Saturday, September 17, 2016

Michigan Aug 2015 Interlochen State Park Interlochen MI, Traverse City, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Interlochen State Park is Michigan's first recognized state park and was established to preserve one of the last virgin pine stands for the people of MI.  We knew of Interlochen because of the Interlochen Center for the Arts but we really wanted to explore areas near there-specifically Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

We made our way northward along Lake Michigan and then turned east toward Interlochen which is located near the "ring finger in the mitt", i.e it's a little east of the western side of the lower part of MI.  The drive was yet another beautiful trip along the lake, through small towns and all sorts of beautiful scenery.

The sun was hitting the hay bales at an angle that made them appear to be spun gold

The park itself, I'll be honest, was a disappointment.  Yes, it was an August weekend with kids heading back to school soon and getting in one last camping trip; yes, it is old and in need of an update and yes, with a lot of people we can accept that the showers might run out of hot water.  However, where we had loved the sound of children's voices at Bruin Lake and even Silver Lakes (when we could hear them above the brmmm brmmm of the ORV) hear there were more TVs blaring and the occasional group of kids riding bikes.  We happened to have been sandwiched between 2 campers, each of whom had their TV's OUTSIDE and on all day.  The lake was sadly experiencing a case of stinging water "somethings" so while I did not venture near it Don did go in with the new kayak (see below.) But, having to make sure we got into the showers by 7am to get hot water was a bummer and we resorted to using our own.  Why, when we have our own do we use the campground's?  A good question.  One, because we kept the kitty litter tray in our shower (with lots of protective padding under it to prevent clogged drains) and two because unless there is a water hookup it means we have to add water to the tank when we fill upon entry.  If we know there are showers at a campground we tend to take advantage of them rather than putting in a lot of water we might not use and then have to carry. (Water is HEAVY!) The only other thing that grated on our nerves was the number of campers who seemed to either tie their dogs up or leave them in their campers while they were away, leading to the dogs barking loudly and incessantly.  It would not happen at night but it was irritating during the day.

So, our solution was to spend as much time away as possible and to take Phoenix with us so we could.  Cadbury doesn't mind napping all day and happily padded from dashboard to bed to wherever else he roams when we are absent. 

Our first visit was to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and OH! what a treat.  We entered the park for free with our handy dandy Senior Pass and then did the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive stopping at most sites.  In the beginning I was mildly disappointed as the first views were not what I expected.  Glen Lake was pretty but I came for the dunes.  The picnic place was fun and pretty but I came for the dunes.  And then we stopped at Dunes overlook and I was really disappointed as I'd expected huge towering dunes like those at Great Sand Dunes NP in CO and what we had was a view (albeit lovely) of the tops of dunes stretching into the distance.  Awesome but...  Little did I know what I was in for when we got to the edge of the lake and saw the dunes descending to the crystal clear aqua water of Lake Michigan.  The wind was fierce and we walked the trail for a bit but finally turned back when we had stinging ankles and grit in every exposed orifice.  It was incredible! And everyone who says you must see it for yourself is correct.

Little (foreground) and Big Glen Lakes

The Autograph Tree at the picnic grounds

Dunes stretching into the distance

and then there was this

and this

and except for this-blowing sand...ouch- it was heavenly

From there we headed south paralleling the lake until we got to the town of Empire where I'd read there was a beach that allowed dogs.  Don had brought his bathing suit but I said I would not need mine since "No way am I swimming in freezing cold water!" We drove south of town and then onto Peterson Rd which took us on a several mile trip down an unpaved road to a beautiful beach.  One side is reserved for swimmers without canine companions, the other allows them.  Don went right in and I tentatively toed the water...what's this?  It was warm!  It was, in fact, quite perfect except I had no suit.  I waded in as far up as I could and Phoenix followed along since she was on her leash and I had a little talk with myself about petulant behavior. Phoenix and I waited in the sand enjoying the sun while Don swam and then we drove back to camp.  That evening we went for dinner at the famous Bud's and followed it up with one of their ice creams.  Yum.

Heading back to Interlochen from Empire

The next day had a trip to Traverse City in store for us and a BIG purchase.  During our travels we have been staying close to bodies of waters as often as possible and each time we had regretted not bringing Don's kayak from NY.  We had been talking about getting two, cheap, maybe inflatables and decided we'd go look in TC.  After parking our car in the public lot and finding we had to cross a beautiful canal to get to the main drag-Front St- we were already impressed with TC.  Street musicians played their tunes, water fountains added their own melodies and cooling properties to the hot air and everything was clean.  We took a stroll peering into boutiques-funky and fancy; eateries and breweries and the Cherry Republic, an emporium offering everything cherry-one of my favorite fruits.  (Don is particular to apples so upstate NY is one of the places he enjoys)  After filling my face and belly with samples I bought a cherry pie slice to eat back home. Next on the agenda was the visit to Backcountry North for the kayak, where we were helped by a knowledgable and helpful young woman who quickly discerned that for the type of kayaking we wanted to do a short, inflatable was not going to work.  We blew our budget and went with 2 Pungo 140s which were not available at that location but out on the highway toward our campground.  After measuring us for and determining which type of paddle we wanted and finding flotation vests we were a lot poorer but happy that we'd finally be able to get into the water.  Before returning to our car we walked out to the lakeside park and gazed at the crystal clear waters and watercraft moored and docked around the harbor. On our way back to the campground we stopped at the Backcountry North store on Rte 22 and while buying the boats found that our salesperson, the store manager, had attended the same school in NJ that Don had though he was several years behind and only there for a year.  Kayaks securely mounted on the new roof rack and all our other paraphernalia stowed inside we headed home. 

While Don tested out his new kayak I partook of my cherry pie

Our time at Interlochen was ending the next day so Don grabbed the chance to go in the lake and took a quick shower afterwards so he managed to enjoy his new kayak and avoid the itchies.  I walked over to the lake at first light the next morning with both Phoenix and Cadbury and after enticing them down to the water's edge of Duck Lake we all three sat and watched the sun rise, early morning kayakers and a mother duck stewarding her young brood across the lake.  Then it was time to leave for our next stop-Cheboygan State Park.

Click on the link to take you to our
Next Stop: Cheboygan, MI and what's the difference between Mackinac and Mackinaw?

Previous Stop: Silver Lakes State Park, Mears, MI and a Dune Buggy Ride after going through Hell!

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