First thing in the morning, we crossed Mackinac Bridge and started down the East side of Lake Michigan. This was the most beautiful countryside of the trip, I thought. We drove through lots of picturesque little towns and saw lots of fruit orchards. We reached our destination, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, at about noon. We super duper lucked out and got the very last campsite available. It was a “hike in” campsite, which we have never tried before, but it turned out to be awesome. It was more secluded than drive-up campsites and closer to the bathrooms to boot. Plus the “hike” was less than 200 yards.
I think I must have an affinity for water/beaches because all my favorite trips and moments include water.
This first beach was a 1.2 mile hike from our campsite. I’ve forgotten it’s name, but we were the only people there. It was so peaceful. The sand was so fine, it squeaked under our feet when we walked in it. A little old woman came along the beach picking up smooth stones. She stopped to tell our children the Legend of the Sleeping Bear.
Long ago there was a great fire on the far shore of the lake, where Wisconsin is now. The mother bear and her two cubs swam across the lake to escape the fire. There is the mother bear, she said, pointing to the beautiful sand dune cliff to our right. She is waiting for her cubs. You can see them just there, that little island and beyond it is his brother. The mother bear sleeps while she waits for her cubs.
After her story, she gave each of the children a stone from her bag as a special gift before she continued on her way down the beach. You can’t buy experiences like this!
Our second day at Sleeping Bear, we drove up around the scenic loop that was supposedly so good. it was 45 minutes of driving through trees. We stopped at overlook points and looked out at trees. Was there something beyond the trees that people used to be able to see? who knows. what i do know is that 6 children who have been inside a car for most of a week watching trees are not entertained by being stuck inside the same car yet again to watch more trees. there was much complaining and fighting and i have a special hatred in my heart forever for that scenic loop and the pArk planners who made such a big deal of it on all the signs.
We finally escaped from the hell of that scenic loop and drove over to the giant sand dunes. The kiddie pies and the DH ran up and rolled down the dunes for over an hour. I stayed down at the bottom in the shade with Banana Cream Pie. That was the kids’ favorite bit of the whole trip.
We tried out Glen Haven beach. It was super crowded and the water seemed colder. The girls buried each other from the waist down and spent hours creating elaborate mermaid tails with rocks from the lake. I have beautiful pictures of them trapped inside the broken computer.
We cooked dinner at the picnic area there and then started our journey home. We had planned to stop at a hotel for the evening, but none had vacancies, so we kept driving. We were tired and cranky and not at our best.
Finally at about 1 in the morning we found a hotel with an open room. I will not speak of the nastiness we found inside that room. I will only say that we did not bring any of our belongings inside, nor walk on the carpet with our bare feet. We showered and slept about 5 hours. Woke up the kids and got out as fast as we could.
The sun rose and miraculously everyone was cheerful and pleasant again. Home we drove past Gary, Indiana, and Chicago. I called ahead and ordered Pizzas from Pizza Hut for lunch, so they were ready to be picked up as we drove through some little town between Chicago and St Louis.
Attempting to avoid road construction landed us in East St Louis, yikes! But we managed to get out again without being shot at. If Matt and Cegan had been home, we would have spent the evening with them, but they weren’t so a few more hours driving, and we were home sweet home at last.
It was our most epic road trip yet. The DH drove close to 8 hours most days, longer on some, as we hurried to hit the next high point. I did no driving at all, just handed out snacks, navigated, and tried to keep kids happy and quiet.
It was quite a memorable trip!