We are back in Ohio, and we didn’t make it to the Pictured Rocks.
Hiking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in Michigan’s northwest Lower Peninsula, where it is very safe- you can fall or leap off a dune and land softly- made us realize that hiking along steep cliffs with a bunch of children was really not a very good idea. With kids so widely varied in age- from 21 months to 18- it is impossible to all stick together. The Rocks began seeming ridiculously stressful. The hike in the Dunes was rough enough.
The ranger at the gate told us that it was 1.25 miles from the first dune to Lake Michigan. She should be fired; it is around 1.75 miles on the map, but it is a series of 9 steep dunes, and if one were using a pedometer the round trip would be around 7 miles.
I had hiked it twice, once when I was a child, and once when I was around 30. My memory was vague; a mile and a quarter sounded a bit light, but I don’t remember it being a strenuous walk. But then it was no doubt a cooler day- it was 85 when we were there last week- and, of course, I was a lot younger.
So we headed up the first 110 foot dune. The view from the top is spectacular; wooded hills and sapphire lakes, with Lake Michigan lapis lazuli in the distance. Exhilarated, the children quickly
scattered, forging ahead. Before long, the baby was on my shoulders. We didn’t realize that there were 9 dunes to climb, and thinking that the Lake was just over the next resulted in many disappointments. We had brought inadequate supplies of water, and soon it was reserved for the smallest.
By the time we reached the Lake we were tired and hot, and the cool waters proved rejuvenating. Refreshed, we began the arduous journey back.
It took Michelle and me two hours each way. I carried the littlest most of the way, and the almost-four-year-old part of the way.
We began joking: “Marriage is like a walk in the dunes. You start out exhilarated by the views, but soon are carrying children and worrying (our 7 year old, high energy Michael, had forged ahead alone and was soon out of sight), then there is the refreshing dip in the crystalline lake, then back to the task.”
Later, we read a brochure that warned that the hike was strenuous. That should have been explained at the gate, instead of downplaying it.
Not that it wore everyone out. Michael was still full of energy at the end of the trail. Joey, who is 12, actually came back up the first dune with water for us (God bless you, my son). Patric, who is 15 and fair-skinned, was only miserable because of his sunburn. Maria, who is 9, did fine. Danny, almost 4, lagged but was okay.
It was hardest on our 18 year old, who really needs to quit smoking.
It was beautiful and arduous, like life.
We chose an easier hike for the next one, an Old Growth white pine forest with a gentler path.
One allegorical hike is enough.