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.
I feel like I didn’t get a chance to say farewell to fall, so I’ll do it this week. The first is from my backyard, on the trail that leads to the Empire Bluffs in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
More fall color on Michigan in Pictures.
This is one shot from an incredible video that Heather made of the northern lights as seen from Esch Road Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That’s Otter Creek in the foreground.
Lots more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.
Here’s a pretty cool shot taken last weekend from high above the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Lake Michigan. For reference, if he took this from where I think he did, those people are above a dune bluff that’s several hundred feet high.
Hard to believe that a raging storm tore through just hours after this idyllic morning in the dunes. But this is from the same day (Sunday) as the monster winds that uprooted and snapped countless large trees…
PS: I’ve been posting lots of updates from the storm on my Leelanau.com Facebook.
Who’s ready for a break from snow & ice? The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the North Bar Lake Overlook says (in part):
The name describes how the lake formed: it is ponded behind a sand bar. At times, the sand bar builds up and separates North Bar Lake from Lake Michigan. At other times, a small connecting channel exists between the two lakes. North Bar Lake occupies part of a former bay on Lake Michigan. This ancient bay was flanked by headlands on both sides: Empire Bluffs on the south and Sleeping Bear Bluffs on the north. Shorelines have a natural tendency to become straighter with time. Wave action focuses on the headlands and wears them back, while shoreline currents carry sediment to the quiet bays and fill them in. Deeper parts of the bay are often left as lakes when sand fills in the shallower parts.
The same process that formed North Bar Lake also formed many of the other lakes in northern Michigan: Glen, Crystal, Elk and Torch Lakes, for example.
Here’s more about the geology of the Sleeping Bear and more about North Bar Lake, to which I’d add that the lake is a great place for skim boards because the channel between North Bar & Lake Michigan is only a few inches deep!
PS: If you’re still not full-up on winter and ice, might I suggest this pic she took in this area of Sleeping Bear last week!
Tuesday was the 44th anniversary of the founding of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You may have heard the Chippewa tale that inspired the name of the park:
“Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tried and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear”.
You might not be aware, however, that “the Bear” was also an actual formation atop a dune about a mile north of the Pierce Stocking Overlook. The Lakeshore says that the formation pictured above…
…hardly looks like a bear now, for it has been changing rapidly in recent years. At the turn of the century, it was a round knob completely covered with trees and shrubs. You can still see some of the thick vegetation that gave it a dark shaggy appearance.
…For a long time, the Sleeping Bear Dune stood at about 234 feet high with a dense plant cover. However, through most of the twentieth century, erosion has prevailed. By 1961, the dune was only 132 feet high, and by 1980, it was down to 103 feet. The process is a continuing one. The major cause of the dune’s erosion was wave action wearing away the base of the plateau on which the dune rests. As the west side of the dune loses its support, it cascades down the hill. The wind, too, is a major agent of erosion, removing sand and destroying the dune’s plant cover.
You can see what the area looks like now and read more right here.
View Don’s photo background bigtacular and get daily blasts from the past in his Northern Michigan Photo Postcards – Our History and Heritage group on Facebook!
I’ve stood in this spot, and it felt almost as amazing as this picture.
Lots more from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan in Pictures!
Probably the best thing I’ve heard about “Summer 2014” being over is that it really wasn’t much of one anyway.
I hope everyone enjoys their last weekend of summer, and that we have a warm & long fall!
Without question the best meteor shower of the summer in Michigan is the Perseids, EarthSky’s Everything you need to know about the Perseid Meteor Shower has (predictably) all kinds of details and diagrams to help you get the most out of this annual display. The most important thing is to start watching now as the August supermoon is full this weekend.
Every year, from around July 17 to August 24, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the Perseid meteor shower. Debris from this comet litters the comet’s orbit, but we don’t really get into the thick of the comet rubble until after the first week of August. The bits and pieces from Comet Swift-Tuttle slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 210,000 kilometers (130,000 miles) per hour, lighting up the nighttime with fast-moving Perseid meteors. If our planet happens to pass through an unusually dense clump of meteoroids – comet rubble – we’ll see an elevated number of meteors.
…The swift-moving and often bright Perseid meteors frequently leave persistent trains – ionized gas trails lasting for a few moments after the meteor has already gone. Watch for these meteors to streak the nighttime in front of the age-old, lore-laden constellations from late night until dawn as we approach the second weekend in August. The Perseids should put out a few dozen meteors per hour in the wee hours of the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.
Read on for lots more.
More meteors on Michigan in Pictures!