Sleeping Bear Dunes and Leland, Michigan

Every time we told someone that we were going to explore Michigan, they would say, “Go see the Sleeping Bear Dunes!” So, after enjoying the Mackinac Island, we set off along the coast of Lake Michigan. As I drove, I thought about all the wonderful sights we had seen and the fun we’d had, especially looking for rocks. We were headed towards another area famous for rock picking. I was eager to look for Michigan’s state rock, Petosky stone. We drove right through the town of Petosky on our way to Leelanau Pines Campground. I wished we could stop there and look for the fossilized coral, but towing a camper can make stopping a challenge, so we forged ahead hoping we would fine some stones where we did stop.DSC_9186 2

The weather was not looking good for our weekend in America’s Most Beautiful Place. In fact, when we checked in to the campground, the host suggested that we head right on over to the dunes while the sun was still shining. It seemed strange to drive through farmland,  a forested area and then suddenly come across sand dunes! We drove on the 7 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic drive. I was excited to find that there were stops along the way for scenic views and information. We could even hike in the dunes! DSC_9175 2

Flowers still grew in the sandy soil.DSC_9179 2

It was difficult to capture a photo that would show just how high the dunes were.DSC_9193 2

Each stop had it’s own beauty. Lake Michigan looked like it went on forever.DSC_9204 2

Here I am attempting to show the steep height. Each circle shows people part way down the dune. Incredible, huh?! There were signs warning NOT to go down the dune. It said that it would take hours to climb back up and that rescue fees were expensive. These folks did it anyway and we watched their slow progress. One man said his son had been climbing for an hour already and his is the next to the last circle to the bottom.DSC_9206 3

Matt was tempted to go down, but I talked him into staying on the path and going to the overlook. Legend has it that a mama bear and two cubs were swimming in Lake Michigan trying to get to shore. She made it to land and urged her cubs forward, but they stayed in the lake and she fell asleep. The cubs became islands and the mama is the famous Sleeping Bear dunes. You can see those dunes right above our heads.DSC_9208 2

It’s a good thing we went to see the mother and cubs when we did because the weather DID go downhill. Saturday was quite rainy, but we forged ahead to explore a town nearby, Leland. It was known as a picturesque fishing village with quaint shops. First I enjoyed the view from our camper.DSC_9224 2

Then onto Leland. We enjoyed strolling through the town. DSC_9228 2 DSC_9238 2 DSC_9242 2 DSC_9243 2 DSC_9256 2 DSC_9260 2

The fish were trying to jump up the waterfall. Some even made it.DSC_9251 2

As we continued walking, I saw this contraption. I think it’s a snowblower. It reminded me that even though this area was beautiful now, the winters were harsh.DSC_9258 2

Finally, the time came to look for Petosky stones. We headed to the beach in Leland. Another couple was already wading into the chilly water. We asked it they were looking for the state stones. Sure enough, Dave and Patty were stone collectors too. We spent a couple hours with them as they taught us how to spot Petosky stones and a new stone, Leland blue. An iron company used to function in Leland but when it closed in 1885, slag was poured into the lake. This slag has become a beautiful blue stone that is found on the shores.DSC_9265 2

Finally, it was getting too dark to see. Dave shot a pic of us on the beach. Even though our pants were rolled up, we were quite wet. DSC_9272

The next day, Sunday, I wanted to head back to Leland. I loved that place! Plus, I had heard there was a rock shop there with interesting Petosky stone specimens. Another reason was that I wanted to visit a few more shops. In the morning, when I wanted to make tea, I couldn’t find my tea ball to use with the loose leaf tea. Matt started apologizing when he realized that for some reason while cleaning up he had thrown it away! So, we were on the hunt for a tea ball too. We saw this cool sign on the way.DSC_9282 2

There was a tea shop in Leland and we headed there first. Unbelievably, they were out of them. But I had seen a coffee shop. Often, they have tea supplies too, so to the coffee shop we went. Nope, no tea ball. We did need some groceries so we stopped in the little grocery store there. Maybe they would have a tea ball? You guessed it, no. Giving up on a tea ball, we went into the hardware store for a hatchet to use with firewood. And there I found a tea ball! How funny is that?!

We wandered around the town looking for the rock shop. Instead, I found a jewelry shop to explore, Aurora Borealis Designs. Artist, Annie McFarlane was making jewelry as we stepped inside. We chatted about the blue stone from the iron factory, about jewelry, silversmithing, Petosky stones and even faith. Annie was a kindred spirit! When she heard that we had looked for agates along Lake Superior, she insisted that we take one of hers! What a sweet person.20140921_152118 2

Here are the wonderful stones we found in Leland. Notice the blue stone, beach glass and Petosky stone (petrified coral).DSC_9500 2

The next day we went to another beach to look for Petosky stones. It was chilly and rainy. But we found some. In fact, Matt says we brought between 5 to 10 lbs back with us. Look at this dramatic beach shot!20140921_180807 2

I think our faces say it all. We loved our time in Leland, Michigan!DSC_9296 3


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21 thoughts on “Sleeping Bear Dunes and Leland, Michigan

  1. Pingback: Windmills, Delft and Lighthouses | Joyful Wonder

  2. Hi Janine,
    I enjoyed your pictures and your blog. Those dune sure do look steep!! The pictures of the boats in the marina reminds me of the bay areas in Maine and in Canada. Thanks for sharing your trip with me.

  3. Hi Janine! I’m a new subscriber, and I’m enjoying reading about your adventures on the road very much. My husband and I are recently retired and hope to follow in your footsteps in the not too distant future. I haven’t double checked, but it sounds like you pull a trailer? We are not sure what direction we are going to take, but would welcome any tips.

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