Up North Blog

Sutherland’s Leaf Day Adventure


Due to the thunderstorm, we started out on our third annual Leaf Day hike a little later than usual. The boys wanted to hike the dunes, so my goal was to hit the most remote and difficult-to-get-to spots on this special day off from work and school.

leaf-1Steph dropped me off with the boys at the southernmost point on the Sleeping Bear Dunes – The Scenic Drive overlook. Unfortunately, she could not join us as she had work to do in Grand Rapids, so she gave the boys and me some big hugs to carry us through our zig-zagging trip from the southernmost to northernmost spot on the dunes.


The desolate overlook on this stormy day was a stark contrast to the throngs of people that were here all summer. We felt special to have this time away from school and work to be outside when everyone else was inside.


leaf-2It wasn’t long before the boys were running and climbing all over this windblown 2-mile section of the dunes that people rarely get to. It felt good to give the kids a full day of gym, geography, and science.


As we hiked, we looked for Native American arrowheads and pottery, but instead, we found shells and bones.


We found a “haunted forest” as Colebrook called it. We climbed into a fort built with dead trees and ate a snack. This section was inside the blown-out dune that sits high above the rest. Long ago, this dune wasn’t blown-out, and from a ship out in the lake, the dune, which was covered in dark bushes, looked like a sleeping bear. Now it looks like a sand volcano.


Here were a few beautiful scenes of fall that we came across: a birch forest, a bearberry patch, and a maple tree.


We left the dunes, walked through a big cedar forest, ran through a field surrounding the DH Day Farm, and then hiked between the tall trees of a pine forest plantation. We were so tired, we took a shortcut down the storm-ridden Heritage Bike Trail.

tall-treesIf you look closely at these tall trees along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, you can see many new branches growing out to replace the foliage that fell. In several years, these trees will fill out and shade bike riders all Summer, but it is going to be a while before anyone rides down this section of the trail to just to see the Fall colors. We were entirely alone as we walked this two-mile section into Glen Arbor, back to home and dinner.


In my mind, I go back to that special spot in the middle of the dunes, to a grove of white pines, standing young and tall, just like these two boys. Both the trees and the boys look so healthy, growing in such a wonderful place, with so much space to live.

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