Sleeping Bear Dunes
Traverse City, MI - Events of Monday, August 22, 2011
As we said in our last post, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan about 20 miles from Traverse City, was our primary reason for stopping in Traverse City. We headed to the dunes on Monday.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a strip of land that covers about 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline plus North and South Manitou Islands located several miles offshore. Small towns separate the park on the mainland into three sections. The central section seems to be the most popular, so that's where we headed after stopping at the visitor center in Empire, MI.
One of the overlooks recommended in the visitor guide was Inspiration Point. We made that our next stop. The lake in the foreground is Glenn Lake, which is a large, two-lobed lake that is separated from Lake Michigan by a strip of land. Beyond the strip of land is Lake Michigan, and in the far distance is North Manitou Island.
Sleeping Bear Dunes gets its name from an Indian legend that says a mother bear and her two cubs swam across Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire. The cubs didn't make it and are represented by two islands (North and South Manitou Islands). A large dune on the mainland represented the faithful mother bear who slept on the shore as she waited for her cubs.
From Inspiration Point, we headed to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Pierce Stocking was a lumberman who worked in the forests of Michigan. He spent much of his spare time learning about nature, and he liked to walk the dunes and bluffs above Lake Michigan. He wanted to share the beauty of the area, so he built a road atop the dunes that was opened in 1967. Upon Stocking's death in 1977, the 7-mile loop became part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and it is not to be missed if you visit Sleeping Bear dunes.
The scenic drive winds through the dense forests on the back sides of the dunes.
There are numerous scenic pull-offs along Pierce Stockton Drive including the one shown below where we could see the lighthouse in the distance on South Manitou Island. There are ferries over to both North and South Manitou Islands where you can hike, camp and tour the lighthouse.
The Lake Michigan Overlook has a boardwalk along the top of the dunes that provides scenic views of the lake.
There is also an observation platform that takes you out over the edge of the dune...
... where there were beautiful views of the dunes at the shore line.
We could also see over the edge of the dune down to the water. A lot of the specks in the next photo are people walking down to the lake like they did at Dune Slide at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This dune is about 450 feet above the water, and it is a long, steep climb back up. Unlike Dune Slide that was all loose sand, however, this dune has a lot of rocks and gravel in it that help keep the surface a little harder and little easier to climb. The gravel is part of a moraine left by the glaciers after the Ice Age.
A little farther up the boardwalk we got another great panoramic view of the dunes.
The dark vegetation in the distance just to the upper left of center in the next photo covers what's left of Sleeping Bear Dune. The dune used to be much larger and covered the large depression to the right of the vegetation; but the sand is constantly changing, and most of Sleeping Bear Dune has been blown out. In the far distance are South Manitou Island (left) and North Manitou Island.
A little farther along Pierce Stockton Scenic Drive is a stop where you can get another view of the dunes to the south. The small, narrow lake is North Bar Lake.
From the scenic drive, we headed north and stopped at Dune Climb where you can climb the back side of a 110-foot high dune. There were lots of shoes piled at the bottom as well as grandparents watching the fun.
To the north of Dune Climb is the historic village of Glen Haven, which is a restored logging village that was founded in 1857. We stopped in the general store, which also has a small display depicting the history of Glen Haven.
D. H. (David Henry) Day was an early resident and entrepreneur in Glen Haven. He began selling cord wood to steamships. When the ships switched to coal, Day bought a sawmill and went into the lumber business. By 1910, he owned more than 5,000 acres of forest.
When logging bagan to decline, Day planted fruit trees. By the 1920s, he had over 5,000 cherry and apple trees on his 400-acre farm. Day recognized the type of soil and the moderating effects of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay were ideal for growing fruit. Today, the area around Traverse City grows 70 to 75% of all the tart cherries grown in the United States. Sweet cherries are also popular at roadside stands throughout the region.
D. H. Day also built the Glen Haven Canning Company on the waterfront to can cherries.
The cannery has been converted to a museum for some of the old boats used in this area. The photo below shows a 36-foot, unsinkable lifeboat. This boat was self-bailing if it got swamped, self-righting if it capsized, and its hull is filled with cork so it was unsinkable even if it got smashed against the rocks.
Lifeboats like the one shown above could travel farther and faster and in rougher water than the surf boats that had to be rowed. By the 1920s, unsinkable lifeboats made beach-side rescue stations obsolete.
Speaking of rescue stations, there is a rescue station museum about half a mile east of Glen Haven. It was getting late, so we decided to pass on that since we had seen a similar museum recently at Whitefish Point.
We headed back to Traverse City from Glen Haven and stopped at Qdoba for a late lunch. Although we had several more days scheduled in Traverse City, we're starting to slow down a bit and we didn't have any additional sightseeing planned. We ran a few errands, Paul did some motor home and car maintenance, and we relaxed. From Traverse City, we continued to make our way south. We'll tell you where we landed in our next post.