Few places in Michigan have the expansive view of the Lake Michigan overlook on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s 450′ feet down to the water, so remember that freedom comes at a price!
Not all of Michigan’s great hikes are trails. This trek is a journey through Silver Lake State Park’s trailless backcountry, a mile-wide strip of dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. There’s not another hike like this in Michigan or even the Midwest because no other stretch of dunes are so barren.
Perched on a plateau and rising more than 100 feet high above Silver Lake, the heart of these dunes are totally devoid of any vegetation, even dune grass. The only thing besides sand are the stumps and trunks of ghost forests, ancient trees that the migrating dunes had buried and killed. Almost half of the hike is in this Sahara Desert-like terrain, the other half is spent strolling a stretch of Lake Michigan that is free of cottages and frozen custard stands.
A rare hike indeed.
The Wheel of Time has rolled into another year. It might be my increasing age talking, but it seems as if the world has gotten harder over the last couple of decades. I hope that 2016 treats everyone more kindly, including you!
Apparently I can’t even post a simple metaphor without learning something new. David writes:
Scratch Circles or “Scharrkreise” form when plant matter is blown around by the wind, etching circular designs in the sand.
While average highs this time of year in West Michigan are in the mid 30s, WZZM-13 reports that record high temperatures were set in many West Michigan locations yesterday:
Grand Rapids has broken the record high temperature of 57°, with a reported observation of 61°. The previous record stood for almost a century, since 1920.
Kalamazoo, Lansing and Muskegon have also surpassed previous records, each reaching 63°. Kalamazoo’s previous record sat at 59° since 1991, Lansing’s at 56° since 1975 and Muskegon’s record of 59° was in place since 1960.
The Freep adds that records were set of 61 in Detroit (topping 60 from all the way back in 1881) and 64! in Flint crushing the old high of 55 from 1991!! A look at Michigan’s current weather readings shows Flint at 61 and Ypsilanti and Benton Harbor at 60. In fact the only location in Michigan at the freezing mark is Copper Harbor!!
Confession: I probably don’t give Silver Lake Dunes State Park enough love. What an incredible place.
In Scientific American Robert S. Anderson, associate professor of earth sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz explains why regular, wavelike shapes form when the wind blows over the sand on the beach for a long time:
Ripples in sand, found on both beaches and dunes, are one of nature’s most ubiquitous and spectacular examples of self-organization. They do not result from some predetermined pattern in the wind that is somehow impressed on the surface, but rather from the dynamics of individual grains in motion across the surface. They arise whenever wind blows strongly enough over a sand surface to entrain grains into the wind. The subsequent hopping and leaping of these grains is called saltation. Saltating grains travel elongated, asymmetric trajectories: Rising relatively steeply off the bed, their path is then stretched downwind as they are accelerated by drag forces. They impact the sand surface centimeters to tens of centimeters downwind, typically at a low angle, around 10 degrees. It is this beam of wind-accelerated grains impacting the sand surface at a low angle that is responsible for ripples.
“An artificially flattened sand surface will not remain flat for long. (Try it on the beach or on the upwind side of a dune and see for yourself.) Small irregular mottles in the sand surface, perhaps a couple centimeters in wavelength, rapidly arise and grow once the wind starts to blow hard enough to initiate saltation. They then slowly organize themselves into more regular waves whose low crests are aligned perpendicular to the wind direction and begin to march slowly downwind. Typical ripple spacing is about 10 centimeters, whereas the typical height of the crests above the troughs is a few millimeters. The pattern is never perfect, but instead the ripple crests occasionally split or terminate, generating a pattern that looks remarkably like one’s fingerprint.
Read on for a whole lot more including Michigan Sea Grant educator Walt Hoagman explaining how the speed of wind (and water) over sand influences the waves.