Tall Dunes and Northern Lakes in Michigan

After returning to Richmond for all of three days after the Outer Banks beach trip, it was time for the annual drive to Michigan. The plan was to start in the Detroit area and then travel even further north to the “up north” part of Michigan, the northerly part of a state that is already as far north as a person can travel without leaving the continental United States. Before we arrived, Laura’s friend Shannon had left us some hand-me-down clothes for McKenna, and, since she was out-of-town, she had stashed the bags in her kids’ play house.

We’re going to need a bigger car.


McKenna, paying no mind to the inadequate space in our vehicle, was thrilled with her haul.

After a lengthy princess fashion show, we were off to meet Laura’s Aunt Terry. We wanted a place where the adults could talk and McKenna could run around without destroying Terry’s house, which is the awful story behind how we ended up at Chuck E Cheese.

Those aren’t smiles, those are the aftereffects of the gas from the pizza.

After bad pizza, it was time to purify ourselves with Mexican food (and you can take that phrase however you like), so we headed to our Detroit-area Mexican mainstay, Mexican Village.


Yes, McKenna, they have fries.

The next day, we began phase two of the trip, traveling even norther to the “up north” Canadian Lakes, where McKenna was able to break out one of many, many toys Diane had bought her. First up was some kind of Barbie hair dyeing set, with colors for Barbie’s hair like purple and pink.

But instead of “trendy, purple-haired Barbie” McKenna ended up with “geriatric, blue-haired Barbie.”

And try as she might, McKenna could not quite get Barbie’s hair to mold into a replica of her mother’s early nineties style giant hair.


There just isn’t enough Barbie product on this globe.

We were able to pull McKenna away from fashion designing long enough to head out on the lake in the pontoon boat.


McKenna, spending quality time with her Papa and her M&Ms.


After spending a week at the ocean, we just couldn’t convince McKenna that the lake was calm enough that she didn’t need her life vest.


The next day, the boat wasn’t working so we drove over to the beach. We were well prepared for a full afternoon at the lake.


Like Noah, we try to bring at least two of everything with us.

In the pile of supplies were a couple of fishing nets, and McKenna quickly demonstrated a talent for catching fish.

Failing to catch fish was clearly exhausting for some people.

After a rough day of lying corpse-like on a raft, it was time to fuel up with some ice cream.



And “some” meant “an entire pint crammed into a waffle cone.”


The next day, we were leaving Canadian Lakes and heading to Traverse City, and we wanted to get some good group pictures while we had everyone together. The question, as always when taking family pictures with Laura, is how many would we need to take before we finally got a picture where she wasn’t giving instructions about how to take the picture while we were taking the picture?


Still talking…


The long photo shoot proved to be mentally destabilizing.

All of that talking while people were trying to take pictures was thirsty work, so when we reached Traverse City, we went to North Peak Brewery for dinner and Laura’s traditional flight.

It was a good thing we downed some alcohol, because our hotel reservations were at a Motel 6. As soon as we entered the motel, we were hit by the overpowering smell of chlorine, even though the pool was all the way across the motel and behind several doors. The smell was actually reassuring because  we knew that there can’t be that many forms of insect life that can withstand the chlorine levels present in the Traverse City Motel 6. We stayed at the motel only long enough to unpack and then drove to Sleeping Bear Dunes to see the sunset.


This was at the Lake Michigan Overlook at the Dune, which sat high above the lake shore.

People actually climb down the dune to Lake Michigan – those pixels in the picture below are people.

Of course, there are alternatives to walking down the dune.

The chlorine fumes at the Motel 6 must have been extra restful for Laura, because she slept even more than normal, and she normally sleeps a lot. This is not an exaggeration – whenever McKenna has a school assignment where she has to fill in “My mommy likes to…” McKenna invariably writes “sleep” or “take a nap.”


Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 8.31.07 PM

When it became clear that Laura would not wake during the morning hours, McKenna and I went to breakfast at the Omelette Shoppe.


Even McKenna’s pamcake was dazed by the chlorine fumes from the Motel 6.

When Laura woke up, we returned to Sleeping Bear Dune for the famous Dune Climb.


It doesn’t LOOK that far…


McKenna let us know what she thought of the hike both verbally and nonverbally.

The geniuses who run Sleeping Bear Dune had built a refreshment stand right at the bottom of the dune, just for insane tourists who hike the dune without water on a 90 degree day. Whoever those people are.

After driving around the area, we did a short hike south of the dune climb that did not involve climbing a dune, a hike that McKenna participated in only after the promise of shade.

The scenery at the top was nice enough that McKenna eventually smiled. No, Really.

The combination of sun and sugar from her ice cream cone bribe had nearly driven McKenna crazy, which was perfect because…

This was our final Michigan stop – Houghton Lake. We made it in time for dinner at a restaurant on the lake. McKenna was able to shake off the exhaustion from the sand dune by the time we arrived at the restaurant and coopted their stage for an impromptu performance.

If only we could get her to be more outgoing.

Houghton lake is huge but shallow, so the water is much more swimmable than, say, Lake Michigan, where people apparently swim in cold water for the same reason that people without access to meat eat things like grubs.

Things were going so well that a whole series of group pictures were taking without Laura talking in one of them.

There was a zipline at a nearby playground at the lake, and on Saturday, Aaron suggested taking the kids there. Apparently, the zipline was improperly angled for the children to reach an appropriate velocity, so Aaron took matters into his own hands.

The running strategy was effective, though, and the children built up enough speed to slingshot back up the line.



By the end of the zipline activity, Aaron had used up so much energy running that he couldn’t even manage to drive the boat.


Fortunately, the adults revived to find new ways to get children airborne.


On the last day, it was time to get a non-selfie picture of the entire group. This time, Laura’s talking wasn’t the only issue we faced.


There was only one solution to the inability of the children to sit for a picture – give the kids more sugar.

The next day, it was time to head home. The trip from central Michigan took longer than we expected, in part due to the ever-present construction in Toledo. We ended up getting a non-Motel 6 motel in Bedford, Pennsylvania, free of the WWI-era weaponized chlorine from the Traverse City motel, enabling Laura to wake up early enough for us to finish the trip the next day. We made it home fairly quickly in spite of some shenanigans from Google Maps.

2 thoughts on “Tall Dunes and Northern Lakes in Michigan

  1. Pingback: Catching Fish and Playing with Concrete at Canadian Lakes | Endless Odyssey

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