The 7 Stages of Hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes

July 13, 2014

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When I learned that the campground where I was planning to camp last weekend was only forty minutes away from Sleeping Bear Dunes, I decided I should stop by there on my way.

After all, I’d have a few hours to kill before I could check into the campground, and I figured I could probably use a good leg-stretch after driving for three hours.

I wasn’t really planning on hiking the dunes. Especially after my experience last year of hiking the dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park, where I learned that “dunes” is just a fancy word for “hills.” Specifically “really steep hills made out of sand which means they are pretty much impossible to climb up and you will just hate yourself for even trying.”

My plan was just to, you know, check them out a bit until I could head to my campsite and start drinking carton-wine.

Carton-wine!

Carton-wine!

But the next thing I knew I was hiking ALL THE DUNES.

You know that definition of insanity? The one says that you keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?

Well, that also just so happens to be the definition of my life.

While I may not be really big on learning from previous life experiences, maybe you are?

That’s why I’ve decided to write up this handy-dandy list of all the stages I went through while hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes. Maybe you can learn from my mistake and skip some of my stages? (Like, say, the stage where I decide to go hiking instead of going directly to my campsite and drinking carton-wine?)

The 7 Stages of Hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes

Stage 1: The One Where You Probably Should Have Read the Informational Pamphlet.
When you drive into the parking lot of Sleeping Bear Dunes, the park ranger will hand you an informational pamphlet along with your parking pass.

You will throw the informational pamphlet on the passenger seat of your car. You will slap on some sunblock, grab a small bottle of water and head out to hike the dunes. You will glance at your watch and tell yourself you’ll be back in an hour.

If you had read the informational pamphlet, you would have seen the description of the Dunes Climb. The one where it warns that the hike could take three to four hours and that you should be prepared and bring plenty of water and a snack and possibly an emergency helicopter.

But you didn’t read that part, did you?

You also didn’t do a very good job of putting on sunblock as you will learn later when you discover that both your ears and the back of your calves are a strawberry-shade of red.

Stage 2: The One Where You’re Just Going to Hike Up This Dune Right Here And Take Some Pictures of Lake Michigan And Then Get Back In Your Car.

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This is definitely the funnest stage.

It’s so full of hope.

Bright, shiny, fun, delusional hope.

It’s also full of people.

There are so many people. They are everywhere.

There are families and children and hungover-looking college kids and old people wielding hiking poles and couples taking selfies of themselves and Bible camp groups playing Frisbee and Indian ladies in saris. AndΒ  everybody’s screaming and yelling and laughing and you kind of wish they’d all be quiet because you just want your moment of peace as you get to the top of this dune and you finally gaze out at the beautiful blue expanse of Lake Michig…Ummm.

Waitasecond.

That’s not Lake Michigan.

That’s just another sand dune.

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Errm, where did Lake Michigan go?

Stage 3: Denial
Or “The One Where You Think Lake Michigan Might Be On the Other Side of That Hill Over There.”

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

Nope, not Lake Michigan.

Nope, not Lake Michigan.

Second spoiler alert: This stage lasts approximately five billion hills.

Stage 4: Acceptance
During this stage you have realized that Lake Michigan is not on the other side of the next hill.

Or the hill after that.

In fact, you start to wonder if there even is a Lake Michigan.

Is Lake Michigan just some fairy tale told to young children and optimistic hikers? Is Lake Michigan the Great Lakes equivalent of Santa Claus?

Speaking of Santa Claus, is that him over there peeking out from behind that scraggly bit of grass? I think it is. IT’S SANTA CLAUS. OMIGOSH, YOU GUYS. OLD SAINT NICK IS HERE! I HOPE HE BROUGHT ME A PONY!

Santa Clause, is that YOU???

Santa Claus, is that YOU???

Actually, come to think of it, a better name for this stage is: Hallucinations Caused by Pending Heat Stroke.

