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!