Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Sleeping Bear Dunes

There comes a point and time when we could all use a break from the responsibilities of everyday life and the need to interject a little fun becomes a necessity. I usually know when I need such a break, and I was sure feeling the need to have one soon.

It was already the middle of August, and our neglected RV continued to sit on the side of the house untouched all summer. Would our new RV turn out to be rarely used just like our former truck camper? I certainly hoped that wouldn’t be the case, but thus far, it wasn’t looking promising.

August 2011 – Well, we wouldn’t be taking the RV on any excursion this month. We had more pressing matters to attend to. Our daughter’s summer internship in Illinois was coming to an end, and just like I kept her company three months earlier during the 1,100-mile drive from Colorado to Rockford, IL, I planned to do the same and keep her company upon her return journey to Colorado. However, instead of purchasing a one-way flight, Al and I (and the dog) would be driving to Illinois to make those family connections.

Time for a Getaway

Not only was it our goal to connect me with Ashton, but the second purpose behind this trip was also for Al to visit with his mother. She hadn’t been doing well the last several years and appeared to be declining a little more each day. It was important we both return to Illinois. We loaded up the truck and left well before sunrise. Eighteen long driving hours later, we arrived at Al’s sister’s house exhausted. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to socialize.

My dad aka Opa proudly showing off a flower in his garden.

With Ashton’s internship over and a few more days to enjoy before hitting the road, we took a day to visit with my dad who lived about an hour’s drive southeast of Rockford in the Chicago suburbs. He seemed to be doing well, yet still adjusting to life alone. It was only four months earlier when mom passed away. Fortunately, Ashton was able to visit with her Opa on a somewhat regular basis throughout the summer. Time she will always treasure.

When the day came for Ashton and me to say our goodbye’s, there were hugs and watery eyes all around! As Ashton and I approached her packed car, Ashton hands me the keys and breaks down into tears. “Mom, I know this is the last time I’ll see grandma alive”. We drove in silence and a few hours later we had skirted around Chicago and the bottom of Lake Michigan and were heading further north into the state of Michigan.

Wait! Colorado is in the opposite direction. Shouldn’t we be heading west? What are we doing in Michigan? Remember that break I needed?

Ingrid and Ashton at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – August 2011

The heck with adulting. Let’s have some fun!

Once in the state of Michigan, I exit the Interstate and opt for a more scenic route along the shores of Lake Michigan. The two-lane road has us traveling through quaint little towns and picturesque scenery. Our thoughts move on to more pleasant topics, and eventually, Ashton asks, “I can’t remember. Where are we going”. “Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes”, I respond, knowing that she has absolutely no clue what I’m talking about. “Okay! Where are we staying?” she continues. “At a campground”, I casually mention.

“MOTHER! YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE SERIOUS!” she exclaims. “Of course I am, honey. I packed everything we need. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun”, at least I hope, I quietly say to myself. “Well, do we at least have a reservation”, she questions? “Nope! Worst case scenario, we’ll just sleep in the car somewhere.” She is not amused by my free-spirited lackadaisical response. I was not sounding like the mature responsible parent that she was accustomed to and relied on.

Ingrid and Ashton next to their home for the night – August 2011

When we arrived at the D H Day Campground late that afternoon, we snagged the last available campsite and set about pitching the tent. You have no idea how grateful I was to have practiced setting up and breaking down that tent numerous times in our living room just a week earlier. Thank you Al for helping me practice, or Ashton and I may have ended up sleeping in the car after all.

Ashton and I looked like a couple of camping pros. Within thirty minutes, we had the tent up and beds made on inflatable air mattresses. With our campsite complete, it was time to explore and check out our surroundings including the lakeshore.

Ashton tests the Lake Michigan water temperature. That’s some cold water … brrr!

After our shoreline explorations, we went into the town of Glen Arbor to stroll the shops and find a place for dinner.

Ashton was drawn into a small spice and tea shop. For the first time in days, I saw her face light up. The previous year, she had spent a semester studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, and acquired a taste for tea (as well as wine, but that’s another story). As she excitedly flitted about the store, she engaged in conversation with the store clerk. I could see the stress from her, somewhat less than fun, summer begin to fade away. A few purchases later, she and I were strolling up the street heading toward the nearest restaurant.

