Thursday, July 8, 2010


A boat canal in Traverse city A few weeks ago, I commented that we were doing too much, too fast, that I wanted to slow down.  When we arrived in Traverse City and checked into the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds Campground (read our review here), we decided this would be the place.  You can’t beat the price ($125/week), we have an entire row to ourselves (most of the time), and we have easy access to all there is to do in the area.  We’ll be here until Monday.

Yesterday we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, on the “west coast” of Michigan.  After a stop at the Visitor Center so I could stamp my National Parks Passport and pick up a park map, we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, stopping here and there for a short stroll to take in the scenery. 

One of the most popular stops is the Lake Michigan Overlook.  Here a short, sandy, trail, high above Lake Michigan, leads to a STEEP bluff.  A sign cautions hikers who decide to descend the 450 foot bluff to the lakeshore that the return hike is “Extremely Exhausting”.  We opted for the wooden deck instead.  It was a warm, humid, sunny day, and the return climb - in deep, loose, hot sand - looked like pure hell!

Those tiny, ant-like figures are the people who chose to descend – and climb – the bluff. (Click to enlarge the photo.) This is the viewing deck, our choice.  I took the left photo while standing on this deck, looking off to the left.
Toiling up the hill, 450 from bottom to top. Lake Michigan Overlook

For our own hike, we chose the Pyramid Point trail, suggested by our friend Priscilla Scott.  It’s not on the scenic loop, so was much less crowded than other trails in the park.  In less than a mile of walking (including a sandy incline, blessedly short) through forested dunes, we came to an equally beautiful vista of Lake Michigan.  So inspired were we that we decided to continue hiking, completing the entire loop, just under 3 miles.  Oops!

Pyramid Point overlook, around 500 feet above Lake Michigan. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!  After backtracking from the beautiful overlook to the trail junction that leads to the meadow, then loops back to the parking lot, we headed into deep woods – and down, down, down hill.  Since we had climbed quite a slope to reach to the overlook, we didn’t think much about our descent – except that we began to notice a few mosquitoes. 

The understory became more lush as we continued to descend; we obviously were heading down a watershed towards a creek.  The humidity increased.  The mosquitoes swarmed.

Guess where our mosquito repellent was?  Yes, in the car.  And the car seemed far, far, away.  Should we turn back, scooting up the hill as fast as we could?  Keep going, hoping things would improve?  We kept moving, double-time, waving our hands around our heads and swatting at our legs and shoulders as we tried to decide. 

This is what Odel looks like to a mosquito.And then we met our saviors, a young couple heading towards us.  They immediately told us not to go on unless we had bug spray.  When we said we didn’t, they whipped out a huge spray bottle and handed it over.  As we coated each other liberally, they advised against visiting the meadow unless we love mosquitoes.  A shortcut back to the parking lot was just around the next bend, and we made tracks the half mile back to the safety of the car.  Hike over.

To console ourselves, we punched “Moomer’s” into the GPS, heading to Moomer’s Ice Cream.  Chosen as the national winner of the “Best Scoops” contest by Good Morning, America in May of 2008, Moomer’s got our attention when we shared a scoop of double chocolate cherry ice cream on an earlier outing. 

This time, we went straight to the source, the little Moomer’s Ice Cream stand on the dairy farm owned by the Plummer family, on the outskirts of Traverse City.  Even on a weekday afternoon, the place was packed with a line out the door.  No problem: we needed the time for decision making. 

I chose a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip, and Odel went all out (he had been most traumatized by the mosquitoes), ordering a Tin Roof Sundae with one scoop of double chocolate cherry and one of vanilla.  (I snagged the photo from the Moomer’s website since I neglected to take one of my own.)  I’ll tell ya’, it fixed us right up.  :)


  1. The lake AND the ice cream both look very inviting!

  2. There is nothing like great ice cream to fix mosquito bites!! We had a camper here (we're camp hosting at FDR State Park in Ga.) that was from Michigan and he said jokingly that the mosquito was the state bird! I thought that was so funny!
    You all take care and have fun!
    Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

  3. Great pictures! You guys are living the life! The Camp Host Housewife

  4. Oh Laurie and Odel, I loved this! Both the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, and the story, and the rewards at the end. It's inspiring me to go get some icecream and toppings, although it won't be as good as Moomers!

  5. If you get a chance to be in a port city along Lake Michigan, it's really fascinating to watch them load the ferries that go across with semis, cars, campers, trailers etc. We rode one on the way back from Vermont 2 summers ago. These are ships--not the drive on, drive off ferries that one usually thinks of.

  6. The car ferry mentioned above, the Badger, goes from Ludington, MI. It used to haul railroad cars across the lake so it is big enough to take any RV that wants to avoid Chicago. It's a 4-hr trip to Manitowoc, WI.

  7. After those gorgeous pictures and story, I'm thinking more and more about Michigan for next summer! I suppose I could also force myself to enjoy an ice cream as well. :)

  8. As everyone said...fabulous photos...Also agree that the ferry to Manitowoc would be a great way to get to Wisconsin...I'm with Odel on the Tin Roof Sundae..."Up on the Roof" to speak. Love your lifestyle...and soooo jealous! Keep on bloggin!