Stage 5: The One Where You Finally Reach Lake Michigan

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This stage has a lot less people than the other stages.

Probably because everybody else remembered that they could just drive to Lake Michigan instead of hiking over sand dunes for two hours.

The few people that do make it to this stage are very happy and proud of themselves. Some of them even run into the freezing cold water to celebrate.

And then they all remember that they have to hike back for another two hours because they forgot to bring their emergency helicopters with them.

But they try to forget about the hike back for a minute while they take foot selfies of themselves.

Or at least that’s what I did.

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Stage 6: The One Where You’re Walking Back
The walk back will seem to have just as many hills going up as the walk there. Which is funny because you could have sworn that the walk to Lake Michigan was uphill the whole way.

But one perk of walking back is that you will suddenly be very popular. Everyone you pass will ask you how far it is until they get to Lake Michigan.

You should tell them that it’s just over that hill up there.

The one right by Santa Claus.

Step 7: The One Where You Didn’t Die So You Get to Eat Ice Cream Out of the Vending Machine
I take it back.

This is the funnest stage ever. BECAUSE ICE CREAM.

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In fact, you’ll probably just want to skip all the other stages, and just do this stage. Like, twice. Or three times.

Or, at least, until all your change runs out and it’s time to go drink carton-wine at your campsite.

Have you ever done a dunes hike before?
94

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On July 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    I have hiked up mountains with multiple false peaks, and that was discouraging enough! You hiked dunes on a hot day, and you made it all the way to Lake Michigan…and back! Big kudos to you!! P.S. I hope your sunburned ears and the back of your calves have recovered. Your toes looked happy to be in Lake Michigan.

  2. On July 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm Priya said:

    This reminds of how it took me forever to walk home yesterday with heavy groceries because I kind of got lost and you start to think if you just give up and live on the street mostly because you really just want to open your bag of chips.
    Priya recently posted..Travel Isn’t Always About Chasing The Sun

  3. On July 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm kate convissor said:

    I live in Michigan, but the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert were my Waterloo. 650 feet. No trudging over multiple hills–just one perpendicular ascent. Almost no people, except Harry who was camping at the top looking for a ride to Los Angeles. Go figure.

    http://www.wanderingnotlost.org/2011/03/harry-on-the-dunes/
    kate convissor recently posted..Tequila!

  4. On July 14, 2014 at 9:37 am Daina said:

    Seriously – funniest post I’ve read in a long time! So very true! And precisely why I never hike dunes. πŸ™‚ But at least you got some gorgeous photos and a funny story out of it! (Bizarre how while these things are happening they are never funny, and the laughter comes only later when you realize how insane that was and – whew, at least I never have to do that again!!)
    Daina recently posted..A Sunny Summery Saturday in Palanga, Lithuania

    • On July 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm Sally said:

      I did actually laugh quite a bit while I was hiking… but it was the kind of laugh that usually gets you sent straight to the insane asylum.

  5. On July 14, 2014 at 9:38 am CaptHepcat said:

    I did the exact same thing-with no shoes. At the end of a long day. I kept telling the kids Lake Michigan was just over that dune. Then I noticed there were no longer ANY people. When we reached Lake Michigan at last I ordered both kids into the water to soak their clothing so we’d not be too hot on the return trip. I got worried that each small plane was a search party sent to rescue us. When we finally reached the car it was one of the only ones left in the lot and the sun was going down. Upon return to camp we had planned to make pizza in the dutch oven. We didn’t eat until almost 10:30 that night. I think it’s hilarious that I’m not alone in this experience! The kids STILL talk about it-and my pending nomination for “Mom-of-the-Year”

  6. On July 14, 2014 at 9:50 am Joseph Getchel said:

    Well, what was even more interesting was taking a 5 year old along. After the 2nd or 3rd dune, it was “Daddy, carry me”! So most of the way to Lake Michigan and all the way back, it was a piggy-back ride (wish I could have been the one riding!).
    And once we were at the lake, the question “why is the water so COLD – in July”?
    it truly WAS a great family time together, in spite of the ordeal.

