I was in Michigan a couple of weeks ago for a granddaughter fix, and I managed to get in a morning of hiking in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I am going back to that area in August, and I promised to take my granddaughter camping or even backpacking, so I was scouting out a potential trip in the "Dunes." It is a beautiful area to be sure. Here (circled) is the location on the shores of Lake Michigan in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula.
The specific area I hiked in is called Platte Plains and Otter Pond. There is a back country campground a couple of miles in with six campsites, a fire pit, and a vault toilet. It would be a good place to hike into, set up camp, do day hikes, and then hike out after two nights of camping. It is one possibility. Aja has only been camping once, and never backpacking, and really wants to go. I am all about getting kids into the outdoors and away from televisions and such - not that she watches too much TV, actually. So, this was not just a hike but a scouting hike for a future potential trip.
One thing that I needed to learn was how we would get water. I learned that from the campsites, it is a tough 1/3 mile slog to Lake Michigan, the only source of water nearby. But it is doable if one were to filter a couple of gallons at a time so it only had to be done once or twice. Here is the map showing my out and back track to the lake, starting and ending at the purple star (I also did a short leg to the north to get a look at Otter Pond - Lake Michigan is on the left side of the map.)
At the start of the hike, I walked a few hundred feet from the parking area to the shores of Bass Lake. I love the northern lakes. I listened to woodpeckers, probably pileated, drumming loudly as I stood by the shore.
The trail to the campground (White Pine Campground as it is called) is easy to follow and fairly level as it goes through the forest. The trails are also used for Nordic skiing.
At the campground, the National Park Service has provided a metal box to lock up one's provisions from bears and raccoons.
There is a communal firepit for all of the campsites, one of which is visible in the background. It looks like a pleasant area to camp out. I could hear loons yodeling as I explored there.
From the campground, I hiked towards the big lake, leaving the forest and walking through the dunes. If we end up camping there in August, it is not going to be an easy trip for water, that is for sure!
I walked through clouds of thousands of some kind of a tiny insect, probably a type of mayfly, and eventually reached the shore of the huge lake. You can see lines of the little insect washed up on the beach! They were all over me but eventually flew off when I headed back to the forest.
In the distance is South Manitou Island, another place I want to hike and camp on someday.
On the hike in and out, there are a few small wet areas along the pathway. I am not sure if these are vernal pools that will dry up, or if they permanently contain water.
My guidebook said that Otter Pond was a good spot to see wildlife, so I did a short hike up that way to get a view of the lovely pond. But no animals were seen. Hearing loons earlier, and seeing a pair of common mergansers on Lake Michigan, would have to suffice in the critter realm.
Well, I have a few months to think about it, but this area is a definite possibility for taking my granddaughter backpacking in three months. But either way, it is a wonderful area to day hike in.
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