The day has come that actually brought us here!
Today we're staying close by - about 30 minutes away is a place called Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
This park is located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula. The park covers ~35 miles (56 km) of the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and the North and South Manitou Islands.
It was created primarily for its natural features.
As we drove along, we saw several places selling certain products. They displayed corn, eggs, peaches, cherries, honey, etc., but nobody was around. Everywhere there is a roadside stand with a "cash register" called "pay here" where you have to put your money. (There is no one around.)
In Germany, there is also such an honor checkout; I wonder if there is one in Hungary…
But it's nice to see that there are places where it works!!! I like it!
But back to the National Park: the entrance fee is 25 USD per car. We were about to pay when the guy told us that the entrance is free today!
As we later learned, on August 4, 2020, President Trump signed a law to provide $1.9 billion per year for the next 5 years to maintain and repair infrastructure in national parks, forests, recreation areas, and American Indian schools. In addition, $900 million per year will be allocated for (new) conservation and recreation.
That's why admission to these places is free annually on August 4 - "Great American Outdoors Day."
Wow. Great that we chose this day! 😄
The trail is one way as you enter the area; there is no turning back. You go in a nice circle on the designated route. We were given a map that showed 12 places to stop.
Just past the entrance, there is a covered bridge; we stopped there. So many people were at the next lookout that we couldn't make it there.
Stop number 3 is the Dune Overlook, which overlooks the sand dunes. We thought that was where we were going, but it wasn't, because that's lookout 9, 10.
Well, we kept on going, but as you might have guessed, that's why everyone comes here in the first place... That is stop number 9. So there was no parking space left. We made a huge mistake here; we didn't wait, and we drove out of the parking lot… There is no turning back, so the only solution was to do another lap on this so-called Scenic Drive, a 7.4-mile (12 km) drive loop. When we came around again, we would only drive into the parking lot once someone left.
But by the time we got back, other people had done the same, so 6 or 7 cars lined up in front of us. But that was fine because everyone waited until someone got out, and then we could park.
I got out of the car to check if there was a space available, and there was. And by the time it was our "turn," Csibi had just arrived at the free space. However, some jerks got out of the queue, saying they were looking around the parking lot. Not only were they being jerks because everyone else was waiting for a space to park, but they were also lucky because space had just opened up, and they parked there.
Anyway, it's not important; it's just part of the story.
First, let me briefly tell you the legend of the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear.
I've read two versions, but it's definitely based on an Indian legend. I will tell the one that is posted here. Once, a long time ago, there was a great famine across the great lake, and many people died. A bear and his two small cubs tried to leave the place and go around the lake, hoping to get more food.
They walked along the shore for several days, but the two little bear cubs were starving. So the mother bear decided to swim across the lake. But the two little cubs got lost and drowned in the lake. The mother bear waited for them to appear on the shore.
Both appeared as islands (North and South Manitou Island).
The mother "bear" was a small tree-covered mound on the upper edge of the cliff, which, when viewed from the water, appeared to be a sleeping bear. There it lies, watching over its cubs!
A beautiful but sad legend.
But the place is unimaginably beautiful!!!
It is considered one of the country's highest sand dunes, but this is only partially true, as it is not a typical dune.
The sand is only on the surface, deposited later on the mountaintop. Underneath is a mountain and gravel.
Scientists say it won't stay that way for long because westerly winds push the dune inwards by an average of 60 cm a year.
Otherwise, it is 450 ft (137 meters) high from the bottom to the top.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sandburg said of this place that it is to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona or Yosemite is to California.
When you see the place, you must realize its steepness. You will see that it's beautiful!
From the lookout, you can really observe how steeply the brave descend. And then how people try to get back to the top on all fours.
Csibi obviously wanted to go down anyway! I sat down on a piece of rock and waited there, but of course, I couldn't stay in one place and tried to get back to the top, and I had a panic attack on that little stretch.
By the time I made it back with great difficulty, I had gone back to the lookout because from there, I could follow with my eyes where Chibi was going.
He was excellent on the way down and even better on the way back because even though he could walk slowly, he never put his hands down! He was exhausted in the hot sun, but he was super good.
I remember, a few years ago, when we were in Mexico, you could climb the pyramid in Coba. He went up there and came down running about merrily. For me, it was dizzying to watch! 😄
Anyway, it's interesting, as I stood there on the lookout and more and more people came, everyone was really amazed by the view. All you can hear all the time is "oh my gosh," "oh my god," and "no way"!
It really is breathtaking.
It is inconceivable that such a natural phenomenon exists. But anyway, the fact that Lake Michigan has such (Caribbean) colored water that it's the size of a sea, that you can't see the shore beyond. So it's simply stunning!
If you're ever in the area, take advantage of this one!!!! Don't miss out.
By the way, it is written as a warning to try not to get stuck down because the only way out is up! The rescue cost is $3000!!!!
We also climbed up to point 10, which is Sleeping Bear Lookout itself, but this would probably be a more exciting view from the water!
When we were exhausted, we headed back. By then, it would have been nice to find a restroom, which we did have in the parking lot. There was quite a queue, but we had to get in. Then the park ranger came and told us there was a toilet at the next lookout, where there was definitely no queue, so you could go there too. As it was pretty smelly coming out of the toilet when the door opened, I got out of the line and told Csibi we should keep going.
And at the next lookout, there was no queue, and the toilet was much cleaner.
There's an exciting sign here, too, about how the lakeshore has changed since the 1900s.
And, of course, the panorama is not the last!
From there, we drove a little further south to the town of Empire, where we visited a small lighthouse and the beach; unfortunately, there was no parking available, so I was the only one who got out for a few photos. Then we had lunch at a cozy local restaurant.
We would have liked to have gone a little further south, but we decided that we shouldn't entirely knock ourselves out, at least today!
It was a great day, after all!