This past weekend, I had the amazing experience of being able to take a weekend camping trip to Warren Dunes on the west side of Michigan. I took Friday off from work and finally got around to packing on Friday morning. We then loaded up the car and sped away from my life, heading for the beaches and beauty to the west!
A very large group of my friends came with me.
We spent a lot of time relaxing, eating, and generally having a wonderful time. We even had quite a bit of rain on Saturday night, but we definitely made the best of it!
All in all, it was a wonderful trip and really enjoyed seeing the interactions between the members of the group. Quite a few of them had only just met, but they all got along splendidly. It was a great time!
My friend Tricia (who I’ve known since elementary school) invited a group of her friends and family to go camping, and I was lucky enough to be able to go!
We headed out last Wednesday morning. Tricia picked me up at my parents’ house at four o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t exactly bright-eyed or bushy-tailed, but I was excited to be spending a few days away from the rest of the world.
Tricia’s sister, Becky, and her friend Matt came along as well. We were packed in pretty close and cozy-like, but that was okay for me. I fell asleep for quite a bit of the ride up because I had been up late for a couple of nights previously (as well as the fact that it was a four o’clock pickup).
We stopped a few times along the way and arrived at Sleeping Bear Dunes around nine o’clock in the morning. We pulled into D.H. Day Campground, and marched up to the office. A sign on the door said, “One party in office at a time” or something of that nature. I checked to make sure that there wasn’t a party in the office, and then opened the door saying, “Whoo, party time!” However, the lady working the front desk did not look amused.
She showed us which sites were open and also said that we could look around before choosing a site, but she did expect us to “come right back as soon as we found a site.” I think my “party” comment made her think we were some restless gypsy hooligans or something. So, we sallied forth and found campsite number 58 to our liking since it was mostly tucked away from the rest of the campground and had direct access to Lake Michigan.
We went right back to the front desk and got our passes and everything squared away. Since Tricia’s husband is in the military, we got our park passes at a reduced rate!
After this bit of business was squared away, we decided to go check out “Dune Climb.” For those that don’t know, it’s a very large sand dune that is set up for people to take a long and rolling hike to Lake Michigan and back.
While the hike takes about four hours, we decided to do just a portion of it. The first hill is quite steep and tall. Every step you take causes you to slip into the sand, so it feels like you have to work almost doubly hard in order to reach the top.
Once we reached the top of the first hill/dune, there were some marvelous vistas of the surrounding countryside. There was the Glen Lakes, Alligator Hill, and you could even see some of Lake Michigan off in the distance.
We stayed at the top of the hill for a long while and just took in the majesty of the place. It is such an amazing spot, and I really enjoyed just taking pictures and relaxing.
After that, we did some dune jumping down the climb. If you’ve never been dune jumping, I would highly recommend it. All you do is take a running leap off the steeper parts of the hill and because of the grade, it feels like you fly for a very long time until you land in the soft sand. It’s an amazing feeling!
At the base of the dune climb, we found some park workers setting up some chairs. We asked them what was going on, and they said that the new “Heritage Trail” was opening up. There will be a 27-mile multi-use trail linking Sleeping Bear Dunes with Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, and beyond, and the ribbon cutting ceremony was that very morning. We had unintentionally walked a little bit of it earlier, so we were on the trail on the first day it opened!
We had a late lunch at Riverfront Pizza and Delicatessen. I had a whole small pizza to myself, and I took advantage of it. I really enjoy the pizza there, and I totally oinked out, and it was delicious!
That evening, we went to a presentation on the stars that was given by a nice lady named Marie. She told us some Native American stories of the stars, and also told us how read star charts. We found out that that night, we could see the International Space Station between 11pm and 11:05pm. We sang the Monty Python song about the “ever-expanding universe” which was quite silly, but I know that I had a lot of fun.
After the presentation, we went to watch the sunset on the Stocking Scenic Drive’s Empire Bluffs overlook. A group of clouds came in and obscured the sun, but it was still a beautiful place to be. I absolutely loved the experience.
