Man I am surprised that I made it to Painted Rocks, a national park further away from Chicago, before I ever made it Sleeping Bear. I was saving it for a special trip, I guess. About a week ago I took that trip to one of the last remaining wild refuges of rugged shoreline left along Lake Michigan.
Etta and I did the driving tour, along an approximately 3 mile loop, with stops for photos. The sky was overcast, but that looked to be changing. I stopped for a locally made (Leelanau Pie) apple pie and newspaper (Leelanlau Enterprise). By the time we got to the first stop the grey was giving way to blue.
The dunes are immense. The scale of sand helped me reach an epiphany. I am obsessed with the history of glaciation, but I could not truly picture a miles-high ice sheet in my backyard until I saw that sand. For the first time, I could see how the sliding ice would pick up boulders and stones, and grind them down.
Over many cycles of advance and retreat, along the deeper basin of the Great Lake, all this sand was deposited, replenished by prevalent winds. The warning sign said to stay away from the bluff, steep and hundreds of feet down to the lake. A family of foreign visitors may not have been able to read the sign, and descended far down.
Fortunately they made it back up. The need for the sign speaks to those who were not so lucky. It was September, and along with overseas tourists, the only other visitors were blueheads, groups of seniors, who in their isolation from the rest of society were as rowdy as teenagers.
The bottoms of the clouds scraped by this borderland of ghostly glaciers gone-by, leaving behind in their wake sunshine and blue sky stretching to the horizon. The tops of the dunes, a habitat uniquely their own, smelled piney, herbacious.