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


Mackinac Island: A Step Back in Time

Have you ever wished you could go back in time? I have. I’ve thought I would have fit better in the horse and buggy days when life was much slower. But then I’d think more about it and decided that I probably would have been one of those wives that wouldn’t have made it on the Oregon Trail. So, I’ll stick to traveling with our rig! Our next stop was just over the bridge to the mitten of Michigan and then to an island that is a bit like stepping back in time, Mackinac Island.Mackinac Bridge

First we crossed the Mackinac Bridge, the Mighty Mac. This 5 mile long suspension bridge is the longest one with two towers in the western hemisphere. I was a bit apprehensive about driving the rig over this bridge. That is a long time to be over water and I wondered if that would freak me out a bit. We started over the bridge and I realized that I would have to deal with another unsavory driving issue: construction. Now, I don’t have any idea what the bridge is usually like since I have only crossed it this once, but our direction was down to one lane and that lane had a metal grating sort of thing to drive on. This surface was not easy to drive on as it pulled and shifted the truck and camper. So much was I focusing on keeping the rig in the middle of the lane, that I had no time to notice how long we were over the water. We did reach our next campground, Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground, on the lower peninsula in Mackinaw City. I loved our spot on Lake Huron with a view of the bridge.Mighty Mac

It looked beautiful in the sunset too!sunset with Mighty Mac

Our next day was a work day and I had laundry to do. I guess I’ve gotten sort of spoiled and thought every highly rated campground had laundry facilities. But this one did not because of waste water restrictions. So, it was time to wander off by myself. Thankfully, the laundromat was clean and right near a lighthouse I wanted to see. I had made it my goal to see a lighthouse by each Great Lake. I’m not sure if Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is technically on Lake Huron, but I’m counting it as my Lake Huron lighthouse. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Finally, we had a free day to explore and Mackinac Island was our destination. I had heard lots of good things about this island. No motorized vehicles, except emergency ones, are allowed on the island. This sounded like my kind of place. First we needed to ride the ferry. We chose the fast one that shot water out the back.Ferry to Mackinac Island

As we flew along, I shot a quick pic of this pretty little lighthouse through the window. Maybe the Round Island Lighthouse could be my Lake Huron lighthouse? Round Island Lighthouse

As we docked on Mackinac Island, Matt and I debated as to how to spend our day. Would we walk everywhere, hire a horse drawn carriage or rent a bike? Biking sounded like the most fun, so we rented 3 speed cruisers and took off. What a beautiful 8 mile ride around the edge of the island.Biking on Mackinac island

We stopped many times for beautiful sights along the way. We climbed 207 steps in order to see Arch Rock and it was worth it!Arch Rock on Mackinac island

Building cairns were encouraged in the biking literature. We had seen these rock formations in so many places on our travels, but we had yet to build one. It was past time.Our cairn on Mackinac Island

Of course there were geocaches along the way and my crazy man tried on sunglasses that were in one cache. Looks great, don’t you think?My geocaching man

We found our 600th geocache on Mackinac Island! Our 600th geocache!

So we celebrated it with a kiss.A kiss on Mackinac Island

On we biked and came to a stone marker. I had read that this island was the filming place for a movie that I had enjoyed when it came out in 1980, Somewhere in Time. The main character did step back in time and it was all on Mackinac Island. When I first saw the movie, I remember thinking that I wanted to see this beautiful place. Now, I was here, in the very spot where Jane Seymour said to Christopher Reeves, “Is it you?”Somewhere in Time marker on Mackinac Island

I must admit that my memory of that specific event was sketchy, but I watched the movie a couple days ago, and it was fun to see that these trees are just like this in the movie, but a bit smaller.Somewhere in Time trees

We had to see the beautiful hotel where most of the movie took place. We turned in our bikes and hiked up the hill to see the Grand Hotel with it’s 660 feet of porch. That’s the world’s longest, and I dare say, most elegant porch!The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

I did indeed feel as if I had stepped back in time as I watched the hotel’s horse drawn carriage approach.DSC_9137 2 DSC_9140 2 DSC_9139 2

We finished the day with some fresh fish from Lake Michigan, lake trout. As we paid for the fish the man asked where we were from. When we said Maryland, he was shocked. “In my 30 some years of working here, I’ve never served anyone from Maryland!” He was not the first to be shocked to learn that we had driven all the way from Maryland.Bell's Fishery

But was going to Mackinac Island worth the drive and ferry ride? A resounding Yes! I truly enjoyed my step back in time.At the Stone Arch, Mackinac Island, Michigan