Pure Michigan

We had already enjoyed success overnighting at a roadside overlook once on this trip to the Great Lakes last fall, so we figured why not try it again? A few miles outside Arcadia, MI at the Inspiration Point overlook we spent the afternoon harnessing some solar power and then bedded down for the night.  As we were shutting down for the night, another car appeared and looked as if they were going to sleep next to us.  But after repositioning their vehicle a half dozen times, they left.


An hour after sunset a group of young people arrived.  They were loud and dramatic, but I don’t think they were drunk.  Perhaps they were just looking for some ‘inspiration’ from the overlook.  After they had been there quite some time, I popped out of Wanda and proceeded to take a few pictures of the horizon as a passive-aggressive approach to let them know they were intruding on our spot.  They left about twenty minutes later.  Another vehicle did arrive later and parked a couple spaces down from us for the night.  About 2:30AM a light rained switched over to winds that rocked the van and a few pings of hail on the roof.  It quieted down only for another wave to pass through two hours later.  Around 8AM there was noticeable thunder and lightning so we pulled out and drove through a light rain to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


As we pulled up to the Sleeping Bear entrance booth, a ranger slid her window open and greeted us with “We were expecting you today!”.  What a warm welcome!  The road was six to eight miles of scenic, twisting roads with a dozen pullouts or overlooks.  The ranger told us which ones not to miss and we set off.  The main attraction was #9 which gave us a view of the sand slope that went down to the lakeshore.  It was so steep that most people going down had to fight the urge to run down.  But they then had to climb out on all fours!  A sign at the top proclaimed there was a $3,000 fine if the rangers had to rescue you from the bottom!  The winds were wicked and the sand was damp that day.  We ventured to an boardwalk overlook to watch some of the people tumble down the slope (and they did tumble).  We then climbed a sand dune crest and took a short path that gave us a view of the islands in Lake Michigan and then we returned to the main gathering place for the descent to the shore and watched a few people try to build up enough courage to make the assault.  Back at Wanda, it was better for us to take our shoes off and beat them outside the van to knock out the sand.  We made a few other stops along the scenic road before exiting and heading to Petoskey.  In all, Sleeping Bear was beautiful, from the drive to the sand dunes to the distant views.


A fellow traveler, Motorcycle Man, from the previous day’s overlook campsite had recommended Petoskey as an interesting place to stop on our journey so that was next on our agenda.  Along the way, we fixed lunch at a state park in Traverse City and bought fresh tomatoes, plums, and apples at a roadside stand.  Orchards in this area were plentiful.   Petoskey’s downtown was bustling like most of the other small towns we had encountered.  It was the Labor Day weekend so that could have been the reason, but the town also looked like an inviting tourist destination.  Bike trails were plentiful and being taken advantage of by many cyclists.  We found a United Methodist church that we considered using for the night and sent a message to their contact information on social media requesting permission.  As it turned out, we did not hear back for several hours and had already made other plans.


Motorcycle Man had also recommended driving through the Tunnel of Trees west of Petoskey.  Once we reached it, we traveled under a tree canopy along a narrow road for about a half hour.   We seriously began to question Motorcycle Man’s credentials for making recommendations.  While it was somewhat pleasant, it did not equal previous forest driving experiences or even the ride along the Sleeping Bear road earlier that day.  I suppose it could be very beautiful later in the fall.  But it did lead us to our campsite for the night which was a secluded spot in a state forest, forty yards off a small highway, so that was a good thing.  In camp, we washed a few clothes and hung them to dry outside, took showers, and had soft tacos with fresh tomatoes for dinner later that night.  I don’t think a single vehicle drove by after 8PM.


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