The Dunes that Exceeded My Expectations

I’m a homebody. Which is exactly why I bought a 25’ motor home when I retired. It’s my tiny house on wheels. Because I can take my tiny house with me, I am always at home. I sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, write at my desk, which doubles as a dining room table, lounge on my porch, you name it. And if I don’t like the view, I can drive to a better one. When I am on a trip in my rig, I am in my element. Euphoria comes over me when I get behind the wheel. I call myself, “one happy camper.”

In late September, I headed north for a family and friends tour scheduled around my high school reunion in Indiana. Before and after the reunion, my six-wheeled companion and I stayed in a dozen driveways, visiting family and friends in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. I caught up with more than 30 friends and family members taking part in activities, from hiking and biking, to boating, moonlit campfires, festivals, shopping, concert band practices, and skydiving. Just kidding about that last one. I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

At the peak of my journey, I drove across the top of “the mitten” as the Michiganders say, through the most spectacular fall color in the country. On the trek to Traverse City and then to The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the trees showed off a kaleidoscope of amber, orange, and crimson hues blended with a healthy dose of cedar green. The mesmerizing views from the rises in the road overlooking valley-like farmland with hills in the backdrop made me, as a person of faith, applaud God’s gift of color to us. I marveled at how the leaves change colors before dropping to the ground, only to be replaced by more of the same in the spring.

Had there been scenic pull-offs to take pictures of this magnificence, I may never have arrived at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Many friends through the years have suggested going to the dunes, but I didn’t make it a priority until now. I have fond memories of summer days at Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan in the southwest corner of the state. My mother’s love of Warren Dunes made me biased. My mind was closed to other dunes capturing my heart. Sleeping Bear Dunes are also on the way to nowhere at the outer border of the country. But boy, did those dunes exceed my imagination—steeper, taller, smoother, grander. 

If you have never seen sand dunes, picture a mountain. Now strip it bare of all vegetation and replace the dirt or clay with sandbox sand. Next, add to the base of that sandy mountain, a body of aqua blue water as vast as the ocean.  Leave out the salt, jellyfish, and sharks. Then add a sandy mountain to the left of your mountain and two or three more on the right. Make them too steep to drive or ride a bike up and you have created a faint image of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Their silky slopes reach so close to the noontime sun, you feel you can almost touch it.

The park offers two locations to climb sandy mountain scapes. With my rig parked in the lot, I climbed to the top and frolicked down the first dune I found. Then I drove to the top of a steeper dune. The warning sign at the top stating “those faint of heart who call to be rescued will be fined $3000.00” deterred most visitors from walking down to the water. The views at the top, with Lake Michigan on one side and a panoramic view of a lush forest on the other, were reward enough. The unspoiled beauty of the ever-reaching sandy landscape filled my heart with dreams and gratitude.

For a moment, I was on top of the world. There was no place I’d rather be. From the top of the mountain, I believed I could accomplish anything. I was ready to grab my beach chair and finish writing my book. Then, with a glance at my watch, reality hit. I was late for my next driveway appointment.

Like each visit with family and friends, my time at the national park ended too quickly. There was not enough daylight to ride my bike on the path that winds through half the park. I would have to return another time.

I don’t know if I will find a more spectacular view, but I’m willing to try. I will winter in Georgia, but my heart will forever remember this family and friends tour that led me to the most spectacular National Lakeshore in Michigan. Have you been to Sleeping Bear Dunes? Please comment below.