29 Dec
2016
Posted in: travel
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Take a Trip: Great Lakes Love

For someone who has spent almost 40 years living near mountains, I sure do love the beach. I love the sound of the waves crashing. I love the feel of sand in my toes. I love the pure joy my kids have in the water. However, I don’t love what the salt does to skin or hair. I don’t love the smell of the saltwater-soaked towels or swimsuits. This summer I learned the perfect substitute for the ocean is the lake, more specifically the Great Lakes.

children walking toward Lake Michigan

girl running in waves of Lake Michigan

Our first experience with the Great Lakes was seven years ago in Chicago. The kids were little and couldn’t be convinced that the water they stood on the edge of was a lake and not the ocean. Nothing we said could convince them that we were, in fact, landlocked. We were able to experience three of the Great Lakes this summer, Michigan, Huron and Superior, and the memories of kids playing in crashing waves, collecting shells and walks on sandy and rocky shores will remain as some of my fondest. Bonus, no salt and no sharks.

Dune climb at Sleeping Bear Michigan

We’ve had the opportunity to trek over sand dunes in various locations on our travels, Great Sands Dunes in Colorado, Death Valley, Mojave National Preserve, and the Killpecker Sand Dunes of Wyoming, to name a few. In Michigan, we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The kids spent hours in warm, fresh water splashing and jumping waves with few people to crowd our area of the beach.

family climbing dunes at Sleeping Bear Michigan

We ended the day with an overlook hike and dune climbing. One forgets how difficult dunes are to climb until you’re huffing and puffing and your shoes are filled with piles of sand. The kids, young and foolish as they are, sprinted up the giant dunes before rushing down to meet us. We climbed up and over several large dunes in an attempt to reach Lake Michigan, only to realize we were lacking the energy required after a day spent on the beach. Watching sunset over the tree-lined hills perched atop a massive sand dune with my giggling children is one of my all-time favorite sappy magical vacation moments.

overlook view at Sleeping Bear Michigan

While Sleeping Bear Dunes with it’s expansive vista overlooks and mega-sized sand dunes mesmerized me, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park ran-away with the hearts of my adventurous children. Our day at the state park began with conquering the 3 Dune Challenge, a program requiring climbing 1.7 miles and 552 vertical feet to three sand “mountain tops.”  The trail is deep sand requiring a lot of effort to climb, but it didn’t take long. We were sweaty and sandy after the trek, but the kids were motivated by taking photos at each “mountain” sign as proof to earn our completion stickers at the visitor center.

Dune Climb at Indiana State Park

children swimming in Lake Michigan

We treated the challenge conquerors to an afternoon on Lake Michigan at the state park. We visited in July, and the beach was packed with water revelers. We were able to claim a spot near the water’s edge. The waves were beating the sand and rocks all afternoon, but the kids never tired of jumping the waves and running from up and down the waterfront. The beach was a wonderful mix of sand and water-worn rocks and stones. I enjoyed searching for the most unique rocks with bright colors and unique designs to show the kids when we finally pulled them from the intense waves.

I’m not one to turn down a beach vacation, whether salt or fresh water. I do hope to experience more of the Great Lakes in years to come after getting a taste of fresh-water beach life.

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