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 Month! (Cumberland Gap National Historical Park)

In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).

This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)

Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.

Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.

As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?

 

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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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National Parks Birthday This Summer – Badlands, SD

The USA National Parks are great places to experience setting (for others besides just writers). Here is Stu the Rabbit in Badlands National Park in Western South Dakota.

Hiking the landscape is like walking on a solid rainbow – so many layers of vibrant colors, with little flora or fauna. However, mule deer, magpies, and rattle snakes are often seen within the park.

Once upon a time the government gave acres of this land to homesteaders who failed to raise crops except upon the occasional mesa. Even the Lakota avoided this area. The White River flowing through it is thick with (white) lime. Early frontierspeople tossed cactus leaves into a bucket which make much of the lime sink to the bottom, making it drinkable for their horses, but not humans.

The Badlands are beautiful, but not quite livable for humans.

 

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