Climbing the dune at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore always seems to be on those “must-do” lists for residents and tourists.
I’ve been up to that area of northwestern Michigan many, many times over the years—but climbing the dune was one thing I hadn’t done. I felt the urge to tackle the climb every time we drove by the dune, but I never could talk Tim into making the time to do it.
Tim proudly proclaimed that he climbed the steep sand dune as a high school student, adding that he’d done it once and didn’t feel the need to make the climb again.
OK. So I’ve been out of high school for a good number of years.
Still…I yearned to make the climb.
So it was, when Tim left me alone up north as he had to return to work before I needed to go home, I found myself in the parking lot at the foot of the dune and contemplating the climb.
A clear sunny day? Check!
A full bottle of water in a shoulder carrier? Check!
Bandana as a headband? Check!
My trusty point-and-shoot camera? Check!
I elected to wear my hiking boots for the climb up. This ended up being one of my best decisions as the climb became steeper. Wearing the boots allowed me to drive the toe of my boot straight into the dune with each step—sort of creating a stair-climbing effect.
I got warmer and warmer as the sun beat down on me, but an hour of steady effort propelled me to the top of the dune where I lingered to drink in the view and relish the thought that I’d achieved a goal I’d long wanted to accomplish.
The Dune Climb is 260 feet to the top. Compare this to the largest dune on the Atlantic coast, Jockey’s Ridge in North Carolina at a little over 100 feet. Even at a less than 20-degree incline, the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb is a pretty strenuous undertaking!
A 1-1/2 mile trail at the top of the Dune Climb leads across more sand and dunes to a view of Lake Michigan, but it’s a hike estimated to take about 3 hours round trip and only for the most experienced and energetic hikers.
I figured I’d accomplished enough for one day!
I snapped a few photos and simply enjoyed the view as I listened to others’ strategies for going back down the dune.
Some climbers decided to run down the hill. Others returned to the parking lot far below at a slow saunter.
Some climbers shucked their shoes at the foot of the dune before making the climb in the first place. Others carried the shoes they wore up in order to feel soothing warmth of the sand on their feet as they made their way down the dune.
The National Park Service site advises climbers to wear shoes, or to at least take a pair of shoes with them. The sand can get hot in the summer, and sharp shoots of underground dune grass can stab your feet in certain areas.
I decided to sling my tied together hiking boots over my shoulder as I walked down the hill.
So, back at the foot of the hill I proudly proclaimed to myself that I’d climbed the dune once…but I wasn’t sure when, or if, I needed to do it again!
© Dominique King 2009 All rights reserved