Saturday, May 24, 2014

Road to Traverse City: Sleeping Bear Dunes

After the 7 Monks with Rusty&Libby, Hearty Soles and Tick27, TaGeez and I realized we still had a few more hours of daylight left.  Checking my GeoSphere list of "Special Traverse City" caches, I realized there were only 3 left unfound.  Did we actually have time to go grab those three Sleeping Bear Dunes Virtuals before heading back to Detroit?

Sleeping Bear Virtuals
Since we were already in downtown TC, driving to the dunes was almost a straight shot West.  It was no surprise when TaGeez responded, "I'm game!"  Fabulous drive up and down some hilly roads, through farmland. First stop, Empire, Michigan!  Home (for that weekend) of the annual Asparagus Festival!

When Lumber is King GCC1F9

Empire is adorable.  The streets were lined with little, white fishing cottages.  They were in the midst of their Asparagus Festival, but we didn't have time to stop.  Instead, we circumvented downtown and headed to the little park on Lake Michigan.  Gorgeous!

Sleeping Bear Dunes - view from the Virtual

This picture, with the lighthouse in the foreground,
gives you a real sense of scale of the dunes.

Looking South and at Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Duneside GC95B8

This was supposed to be our last Virtual, but I overshot the entrance to the scenic drive.  The GPSr said we were only .7 miles from the other Virtual, but it didn't account for the sand dunes or the climb up a small mountain.  This was my first trip to the dunes!

We had a nice surprise at the entrance gate - because it was early evening it was unmanned so we saved the $15 entrance fee.  This Virtual was not the dunes themselves - it was in a wooded nature/wetland area that runs parallel to the dunes.  

There was no way to take a picture of this (walking a bike path parallel so the dunes).  The entire West side was just a solid wall of sand reaching up to the sky!  In fact, as the sun was lowering, we walked the length in the dune's shadow and had the first chill of the day.

Walking away from the dunes and along the bike path

Entrance to the Nature Area
If you look to the left, you can see the dunes beyond the trees

In the shadow of the dunes
The wall of sand is to the left

After scaring a deer, heading to the Virtual

Walking back to the parking lot

One last picture of the dunes as we were leaving.  Look
how huge they are! 1.3 mile walk to Lake Michigan

As we were heading towards our next destination, we had
to scare this deer standing in the middle of the road.

Pierce Stocking Overlook #1 GCGHV4

Heading South again, we located the spot to turn into the scenic drive.  I remember thinking the road was weirdly twisted on the map - didn't hit me that we were driving up a small mountain to get to the top!

Again, due to the late hour, nobody at the gate so we saved another $10 fee.

One side going up and one coming down

Lovely surprise to round a corner and see this.

And the view from the top....

View from the overlook

Top of the dunes and Lake Michigan
There's a sailboat out there

Since we practically had to pass this anyway...... made it to Moomers right before close!  I was so excited that I could share one last favorite spot with TaGeez before heading home!

M-Dot Employee Memorial Cache GCB608

After Moomers, we had to head home as TaGeez had to work the next day.  As we were leaving from the West side of Traverse City, the GPS took us South instead of East.  I must admit, driving down those dark two-lane highways after adventuring on Old Mission Peninsula, Power Island and Sleeping Bear Dunes, I was exhausted.  To refresh myself, we kept pulling into rest stops (and grabbing geocaches) to stay awake.

Imagine my surprise, when we pulled into one near Clare, and I saw these really cool statues near the building.  As tired as I was (and you can tell from the picture below - beat!), something sparked, and I checked my phone.  We found one more Virtual on the way home!  To qualify for the find, you had to either snap your picture with a statue or answer some verification questions.  As it was too dark outside, we snapped our photos with the Supervisor, all snug inside the building!

With TaGeez taking over driving during the last 45 miles of the trip, we rolled in around 2 a.m. - victorious, exhilarated, and downright exhausted.  It truly was the best vacation ever!  Everything just fell perfectly in place. Weather was fabulous; the company was wonderful; Finds on all our must-do caches.  We did everything we hoped to do, and yet we never rushed. Most of all we were able to relax and enjoy every moment with each other.

Our stats for this adventure:
  • 38 finds for TaGeez & 31 for me
  • 9 Virtuals for TaGeez & 6 for me
  • 4 Power Island Caches
  • 4 Jasmer squares
  • 10 Barn Quilts
  • 3 cemeteries
  • 1 Michigan Lost Town
Adding to our experience:
  • 1 Turtle booking it down the highway
  • 1 smiley face water tower
  • Several species of mushrooms
  • 1 brown and white feather
  • Turkeys, bathing Robins, cardinals, blue jays, a woodpecker and an Eagle (PI)
  • 3+1 deer standing in the road and one crashing through the woods
  • 1 cottontail, many cows and many horses
  • 1 giant cement swan and several real swans (OMP)
  • 2 brew pubs
  • 1 wine & chocolate gift basket

Here are links for all the posts in the Road to Traverse City series:

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