Driving past an entrance sign is always the beginning of an adventure, and the inevitable stop and photograph at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan was no exception. After this order of business was taken care of it was now time to set up camp.
I pulled into the Platte River Campground and got the National Park map of the Lakeshore and reserved my camp spot for $16.00. Once camp was set up it was time to hike.
The closest trail system was the Platte Plains at the end of Trails End Road. There was a map at the trailhead. There were a couple of loops and options, but I took the 5.5 mile option to the Lake Michigan Lakeshore.
Before starting on the loop I was intrigued by a lake and peer just to the left of the little parking lot. I went over to check it out and in the cove of the lake a river otter swam away from me towards the shoreline. The river otter is one of my favorite animals, so I did my best to take a picture and then started on my hike.
The Platte Plains are not your traditional plains with fields, but it is a lowland area between the Platte River, Otter Lake, and Lake Michigan. Most of the shoreline in the Sleeping Bear Dunes consists of high sand dune bluffs rising straight from the lake, but not here in the plains.
One problem with the low elevation was the mosquito presence. They were vicious and areas of standing water on both sides of the trail explained why. I usually can out hike mosquitoes, but these were big and healthy and carried on a constant assault. When I stopped to take a picture they were even worse.
Make sure you dope up on this trail before starting. For those that hate mosquitoes, the rest of the trails in Sleeping Bear were not bad at all as they were either on higher elevation or out in the dunes exposed to the sun.
It was a warm day, so the brisk pace trying to out pace mosquitoes definitely led to working up a sweat. I looked forward to hitting the beach. Soon enough, there was a clearing, and I was walking on the beginning of the dunes and then there it was: beautiful Lake Michigan.
The only problem was the water was absolutely freezing. It literally took my breath away when I dipped my head underwater. I have swam in the Nordhouse Dunes, only about 40 miles south in August, and the water temperature was great then. It takes awhile for the water to warm up in northern Michigan.
There was absolutely no one on the beach in either direction. It was an incredible view both ways, and I could not believe the beach was deserted. Sleeping Bear Dunes does not have many backcountry campsites, but White Pines is one of them, and it was less than a half mile from this beach. It would be great to come back here and camp at White Pines and then spend the evening on the beach watching the sun go down.
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