At Empire Bluffs, the wind was incredibly strong!
It whipped sand up in my eyes quite mercilessly even though I was wearing sunglasses. It wasn’t even a terribly strong day for that part of the world, but it sure felt strong to me.
Later that evening, we sat on the beach and watched the International Space Station pass by overhead. It was amazing to think about how fast that little piece of metal is orbiting our vast planet. It sped across the sky and was out of sight in a matter of minutes. The wind was soft on the beach and the sky was pretty clear. It was a beautiful night to watch a space station.
The next day, we went kayaking down the Crystal River with kayaks from Crystal River Outfitters. That was a lot of fun! The day was warm and sunny, but not too hot. The water was cool and there was a nice settling breeze at our backs. The outfitters took us upstream of our final destination, so paddling was quite easy.
Becky and Matt shot ahead of Tricia and I quite quickly. But, the river itself was filled pretty well with a lot of trees, curves, and other obstacles. Tricia had only been kayaking once before, so these obstacles posed a bit of a challenge for her at first. After a while she got the hang of it though.
At one point, you have the choice of either “shooting the tube” or portaging the kayak. Being the adventurous sort that we are, we all chose to “shoot the tube.” That consisted of taking the kayak through a large metal tube that had a pretty steep drop in elevation. Matt and Becky went first. I let Tricia go ahead in order to be a gentleman, and after about thirty seconds, I went. I angled perfectly in the tube, and it was pretty cool to feel myself jettison out of the tube into the river. However, as soon as I got out, I realized that the current was really strong and there was a sharp curve immediately out of the tube. Also at the same instant, I saw that Matt and Becky’s kayaks were overturned, and Tricia was stuck! I started feverishly back-paddling and was able to turn my kayak around and on the other side of the river. Then, I put my kayak on the shore, and walked across the river to help the others. Tricia was still in her kayak, so we got her unstuck and she was able to make it across the river. Matt and Becky were turning Becky’s kayak over when I got back, and so I helped them. Then, I helped Matt right his kayak. It was quite the ordeal, but it was definitely something I will remember for a long time to come!
After we returned, we went to eat at Art’s. It’s a local tavern in downtown Glen Arbor, and they have excellent food. We sat out in their patio that is right next to the sidewalk on M-22.
We were able to people watch, talk, and relax under a red umbrella while the time floated by. I had a burger and we all shared a basket of tater tots. All of that was most excellent.
Later that evening, my friend Emily met up with us. She led us on a beautiful hike to a lookout that she was aware of. The view from that lookout was spectacular and awe-inspiring. You could see for a very long way out at Lake Michigan. The lookout had a steep embankment that led to the beach far below, and you could see the waves that looked very tiny, though they were probably a couple of feet high.
After Empire Beach, we went back the campsite and made a fire. Around the flickering light, we talked, laughed, and made s’mores. I really enjoyed everyone’s company, especially Emily’s since I hadn’t seen her for a while. Matt was a little confused about Marie’s telling of the Ojibwe story of Sky Land from the night before, so I told it again for him (with input and help from Tricia on some of the details). [If I remember, I will post what I remember of that story on this blog.] Before long, Emily had to leave because she had to be up early for work the next morning. We said our goodbyes and then we hung out for a while at the fire. We decided to do a four o’clock run in the early morning hours to watch the sunset from the Glen Lake Overlook off Alligator Hill. So, we decided it might be best for us to turn in a bit early ourselves.
Four o’clock came mighty quickly, and at first, we took a vote of whether or not it was a good idea to run this early. The sky was just starting to turn gray, and I don’t think our minds had shrugged off sleep while we were talking. The conversation went something like:
Matt: It’s time to get up…
Matt: It’s four am. Are we sure we want to do this?
Becky: I don’t know
Tricia: You guys can go, but I don’t think I will.
Matt: I’m thinking we could do it tomorrow.
Becky: That might work.
Me: I’ll do whatever you guys want.
Matt: My vote’s for staying in.
Becky: Mine too
Me: Well, I guess that’s what we’ll do then.