  7. On July 14, 2014 at 10:13 am Jane said:

    This is hilarious, and so accurate. Although you forgot Stage 4.5: “OMG this sand is hotter than the sun, and my flip-flops are at the bottom.” I tricked my husband into doing the dune climb, having fond childhood memories of frolicking up the slope; I now know that A) I must have been an insane child, and B) I need to work out more. That being said, it’s a mandatory part of any northern MI vacation!

    • On July 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm Sally said:

      Agreed. And now that I’ve ticked it off the list, the next time I take a northern MI vacation, I’m focusing on a different kind of trail — namely a wine trail. πŸ™‚

  8. On July 14, 2014 at 10:20 am Sarah said:

    I grew up about 6 miles from Lake Michigan. Nowhere near Sleeping Bear but our vacations were always “Up North” so I’m very familiar. I love your perspective on dunes, it made me laugh for sure. Having done it from childhood, I thought hiking forever in skin melting sand just to be able to jump into freezing water and eat sand covered PB&J’s was normal. Sounds like a perfect summer day to me!

    • On July 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm Sally said:

      I was surprised by all the kids doing the hike — and really really little kids, too! I guess that’s just something you do during your Michigan childhood? Guess I’m glad I didn’t grow up in Michigan! Or maybe if I had grown up in Michigan, I would have known better. πŸ™‚

      • On July 14, 2014 at 7:27 pm Sarah said:

        It truly is a Michigan childhood thing at least for those that live near the lakeshore. I think if you’re doing it from a young age it’s just normal and I still love it. Even though I no longer live close I take my boys up once a summer and we always hit the beach and play in the dunes. It just feels like home.
        When you’re feeling like a new adventure, go a bit further north to Mackinac on Labor day weekend and walk across the Mackinac Bridge. It’s an amazing view and a true Michigander thing to do.

  9. On July 14, 2014 at 10:21 am Darcy said:

    I’m laughing so hard…..20 years ago my husband & I decided to walk the dunes to Lake Michigan. We had no water, no escape plan, no clue……But we did bring a frisbee…..seriously?

  10. On July 14, 2014 at 10:53 am Heather said:

    Been there…exactly there…gave up 3 dunes in. Great blog and so very true! Just FYI if you’re ever in the area again, look for the ‘old Indian trail’ (it’s in the pamphlet), it also reaches the lake but it involves only one dune and is mostly through the woods. Just watch out for cougars:)

  11. On July 14, 2014 at 11:48 am Candice @ The Let's Go Ladies said:

    This post = hilarity. I legit laughed out loud. Multiple times. Also, are you me? I’ve never gone dune-hiking, but I completely sympathize. I recently had an experience snorkeling that reflects some of your hardships.
    Candice @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..Snorkeling in the Reefs of Cancun – Never Again. Ever.

  12. On July 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm Beverley Sporck said:

    Great post! And, it brought back memories of the time my high school girlfriend Debbie and I, in scant bathing suits, with just a beach towel and no shoes either, decided to hike up the dunes. (I had gone up the initial hill many times from the time I was a child. We started out going up and down the hills in a similar style s you did, each time hoping the next one would disclose Lake Michigan. This was back in 1970 and there were fewer hiking signs and warnings etc. After an eternity of hiking we finally made it to the big lake and took a dip. It was on the way back that we really ran into problems. We hadn’t anticipated the time it would take to get there and back. On our way back we actually got off course and were walking in a bit of an angle and this took more time. It turned dark out and we were still hiking back to the dune climb entrance and our car. Eventually we came out way far to the north where the sharp beach grass was thick and finished walking back to our car by the moonlight.

  13. On July 14, 2014 at 12:39 pm Leo Cherup said:

    YES. We did the walk of death, no water, no sun screen, NO shoes. The Lake is just over the next hill! Then we made it. Totally perfect. But instead of walking back because of the holes in my feet, We walked up to the next city, Empire We think, and hitchhiker back to my car.

