Sleeping Bears

Even if it were not for the comparative let-down of the urban Indiana Sand Dunes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore would’ve still taken my breath away at first sight!  The water was several shades of crystal blue and the sand ranged from white to tan to pink, depending on the dune and the direction of the sun.  This national lakeshore is more than just sand and 35 miles of Lake Michigan beaches though; it boasts over 100 miles of hiking, biking, ski, and snowshoe trails, plus plenty of kayak/canoe access points to Lake Michigan and the Platte and Crystal Rivers.

It was really hard to believe that I was on a lakeshore and not a seashore!

Immediately after setting up camp at Platte River, one of the two established campgrounds run by the NPS on the National Lakeshore, I headed over to the Visitors Center to get the lay of the land and recommendations from the Rangers on how best to spend my time in the area.  Kim, a Ranger who also happened to be a fellow rider, helped me work out the perfect itinerary for my stay, including where to take my bike for the easiest parking, hiking, and best photos!  One of the first activities was to take the 7-8 mile scenic Pierce Stocking Drive Loop that provides sweeping views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.  There are a dozen stops along the way with educational signs describing the history and preservation efforts of the scene before you.  Truly epic! 

When you first walk up to the sign and see Lake Michigan in the distance, you can’t see the drop-off, so the sign seems like overkill.
This is the dune behind the warning sign!  Those small specks by the clump of trees in the upper left corner of the photo are people by the warning sign.  I only saw one person down by the water below, but there was a boat anchored nearby, so I’m assuming they were beachcombing from the boat and weren’t planning on hiking up the dune.
You see that dark green mound of trees on a high bluff off in the distance?  That is “Sleeping Bear,” the dune for which this Lakeshore is named.  Though down to less than 100 feet due to naturally occurring erosion at a lakeshore over the centuries, Sleeping Bear stood over 200 feet tall for a long time and  was used by the Anishinaabe people as a landmark. – NPS website

At the northern tip of the National Seashore lies the Maritime Museum, which provides education about the U.S. Life-Saving Service, U.S. Coast Guard, and Great Lakes shipping.  Shipwrecks, and the loss of life and commerce, on the Atlantic Coast and in the Great Lakes, had become so common that Congress finally dedicated money to professionalize the volunteer force that had been responding to the emergencies, thereby creating the U.S. Life-Saving Service in the 1870s.  Dozens of Life-Saving Service stations were established along the Great Lakes.

Original boats and life-saving equipment, used during the early 1900s, is housed in the museum boathouse. Notice the track in the sand in front of the boat leading from the boat house to the beach.
Original Sleeping Bear Point Life-Saving Station (large white building on the right).  It was moved from the Sleeping Bear Point, a few miles away, to its present location because the encroaching sand dunes were beginning to bury it in sand.

Back at the campsite, I settled in for the evening after grabbing dinner in town so I wouldn’t have to cook.  Because of bear activity in the area, dish-washing is not allowed at campsites, only in the designated, indoor dish-washing room at the bathhouse.  Although this only added to my uneasiness about camping in bear country, I’m happy to report that there were no bear sightings during my stay! In fact, I found this campground to be one of the cleanest and quietest I have stayed at yet.  All in all, Sleeping Bear is definitely in the top 3 of my favorite National Park units so far this year! 

Next up… moving north again.

3 thoughts on “Sleeping Bears

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  1. Karen you will definitely have a hard time deciding which picture to enlarge for your house wall. You sure do have a sharp eye for a quality photo shot. Thanks for sharing all the interesting places you are seeing. Enjoying the trip with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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