Then, we all went back to sleep…or so I thought. About half four, Becky said that she couldn’t sleep, so we should just go. Matt said okay, and I acquiesced as well.
We rushed around and got ready to go. We drove to the trailhead, and then ran the trail up to the lookout. It’s quite a challenging trail because it is almost entirely uphill, and quite a climb at that. At last, we arrived at the Alligator Hill lookout and the sun was almost cresting over the hills out to the east. We stayed and watched the sunrise for a while. Then, we walked down to the Glen Lake Overlook and hung out there for a while.
We jogged from the Glen Lake Overlook back to the Alligator Hill and back toward the trailhead. A few minutes into our run, I felt really good, so I asked Matt if he wanted to race. Then, I just took off like a jackrabbit from a hound. We both ran super fast the rest of the way. Matt said that he finished the two miles in something like nine minutes! It was definitely the fastest two miles I’ve ran in a long while!
That afternoon, we went to “Riverside Canoe Trips” and took tubes down the Platt River all the way to Lake Michigan.
That trip was pretty good, though we did run into these strange creatures in the river that I hadn’t seen before. My best guess is that they were lampreys in their larval stage. It was pretty gross to see them, but I think that many of them might have been killed or something. They just sort of floated along the bottom and didn’t seem to move. I grabbed one and it didn’t seem to move even when it was out of the water. It felt pretty cold and slimy, so I threw it back in after grossing everyone else out.
After the tubing was complete, we lay out on the beach for a while. I fell asleep on the beach, and when I awoke, Tricia said that I might be sunburned. I thought it strange because I had reapplied (SPF 30) between tubing and the beach, but she proved to be correct. My entire back had become sunburned! For the rest of the trip, I tried to apply a lot of aloe to help cool the burn.
We went back to Riverside and had some burgers for dinner, and then went back to the campsite. Becky and Matt went off to the beach while Tricia and I stayed around the campsite. Tricia was reading the last “Hunger Games” book, and I was more than content to just sit down and relax. We waited till sunset was nearly upon us and then went to beach. We took quite a few photos, some of which turned out pretty good (in my most humble of opinions). It was fun to have someone else who likes to take photos with me as we could see some shots that each of us liked, and others that gave us ideas for the next shot.
We had a lot of fun with that until it was quite dark. Meanwhile, Becky and Matt had returned to the campsite and were trying to start a fire. However, Tricia had taken the car keys (since there would be no one there!). Becky texted Tricia and let her know that they were waiting. When we returned, it was pretty dark. We started a fire forthwith and soon we were basking in the flighty rays of the burning logs yet again.
Before long, it was time for bed. We put out the fire and went to sleep.
The next morning, Becky and Matt went for a bike ride and when they returned, we got some breakfast around. It looked like it was going to be another great day. We left about midmorning to go up to Leland, Michigan and Fishtown. Fishtown is a nice little touristy place that tries to recreate the look and feel of a fishing village, but each of the village “houses” was a little shop selling different wares.
I had been there in the past, so a lot of memories swarmed over me. It was nice to remember a lot of the good times I had spent there in the past. We had a delicious pretzel-bread sandwich at the cheese shop (on Emily’s recommendation), and I must say that it was amazingly delicious!
After Fishtown, we headed back towards the campsite, but first, we stopped and did the Pyramid Point hiking trail. That trail has some nice views of the Lake and you can almost see in all directions for miles. Additionally, the trail winds through some nice lowland meadows and forests, as well as the steep point and dunes. I really enjoy that hike every time that I can take it on account of all the changing scenery.
That evening, we went to IGA and bought supplies for “hobo stews.” The idea is that you put a bunch of “stir fry” ingredients in tin foil and throw it on the hot coals of a fire.
It is amazingly delicious! Since this was to be our last night there, it was a very bittersweet fire. We had a great time, nonetheless.