    • On July 14, 2014 at 6:55 pm Sally said:

      Good thinking. I had no idea where I was and if there was a town nearby (thanks to my not having read the informational pamphlet), so my only option was to walk back. Uggh.

  14. On July 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm Amanda C @ UnrestingSea said:

    Ahhh the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Such fond memories of never-ending sand! Brought me back to my young days at around age 11 when my dad & two uncles decided to hike it with me, my younger sister & two younger cousins. About half way though, us small tykes gave up – but my young counterparts all got carried the rest of the way. CARRIED. And because I was oldest, I was left to my own two feet. Life is no fair for the oldest kid.

    I still feel sorry for myself, but with my maturity I now feel worse for my dad & two uncles.

    At least you didn’t have a small child clinging to your back?

    Great post. Cheers. πŸ˜‰
    Amanda C @ UnrestingSea recently posted..Top of the World: Pylon Lookout

  15. On July 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm becky hutner said:

    oy vey walking on sand is hard enough when it’s flat. i had an evil trainer once who even made us crab walk in sand. backwards! (or is crab walking always backwards?). but this takes the cake. if i’m ever in michigan, i’ll know to skip straight to the ice cream. and wine.
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion β€˜Round the World: What people wore in Spring ’14

    • On July 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm Sally said:

      Maybe do the first dune so you can say you “deserve” the ice cream and wine? Wait. What am I talking about? You ALWAYS deserve the ice cream and wine!

  16. On July 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm Emma said:

    Just got back from “up north” but skipped the dunes this time around. I mean, you can only torture yourself so many times. I’ve walked all the way to Lake Michigan and back on the dunes as a kid and I remember it being so awfully tiring, yet the water is the most refreshing thing in the history of ever once you get there. I remember going again a few years ago in my early twenties and being SO TIRED. Oh, so tired. I wanted to turn back once we hit the 2nd hill and I thought, “There it is, Lake Michigan, right over this hill!” Nope. Ten times later. Still nope. But I think everyone who goes Up North needs to do this at least once. I did go to Petoskey for my first time this weekend and now the Tunnel of Trees is my favorite spot. I actually asked my husband, “Did something happen to us? Is this heaven?” I was serious. I’ve never been in such a beautiful place. Michigan is awesome. I’m from downstate but my vacations almost always include Up North.
    Emma recently posted..What is a Flower Hair Crown? Plus, Win One!

    • On July 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm Sally said:

      I’m going to Petoskey for Labor Day weekend. I’ll have to check out the Tunnel of Trees. (I can drive this thing, right? I don’t have to walk THE WHOLE FREAKING THING, right?). Have any other suggestions for my visit?

  17. On July 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm Patricia said:

    Our church youth group used to camp there! My memory must be fuzzy because as I recall there was a really steep drop that went down to the lake that had a road. I never went down to the water because I knew I would surely die climbing back up that hill!!

    • On July 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm Sally said:

      The Dunes Climb definitely doesn’t have a road. Because if it did, I would have been hitch-hiking out of there! The park is really big and has lots of other trails. Maybe you were on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive? I’ve heard that’s really nice. And you can drive. Bonus!

  18. On July 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm Bruce said:

    My wife hast told and re-told me the exact same story so many times. Your story came out funny, event though it captured the torture my wife still carries in her soul about her trip back in the late 1960s over those same dunes.

    When our two boys wanted to climb the dunes, we had fortunately already been to the beach at another location on Lake Michigan, and since my wife was ADAMANT that there is no way in hell she would climb those evil dunes again, they were only allowed to climb up and down the 1st dune. I guess that experience in her past was my salvation, as I’ve never endured that experience myself.

