On September 19th, fifteen adventures embarked on the Grand Mere Lakes Adventure. Vic was kind enough to take the group picture at the beginning of the hike. Letting us know that these pictures are actually taken for the purpose of a good ‘last seen’ pic, just in case some don’t make it through, jk:) It was one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever been on. Mark was an excellent trip leader and took us through unmarked trails with: dunes, forest, lakes, etc… Many great views. It was also really interesting to get the background and historical information on the area. Mark and I are already planning our next event to Grand Mere and are learning from this last one to make it even better. After the hike we relaxed and told stories around the beautiful fire and clear sky. We were outside long enough to fully reset our minds and spirits. As Kristen said it was a soul cleansing experience
Felt very fortunate for this group’s edition of outdoor adventuring for several reasons. The perfect weather was just the beginning. Earlier on the morning of our planned event, the area awoke to widespread rainy weather and overcast skies, part of a larger regional disturbance triggered by a cold front pushing through from Canada and heading East of our area. Luckily, Mother Nature had something else in mind for our adventure, and just like clockwork, as Our adventure’s start time approached, a clear and crisp Fall air mass replaced all of the threatening inclimate thunderous lightening and rain of the past overnight with severe clear blues skies, bright beaming sunny rays and brisk rustling drying breezes. It remained clear for the entirety and an amazing star lit night, full of constellations that featured the galactic plane’s distinct band stretching diagonally across the night’s sky, complete with an early setting waxing crescent gibbous Moon was the finale fitting of such a perfect adventure out.
It was great to have such a solid showing and support of 15 like minded people and two dogs to participate, including my long time friend (41+ yrs.), Paul, to join Our adventure! We all met up, following our travels from South Bend and elsewhere, a short distance from our adventure’s trailhead starting point, stopping briefly to regroup at North Lake Park, a local picturesque park situated on a post glacial lake, North Lake. This was a great point to momentarily pause, regroup and freshen up at the last opportunity to set foot in a modern restroom with running water for the duration of the looming six plus hour long adventure in the unspoiled, undeveloped wilds of Grand Mere Lakes National Monument and S.P.
It was here that I made some introductory remarks, welcoming everyone and thanking them for their participation. I discussed the aims and plans of this adventure, taking advantage of the Township park’s awesome park info sign and aerial map to visually aid in sketching’ out the planned hike loop route. An expectation of a successful and enjoyable adventure was set with some slight weight of the onus that I had just committed to, but was confident that things were going to go well and all would be glad in having made the effort to show up.
Taking the lead, we processed one final half mile car ride down a narrow unpaved two lane road – – Grand Mere Road to its end where we parked our autos. From this Township parking area there is immediate access to two different trail heads. One that stretches a few hundred feet up a small loose sand hill and then down again to the Lincoln Township chartered, Chicago Beach, a very small, 66′ wide, strip of Lake Michigan beach. The other one was the one we took to set forth upon what was to become a most memorable adventure.
Upon entering into G.M.S.P. on this second trailhead and were suddenly in an old growth Oak forest with another post glacial lake, Middle Lake, flanking our left and some low profile dunes on our right. the Trail was hard packed dry dirt.
Soon, afterwards we emerged into a large, mostly open area of loose sand characterized by undulating and blowing blowing sand dunes with patches of dune grasses and some sparse trees. Continuing through this expanse, the senses and expectation of fun discovery yet to come began to build up within us, all the while the roar of the wind blown waves on the lake could be heard from the distance, yet unseen for the dunes lying between us blocking our view of the main lake.
The Fall air blew in our faces keeping us invigorated as the warm sunlight cheered our moods. I warmed the party up with a few slow rising switchbacks in the open area, skirting along the leeward slope of a great forested dune. Following these, we eventually switched back upon the direction we had just walked from to begin to climb up a steeper slope of wooded duneland. The loose sand path had subtly turned back to hard packed sandy dirt as we entered into the cover of the forest again. Heading steadily uphill in covered forest, we soon approached our first picturesque overlook. A minor blown out area of exposed sand that coincided with a sharply steeper open pathway of loose sand that was a short way to ascend up the leeward slope of this dune (Dunham) which we were now ascending, though on the more manageable, longer slower rising dirt path.
It was from this point that we paused to rest and take pics of the vista of the nearby Middle Lake, allowing me also to be able to comment and remark about physical features and inform our group of things to come shortly ahead. Then, onward we climbed higher to Dunham’s summit, which was not very remarkable, yet in spite of its subtle feature, this summit point was a full 150+’ above the mean lake elevation of the main lake, Lake Michigan, which was partially visible through the thick forested dunes cover to our right. So it went, moving progressively forward through a long loop of intersecting paths and trails, up and down moderately strenuous high profile type parabolic dunes and foredune ridges, entering into and emerging back out of forested dunelands to open areas of loose and blowing sand with new scenic vistas and bucolic scenes of post glacial lakes, the distant Covert Ridge beyond to the East, adjacent dunes spied from on high and the recurring majestic views of Lake Michigan met us at every turn.
Following our hike’s exploration portion’s conclusion, our group found itself facing the Western horizon of the main lake at the sunset golden hour. John Raven and I found a spot inland, just inside the protection of the foredune ridge to hunker down in a protected open area cupped cove of sand to chose as the spot for our bonfire. The fire and afterglow of our groups afternoon long hike of exploring and discovery was a great finish. We shared our picnics and beverages, there was some music played and everyone was accounted for and made sure of being safely returned to their autos at the end of it all. A very successful time for all and one that will not be soon forgotten.
Peace to all…see you next time around, Mag!