We have been workamping in Northern Michigan since mid-May and have been living three miles from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. All season, working in the office at Indigo Bluffs RV Resort, I have told guests about the Dune Climb and encouraged them to try it. We have driven past the Dune Climb; we have biked past the Dune Climb; we have sat and watched multitudes conquer the Dune Climb. And today, with only one week left before this adventure is over, we did it!
Starting at the Visitors Center in Empire, we biked 7 miles on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail before arriving at the Dune Climb. This portion of the 27-mile paved bike trail is perhaps the most challenging segment of the entire expanse. It was a magnificent day weatherwise after a Saturday of pounding rain, so our biking – and climbing – conditions were ideal.
The Dune Climb is actually quite deceiving because the portion that you can see from the bottom doesn’t seem that long. We walked and we walked and as we rose higher and higher the view behind us became more and more remarkable, as we could see not only surrounding mountains, but also Glen Lake, the narrows, and the historic D. H. Day Barn. When we reached what we thought was the top, we were met with the reality that the climb continued quite a distance at which point one could see Lake Michigan as well as North and South Manitou Islands. All in all, our trip was about 2 miles round trip, which is an easy distance for us; however, the challenge results from the fact that the climb is steep and the climb is sand – lots of soft sand! As we passed a young couple and their little boy, we heard the boy ask, “Why are we doing this?” to which his father replied simply, “Because it’s fun!” And, indeed, it was!
After dumping the sand castles out of our sneakers, we jumped on our bikes for the return trip – another 7 miles. There is one particular stretch of the path that is extremely steep. My goal has been to make it up the 11-degree gradual incline. I can’t even say it’s getting easier, but hey, I still have a week left to keep trying!