The next morning, we packed up our things. We did so in quite a hurry because it started raining lightly. It stopped by the time we had everything packed up though, so that was nice. We left the campsite fairly early and headed into Traverse City. We saw a couple of fine sights, and then had some delicious food at Don’s Drive-in, an old fifties-style diner. I had a large strawberry shake and some sliders, and they were both quite lovely.
We hung out for a little while, and then began the long ride back home. On the way back, I admired some of the pictures I had taken, and thought about some of the highlights and memories from the trip. Overall, I think it was a trip that I really needed, and it was a trip that I really had a great time with as well. What fun!
This past weekend, I was able to go on a camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Glen Arbor, Michigan.
My friend John and I were coming from Ann Arbor, and Gordon was going to meet us at the campsite. So, around 10:30am on Friday, John stopped by my apartment. We loaded up, went to his parents’ house to load up some more items, and then we were on our way.
Along the way we passed by Frankenmuth, and John started talking about how he had never had the chicken dinner from Zehnder’s. We thought that maybe we should stop, but we decided that we would wait and see if Gordon wanted some on the way back. Nevertheless, all that talk of food got us hungry, so we stopped at Cracker Barrel for some respite.
Kimberly, our waitress, was quick and efficient as she brought us our appetizers and drinks. I got a the cranberry apple iced tea with corn muffins, which I really enjoyed. For the main course, both John and I had the chicken fried steak, which was most excellent!
Soon, we were on our way again. We continued on I-75 for a long way till we reached Grayling, where we cut off onto M-72, which pretty much took us all the way to our destination. We did stop in Traverse City for groceries, and after spending a small fortune for our two-day trip (which is pretty standard, it seems), we were on the road again.
We reached our campsite number 57 at DH Day campground between four and five in the afternoon. The rain had been sputtering the whole ride up, but it had stopped for a few minutes by the time we arrived. So, we rushed to get a tarp/lean-to up before the next storm rolled through. The wind battered the tarp as we assembled it and we were a bit concerned about the tarp’s integrity. There was little that we could do about it anyway. We set up the tent during this period as well.
After we had gotten everything in order at the campsite, we took a stroll down to the beach. The rain had started sprinkling again at this point and the wind had really started blowing down across Sleeping Bear Bay. It was actually a beautiful sight in its power and majesty, and it was certainly a sight of the bay that I had not seen before. Large waves heaved and crashed on the shore while the clouds swirled and swayed overhead. Through it all, a strong wind blew. It was awe-inspiring.
After our walk, we got back to the campsite and started a fire. Within a few minutes, we had a lovely fire going that kept out a good bit of the cold and filled our nostrils with the lovely smell of burning wood. Our lean-to tarp held up fairly well against the buffeting that the wind was handing it, but we noticed that a few of the rivets had started to pull away from the plastic tarp material. We made a few adjustments to help ease the stress a little bit, and before long, we were fairly safe and comfortable once again. I must say, though, we didn’t trust the tarp all that much and were ready should it fall down.
We ate a dinner of hot dogs and brats that had been cooked over the fire. It was completely delicious and tasty!
Gordon showed up a while later for desert. He made a banana boat while John and I made a reese’s-peanut-butter-and-marshmallow “hobo pie.” It was all incredibly amazing and yummy!
We then sat around the campfire and talked for a while before retiring for the night. I woke up quite a few times as the wind and rain howled around us. Once, I had a dream that the one of the tent poles was blowing away. I sat up with a start, practically hyperventilating, only to find out that it had been a dream!
At last dawn came, and though the sky was still quite cloudy, John and I set out for a morning jog up to Alligator Hill. We ran for quite a while and when we couldn’t run much further, we stopped. However, about thirty steps from where we stopped was our destination: the first overlook of Alligator Hill. It was beautiful to see Sleeping Bear Bay, though the chill of the air and the sweat on my brow blended to cause me more than a few shivers. We took in the sight for a little while, and then headed back at a much slower pace to cool down.
