Veterans Making Rookie Mistakes
On the fifth day of our big trip to the Great Lakes we were waking up in a county campground near Ludington, MI. The Ludington State Park was a short drive away and within its boundaries was the Big Sable Point Lighthouse, purportedly one of the most photogenic lighthouses in Michigan.
When we approached the entry station, the gentleman’s ‘greeting’ made me feel as if I had done something wrong. He then wanted to charge us an entry fee but I pointed out that we had a park pass decal on our windshield--in the lower right on the passenger side--exactly where the ranger at the park where we purchased it the day before told us to place it. (Throughout our visits to Michigan state parks, it became obvious that the rangers had no say so or consensus in the placement of this decal because none of them could ever see it and we spent two weeks apologizing). I was not about to ask this man any questions, and he did not have a map, so I drove straight into a parking lot that my phone map said was the start of the trail to the lighthouse.
But then we saw another parking lot between us and the beach so we moved over to the far end of it, thinking it placed us nearest the lighthouse. Up to this point we had now made at least two errors in judgment and we were just getting started.
Our plan was to walk the shoreline to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. The online map I consulted offered a confusing trail, which began in a campground somewhere behind us. No, we were still going with our idea to walk the shoreline. I grabbed a light backpack to carry the Nikon camera. We debated going barefoot since it was going to be a walk on the sand but ultimately we each grabbed some waterproof shoes and tossed them in the backpack. We situated Annie in the van and we headed out, not even sure how far we were going. (Five mistakes up to this point if you are counting.)
Walking the shoreline was not always easy. Sometimes the sand was firm, sometimes not. We distracted ourselves by looking for sea glass, but that was a rare find. We thought we caught a glimpse of the lighthouse one time and assumed we would see it ‘just around the bend’. That bend stretched into a couple more bends and still no lighthouse. Eventually we saw what looked like a heavily traveled path through the sand dunes so I climbed to the top and finally got a visual of the lighthouse—at least a mile away! I motioned for Jenni to climb the path through the sand dunes because we would be able to join everyone else on a more legitimate trail. That trail was indeed a sandy road but only park personnel could drive on it. So we walked, in our water shoes.
We had failed to pack water (or snacks) and we were wearing the wrong kind of shoes for a hike like this. We didn’t have a map, but at least we knew where we were going now. (Seven mistakes up to this point!) At some point Jenni knew she was holding me back and urged me to go ahead. Otherwise, she reasoned, she would just have to sit and watch me take pictures once we got there.
The lighthouse was indeed photogenic. It is a 112-foot black-and-white striped structure originally built in 1867 giving sailors a white light to follow from as far as 19 miles away. It was the last Michigan lighthouse to be electrified in 1949. I had most of the photos I wanted by the time Jenni reached me.
After a rest, we shook the sand out of our shoes and started back via the road. There were several benches along the way we could use to rest, or shake more sand out of our shoes. Eventually we reached the park’s campground. We still had to cross it and the first parking lot I entered before we could get to the beach-side parking lot where Annie and Wanda were waiting for us.
When we were done, we calculated that we had gone four miles in two and a half hours in the wrong shoes and without water. We were not rookies at hiking but we sure felt like it at that point.
Was it worth it?
Yeah, you betcha!
We reasoned after a hike like that we deserved cheeseburgers and ice cream, so we headed to Manastee and found just what we needed.
Our feet were sore and we were tired, so we decided to shorten our drive that day. We made it to Inspiration Point, an overlook parking lot, and stopped for the night. Somehow we managed enough strength (and avoided leg cramps) to climb 125 steps to a viewing platform.
The views were truly inspiring. It had been a great day.