Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Land of Big Sand Dunes - Michigan

Thomas with Lake Michigan 450 ft below
We boosted off from Milwaukee with a rental car for three days for an unexpected gem of our travels. We hadn’t really planned on visiting Michigan and therefore didn’t really know what to expect. But it turned out to be an amazing three days. It was lot of driving, but with some more remarkable American scenery along the way. 

Stunning late autumn foliage and winding local roads.
We set off south on our circumnavigation of Lake Michigan off past Chicago and at some point in Indiana, in a not so sharp looking area, we decided we needed McDonald's. We pulled off the highway and got some 99c cheeseburgers. While we sat and ate, I slowly realized we were the only white people about. Just then, Amy looks at me about to talk, and I say, “don’t say it”. Once back in the car she confirms what she was about to comment. Later, Matt and Sarah claimed that we were in one of the the most dodgy areas possible. It definitely was a tad rough looking, but we had no problems. From there on it was open roads, stunning scenery and we were back among the majority.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore- its a long way down.
Heading north along the Eastern Michigan Coast, tagged the 'third coast' of America, we got off the interstate and drove on beautiful snaking roads through the stunning late autumn foliage. Making a few stops in quaint historic summer vacation villages of Saugatuck and Muskegon along with others and turning off onto the scenic route 22. The weather was a bit rough but it really highlighted the awesome ruggedness and exposure of the wild coastline, a character I love in a true landscape. The wind was howling and waves were pounding. We constantly were forgetting that this was only a lake, but even so, I would have done anything to have had my windsurfer.

We made it that night to Grand Rapids and stayed with Sarah’s mum. We jetted right into town to check out the very reputable Founders Brewery, and I was blown away with how big and shiny it was. It took up a complete block with a purpose built craft beer factory. We grabbed a bite to eat and had a couple of beers in their enormous tasting room. I was particularly stoked with the array of nitro beers. We couldn't resist ordering their famous dip and were in cheese and beer heaven the rest of the night.
A long undulating climb across the dunes
Historic fishing village
Along the whole East Coast of Lake Michigan are sand dunes. The winds tend to blow westerly so over time they have blown all the sand from the now cliffy/rocky Wisconsin side gathering in some absolutely enormous formations here on the Michigan side. You might have thought you were in rolling hills but they are just old dunes that extend a long way inland. Then, in some places, the dunes just drop right into the lake. The dramatic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was like a Martian landscape and a joyful place to explore. A long dune walk led us over the endless false peaks finally making it to the calm crystal clear morning Lake Michigan.

Art's Tavern

We camped for the night at the National Park, with some basic borrowed camping gear and stayed remarkably warm for the weather. That night we enjoyed some tasty local beer and classic American burgers from Art's Tavern in Glen Arbor. A must do recommendation by Sarah in the sleepy off season lakeside town.

Our drive further north over the Mackinac Bridge to the Northern Peninsula was stunning and remote. It was such a pleasure just to pass through this place. With a lot of ground to cover, we didn’t stop much, but just seeing the landscape change as we passed by was great. The drive was very long and we only got back into Milwaukee around 10pm traveling over 1100 miles in the three days. But we can now confirm what they say is true, this state is rugged and dramatic and it sure does live up to its nickname of "Pure Michigan."

Thomas and Amy at Sleeping Bear Dunes

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