    The one thing that was different (from your story, or the replies) for my wife and her brother though was the condition of the beach. When they arrived, hoping for that refreshing dip, they were greeted with tons and tons of thousands (or was it millions) of stinking dead alewives littering the entire beach and surf zone. The stench was horrible and nauseating. That sure didn’t make the hike back any picnic. Thanks for sharing. My wife got a kick out of reading it.

  19. On July 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm Paul said:

    Do the hike after a heavy rain it’s a lot easier to walk on the sand.

  20. On July 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm Diane Gemmell said:

    Oh this was so enjoyable to read. Hilarious and oh so true. Next time drink wine first and carry a flask with you and go with lots of friends drinking wine. Wine makes everything better. Oh, and you should try hiking down the sand dunes at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive – The Lake Michigan Overlook. Overlook #9. Then turn around and climb back up. I have done it a few times – I would love to read your comments after that one!

  21. On July 14, 2014 at 10:57 pm Brenda said:

    I’ve done 5 of the hikes at Sleeping Bear Dunes, one Of the most beautiful places in Michigan! My goal is to do all of 12 or 13 trails there. Your blog post just cracked me up! Thank you, I loved it!!

    • On July 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm Sally said:

      You mean there are 12 or 13 more ways to torture yourself?? Wow. I think next time I’ll just do the trail where I get to drive the whole way. πŸ™‚

      • On July 15, 2014 at 9:01 pm Brenda said:

        LOL! That is very pretty too and, you can get out and take “mini walks” for views if you do the “scenic drive!” πŸ™‚ You crack me up, I love your sense of humor! I will be following you (not stalker following but, ya know…lol!)

  22. On July 14, 2014 at 11:17 pm Korrie fisher said:

    Too funny! I remember the never ending walk… Done it many times. So when my sister asked yesterday if I wanted to leave the state park and go climb the dunes, I quickly said no thanks and went out to lunch instead πŸ™‚

  23. On July 14, 2014 at 11:47 pm Lynn said:

    I started laughing before I even got to the actual blog post, simply remembering my hike! Although I remember it a little differently… I remember actually enjoying the hike out, because of the anticipation of the lake possibly being right over the next dune! It was the trip back that was the killer! I thought I was never ever going to get back to my car!!

    • On July 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm Sally said:

      I think I actually enjoyed the hike back better because I felt really accomplished and gloaty when I was talking to the people heading to the Lake. πŸ™‚

  24. On July 15, 2014 at 11:23 am Connie Reed said:

    Hysterical,love the post. Yes, I’ve hiked plenty of dunes. When I was younger my favorite was the big one at Warren Dunes that you climb up and then run down gathering momentum as you run. It was a whole lot easier back then. I visited Sleeping Bear Dunes a couple of months ago and did my share of hiking there. It does always seem like it will be a fun thing…until you get halfway up the first dune.
    Connie Reed recently posted..All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club, Charles City: The Court of Dreams

  25. On July 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm BJ Christensen said:

    I counted seven steep hills from the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb to Lake Michigan and guess what, there are seven steep hills on the way back too.

    Don’t forget the water and don’t go on a 90 degree day or your feet will burn.

  26. On July 15, 2014 at 9:25 pm Cathy said:

    I did this hike last fall. You said it very well..Just like I remember it! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  27. On July 15, 2014 at 11:05 pm Anna said:

    Good job hiking the dunes! It’s certainly a challenge and a favorite hike for our family. We do it every year. I encourage you to do it again, but in case you or someone else can’t make it all the way to the big lake, you can at least see Lake Michigan after making up the first dune by climbing to the highest peaks on either the left or the right. After that next dune, you can see both Glenn Lake and Lake Michigan by climbing to the highest peak on the right. Enjoy because it is really a beautiful place!

    • On July 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm Sally said:

      I actually did climb to both of the highest peaks right after the first dune, but I could only see a smidgen of Lake Michigan. I thought I’d be able to see the whole dang thing from up there. That’s why I hiked the whole thing. Because I kept on expecting to get to the top of a dune and be able to have a really good view of the Lake… but it didn’t really happen until I got to the Lake.

