Lake Superior Trip – Day 14 to 17 – Sleeping Bear Dunes

Posted on by Steve

Before You Start Reading…

I know what you’re thinking –  why am I still calling it the Lake Superior Trip when this leg of it was took place along Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes? Well, mostly just to keep it straight in my head – it was on the same trip after all.

OK, why day 14-17? Well, there just wasn’t all that much going on so the entries are short. I suppose I could have padded them with stuff like, “Yeah so after we were done hiking those dunes, we went and hiked some more dunes”, but I kinda figured that would drag on. Yeah, might be better to put them all together so we can end the trip with one last big blog post! That, and there was only one photo from the three days that made the cut.

Also, a note on Grant’s video below. Due to REALLY windy blow-sand-into-your-video-camera conditions, we didn’t get as much footage as we would have liked (none for the first day at Sleeping Bear), so we made a single video for all three days. We’ll start with that (You gotta watch this one – the time lapse at the Dune Climb is pretty funny!)

So, here’s the video, and enjoy the blog!

August 24th, 2011 –

No messing around today. We broke camp and headed for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. About six hours later, we were setting up our camper along a river as we watched enormous King Salmon swim by. WOW!

Today puts me in one of those positions I really hate – trying to find a killer location in a new area with only a very limited window in which to do it. Rushing a photo is never a good idea, but I was going to try anyway. 😀

We stared off at the visitor center to grab Grant a Jr. Ranger packet, snag a map and gather some intel. From there it was off to an early dinner and some scouting.

Based on time spent, I’m guessing we hiked 3-4 miles looking for a good location, finally settling on the L. Michigan overlook area on the scenic drive.

I knew this was going to be a rough one. The wind was REALLY coming up strong from the lake – it was so fierce the sand stung as it hit you. We found a spot that was tolerable, but the grass and trees were really whipping around. My thought was the grass might look cool kind of blurred in the photo, but not the trees.

So, I adjusted the camera’s ISO, actually found a pretty nice spot, and waited. Alas, the sunset shot was not to be. It tried, it really did – it had nice clouds, I had a pretty cool spot picked out, but there just wasn’t any good color this time.

We hung around a bit afterward, waiting to see if the clouds lit up (sometimes the best light is after the sun goes down), but no luck.

So far, all the areas I’ve looked at seem to be sunset spots, so if that holds true, we’ll only have 2 more chances here. Hopefully we’ll get something.


August 25, 2011 –

Since I haven’t quite found what I think would be a solid sunrise location, we started the day with the famous “Dune Climb” and subsequent 3.5 mile trip to the lake and back.

Sure, sounds like fun, till you realize that it’s a long series of ups  and downs all the way to the lake. Way more workout than I think either of us were suspecting, but we pulled it off and had a good time doing it. It was really nice to reach the turquoise waters of L. Michigan at the half-way point, that’s for sure.

Although, I think I’m getting tired of sand!

The afternoon and evening were spent scouting out locations and finishing up Grant’s Jr. Ranger packet. I’m proud to report he now has his badge for Sleeping Bear Dunes!

After the badge, it was basically more hikes looking for good locations. Either I’m missing something (entirely possible), or this may just be one of those places that tend to be cool to look at but tough to photograph. I have to admit, I’m having a difficult time finding a unique shot that really says “Sleeping Bear Dunes”.

We probably hiked a total of 6 or 7 miles today searching for spots, and I still don’t have anything I’m overly excited about. Maybe I just need a good night’s sleep or something. Hiking up and down dunes all day can take it out of you.

The sunset sky was barren and colorless, so we called it a night early. Tomorrow is our last shot, so here’s hoping for something special.


August 26th, 2011 –

Our campground happens to be right next to a river where the salmon are running, so in between scouting and photography, we’ve been watching the fishermen reel in the big ones.

We were talking to a guy who told us all about this really cool dam that was nearby where the salmon were leaping out of the water to clear it – so that’s how we started the day.

Watching those salmon struggle to leap over the 4 foot waterfall (caused by the dam) was a lesson in determination. Some would make it on the first try, some would die trying, but it was mesmerizing to observe, that’s for sure.

After the salmon, we did a little more scouting, finding a few more “nice” spots, but not anything fantastic – or at least not anything I really wanted to photograph.

From there it was off to lunch and back to the dune climb. We thought it might be cool to do a time lapse video of people going up and down the main section. We set up the camera and while I stood guard Grant ran up and down the dune – you know, till he wiped out and got a eyeful of sand. Poor kid was miserable for the next hour or so trying to get it all out.

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon milling around the campground, watching people fish. I’d pretty much decided the best places to shoot were either on the dune climb trail or around the Lake Michigan overlook on the scenic drive – and that’s where we were planning sunset.

A couple of storms passed through, so I was hopeful for some good light and on the lookout for rainbows. We did see one, but it was way off in the distance and too small to shoot.

