2011 Vacation Day 8 - Friday: Dunes & sand, more dunes and sand...

Another great day ahead. Weather calls for it to be a nice day, so we are heading to Sleepy Bear Dunes. Better to explore on a good day, rather than a rainy day. Took us about 1/2 hour to get there. Stopped at the National Park visitor centre, to pick up a pass and a map of the area.
Check out the little town of Empire first. A few little shops, and a massive beach area. Wandered to the beach as we are curious to the water temperature. Quite a few at the beach, which was very wide, with the sand running well out into the water. As usual, most teenagers and adults were heads down into their smartphones on this glorious beach day. Such a powerful device...how has humanity survived without it?

Next we drove the Pierce Stocking scenic route. Pierce was a lumberjack who worked this area and dreamed of creating a scenic route through the forest and dunes so more could enjoy what he enjoyed every day. Great idea Pierce!
The route is a single lane one way paved road that winds through the forest out to the dunes and back. Several stops along the way offer great views and explain the history and vegetation. The highlight is definitely stop #9 and 10. The short boardwalk trek to the top of a massive stretch of dune, the sheer enourmity of it is amazing. Several signs warn of the dangers of the steep slope down to the shore. It is difficult to comprehend just how far it is to the water, an actual distance of about 450 feet. From the boardwalk you cannot even see the waters edge. The slope of the dune is easily 45 degrees. There is a sort of a plateau a short way down, then from there, the slope becomes very sharp and the water's edge is finally visible. Despite the warnings, numerous people made the trek down to the shoreline. Looking at them down there, they are like ants.
We have not seen anything like this before. We go to Sandbanks provincial park every year, and there are dunes there, but they pale in comparison. The dunes at Sandbanks probably rise out of the water, I would guess around 100 feet, but the slope is nothing like this. And these dunes and sand go as far as the eye can see, curving around to the tip of a peninsula, way off in the distance. Simply incredible.
Watching the people make there way back up, one can imagine what is going through their minds once they realize the task ahead of them. This is no small endeavour. I walked down to the edge of the plateau, and coming back up to the boardwalk was truly an effort, and we are not talking a big distance here. From the water, the distance and slope is far greater. Lets not forget that you are climbing in sand, so every single step is a laboured effort. People are trying different ways to climb, but the most common is using your hands and feet like a crab walk, literally clawing your way up. Actually this is mostly the adults. The little kids just seem to scamper up. I watched one young woman make it a quarter of the way up, then just lay on the sand for the longest time in the hot sun. A guy crawled by, obviously asked here if she was OK, then continued on. She finally started up again. While I was on the plateau, a guy in his 30's arrived from below, a fit looking guy, and he was literally soaked with sweat and panting. Bear in mind it is about 80F and sunny...and probably hotter when you are crawling on your hands and feet! There is a great lookout deck hanging over the dune that affords a perfect view of the proceeding below. Look closely in the photos and you will see what I am talking about. As we were there, a bright orange Coast Guard rescue helicopter buzzed along the edge of the dunes, hopefully reinforcing the subtle dangers lurking here. If they are called upon to rescue anyone, the climbers have to pay...smart move.
Finished the loop, the continued on M109 towards Glen Haven and Glen Arbour. Glen Haven is more of a heritage town, slowly being restored, while Glen Arbour, is bustling with shops and tourists. Dale discovered a mecca here, a little shop 'Cottonwood' filled with her favourite style of clothing. A few pieces are making the journey home with her. Made out way back to Traverse cross country, enjoying the countryside along the way. Back at the site, we had thoughts of going into Traverse for a bit, but a G&T dispelled that idea. Oh, and driving back into the campground we discovered a camping 1st, one camper had set-up his own little yard sale,...no kidding. 
We just chilled, then made dinner. I had a quick shower in the big new comfort station, and I can rate the facilities as industructable and excellent! It rained for a brief moment, and we were certainly expecting more given the blackness of the cloud that approached. Watched a vid, 'Pirate Radio', which was excellent. Make sure to watch the extra scenes afterwards, they are hillarious.

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