The skies were dark by the time we returned to camp. Therefore, we retreated to the comfort of our tent where we engaged in a series of card games. I had brought along cute little battery-operated lanterns, emphasis on cute, that provided just the right ambiance for an evening of laughter.

The next morning, after a so-so night of sleep, I was nudging Ashton to get out of bed. I had brought a bin for us to wash up and some homemade muffins to get us through the morning. I had an agenda … let’s check out those dunes. We quickly broke camp and were on our way long before most people were even awake.

It’s windy on this enormous sand dune high above the shores of Lake Michigan

Photographs fail to capture the sheer size and magnitude of these stunning sand dunes. There are miles upon miles of sandy beaches with bluffs towering as high as 450 feet above Lake Michigan. As much as we were tempted to run down that dune, logic stepped in. It might take us less than 30 minutes to get to the bottom but would take literally hours to climb back up. Yeah, not going to happen!

Instead, we head on over to the popular “Dune Climb” where it’s a more manageable size dune to climb. Since it was still early in the morning, we practically had the place to ourselves. Ashton decides to take a closer look to see if this dune is something she’d like to tackle.

The popular “Dune Climb” is usually busy with hundreds of people tackling the dune which would provide scale. It’s much taller than it appears.

It doesn’t take long before she and I agree that we really don’t have the time to play around in the sand. Besides, we have a few more scenic spots to explore before we continue on our journey.

The two-lane roads take us through lush dense forests that Ashton becomes smitten with. I’d forgotten, while this type of northern Midwestern landscape was quite normal to me considering I grew up in the Midwest, Ashton was three years old when we moved west to a much more arid climate. She had never seen such a green dense forest before and found it fascinating.

The forest is so dense that it’s difficult for the sunlight to penetrate.
Ashton at one of many scenic overlooks.

We found Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to be an extremely peaceful and serene place and noticed ourselves frequently taking in deep breathes and gazing out at our surroundings. It’s a magical place as well as perplexing. The landscape had a calming effect on both of us and turned out to be the perfect first stop on our mother/daughter getaway.

And I needed that sense of calm before crossing a certain bridge later that day …

46 thoughts on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Sleeping Bear Dunes

  1. How fabulous to have that Mom daughter time together. Good for you to have the tent setting up mastered and for your daughter to go along with it all. sounds like a fabulous time.

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  2. Thanks, Ingrid, for that great story. I eally enjoyed reading it. Now hat’s another item on our bucket list.
    Take care, and stay healthy,
    Pit

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    1. You are very welcome Pit. I think you and Mary would enjoy Michigan. It’s a beautiful state. Next Sunday, I’ll take you to a romantic island where biking is a popular form of transportation.

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  3. I’ve never been to Michigan or anywhere in that part of the US. The dunes look very impressive and the forest roads very appealing. But camping isn’t for me, not these days at least!

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    1. Haha! I still think you and the hubs need to get a small class C RV. I’m making reservations for this summer including an overnight in a B&B or hotel and I’m at a loss as to how to book anything other than an RV site 🀣

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        1. Oh yeah … RVing has become so popular that if we want to find a site in a campground/RV park, we had better have reservations. I have my eye on a couple of state parks in the UP for August. Come Saturday morning (6 months out), I’ll be on the computer by 6:00 a.m. to try and book. 🀞 Any tips for finding deals on a B&B?

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  4. What a wonderful time you had with Ashton, Ingrid, time together you will always cherish. Your planned spontaneity was perfect and you took the leap. I’ve pitched a few tents as a single mom in my day with my own daughters, a couple of trips to a bay area campground also known for its dunes. Like you, I’ll never forget those idyllic days.

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    1. We always have an amazing time on our mother/daughter getaways. She and I are long overdue for another trip. Hopefully, your daughters will visit you this summer, and you’ll be able to have a fun time exploring your new landscape.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Ingrid – Photographs do so often fail to capture the sheer size and magnitude of the stunning views in front of us. Still, your photos here are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing these past stories with us. I am greatly enjoying them.

