Pictured above is Lake Michigan from the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes. You can also see North Manitou Island in the picture (see the lighthouse when you make it bigger). My friend and I spent the day at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The dunes are steep, and there are warnings about the climb to get back up to the top. In the park, there is a scenic drive with 12 stopping points, the photo above was taken at the top of the Sleeping Bear, one of the stopping points. See more photos of the stopping points below.
We learned a lot on the drive. But the most suprising thing I learned was about erosion, or the lack of erosion on the Michigan Lake beaches. At some beaches I've visited, there has been an erosion problem, where the beaches are washing out to sea. I know the Florida Gulf coast and the Southern California coast have had problems with beach erosion over the years. At one time when I was visiting Florida, there was a project going on to dig up sand in the ocean and bring it back to the coast. The northern Lake Michigan beaches in the Sleeping Bear area are actually growing. There was a diagram of the Michigan coastline of Sleeping Bear 40 years ago compared to what it is now, and the coast has grown. So, the Lake is really washing more sand in and placing it along the coast. This is not the case for all of Lake Michigan, as there is erosion in the southern beaches that are on Indiana's border.
So, now for the Legend of the Sleeping Bear. This is from the National Park Service brochure:
According to the legend, an enormous forest fire on the western shore of Lake Michigan (now Wisconsin) drove a mother bear and her two cubs into the lake for shelter, determined to reach the opposite shore. After many miles of swimming, the two cubs lagged behind. When the mother bear reached the shore, she waited on the top of a high bluff. The exhausted cubs drowned in the lake, but the mother bear stayed and waited in hopes that her cubs would finally appear. Impressed by the mother bear's determination and faith, the Great Spirit created two islands (North and South Manitou Island) to commemorate the cubs, and the winds buried the sleeping bear under the sands of the dunes where she waits to this day.
Here are some other pictures from the park:
If you make this one bigger, you can see a man trying to kayak in Lake Michigan. It wasn't really going well for him.
One of the other things that we saw, but unfortunately I didn't get a picture of, was the ghost forests. As more and more sand is deposited along the coast, there becomes a battle between the soils, and sometimes, the sand wins, creating a ghost forest. The trees are like grey ghosts.