As we strolled around the dunes looking for a shot, I rounded the corner and FINALLY found the scene I’d been looking for the entire time here at Sleeping Bear!

I setup the camera and waited. The sun broke through the clouds a few times, and it was a sight to see as it floated down towards then behind the lake.

Did I get the shot? I’m not 100% sure. The sky was pretty, but there wasn’t a ton of color in the clouds. I did have a nice foreground, so I’ll have to see how it all looks at home on the big computer.

Either way, it was a nice way to spend the final evening of our trip. (Conclusion Notes under the photo below)

(Here’s the final shot from that trip – and I’m pretty happy with it! Read more about it here and get it as wallpaper here)


That was the end of our trip, day 17 was simply packing up and heading home. Overall, I’m pretty happy with what we got. I know at times I do get frustrated (Sucks to be at the mercy of the sky!), but it’s amazing how that all melts away once you start seeing the good stuff on the computer! So, yup, pretty happy with this one. Stay tuned too – shortly after this trip I went back up for a quick backpacking trip and – thanks to some mind-blowing conditions – I think I have images that may even be wilder than these!

I wanted to thank you for following along with us and for all the nice comments you’ve left – we read all of ’em! If you missed any of the trip logs, you can get to all of them here:

If you’ve enjoyed this trip log, please tell your friends about it and have them stop by to say hello!

Thanks again!

~ Steve & Grant

PS – Also, remember to rate the photos so I know how you like ’em!



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21 Responses to Lake Superior Trip – Day 14 to 17 – Sleeping Bear Dunes

  1. Jane Jimeno says:

    Enjoyed the whole trip and wished I could be there to enjoy it in person. Have not spent much time near the Great Lakes, but any water is OK by me. Love this last photo.

    Thank you Grant for some awesome videos. Looking forward to the next trip.

  2. char says:

    hey guys,
    i just wanted to say i followed your whole trip and your pics and videos were amazing,
    i enjoyed your story about each sounds like you had a great trip even if grant felt like a creeper lol.
    its great that you guys can spend quality time together and do something you both enjoy.
    i look forward to more pics and videos from both of you.

  3. Reb says:

    Hey Steve ‘n Grant:

    The pics were great in this last movie, but the audio was horrible. Too much background noise. I could not understand more than a very few words which made it impossible to get anything out of it. And Grant, you talk much too fast.

    On your next trip would you consider taking me along?


  4. Kathy says:

    Grant–I loved your runs on the dunes and I could understand every word in the video. That last shot was awesome!
    I want to go too, but no 7 mile hikes.

  5. beryl Allan says:

    I have enjoyed the trip from here in Australia.Thanks for sharing.Have fun

  6. Joan says:

    Another great shot, Steve. Loved seeing the dunes, but would hate the As far as I could see, the pics on this trip made it a success. They were all gorgeous and Grant’s videos were fun. It all makes me wonder how you’ll top this trip off with your next journey. Keep looking for those “just right” shots. Cheering you on here!

  7. Jean W. says:

    Thank you for sharing your adventure with all of us. It was especially neat for me to read your blog & watch the videos because I had just had my own adventure on the UP of Michigan on Lake Superior. I searched out 25 lighthouses on my trip.

  8. L A Graham says:

    I’ve enjoyed all your photos. I think you would find interesting – and challenging – shots at El Malpais Lava Beds, located near Carrizozo, New Mexico, and at White Sands National Monument, located near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

  9. Velma says:

    What a wonderful time. I loved the whole thing. You and Grant did a super job. It was almost like being there.LOL Thank you both……Velma

  10. Cheri M says:

    Thank you for showing me a part of this great country I may never get to see myself. And through your eyes I saw so many beautiful things. THANK YOU

  11. Linda says:

    I loved all the photos. Thought they were all really good. Nobody appreciates their own work. I bet the best part, though, was the time you guys got to spend together. It’s really great when parents and kids get time together to bond as a family. Thanks for letting us all in. You guys are wonderful!

  12. Amanda says:

    The trip was great, the photos were fantastic, and that video guy was something else! By the way, how did he get out of school? Homeschool? Hope to be with you on the next trip. ab

  13. JENNYbRENNER says:

    It seems that all the comments said it all for me! All of us would love to come along to the next trip. Just a few busses!! I do love all the pictures!!

  14. Jeri says:

    Really enjoyed reading your travel journal and looking at the pix. Thank you

  15. Terri Boyd says:

    Really enjoyed your trip, blogs, and pictures. As I live in Michigan, in my younger years, our family camped at all of the spots you hilighted. Thanks for the memories. Terri Boyd

  16. Jo Bissell says:

    I enjoyed going on this trip with you and Grant. Super job with the pictures and blogs.

  17. Rosey says:

    Loved all of the pics and the wonderful videos. I live in Michigan and enjoy seeing all these sites no matter how many times I have been to them. I just love the water and any nature. Thanks for letting us enjoy your trips and especially your great pictures.

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