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Published: June 10th 2018
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan
The refrigerator was getting empty and the dirty clothes bag was overflowing. So we needed to get some chores done. We were also pretty tired from the drive up here and the hangover from Joan’s bicycle accident. We called a down-day, slept-in, and had a big bacon-and-eggs breakfast.
Then we gathered up the dirty clothes, stripped the bed, made a grocery list and headed for the nearest town that had both a grocery store and a laundromat - Frankfort. It was ten miles away, but the drive was through thickly wooded forests with several lakes hiding behind the trees. We later learned that these are all glacier formed lakes that used to be arms and flooded valleys of a much larger Lake Michigan. Over time, though, the winds and lake currents pushed sand in a northeastern direction which would creat sandbars. (Oh, while writing this a wild turkey walked through the campsite next to ours!). Eventually, the sandbars would stretch long enough to connect with the shoreline, closing off the flooded valleys to make stand-alone lakes. There are lots of these along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
After getting our
chores done, we returned to the trailer with the folded laundry and bags of groceries. We put everything away and then drove ten miles in the opposite direction to Empire to see the Lakeshore visitor center and get more information to plan our visit to this park. The film was artistically pretty, but not all that informative. But I really did like the exhibits in the museum part. They had a very good explanation of how the glaciers created the Great Lakes and the relationship between the sand dunes and the glacial moraines. They also describe the different habitats found in the park, with samples of bark and leaves of the different kinds of trees in each habitat.
We also reviewed the map and talked to the visitor center staff and volunteers about what we should do while here and we left, once again, feeling very overwhelmed. This park covers more than 70,000 acres and includes portions of the lakebed, two major islands, 65 miles of shoreline, acres of impressive dunes, hundreds of lakes and streams of various sizes, and at least two different kinds of forests. Possible activities here include canoeing and kayaking, bicycling, driving, hiking, beachgoing and
swimming in the summer, and a wealth of winter sports in the winter. Within its boundaries can be found the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, which is regarded as one of the largest historic operating farms found in any park boundary. There is also a restoration of the town of Glen Haven which focuses more on the maritime and industrial portions of the area’s history.
In short, we think we probably shortchanged this park. We have a list of things we want to do, but not nearly enough time to do them in. Plus we have to break camp today and move over to another site, one with electrical power. And that will take some time as well as keeping us from hitting the sights until afternoon. We are a little bit frustrated and would like to encourage future visitors to make sure they allow adequate time to see this park. Three days is a minimum, especially if you like outdoor activities as well as appreciating history.
After the visitor center, we returned to the campsite. I had googled the recipe for a cocktail known as a ‘Hummer’, which is supposedly what Michiganders like to drink. It is supposed to be an ounce of rum with an ounce of Kahlua, all mixed up with a couple scoops of ice cream. I had to modify it though, because ice cream doesn’t do so well in a trailer freezer. So I made a couple of hummers with half-and-half. I guess its kind of a rum version of a White Russian. Anyway, we had a couple of them and grilled up some Ohio corn and chicken quarters for dinner.
Bedtime reading got me started on a new book - The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. Joan and my sister Jennie have already read it and say it is terrific. On the NYT bestseller list as well. Seems appropriate to read now that we are back on the shores of the Great Lakes.
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