1 post tagged sand dunes
It was a real downer in the memory department. The glitz and glamour of a childhood memory squashed to smithereens. The sunsoaked laughter and rippling waves upon the shore blown apart by reality. Some things are better left in childhood memoryland, not revisited.
Last week while visiting my mom in northern Michigan, Alex and I were trying to plan a trip of sorts for our last day. With great enthusiasm and happy-memory filled exuberance, I suggested we go to Sleeping Bear. Well, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, this is Sleeping Bear:
And before it made national news as Good Morning America’s Most Beautiful Place in America, it lived in a corner of my mind reserved for the happiest, shiniest memories from being a kid. The memory glistened in summer sunlight, the waves of Lake Michigan crashing below as I stood atop a gigantic sand dune. I run to catch up with my feet as my body tumbles down the side of the steep dune, laughing and carrying on until I reach the bottom and splash effortlessly into the water. Then, I trudge slowly back up the dune, careful and with several rests, to the tip top of the dune to do it all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Well, apparently I have altered this happy moment of my past greatly because this is not what Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes are. And poor Alex had to actively participate in my sad realization last week. In reality, it is not one, steep sand dune that takes you to the glorious waters of Lake Michigan but dozens of steep sand dunes. As you begin your journey, you cannot see Lake Michigan at the summit of the dune. Or the next. Forget about it. You’ll have to ascend dune after dune, trudging along in the unforgiving heat without any respite of shade (these are sand dunes, after all). And finally, after climbing uphill, dune after dune for a miserable eternity of 45 minutes, you will see Lake Michigan in the distance. The distance. Did you catch that? Up and down, up and down you climb, each time hoping that the summit will surprise you with the water down below, but my joyous memories deceive me and we continue along, conserving our water because guess what? Once we make it to the Lake, we’ll still have to climb back. Uphill, both ways.
What were my parents thinking? Or, better yet, What kind of kid actually remembers this as a HAPPY memory?
We made it. It is gorgeous. Lake Michigan has the glistening splendor of natural remarkable beauty. We had our picnic, rehydrated and worked on our sunburns. The gentle breeze calmed our muscles and the cool, refreshing water never before looked so clear. It truly is the most beautiful place in America. But it is too damn hard to get here.
Off we went into the Sahara Desert of America once again, fighting off heat exhaustion, blisters and dehydration. When we finally made it to the last hill, where we could see the parking lot down at the bottom, I began to realize the distortion of my memory. Sure, I ran happily down a dune. But Lake Michigan wasn’t at the bottom. It must’ve been the solace of an air conditioned car, ready to take me away. Yes, this must be the real memory.
And next time, we’re taking a dune buggy.
We’ve only just begun. In the background, that’s a tiny little lake on the other side of the parking lot. Ahead of us are several dunes. We have no reason to be smiling…
Hiking a little further into the middle of nowhere…
Every hilltop had the magical power of making us think that maybe, just maybe, it would be our last.
Until finally, we saw Lake Michigan… so. far. away.
And then, about 20 long, terrible minutes later, I cried out in serious relief when we saw this:
Welcome to Lake Michigan, you made it across the sand dunes!
Yes, it’s beautiful. The most beautiful place in America! But you’ve already forgotten our car is an hour hike back, uphill both ways, in sand. I suppose it’s like a hazing ritual. Now, Alex has become a true Michigander. He’s survived Sleeping Bear. And forget the dune buggy, the next time I want to catch some rays on Lake Michigan, I’m doing it from the comfort of our cottage, where it’s a short walk down the steps to the beach: