Sleeping Bear Dunes: National Parks

We had the sweetest, happiest time at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park...we elected to stay in one of the park's campgrounds just a few miles from the infamous 'Dune Climb', which we planned to do on our first morning there. This was Adelaide's first Junior Ranger experience, and all of the rangers we worked with were so kind and so interested in our travels. We set up camp in gorgeous, breezy weather, and cooked a simple dinner of sausages, onions, and peppers over the fire. The campground hosts, along with many other fellow campers, were obsessed with the Airstream and many stopped by our site to gush over the shine and we were able to share our story. My favorite comment was when we pulled into the campground and some guy bellowed out, "holy shit, that's a gorgeous Airstream!". It made us grin and it's fun to see our Louise's shine restored, all of that elbow grease was definitely worth it - people stop and stare, yell out compliments while driving through towns, or stare as they pass us on the highway.

We love having such an iconic element of the great American road trip, and it's really fun to connect with others. We've met so many people simply because they are drawn to the Airstream, and they tell us stories of Airstreams they or someone in their families owned. We met a guy whose mother worked for WBCCI and was an active member, a man who owned and renovated a 1972 Airstream, or a guy who fondly remembered the Airstream his parents had growing up and the road trips they took as a family. We love hearing the stories and chatting with otherwise total strangers about something meaningful in their lives.

We took on the Dune Climb the next morning after a hefty, protein-packed breakfast with backpacks and hiking boots securely on - and made sure to fill up the bladder of our water reservoir pack (thank goodness we brought it). The hike was intense, 3.5 miles of steep sandy dunes, one after the other, for an hour and some before we reached the absolutely stunning shores of upper Lake Michigan. Smooth white stones and swaying, soft lime-tinted grasses lined the shore, tall dunes rising up beyond. But the most incredible view was of the water, Caribbean and ombre, so incredibly clear and crisp. The waves that lapped at the shore were clear, and slowly the color shifted to glassy teal and turqouise, out to a softer blue that matched the sky, and then a deeper, richer, most vibrant cerulean.

We lazed on the beach and braved the icy waters, and selected and sorted through stones to find color and pattern, which resided mostly off the shore, stacking the smooth rounded stones with care. We laughed and smiled at these wonderfully gleeful German Mennonite women who jumped brilliantly and fearlessly into the icy waters and screamed with joy as the waves rushed over them. They were amazing, and I wished I'd had the gall to ask them if I could snap their photo. I must get better at this, because I always always always regret not asking.

Adelaide loved the water, and didn't want to hike back to camp, but alas we had no choice. We cut our trip down by fifteen minutes on the way back (slight brag: the brochure and the park ranger said it would take us four hours to just do the hike itself, we were in at one hour, forty-five minutes there and back, and with our shorter than average five-year-old and my hip acting up). When we got back to the main dune, I ran and jumped off the side of the hill, landing in the soft sand many feet below, just the way my dad taught me to do at my first trip to some of the dunes of Lake Michigan. I still have a photo of him running and jumping off those dunes, looking just as fit and young as he still does today.

The rest of our time at camp was just as good, and we headed out early the next morning, stopping by the ranger station for Adelaide to speak with a ranger and go over her activities, and have her first swearing in ceremony. She proudly wears her (now four) Junior Ranger badges across the front of her shirt. I asked her what she would do when she got more - would she wear them on the front and back of her shirt? Down her sleeves? She said yes, naturally.