Traverse City, MI Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Well, most of the day was spent playing in the sand. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is about 25 miles west of Traverse City and was the main reason we decided to visit this section of Michigan before traveling north to the Upper Peninsula. Sleeping Bear is on the east coast of Lake Michigan. Traverse City is located at the lower end of Grand Traverse Bay which juts down into the state of Michigan from the Lake. (Go look at a map.)
Sleeping Bear Dunes was voted the #1 Most Beautiful Place in America in a competition in 2011 held by ABC-TV’s Good Morning America show. The national lakeshoe is very nice but I would not place it number one. I am more partial to western U.S. views.
I wonder how many places are the “most” something. When Lake Michigan is written about here, they frequently mention that it is the largest lake entirely in the U.S.; dropping Lake Superior since it is partially in Canada.
Until mid afternoon the day was cloudy, cool and breezy. This was advantageous as our first hike of the day was climbing up a 110 foot sand dune. The sand here is very fine, rivaling the best we have seen at Florida beaches. The wind is normally from the northwest and this evidently contributes to the sand dune formation.
In a few places we found rocks of varying colors but nothing as smooth as Lake Superior agates. Of course, The Minnesota shore of Lake Superior does not really have sand beaches and the water is always cold. Chris’ forays into the water found the water cool, but much warmer than Superior.
Running down the 110 foot dune was fun and easy. Going up was slow and challenging on the calf muscles. The dune climb is one of the major destinations within the national lakeshore. Families, couples (young and old), jocks, etc all were giving it their best effort. Most made it up, some continuing on to the next level of dunes which had a less intensive grade. Unfortunately, the shore is still quite a hike even after reaching the second set of dunes so we put off the beach until later in the day.
Our second stop was at Glen Haven Historic Village. This locale developed due to lumbering and shipping. Off shore are two islands, North and South Manitou, which have sheltered and created the Manitou Passage on Lake Michigan. The Passage was used by ships in the 1800s to avoid the storms on Lake Michigan. However, shoals and rocks also contributed to making the Passage hazardous. Numerous light houses and rescue stations were located along the shore. Glen Haven was one of those sites.
Glen Haven was a port to ship local lumber. It later transformed into a fruit and cannery area. Times change and now it is just historic and recreated. The beach is part of Sleeping Bear Bay and sheltered by Sleeping Bear Point. You can still see the wooden piers used to support a long dock which train cars used to bring lumber and fruit out to ships.
Our third stop was the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4 mile road goes through woods and along dunes. A dozen stops exist to access or view parts of the lakeshore. We took the Cottonwood Trail, a 1.5 mile hike up, down, and along the sand dunes that worked those calf muscles some more. Another stop was high along the bluffs, providing a view along the lake.
By now the afternoon was marching along. We stopped at the Maritime Museum that discussed the rescue stations work. We went off road on some back country dirt roads looking for a higher overlook of the lake. (Which we found but it was not as dramatic as I had hoped.)
We finished up by driving the rest of the shoreline road that spans the peninsula created by Grand Traverse Bay. The state of Michigan wanted $8 to let us enter for a brief look at a lighthouse. It was after 5 pm and we decided we would probably be seeing enough lighthouses during this trip and past that opportunity by. We did stop for ice cream in a small town along the way though. And we passed the 45th parallel, the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator.
We had dinner at Grand Traverse Pie Company. Think of a blend of Panera and Bakers Square. The pies were very good although the choices were more limited than Bakers Square. As we returned to the Hampton Inn, the desk clerk was explaining to a couple that he was booked up for the next three nights. (We went out for a walk then to the beach across the street from the hotel for the sunset and when we returned he was saying the same thing to another couple that had not made advance reservations and were looking for lodging at the last minute.)
Ed and Chris Wednesday September 4 10:30 pm