Everyone woke up fairly early Friday morning, we were all excited for a 5 day weekend and our first camping trip of the season. We were all setup on our site at the Platte River Campgrounds in time for lunch. We stayed in site #124 which is in a different loop than we normally stay, because the park service made more sites available for reservations this year. It was a nice site, right across from the bath house, which I guess was a good thing when traveling with two little girls and a pregnant wife. The only bad part was that it was also right across from the dumpster which probably doesn’t smell very good in the middle of the hot summer. The rangers also told us when we were checking in that they had seen a black bear in the campgrounds the week before and I would guess that the dumpster would be high on the bear’s list of places to visit.
When we sat down to eat lunch we noticed that there were more caterpillars around than normal. Little did we know that we were in the middle of a tent caterpillar invasion of epic proportions. They were everywhere, when you sit down you would soon feel something crawling up your leg, when you walked you could keep from stepping on one. Driving down M-22 you would see entire hillsides of trees that had almost all of their leaves eaten off and there were even places on the road where the tire tracks were black from all the caterpillars that had been run over. The girls thought it was great! They even made a “caterpillar amusement park” to put all the ones they found in, but by the end of the weekend they were even sick of them. One of the rangers that we met on a hike told us that they are in a 10 to 15 year cycle and they are at the peak right now. He said in another couple weeks they would cocoon and turn into small white months that only liver for a short time. Then everything would be back to normal for the rest of the summer accept for the trees which can usually recover if it doesn’t last for more than 2 to 3 years.
Other than too many furry little friends we had a great trip. The weather was much warmer than it usually is for this time of the year with temperatures into the mid 80’s. The lake was even warm for the girls to swim in. Sunday night we decided that it was too warm to have a fire. It rained a little Monday morning, but stopped just after breakfast. The sky was dark and it looked like it could start raining again at any time so we decided to take a drive up to Sutton’s Bay and Leland. It never ended up raining and started to clear up in the middle of the afternoon.
Paddling the lower Platte River with the girls.
The mouth of the Platte River.
Dune overlook #3 on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Lake Michigan overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Dune at the Lake Michigan overlook Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
Playing in the sand at the top of the dune.
The Empire Bluff Trail
The beginning of the Empire Bluff Trail. The leaves were almost all eaten from the trees by the tent caterpillars. While walking you could hear their droppings falling on the leaves on the forest floor like a light rain.
The first overlook on the Empire Bluff Trail.
Our attempt at the classic Sleeping Bear Dunes picture from the top of the Empire Bluff.
For information on 9 other hikes in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore pick up a copy of: 50 Hikes in Michigan: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula
Swimming at South Bar Lake by the Empire City Beach.
Paddling the crystal clear water along the dune bluffs.
Running down the Dune Climb.
The start of The Dunes Trail at the top of the Dune Climb.
The Dunes Trail was one of the few trails were I would have to agree with the challenging rating in the Hiking Guide: 50 Hikes in Michigan: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula
It was very hot and soft sand the whole way. Most of the people that I met on the trail did not have a smile on their face.
New trail markers had to be added on top of the old ones as the dunes have moved.
Phone booth in Suttons Bay. We had some really good sandwiches for lunch at the Silvertree Deli. We try to stop here for the hoagie when ever we are in the area.
The start of the Pyramid Point Trail.
The view from the top of Pyramid Point on a cloudy day.
Resting at the top of Pyramid Point.
Picnic at the Empire Village Beach for dinner.
Jumping, Empire Beach.
2 New Sleeping Bear Dunes Jr. Rangers.
With 3 small children this has become one of our favorite hiking guides. This is really a good book for anyone looking to get out and find short, but interesting hikes all over the state. Like all of the books written by Mr. DuFresne there are well written trail descriptions and nice maps of each outing.
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