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As legend has it, after escaping a forest fire, a mother bear waited for her cubs to cross Lake Michigan on what would later be known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

A Trip to Remember: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

October 16, 2013

Who knew a memorable morning hike in deep, dense forests and an evening stroll along the beach exist within the same place.

On a recent trip to upstate Michigan, I had the opportunity to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a beautiful, natural attraction overlooking Lake Michigan in a very unique corner of the U.S.

Legend has it a mother bear and her cubs had jumped into Lake Michigan to escape a forest fire and swam to the other side. Unfortunately, the cubs did not make it, but their mother kept waiting for them to return on what would later be known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, a true gem tucked way up high along the northern Michigan lakeshore, welcomes observation about the natural world and education on ways to help protect it. Had I not taken advantage of my proximity to the preserved and restored buildings and landmarks that share the area's rich history along the lakeshore, several beautiful, scenic views would have escaped my eye.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore view
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore shares scenic views of both land and ocean, all in one location.

From the top of the dunes and within the surrounding forests, I experienced breathtaking views in all directions. When I arrived to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at the lakeshore, I observed several unique, enchanting sights. The covered bridge provided a wonderful photo opportunity, and the intense blue waters of Glen Lake left me breathless.

I loved the experience of climbing challenging trails along the lakeshore, such as Cottonwood Trail on the dunes. The trek was quite strenuous but completely worth the time I spent up close and personal with the ecology of the dunes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore forest
Tall trees occupy the wide expanse of Beech-Maple Forest at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Although one of the most obvious draws of the shore is the Sleeping Bear sand dune overlook, what caught my attention the most was the views inside and outside the wide expanse of the Beech-Maple Forest. Some leaves had just begun their transition into vibrant oranges, deep reds and bright yellows--a perfect time to appreciate fall's color show.

As I made my way from the sandy shore into the surrounding canopy, I realized this forest is filled with great species diversity. The variety of trees on the shore and in the forest intrigued me; I still wonder how each different tree has survived and thrived in such diverse environments.

I hope to return to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore again soon, perhaps to further examine the phenomenon of differing trees in one region. From the depths of Lake Michigan to the heights of Beech-Maple Forest, I could imagine relaxing in such an appealing, peaceful location all day.

Tell us: What are some of the interesting forests you've had the opportunity to explore? Where are they located? Why are they special? Share your experience below.

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