  28. On July 16, 2014 at 12:24 am Terri said:

    I have hiked the Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way to Lake Michigan no less than 5 times. Every time since the first experience I have wondered why in the world I’m doing it and why I did not remember how far it is and how long it takes. I must say, if you run some it, it actually does feel better as there seems to be a little less slippage backward than when walking. Also, pick a day that is cloudy or even a little drizzly. While the view is not as spectacular it beats feelings like you’re walking through the Mojave desert!! I equate walking the dunes to childbirth. Once you’ve done it, you quickly forget about all that awfulness leading up to the birth (the equivalent of reaching Lake Michigan) and once you are running back down the main dune towards the parking lot, you almost feel like MAYBE you could do it again the next time out of town guests come to visit!!

    • On July 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm Sally said:

      Hahaha. I’ve never experienced (and really don’t plan to experience) childbirth. But, yeah, I definitely think the analogy is appropriate. I’ll be sure to never bring guests up north with me for fear that I might be convinced to do the Dunes Climb again. πŸ™‚

  29. On July 16, 2014 at 10:01 am Sally M said:

    Oh yes I also was on Sleeping Bear. I ran down the large dune straight to Lake Michigan. Then attempted to go up the same way. So steep. Two steps up and one step back. Needed more water than I brought and had a major blood sugar drop. Hubby had to go up remainder of way {as we had only gotten about half way} retrieve some water and a snack and bring back to me. So he did the dunes twice. Such a kind and wonderful man. My hero.

    • On July 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm Sally said:

      I think you’re talking about the dune on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, right? For the Dune Climb there was just an itty bitty dune right before the lake. It was kind of anti-climactic after all the big huge dunes before it.

  30. On July 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm Leah said:

    Hahaha! I did that hike last summer, and you’ve captured it perfectly. I was slightly better prepared – had backpack with 3 bottles of water and extra sunscreen – but started out with a nasty blister on the arch of my right foot that did not appreciate having sand ground into it. I remember expecting there to be a dramatic last downhill to the lake…and then there’s just that last gentle slope of like 10 feet and you’re there.
    My biggest takeaway? Tightly woven thin cotton socks make the best footwear for the dunes. Sounds weird, I know, but they don’t let in the grains of sand, and provide a layer of protection against the heat, while not creating blisters. Biggest letdown? That ice cream vending machine wasn’t working! We had to drive to Empire to find our after hike rewards.

    • On July 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm Sally said:

      The tip on wearing socks is GENIUS. I wore Keen sandals, but I ended up walking barefoot for most of the hike because the sandals kept on filling up with sand but then the sand couldn’t get out because they’re aren’t a lot of holes in them. It was like lugging a bucket of sand on my feet.
      And so sorry to hear about the ice cream machine. They should really have a back-up one nearby. It definitely seemed like the most popular spot in the park.

      • On July 16, 2014 at 8:39 pm Leah said:

        Ha! Yeah, I was wearing Keens when we started out, too. I looked like a crazy person ’cause I kept stopping to shake my feet to try to get the sand to drain out! πŸ˜‰ Put on the socks after we’d been wading in the lake, and what a difference!!

  31. On July 23, 2014 at 6:05 pm Joni said:

    It’s true, this hike is easy when you are young. I did it plenty of times and then when I got a little older… I remember wondering, in the middle of a hike on a hot day, whether anyone had actually died walking across the dunes. As for the giant hill at #9 Pierce Stocking drive, here is the secret. Have a car waiting for you at North Bar Lake. Then you run DOWN the giant hill, play in Lake Michigan, and walk a little ways down the beach to your waiting ride. Piece of cake. Love the blog.

