffs RV Resort. Sure spoiled me to wanting resorts every time. That was the beach area we went to several times. That lake is so beautiful and no salt water...perfect!!

    Glad you enjoyed your dune hike.

  16. I liked the pristine shorelines and the green wasp looking creature was interesting. I also liked the picture of you two - that was a great photo. You both look great. Sand is not much good without water (in my opinion) so I doubt I would ever make the effort to hike that far through the dunes.

  17. That is one of my favorite places in MI.... If there is a will, there is a way always speaks to me when I think about you....cool hike!!

  18. Seems to be a theme commenting about hiking in the sand. Even a short distance makes my shins hurt :) Love the picture of the sunbathers in the grass facing the dunes. Perhaps waiting for a concert? That's what it looks like, funny. Putting this area on our list to go to at some point!

  19. That little June Bug would never have survived the crowds on his back so David was definitely a hero. The alien bugs.....they sort of looked like drones :-). I was impressed with you two until I saw the little dude already at the lake. Those little legs must have been pretty tired (bet he's asleep before they close the car door). Thanks for sharing the hike, I love the pics.

  20. Walking that far in flat sand would be difficult. Doing it over the dunes, up and down, up and down, quite a feat! You deserved your reward at the end. Beautiful!

  21. Now that was some hike, I'm a little surprised you didn't take a swim in that beautiful blue water! ;c)

    How long did it take to get all the sand out of your shoes?

  22. Sand walking is a heck of a workout! Looks like the payoff was very much worth it in this case.

  23. Those dunes are great! Oregon coast has some, but I don't believe we saw any that deep / far from the water.

  24. Whew! I'm exhausted! How do you guys do this? Seven miles in sand??? OY!

    Virtual hugs,


  25. that's a lot of dunes …. yes the disrespect … there are a lot of places where the dunes are protected ~ I'm surprised these aren't better patrolled but then the budgets for such … oh sigh~ don't get me started.

    ignorant people ought to have ignorant insurance… wonder what the litmus test would be to implement this … hmm

    little beetle bug? love it… I do the same thing. I can't stand to see any kind of life struggling…

    hahaaa the arrow ~ had to be tedious hiking through the sand… well! it must be a Michigan thing … no water but… isn't that interesting. ha

    Another very interesting, beautiful tour …

  26. Great hike and great to meet a kid that does not have helicopter parents.

  27. I am guessing the audience at the dune climb are people who really love the beach, but don't want to get their feet in all that sand, so what could be better for them than a place to sit in the grass with the usually flat beach tipped up so they can see it really well and not have to walk in it?

  28. I thought you would never make it over those dunes! I probably would have given up -- not enough patience. I love the picture of the picnickers by the dunes. There's no accounting for tastes, I suppose. Thanks for the great pictures.

  29. Wow, seven miles hiking in sand dunes -- that's an intense workout! Glad you made it to the water. Looks like another beautiful National Park -- I think we're going to have to go to Michigan at some point. I agree with you about visiting the Visitor's Centers right away -- although we don't always manage to do that. We just left Great Basin NP after four days, and stopped at the Visitor's Center as we were driving away, haha!

  30. Wow what a place...great post...but no way would i be out sun bathing with out
    water....no way...no how...

  31. Since no one else did, I looked up the info on the green wasp for you!

    Green Wasps
    The Cuckoo wasp has wonderful colouring with a metallic green shine. This green wasp is also called the jewel wasp and belongs in the chrysididae group of parasitoid or cleptoparasitic wasps. They live very well in deserts and are very diverse. These green wasps are solitary and lay their eggs in other insect eggs which the larvae consume along with any food store for them. These green wasps are capable of curling up into a defensive ball much like a pill bug or even an armadillo.

  32. BTW, all my years in the Midwest and all my time I've spent in Michigan I've never seen one!

  33. Robinkwalton@gmail.comJune 12, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    No way would I even consider that! Those days are gone forever,I need the drive to ,get out,walk away a find a nice place to be. 2 dunes maybe but not 3.5 miles. Water was gorgeous and what a shoreline! was beauitul..lucky you!Love the enclosed tent..looks so relaxing


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