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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Sleeping Bear Dunes

~Friday, July 2, 2021~

Day 383

What a difference driving 250 miles due north makes. The inside temperature of the trailer was a chilly 57 degrees this morning. I am not complaining as it is a refreshing change from the 90 degree, humid weather we’ve experienced as of late. I have to admit, we actually were getting a little used to it, but much prefer the Michigan temps.

Our first day in Lake Leelanau, we decided to do some exploring on foot. On the way to our first hike at Empire Bluff, we noticed signs along the road saying the term “township”. Not really understanding the difference between counties and townships, I looked it up. Townships are organized local governments, generally a civil division of a county. There are varying degrees of townships, with Michigan’s being a charter township, whereby a township has been granted a charter which allows it certain rights and responsibilities intermediate between city and county rules. Interesting.

After about a 40-minute drive to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore area, we arrived at our trailhead at Empire Bluff. This seashore is in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and with its high dunes, provides amazing views of Lake Michigan.

Because we saw very few cars along the way, we thought we’d be the only ones on the trail, but when we arrived, the parking lot was full. The hike was an easy one but offered quite a punch when it came to beauty. This scenic trail is packed with lush forests of beech-maple trees, wildflowers and tranquility. Along the way, there were 6 numbered posts highlighting such things as glacial deposits from 11,000 years ago, and an old farm with discarded equipment from an earlier time. It didn’t take long for us to get the ultimate prize of a view at the Empire Bluff Scenic Overlook. From this spot, you can see the North and South Manitou Islands to your left. But, when you see Lake Michigan directly in front of you, with no land in sight on the horizon, you’d swear you were looking at the ocean. Its sheer vastness and color are unlike any lake we’ve seen before. So I guess it is safe to say, this is THE largest lake we’ve ever seen.

After the Empire trail, we headed to our next trail, still in the Sleeping Bear area, called the Alligator Hill Trail. This trail gets its name from its long ridge and prominent bluffs that resemble the snout and body of an alligator. Ever since I was a child and to this day, I still enjoy creating animals in my mind from Mother Nature’s gifts, whether it be clouds, rocks, trees, dirt, etc. At the beginning of this trail we found something quite unusual….kilns. The Pierce Stocking Kilns were built in the 1950’s by lumberman Pierce Stocking. He had set up a sawmill nearby which produced a significant amount of waste, so decided to build these kilns to produce something useful from the waste…charcoal, which became very useful for local merchants and campgrounds. We enjoyed our second scenic overlook of the day at Grand Traverse Bay

and decided at this spot, through our cell phones, that we would learn a few Lake Michigan stats:

1️⃣Lake Michigan plays an important role in moderating the local climate where in Spring, icy waters keep air temps cool which helps prevent fruit trees from blooming too early when frosts can still occur

2️⃣It is 307 miles long

3️⃣The shoreline length is 1,600 miles

4️⃣Warmest time of the year is August at 75 degrees (average)

5️⃣Coldest time of the year is March at 32 degrees (average)

6️⃣Highest Humidity is June at 84.1%

7️⃣Warmest water temperature at 77 degrees

8️⃣Coldest water temperature at 32 degrees

9️⃣Best time to visit….June thru September (we did good!)

Hopefully we’ll get a few more hikes in before we leave the Lake Leelanau area.

We decided to take our camphost’s suggestion of checking out Friday Music in the Park (Marina Park) in a darling little town called Northport, about 20 minutes from our campground. It really is a picture-perfect town. The band, Soul Patch, entertained everyone with their Rock/Reggae style for over 2 hours. So much fun seeing people dance and mingle; basically catching up for all the lost time that the pandemic brought on. A taco truck was nearby filling orders, but due to the long line, I decided to see if I could find a small grocery store within walking distance from the park. Bingo! 2 sandwiches, potato salad, a Seagram’s Bellini for me and an IPA for Jeff and we were in business. And no line! Sadie had a great time meeting other dogs and just checking out all of the action.

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