Thursday, February 10, 2011

SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE: 24 hours on winter trails.

Deep snow set the stage in the winter wonderland of the Sleeping Bear.
all photos by Jonathan Schechter


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore embraces 36 miles of Lake Michgan's rugged northeast shoreline and encompasses over 71,000 acres of forests, meadows, rivers,  wetlands and towering sand dunes.  The dunes are as old as the the mile high ice sheet that created our Great Lakes and are they are constantly being molded and shaped by the forces of wind, weather and erosion.  Most tourists head for the sun-baked dunes in summer and hike in small herds of nature-loving, dune-hugging, water-sipping humanity. But with winter dark still keeping her firm grip on the land, and deer hunkered down in cedar thickets and birds huddled against biting winds, and enormous wedges of ice slicing into shoreline driftwood and only a few bald eagles present to bear witness to it all, it was the perfect time for me to head into the wilds for twenty-four hours. And that's what I did: I hiked, snowshoed, cross country skied, yipped with coyotes, soaked in the solitude and talked with a few like minded adventurers and a park ranger I met while he patrolled the backcounty of the Alligator Hill Trail on skis. For detailed information on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore see the National Parks Service link  www.nps.gov/slbe    and the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitor Bureau http://www.sleepingbeardunes.com/  Both are excellent and accurate sites with details on the natural and unnatural history of this sparkling Federal slice of our Pure Michigan landscape that does not slumber in winter.

Lookout Point on the Alligator Hill Trail towers over Lake Michigan



Powerful forces still shape the land and the landscape.

Snow covers most trailside benches, this one swept clear by strong lake winds.

The 'kitty cats' of Sleeping Bear get big and few have seen them.
A national park service ranger sets off into the woods on back country patrol
My woodland journey on skis brought close encounters with deer-------and

a coyote was startled by my sudden appearance in his deep woods.

Empire Bluff is a great place to kick back and relax and take in the views.
Some bluff  trails are almost obscured by snows, but can be navigated with proper gear and caution.
The trail on Empire Bluff remains a four-season favorite.  Winter foot wear? Snowshoes!
Meandering Platte River flows through the park and connects with Lake Michigan.
Camping near the Platte River in winter is an adventure, and the silent day woods talk to you at night. But your must listen.
U.S. Park Rangers have a large territory to patrol and are excellent sources of trail conditions information.  And don't forget to visit the top notch visitor center/ park headquarters in the Village of Empire.

Sleeping Bear Dunes may slow its pace in winter, but it never slumbers.
 

4 Comments:

Blogger Pat said...

Nice article and photos.

February 11, 2011 at 10:12 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haunting photos. I admire your stamina.

February 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think those dunes are just waiting for some crazy kayakers to start at the top, slide all the way down, and out into the water! Any takers? LOL

February 11, 2011 at 10:50 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was waiting to see what kind of pictures you were going to post and you did not disappoint Jonathan! Great pics! Love reading about your excursions!

February 11, 2011 at 2:19 PM 

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