SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, MI

 

Two weeks ago, we were able to spend an annual few days in peaceful retreat at a cottage near to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau Peninsula. Rain, snow, ice, sun, gale warnings – nature so near wraps her arms about us in stunning beauty no matter the weather or time of year or length of stay (usually 3-5 nights each year). Because we go off season – in the late fall or early spring – we don’t normally bump into a lot of tourists. Therefore, we have peaceful days and nights.

The very first place we stop before even pulling in the cottage drive, is Good Harbor Bay Beach in SBDN.

 

Many books have been written about this area through the years. Be sure to check them out. Therefore this blog post will be most brief. A summary of the park with only a few of the hundreds of photos I have from the area.

Of the 20 marked trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Jeff and I have hiked all but three (one is new), and hiked several of them more than once. The Dune Climb is quite popular, even off season. (photo at top of page). But the other trails are fascinating, like Old Indian Trail in the southern part of the park.

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If you like woods and water, SBDNL is a must-see. One of our favorite hikes is on Alligator Hill. But a few years ago, sheer force winds rather leveled it, with open skies above and hundreds of fallen trees cut away on the trail. We’ll return someday, when the forest grows back.

But spring is as enchanting as fall with new beginnings:

   

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive probably ties with the Dune Climb for popularity in the park. It is a lovely, winding road with several stops and nature notes, and even a few trails getting out into the dunes, mostly along boardwalks. We’ve watching people walk down and up the steep dune cliff, and even once saw rescue personnel descend with basket.

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Empire Trail trailhead may be a little tricky to locate, but the views are spectacular. The lakeside view of the Sleeping Bear Dune (from the Dune Climb) is pictured here.

Empire Bluff Trail 2008

Historic Glen Haven is within the park. I caught a blacksmith in the shop twice, and an iron hook I saw made there hangs in our kitchen.

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We usually stop at the Visitor Center for a pass. Well worth it!

We’ve gone on two ranger-led Nature or History Hikes, only two of them since they are offered in-season, unless you come close to spooky Halloween.

The first photo below is a hike in the cold rain to Sleeping Bear Point and Devil’s Hole, where an entire Native American Tribe was slaughtered by another Native American Tribe during a gathering. The second was exploring around the ghost logging town of Aral. I would have put in a shot of the reenactment the ranger made us do in the Aral area, but she chose Jeff to play the part of the minister. (Rats! How did she know? She didn’t.)

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Someday I would like to ferry out to Manitou Islands. The 20 trails mentioned above do not even include the hiking trails on those islands. But sun, rain, snow, ice, sunsets, stars. How wonderful to witness God’s creation close up.

Sunset in Glen Arbor

National Parks Birthday – 100 This Year (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore)


imageStu and I visited Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore this October for the first time – after passing by it for decades, going from east to west or west to east. It always seemed such a mystery. Unattainable. But when I visited, I found it quite attainable.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore turned 50 years old this year. I’m grateful for the insight of those who wanted to preserve lakeshore views for the public. Many of the roads in the park are two-laners (one lane in each direction), with no shoulders. Some roads pass through swampy areas.

I’m glad I went on an afternoon in fall v.s. summer. I imagine traffic is bumper to bumper during the hot summertime being so near the Chicago area. Parking is limited, but the view of the southern end of Lake Michigan is LGL (Lovely Great-Lakey). If you look toward the west, you do see the industrial structures along the coast. Look north or east, please.

I look forward to returning sometime to hike some of the trails – not, I think, in summer when there are lots of bugs and lots of people. I prefer my forest walks to be Foresty and quiet, except, of course, for the natural sounds and sights.

It still felt a little claustrophobic for my National Parks taste, but again, I have the woods yet to explore.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota)

In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond.  But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)

Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Wind Cave National Park)

In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.

Visit our national parks this month.

P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Blue Ridge Parkway – US National Parkway)

Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.

When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Rocky Mountains National Park)

In celebration of our National Parks Birthday later this month, here is Stu Patterfoot in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.

The park is enormous, and two photos can hardly capture the millions of places to stop for photogenic moments. Rocky Mountains National Park is an awesome landscape for fantasy stories, especially when you hike back into the wilderness (on trails) to when you can see or hear no sign of human life except for yourself (and companions).

Oh, and summertime is the best recommended time to visit, as some roads may be closed in the snowtime.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore)

In Celebration of our National Parks Birthday which turns 100 on August 25th, here are shots of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is named such because if the dells rock formations along the Lake Superior coast, but there are also the dunes to climb, the many, many waterfalls to hike through woods to see. Blues and greens. The water is very clear. Greens and blues and clear. And lots of water in many forms.

Granted, these are summer shots, which is a great time to head north to this national treasure. If you go in winter, you would have another wonderland scene, but the predominate color then would be white-white-white. Also, mind, that although the water looks inviting, only if you are of polar bear descent should you attempt a dip into cool Lake Superior – any time of year.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 Years Old Today! (Yellowstone National Park)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE!

I took Stu Patterfoot to visit Yellowstone National Park. This was the first US National Park, signed by an Act by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The park is mostly within the state of Wyoming, but also covers parts of Idaho and Montana.

It displays many geothermal features, like Hot Springs and Old Faithful Geyser, which Stu is sitting in front of. Besides the unique land features, there is also an abundance of wildlife.

This park, particularly is near and dear to me because long ago, between college semesters, I spent a summer in the park. I was a cabin maid at Mammoth Hot Springs.  This was my first time seeing mountains up close, and took me nearly two weeks before I no longer felt like I was walking inside a picture. The entire summer was one wild adventure. Back then, there were a few times at work when my maid-partner and I waited inside a cleaned cabin to allow a bear or bear family to wander on past us before we deemed it safe enough to dash to the next cabin to clean.

Although I haven’t added geothermal features to any of my stories (yet), nor bison or many of the hundreds of unique experiences or near-misses I experienced that summer working in Yellowstone, all my adventures are stored with many of them sneaking into my characters’ adventures. I strongly encourage you all to get out and experience nature, over and over again. The National Park Service has over 400 “units” to explore. (https://www.nps.gov/index.htm) This is our country.

I’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled author writing posts. Keep on writing.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Devils Tower National Monument)

Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Devils Tower National Monument in the Black Hills of Wyoming. You can see this unique rock formation rising dramatically from the prairie for miles as you approach it, growing larger and larger and larger.

Climbers have tackled this formation for a couple hundred years. Although during the month of June, most climbers honor the Native Indians and do not climb these 30 days for related Indian ceremonies and prayers. Stu didn’t get much past the crumbled base.

Using US National Parks for writer inspirations for settings has existed before there were even National Parks. Devils Tower was used as a backdrop for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but visiting it after seeing the movie was a bit disappointing in that respect. Spoiler alert: FYI, you oldsters or old movie buffs, there are no aliens from other planets on the grounds. But I can’t guarantee the same if you look up.

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