We met up with my friend Emily around midmorning, and then we went for a few hikes around the area. Emily is a really cool friend of mine who works for the National Park Service right there [she's in the youtube video I posted earlier this month]. Because she’s stayed in the area for the past few summers, she was able to lead us on a few really fun hikes and show us some really cool places I had never been before. The weather also cleared up by the afternoon and it turned into a remarkably beautiful day.
That evening we had dinners wrapped in tinfoil that we cooked over some of the hot coals from the fire. I browned some beef and chicken, and then we laid out all kinds of great vegetables to blend in, like carrots, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. We didn’t go hungry, that’s for sure!
We sat around the campfire for a while and Gordon entertained us with his awesome musical repertoire. I cooked another reese’s-peanut-butter-and-marshmallow “hobo pie,” but this time I added apple pie filling, and it was deliciously good! I will have to remember that one! Emily cooked a few s’mores as well, and overall, I think it was a great fall campfire!
We took a long walk on the beach in the moonlight after the fire had died down, and that was amazing as well. The stars were out, but the bright moon held many at bay and out of sight. Nevertheless, the wind blowing in and the waves crashing on the shore only added to the beautiful twinkling ambiance of the moon, stars, and lights across the bay.
We then went back to our tents and crashed. I slept till after sun-up, and since John didn’t want to take a run, I took a long walk in the morning light. I took a few pictures with my camera during this walk that I really liked as well.
After my walk, we cooked chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and got ready for our return trip. We picked up and cleaned up the area, and within an hour we were on the road. Our original plan the night before was to go for one last hike before we headed for home, but Gordon didn’t have time for that, and we had already started thinking about the Zehnder’s chicken dinner that we had promised ourselves at the outset of the journey.
So, we headed back towards Ann Arbor, and stopped at Zehnder’s along the way. John was duly impressed with the meal, and I know I was gentle, happy, and well-filled by the time we were done with it all.
We got back to Ann Arbor, and said our goodbyes. I then got ready for the new week, but with a certain lightness to my step. The weekend had really brought a lot of peace and happiness to my heart. Even as I write this, I still have that little spark of joy that must have been fed like a fire in a gentle wind. I feel like I saw so much beauty, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand how beautiful it all was to me at each moment along the way. What a great feeling!
This weekend, I was able to take some time to go camping and tubing up in Hastings, Michigan. Like the The Extraordinary Camping and Tubing Cabaret of the previous year, we stayed at Welcome Woods Campground just north of the town. It is a decent campground, though it appears that they raised the rates this year.
We arrived there quite late in the evening on Friday because we had dinner with some old friends in Jackson, Michigan, so that made setting up camp a little more challenging. The sun had descended long ago and there was very little ambient light. It also didn’t help that the flashlight I brought had gotten moisture in it, so it was having a hard time working. It would shut off after being on for only a second or two. However, I was able to get started setting up my tent almost by touch since I have set up my tent many many times before.
After we got set up, we relaxed around the campfire for a while and talked about a myriad of topics. Before we had burned through all of our firewood, we decided to not add any more and to go to sleep. I don’t know about anybody else, but I know that I slept quite well!
Before I knew it, Saturday morning had come and the trees were welcoming the sun once again. We awoke and cooked a lovely breakfast of pancakes and eggs. After breakfast, we talked and got ready for an afternoon of tubing. It looked like it might rain, so Andrew put up a “lean-to” made out of a tarp and some rope. When it was completed, it was nice to hang out under its gently sloping protection.
While we were hanging out, a cool dragonfly perched on my hand. I enjoyed him hanging out with me. At one point, he flew off my hand for about a half second, but was soon back. I then noticed that he was chewing on something. It was a mosquito! That’s when I knew that this dragonfly and I were good friends!
Soon, it was time to go tubing on the Thornapple River! We met up with some of our friends at the tube rental place (http://urentemcanoe.com/). However, the sky began to look more and more ominous. Thunder and lightning split the sky and the rain began to fall. The people at the tube rental place told us that they would not allow us to go on the river in this kind of weather, so we decided to go to a nearby Pizza Hut to see if we could wait it out.
