After much deliberation, hindsight, and wisdom we decided to spend a day of Matt's vacation on an adventure. This adventure was originally supposed to be a three night trip up north (or "Up North" as it's referred to here) to the beach. Slowly this became instead a one night stay at the beach which somehow turned into a no-night stay (hence the hindsight and wisdom). My wonderful husband, during this week "off", has been hard at work preparing the wood for the kids' new swingset. He has put in at least 15 hours of cutting, sanding, drilling and we realized that his time may be better spent tackling as much of this project as possible. So, we decided to still head to our original desired vacation spot and just make a full day of it. I have to say, it all turned out quite well! After researching on the internet and asking the "locals" we (I) decided on heading about two and a half hours north to Glen Arbor. We set our sights on tackling the Sleeping Bear Dunes. We left (of course) later than we had intended, but arrived around 11am. The day could not have gone more smoothly. The big kids skipped their rest and did just fine with that. Avery caught two short snoozes at the most timely of hours, giving her the needed energy to continue with our day.
Seven months pregnant, with three small children, we ambitiously headed upward on The Dune Climb - an estimated 3 1/2-4 hour hike up (and down) these enormous sand dunes leading to the shores of Lake Michigan. All I was really hoping for was some good pictures and a great view. In order to attain this we only had to go to the highest point - one would assume ;-)
The kids did great! It was a strenuous hike, but the weather was fairly mild. There was really only one time where passers-by were laughing at us - the few short minutes at the end that Matt was carrying Caleb and Addison and my belly and I were carrying Avery. We reached our goal, about a mile and a quarter up, and parked it for a quick picnic lunch, gazing at the seemingly equidistant views of Lake Michigan and Glen Lake.
I realize now, comparing our pictures with friends' who have gone, that perhaps we wanted to go a bit further for a more seamless view. The kids had a super fun time on the dunes, rolling down the giant hills, jumping off the "mini" dunes, and feeling on top of the world!
After heading back down - which was a MUCH easier and faster trip - we filled our waters back up and headed for a scenic drive along the dunes. The kids enjoyed this about as much as I remember enjoying such drives when I was younger. We didn't quite maximize the photo ops, since the kids were fading a bit, but it was a nice way to recharge and buy ourselves some rest time before our next adventure.
I would love to tackle this town again for a true getaway as it seems that there was much that we had yet to discover, but we were quite pleased with our finds. The afternoon was spent at North Bar Beach, after a suggestion from someone we met at the dunes. I don't know that I can explain it accurately, but it was the perfect set up for a family such as ours. Upon entering the beach area we came across a small, relatively shallow lake which was warmer and calmer than Lake Michigan and perfect for sitting in, letting the kids crawl through the water, and play with their toys. Surrounding this mini-lake was a smallish sand dune, hiding the view (and noise) of Lake Michigan. After spending about an hour at this smaller lake we walked along the dunes to an opening that led to Lake Michigan. Between the two was probably a 400 foot super-shallow wading area that was perfect for wake-boarding (which we did not do) and little tots - so long as they keep distance between themselves :-) About twenty feet from the end of this wading area was Lake Michigan, complete with its waves crashing and the sound that comes with it. The kids had such a great time running back and forth between the two, feeling brave with Daddy in Lake Michigan and "jumping" the waves, then running over to the wading area to play with their toys and build their sandcastles.
It was such a great day to sit and enjoy watching the kids playing together and finding the fun in their surroundings. After a pizza dinner where the kids devoured an entire large pizza by themselves, we headed back for home, following Matt's "shortcut" that only added an extra hour and a half to the trip! We didn't mind too much, however, as the kids fell asleep shortly and we had a nice long chunk of time to talk and catch up.
We pulled into home late, once again, but were again thankful for the fact that we had two more days to unwind and relax before the next big activity: Uncle Dave and Aunt Jami coming to visit!
Note: the beauty of the waters is lost in some of these photos due to a snafu in camera-settings. The draw to this area is the crystal-blue color of the water. I guess we'll just have to go back and try again!