Up North Blog

Devil’s Hole Danger


When we grew up, there was an old map of the Sleeping Bear Dunes in our house.  There is a mark on the map, just north of the dune climb and just west of the DH Day farm called Devil’s Hole.  My brothers and I would speculate on what that spot was and why it had such a scary name.

We wanted to see it, but it took my parents forever to take us there.  It was too big a hike for them they said.  And it was mostly my mother who would take us places and all she wanted to do was park her car at the base of the dune climb, let us kids out and she would sit in the car and smoke cigarettes for an hour. And when it was time to go, she would honk the horn for as long as it took to get us off the dunes and into the old station wagon.   I wonder what all those tourists who had just driven 4 hours for some tranquility in northern Michigan, thought of this queer local in the loud rusty Ford.

Once, my father and uncle took us up to Devil’s Hole.  I remember the hike was with all the big brothers and cousins.  They saw that my little brothers and I were nervous.  So, of course, as we hiked they told every scary story they could think of about this spot in the dunes.  When we got there, we found a big blow-out of dunes, where the wind digs a big steep valley of nothing but sand. At the bottom of this sand hole were many small boulders.

My Dad and Uncle said that the reason these boulders were here was because the Devil put them there to mark their entrance way to his home in hell.  And somewhere just under those boulders was a tunnel.  My eyes were bigger than saucers and I was too scared to even ask a question.  By that time, the big boys had gone over to the slide at the leeward side of the hole where sand piled as steep as it could stack.  And the Dads and I joined them in rolling and running and jumping down that 45 degree cliff of sand.

One year, on Devil’s Night, I wasn’t doing anything and I got the idea to take a long night hike to Devil’s Hole.  I was in college and spending a lot of time alone and trying to get used to it.  So all by my lonesome, I went to see the Devil.

I parked the car at the group campsite.  And headed up the dark trail.   It lightened as I climbed the dune up out of the cedar forest.  As I hit the top of the dunes, an owl hooted long and loud.   I could see things, but just barely as everything was mostly shadows and grays.  Some stars were out and a half moon.   The other stars were hidden by dark patches of moving clouds.

I walked along the ridge and came to the top of Devil’s Hole.  I expected to catch him coming or going, but he was nowhere to be seen.  I waited.  I even got the nerve to go all the way down to the bottom.  I stood by the boulders.  I lifted one and tossed it.   But nothing unexpected happened.  There was just silence and shadows.   As I headed home along the sand ridge above the cedar forest, I heard the owl again.  This time it was louder.

But it was the silence between the hoots that was the scariest part.  I headed to the car.  Not really knowing why I was walking so fast.   Maybe it was because my back was to the Devil now, and I just had this feeling that now that I wasn’t turned toward him, he was watching me…

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