  32. On July 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm Linda Harbison said:

    Next time – if there is a next time- just drive north to the little town on Glen Haven. It is mostly restored by the Nat’l Park System, historic and nicely done. The lake and picnic area are right there! Or drive a little west and tour the Life Saving Station, also restored and very interesting! Then if you really want to hike dunes, it is a short hike to Lake MI from the parking lot there.

  33. On August 1, 2014 at 11:38 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    My calves are having sympathy pains right now. I hope there was some angry fist shaking at the dunes involved. And does anybody even read informational pamphlets? I’m pretty sure the only time I look at them are for transport information so I know when I have to get out of the place, or if I need to locate a toilet on the map.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..An Ode To Fro-Yo

  34. On August 11, 2014 at 12:17 am Rebecca said:

    Well, I am just on the other side of the state! I have been wanting to revisit the dunes. I haven’t been since I was a child. Is it really that far to the water??? Yikes! Maybe I will say I just want to climb 2 hills and be done with it. Ice cream anyone?

    I really enjoyed your post! You are funny!

    • On August 17, 2014 at 11:59 am Sally said:

      I guess there are a couple ways to get to the water (I, of course, did not know that when I went… because research, schesearch.). I took the Dunes Climb, which, yes, takes FOREVER. But if you go on the Pierce Stocking scenic drive, there’s a place where you can hike down one big dune to get to the water… but I’ve heard it’s really BIG and hard to get back up. That being said, I think I’d take 1 dune over 40 billion any day.

  35. On August 29, 2014 at 11:03 am Andy said:

    I had almost this exact same experience with two exceptions:
    1. We had no clue about what was beyond that first dune and when we saw a second one figured “why not?” Upon climbing the second dune, we could see (gasp!) Lake Michigan. It looked soooo close. Suckers.

    And 2. I somehow missed the ice cream machine back in the lot. πŸ™

  36. On August 29, 2014 at 2:27 pm Kathy said:

    You described exactly what happened to me. At the denial stage I was crawling on all fours trying to get up the hill. Deathly during the trip, but quite rewarding afterwards

  37. On August 30, 2014 at 11:24 am Kristin McIlhagga said:

    This post is brilliant and spot on. I grew up an hour from the sleeping bear dunes. We visit every year (my parents still live nearby). I am 42 years old and STILL have not done the hike all the way to lake Michigan from the dune climb. Every year I think I will, and then I get to the second or third hill, and turn around. My kids keep asking to go, maybe next year. And maybe if there is carton wine at the end.

  38. On March 2, 2015 at 2:25 am Ceri said:

    You’re a stronger woman than I am. Think I’ll just stick to riding my bike home from work and stopping for some ice cream on the way.
    Ceri recently posted..My Five Favourite Things in February

  39. On May 4, 2016 at 2:19 pm John said:

    Rofl this is awesome. i love the dunes.

  40. On January 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm Mike said:

    We have several hundred square miles of dunes nearby. They are a great place to hike. The most fun way to walk is barefoot. If I do this I always carry a pair of ankle socks with me, for when the sand gets too hot. You don’t want to be caught 5 miles from the end of the trail in bare feet in the midday summer sun. As the sun rises thorough the day, your feet begin to feel like you are walking on a giant frying pan and someone keeps turning up the heat. The best shoes for the job are extra wide flip flops like Surfer Joes or Scott Jawaiians. The wider foot print keeps you from sinking and helps keep your feet away from the hot sand. I’ve tried a 10 mile sand walk in slim fitting Havaianas… on 150 degree sand it makes for an uncomfortable walk (and it’s hard to quickstep on sand) Flips are way better than strapped sandals as the flopping lets the sand out with each step.

  41. On February 24, 2017 at 12:52 pm Lois Hebert said:

    Sorry for laughing at your discomfort, but your writing is very funny ~ & excellent! Knowing my limitations, I’ve climbed only a few yards up the Dune & then waited at the bottom, taking pictures, while the others climbed part-way but out-of-sight. Thanks for the laughs. The unbrave girl is actually very brave!

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