Inside, I had a chocolate covered cherry smoothie (or was it a milk shake?), and it was delicious! We sat and talked about all kinds of topics, and in spite of the rain, I think most everyone enjoyed themselves.
An hour and a half later, the sky had cleared, so we set off to the tube rental place yet again, and this time, we were able to go on the river!
The river itself is a very beautiful, wide, and winding river. One thing I immediately noticed compared to the previous year was that the water level was quite high. This made the current stronger, so we were able to cover more river faster in our tubes.
We had a wonderful time on the river, but because the current was so strong, it seemed to go by far too quickly. I had wished that we had had a bit longer of a ride. Nonetheless, I definitely recommend tubing the Thornapple for those that have not gone before.
After tubing was done, we went to the grocery store and picked up some supplies for the evening, mostly s’more ingredients. We returned to the campsite and had a really nice time making banana boats, hobo pies, and other sugary delicacies over the fire.
As the night wore onwards, we all slowly drifted off to our tents. I was glad of the sleep, and I slept quite soundly and deeply through the night.
On Sunday, I woke up fairly early, so I took a walk down to the lake and did some fishing. I fished from the two docks nearby and though I saw a few fish breaking the surface of the water, none cared to take my bait. The lake was beautiful as the sun rose. It had a light mist that swirled back and forth for about five inches above the surface, and the entire lake seemed to be made of glass rather than water. Aside from a few fish or minnows breaking the surface, there didn’t seem to be even so much as a ripple as far as the eye could see. Even though I didn’t catch a thing, I returned to the campsite with a lovely relaxed feeling. After I returned, we got our things around and then headed for the hills of home.
Overall, I must say that this was a lovely weekend, and I am mighty glad for the time spent with friends!
This past weekend, I had the immense pleasure of being able to camp at DH Day Campground up by Glen Arbor, Michigan. It was a weekend filled with hikes, campfires, ghost stories, snacks, brotherhood, and all-around generally good fun!
We camped at a site that was a stone’s throw from the dunes that led to the lake, and it was simply gorgeous. Here’s a view from the edge of the woods where our campsite was:
We were able to go on a few hikes around the area to examine some of the gorgeous land that is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Here’s a few pictures:
Even though it rained a bit while we were there, it didn’t dampen our spirits. We hiked to an abandoned homestead in the rain, and sat on the porch, watching the rain and mist come rolling down from the high hills over a meadow. It was a wonderfully peaceful sight to see.
At the evenings, we sat around the campfire and we were entertained by the musical stylings of Adam on the guitar and Gordon with the harmonica. We told a few ghost stories, laughed at a few jokes, and roasted marshmallows and banana boats.
I feel both tired and refreshed after such a wonderful weekend. It was simply glorious!
I was able to get away this weekend for a wonderful trip in Hastings, Michigan with a few of my good friends. We were originally going to camp in Augusta, Michigan but there was a huge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. We were able to rearrange our plans.
My friend Andrew picked me up and drove me to Jackson, Michigan, where we met up with Ray and Liz for an afternoon of jet skiing on Portage Lake. That was only my second time on a jet ski, but I loved every minute of it. We had a “Scottish” rock throwing contest as well, which I really enjoyed.
Afterwards, we packed up our things, got a bunch of groceries from Liz’s house, and headed out for the amazing weekend. My friends Zach and Travis met us at our campsite, which was located at Welcome Woods Campground. We couldn’t have asked for a better site. It was off in a far corner of the campground and it had a lot of good shade trees.
On Saturday, a few more of my friends came for the tubing trip down the Thornapple River. We had a great time! The water was perfect, the weather was perfect, the group was perfect, and everything seemed to go just swimmingly!
That evening, we had a dance party on the beach, and then we sat around the campfire, talked, laughed, and generally had a great time until Sunday morning. We jumped in our tents for a few hours of shuteye, and then ate breakfast and headed back to the “real world.”
It was a great weekend. Actually, it wasn’t just great, it was extraordinary! I am so grateful for the friendships I have, especially considering how much I’ve leaned on them over the past months. It’s good to be friends with good people.