Since we were in Empire for Asparagus Fest my friend and I decided to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore consists of 35 miles of dune coastland on Lake Michigan. It is a beautiful area and the photo at the top of this blog was taken last year.
The park promotes four main attractions: The Dune Climb, the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and the Historic Village of Glen Haven. We realized once we made the decision to visit that neither one of us had the proper shoes to do any trail hiking, so I suggested we stop at the visitors center and pick up the Pierce Stocking pamphlet. The pamphlet is a nice companion piece put together by “Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes”, which describes each marked stop on the drive. I think the pamphlets are technically free, however a $2 donation is requested. I of course provided my $2, I may be frugal but I am not cheap.
The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is about 7.4 miles and requires the purchase of a pass. Day passes are $10 per passenger car or $20 for a year. The drive is pleasant and there are several places to stop along the way to view the dunes and lake from higher ground. There is a great 1.5 mile trail known as the Cottonwood Trail at stop four. The trail loops over the dunes and at the farthest point you can see The Dune Climb. Please, please, stay on the trail, I can’t emphasis how fragile the environment is. We did not hike the trail this time, but I did last year when I visited.
At stop nine is the Lake Michigan lookout, which has a steep slope down to the lake. You can see a trail from the top to the lake made by people brave enough to venture down the hill. In theory it sounds like fun, but you also need to climb back up. At this location there are two wooden structure overlooks that provide different views of the dunes and lake. However, I am not sure that everyone realizes there is a second overlook. You can’t see it from the trail or the first overlook and there is no sign, just a semblance of a trail.
Someday I hope to go back and do the Dune climb. I have a vague memory of climbing the dunes to the top as a preteen back in the 80s. I have no photos, so I have no proof I actually did it. I tried climbing it in the late 90s when I weighed about 70 lbs more than I do now, and I am not thin. I did not make it up the first hill, I gave up half way. With 70 lbs gone, at least three half-marathons behind me and an inhaler, I think I can do it this time.