Monday, July 30, 2012

Running with Bears and Conquering the Dunes, Part II

To continue the story…

After the race and a visit to the farmer’s market, it was off to our next adventure of the day. Conquering the Dune Climb at Sleepy Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Most people head up the first massive dune, and maybe over a few of the next hills, but turn back way before making it to the end – Lake Michigan. This is what happened to us two years ago. We just weren’t prepared. This time we were determined to hike the full 3.5miles.


The woman at the gate warned us that we should take our shoes because a few weeks earlier some man had gotten 3rd degree burns on his feet from the sand. I was immediately convinced we had to take them but had to talk Woody into it. We didn’t want to carry them, but it was well worth it.

After applying copious amounts of sun block and filling up our water bottles, we headed up the massive 110-foot climb, which is just the start of what’s to come! For some reason I didn’t take a picture of this. Perhaps because pictures don’t really work for this thing its so massive. You might not be familiar with dunes, the guide describes the lakeshore as: a hilly region fringed with massive shoreline sand dunes and dotted with clear lakes. Because of the nature of the dunes being at the edge of Lake Michigan, the shifting topography changes the area on a constant basis. It was voted the most beautiful place in America on ABC’s Good Morning America last year. Something most Michiganders have known for generations!

So, the Dune Climb. This is one of many trails throughout the Lakeshore, but I think it may be the toughest. The trail description says this:

Strenuous – Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Travels over nine hills through the high dunes plateau to Lake Michigan. It can be a hot, exhausting, three to four hour trip, punctuated only by a cool dip in Lake Michigan. Plan ahead. Take water, sunscreen, hat shoes and a snack.

Nine hills is counting one way, and there’s no way back other than by foot, the way you got out to the lake. We saw kids along the trail and even at the lake. I really don’t know how they did it. We also saw plenty of people with no shoes (some with tears in their eyes, all complaining of the heat) and often with no water. I’m not sure if they’re super human or just crazy and unprepared. I hope they all made it back safely. My Dad told me after our excursion that there have been reports of people having to be airlifted off the trail because there’s no way to get someone back on foot if they get stuck out there, and you definitely can’t get a vehicle out on the dunes.

This is what it looked like….



A little less than half way out we were heading up a massive hill and the temperature of the sand became too much to bare. We found a tree half way up the hill, providing shade for a couple who had stopped to rest and used a sliver of the shade to stop and put our shoes on. Thankfully we did because it only got worse. As our shoes filled with sand, we made our way up and down the thick hills and finally reached the water. It was such a beautiful sight!


Woody took a dip in the water, but the rocks, which covered the beach and went well into the lake, were too rough on my sensitive feet (I had developed a blister by this time) for me to go more than a few steps into the water.


I was just thrilled to be off the dunes for a few minutes and to have made it to the lake!


Unfortunately though, there isn’t a boat ferry to take us to the closest town and we had to muster up the courage and energy to hike back. We definitely moved with a little less speed on the way back but were happy to let a few other hikers know they weren’t too far off from the lake as we came upon them. It was sad though, when we had to tell a little kid that he wasn’t even half way there as he asked with a tired voice if they were close. When hiking hills made of nothing but sand, you utilize muscles you never knew you had. Think running on a beach is hard? Add a never ending set of hills to that and the finest sand you’ve ever seen!

After stopping a few more times to empty out our shoes, we came upon the last flat expanse before the last final downhill to the parking lot.


I feel like we’ve accomplished some rite of passage that all Michiganders must pass through. True, we no longer live in Michigan, but it’s part of who we are and now we have to find another challenge to conquer next time!

After cleaning up with the help of a water fountain that wildly overshot and wet-ones, we got in the car and headed back to Glen Arbor. I used the public restroom in town to change into something a little less sweaty and we had a delicious lunch at Art’s Tavern – made complete with a Diet Vernors! Very rarely have I been so excited to sit down!

We couldn’t leave Glen Arbor without a proper visit to Cherry Republic so we stopped by for a few samples and to pick up some must-have items like dark chocolate covered cherries, cherry mustard and of course, a package of boomchunkas! The race festivities happened right outside the Republic and it was fun to see the time boards lined up along the fence when we got back there! Of course, we had to stop for pictures by our names!



  • Do you know Sleepy Bear Dunes? Have you ever climbed the Dune Climb or any of the other trails?
  • What adventure have you conquered or do you want to conquer?
  • What are your thoughts on the NBC coverage of the Olympics?


B.o.B. said...

So cool! Congrats on the climb. That seems pretty intense. I think I went to that Cherry Republic place when I visited Red and we went to Traverse City. Yummy!

Lisa_earlymorningrun said...

Thanks! It was intense, but so glad we did it! If you were in Traverse City, I bet you did go to Cherry Republic! The amount of samples you can have at that place... ;)

Abby Land said...

Looks gorgeous. I miss the dunes. Used to have childhood vacations to MI.

Blogger said...

New Diet Taps into Innovative Idea to Help Dieters Lose 20 Pounds within Only 21 Days!