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    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the stories, Donna. I wasn’t sure how they’d be received, but then again, these are being written with a purpose. I’m now getting antsy to complete the next several posts so I can start the process of putting the print version of these posts together.

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  6. Michigan is one of my favorite. Sleeping bear dunes is such an amazing place. Indeed you had fun and described it wonderfully. You took me back in my memory lane. Really enjoyed it and wish to go back and have fun just like you 😍😍😍

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    1. Thank you! I too love Michigan and am hoping to spend some time in the UP this summer 🀞 Glad you enjoyed the post. Be sure and stop back next Sunday for our Mackinac visit. πŸ˜€

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  7. Ingrid, your post brings back a lot of wonderful memories. Alan and I visited Michigan about five years ago – with our daughter, also – and we’re looking forward to going back when we can spend an extended period of time there. We had an absolutely delightful day at Sleeping Bear Dunes and lunch at The Cherry Republic in the charming little town of Glen Arbor – just a magnificent day all around. Thanks for bringing back those memories and brightening my day with your and Ashton’s adventure!

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    1. Hi Mary. Perhaps you need to plan a revisit to MI this summer. Hint, hint! Next week, I’ll be trying to secure some reservations in the UP for August 🀞 Last year I waited too long and nothing was available plus the state was pretty much shut down. Hopefully, this summer will be a better situation which is partly why we’re waiting until mid to late August to visit. I can’t wait to return to a favorite as well as explore some new sights.

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    1. Oh I hear ya! I think we’re all getting desperate for some semblance of normalcy. I’m so spoiled with the RV that I don’t think I’d have any interest in tenting it again. But I won’t say never again. 😎

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    1. Well you know, those mother/daughter trips are the best regardless of where we go or what we do. They are always memorable and treasured and it has been a delight traveling down memory lane lately.

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  8. Hi, Ingrid,
    You are a good story-teller. I enjoyed this one a lot because I love the Michigan backroads and the drives along the lake. I have spent a lot of nights tent-camping, and MOST of those nights bring back great memories. It’s those other nights that lead me to a fifth-wheel. Looking forward to Mackinac. Joe

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    1. Awe, thank you Joe. I love Michigan and am in the middle of making our plans for a UP visit this summer. Hoping to get back over to Mackinac Island with Al. Next Sunday’s post may explain my love of the island. We’ll see how lucky I get with reservations in St. Ignace.🀞 Yep, our RV’s spoil us, and the thought of tenting it does not sound appealing anymore. Fond memories along with some unpleasant experiences.

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  9. What a great bonding moment for y’all! This story reminds me of when my mom and I packed up and spent a week in New Orleans just for the heck of it! Fun times!

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    1. Ah, New Orleans! Now there’s a fun city for a mother/daughter getaway. These trips are always special and memorable. Hmm, I’m thinking my daughter and I are overdue for one of our adventures. 😊

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    1. Thank you Pam. I love Michigan. Next Sunday, we step back in time and visit Mackinac Island, and I’m hoping to revisit this summer. I’m currently working on summer reservations in the UP. Last year I was too late and we didn’t want to chance it with any first-come, first-serve sites. So this year, I’m trying to do better with our planning.🀞

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    1. We always enjoy our mother/daughter trips. I loved it when she and I were mistaken as sisters. However, with my “Covid” hair, there’s no doubt now that I’m the mom 🀣 and I’m totally ok with that!

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  10. That looked like you girls had lots of fun. We had a small tent like that when we were camping in northern Spain. The problem with the small tent is that I was to long for it and had stretched the seems. So one night when it rained the tent leaked. Laurie slept in Tristan’s tent and I slept in the car that night. The next day we found a village where we could by a larger tent.

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    1. We had a great time and lucked out with good weather. Sounds like you’re pretty tall like my husband. He and I ended up buying a bigger tent too because this one was too small for him, but I thought this small one would be more manageable for my daughter and me. It worked ok but I shoulda brought the bigger one (which she and I used on a Utah adventure). Rainy nights in tents aren’t fun when they start leaking …. been there, done that. 😏

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