We can sometimes be creatures of habit; ordering the same dishes at a restaurant, hiking the same trails, heading to the same beaches. These tendencies in a place like Northern Michigan are bound to mean we are missing out on something. I will admit to the possibility that I hadn’t been to North Bar Lake, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, since my senior “Skip Day.” That’s a long time ago folks.
Upon revisiting, it’s hard not to fall in love with this little piece of land north of Empire. The pathway from the parking area leads you through a gorgeous wooded area with wildflowers and wildlife abounding (I was lucky to spot a deer this particular night). At the shore of North Bar Lake, I saw two kayakers putting in for an evening paddle, and a family enjoying themselves with some members even bold enough for an early summer dip. There was a strong breeze coming off of Lake Michigan. Although the inland lake is sheltered by the dune that lies between Lake Michigan and North Bar, there was still a subtle ripple playing on its blue surface. I worked my way around the pathway and over to Lake Michigan, noticing the abundance of dune grass in what appears to be a successful preservation program by the park. Atop the dune and on the shores of Lake Michigan, you will find an amazing view to your left of the Empire Bluffs and to your north South Manitou Island.
What a spot to sit back and soak it all in; let the sand run through your fingers; watch the water slowly fade back into the waves that brought it ashore; and contemplate the good in change. After all, ”If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu
Sounds deep, I know, but I just mean I may have ended up at Glen Haven (my go-to spot) and spent an evening hanging with the gnats…
1) Picture of rustic – Port Oneida Historical District 2) Sunset reflections – Platte Lake 3) A gilded West Bay at sunset – Traverse City 4) The sky awakening – Traverse City 5) Insane fence – the asylum, Traverse City 6) Another sunset (it’s summer after all) – Glen Haven 7) Don Julin and Billy Strings live music – Short’s Brewery, Bellaire 8) Intersection of water and sky – Treat Farm, Empire 9) Sand, water, bluesky trifecta – Sleeping Bear Dunes
I’m not gonna lie, if I had to name one thing that was in Bellaire, MI besides Short’s Brewing Company you would hear crickets (except for Lulu’s of course, yum!).
Nothing else has ever made me jump in my car and suffer through the 40 minute, winding, carsickness inducing ride that is the trip from Traverse City to Bellaire. Until now. Did you even know there was an amazing collection of protected land a mere ½ mile from the village of Bellaire? I had no idea this oasis of wildlife and trails existed less than a mile from the pub that introduced me to beer 8 years ago.
Not until recently that is, when my husband convinced me to go for a hike before going to the pub one blustery May day (I’m still regaining feeling in my frostbit fingers – what other state has near freezing temps in mid-May?!). After a sufficient amount of complaining and procrastination to actually get out of the car, I hauled my shivering self up to the trailhead. It only took me a few steps before I had to catch my breath (not from being out of shape – I know what you were thinking – but because it was so beautiful it took my breath away!).
It was one of those rare moments in life where you instantly forget about all your cares in the world, and are able to just be, and soak in the absolute beauty that is nature. Glacial Hills Natural Area includes 10 miles of single track that can be used during all seasons. On our hike we saw a couple mountain bikers taking advantage of the trails, and I fully intend to return in the winter and try out the pathway as a cross-country ski course. There are plans to increase the pathway to span 20 miles, which means even more possibilities for enjoying the diverse wildlife that call Glacial Hills home. With over 20 species of trees and over 100 species of both flowers and birds, this natural area is truly a gem! Standing under a canopy of trees, wildflowers tucked here and there, the winding path in front of you…this was worth the drive to Bellaire, and I hadn’t even had my pint yet!
Speaking of beer, probably the only thing that could rival the perfection that is untouched nature, is Short’s Brewing Company. I’m not even joking. If you for some reason have never experienced that which is the magic of Short’s, do yourself a favor and head to the pub. There is something about Short’s that cannot be defined. Much like the little pocket of heaven that is Glacial Hills Natural Area, Short’s offers a sort of get-a-way where nothing else seems to matter when you are there. Great atmosphere, great company, and great beer – what more do you need? Well, maybe a generous serving of homemade specialty mac-n-cheese doesn’t hurt…
Guest post by Bridgett Beckwith
1) Sunset over Big Glen Lake – Burdickville 2) Hours: Life up North – Bellaire 3) Glacial Hills Trail, Antrim County 4) Anchor Station Food Truck Grand Opening – Little Fleet, Downtown TC 5) Raindrops on leaf – TC 6) View from the Cannery Museum – Glen Haven 7) Mama Duck and her Babes – Kids’ Creek, TC 8) Full moon sunset – Suttons Bay 9) The view up, The Woods
Did you know it’s nesting season for the piping plovers (preferred pronunciation is like lover with a ‘p’: Thank you to my mom and her steadfast partner in all things grammar and pronunciation, Mr. Webster, for the clarification)? Did you also know that there are currently only about 6,500 of these little lovers with a p in the world, and that some happen to be right here, right now, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore having babies?
I had come upon a post about a particular piping plover in the park they call “Rocky” that grabbed my interest. Rocky, the story goes, couldn’t quite get his act together at the beginning. He would sit on his scrape (nest) of rocks instead of the real scrape of eggs, while his unapproving mate looked on. I think she was even overheard mumbling under her breath, “How did I fall for this dude’s stone tossing?” Each year though, Rocky got more “with it.” The next year, apparently still adept at stone tossing, he attracted another mate. When the time came he sat on some eggs (although he couldn’t help himself from sitting on some rocks too). The next mating seasons he finally sat on all eggs and only eggs, and even became a “normal dad” the post says.
I went to the park this weekend in search of some inspiration and in search of Rocky. Walking along, swatting the gnats away, engrossed in my thoughts, he appeared (or at least a lover with a ‘p’ appeared, but please don’t discourage me by saying it wasn’t Rocky). He walked with me for only a bit, after all a normal dad has obligations! But, I had enough time to snap a photo and left the encounter feeling lucky to have made his acquaintance.
I think we all relate to Rocky’s story. After all, we all disappoint ourselves and others at times, we may even sit on some rocks by accident at one time or another, but we have the hope of improving and finding eventual success. We commend your improvement Rocky and say “Good on ya.” Way to do your part in improving the 6,500 figure.
The view from the scrape…