The Sleeping Bear Dunes, perhaps one of the most awe inspiring and beautiful facets that the great lake’s state has to offer. Established in 1970, this colossal park is much much more than just a great collection of sand. In fact, in 2011 the area actually won “The most beautiful place in America”, and it’s not hard to see why. A product of the Ice-Age glaciers that once covered much of North America almost 70 million years in the past, Sleeping Bear houses a landscape so dramatic it’s scarcely believable. The sands, some towering almost 500 feet above lake Michigan, gained their impressive stature as a byproduct of the glacier’s cataclysmic force. As sheets of ice over a mile thick crept slowly across the land, they pushed thousands of tons of rock and earth ahead of them, creating moraines upon which lake Michigan deposited it’s vast collection of silt and mud for millions of years. In effect, stacking sand upon ancient glacial hills, creating this indomitable landscape which now draws over 1,000,000 tourists a year.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Located just north of Akron, Cuyahoga is Ohio’s one claim to national park fame, and quite a good one at that. Established in 1974 as a national recreation area, Cuyahoga was finally recognized as a national park in the year 2000, making it one of the youngest in the country. Originally named “Kahyonhá:ke” by Native Americans, it loosely translates to “crooked river” or “twisted water”; quite an apt description for the wandering streams of the Cuyahoga River, though the name gives no hint of the river’s troubled history. Wedged between the industrial centers of Ohio, the river became so polluted that in 1961 the water itself actually caught on fire, sparking a major shift in environmental awareness, and leading to the preservation of the pristine setting we can enjoy today. Now, the 51 square miles of wilderness draw over two million visitors a year, and for good reason. One of the most diverse national parks ever to surface, Cuyahoga offers a wide variety of natural elements, from towering waterfalls and shattered limestone creek beds, to valley overlooks and winding bedrock caverns.
To most, the name “Saugatuck” may seem completely foreign, you might not even place it in the states if asked to locate it. However, ask a Michigander, and you’ll discover some of the state’s most prominent dunes. Michigan’s many dunes are primarily located along it’s western border with Lake Michigan, the strong westerly winds from the lake blowing massive heaps of sand into the great piles we see today. Over time as the dunes built up, the oldest ones started to become part of the permanent landscape, covered in topsoil and plant life. Locked into position, the dunes support what can almost be described as a shell of earth, a thin slice of life that has deigned to integrate itself into the sandy hills. It is this phenomenon which makes Saugatuck worth the visit, a rather twisted mixture of rough forest trail and unforgiving dunes, some 200 feet tall, it can give any experienced hiker a run for their money; while simultaneously offering more direct and scenic trails right to the beach. With over 1000 acres of land and roughly 2.5 miles of shoreline, spending a day here is easy, even if you don’t get lost. Not that we did.. Continue reading Saugatuck Dunes