The Michigan Files: In Search of Dunes

As we drove to the fruit orchard on our (failed) fruit picking excursion, we passed a sign for the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. The professor said something like ‘we should go there’. Apparently he thought it would be ‘fun’ to take the boys to the sand dunes.

After eating our apple pie and ice cream, we headed back towards Holland. On impulse, we decided to get off at the state park exit. To see what we could see. It was a brave slash foolish move on our part, seeing as it was already 5.30 or 6pm and dragging three young boys to a state park during the dinner hour is perhaps not the wisest thing to do. But they had pie and ice cream in their bellies and we hoped that would be sufficient.

Since we didn’t really know where we were going, I was on high alert for any signage directing us to ‘the dunes’.  We passed the world’s tiniest sign that bore an arrow and the words ‘state park’ but nothing about ‘dunes’. I assumed another, bigger, more specific sign would be forthcoming. I was wrong.

We drove. And drove. And drove. And saw nothing but fancy housing developments. Finally I told Jason to just turn around and go back to the first tiny sign I’d seen. That detour probably cost us twenty or thirty minutes.

After a bit of meandering we made it to the park which appeared to be deserted. Also, there were no signs, anywhere, to tell us where the dunes or the beach might be. Rather than walk around and waste more time, I asked an unsuspecting Michigan-ite how to get to the beach. He pointed straight ahead to the only conceivable (obvious) ‘entrance’ and we set off on our hike.

Without any clue as to how long the hike would be. Which is a risky proposition when you have three boy-children tagging along. Especially if the first boy-child typically starts whining when a hike lasts more than ten minutes; uttering things like ‘my leg is broken….I’ll never be able to walk again.’ The second boy-child has functioning legs, but he refuses to walk farther than fifteen paces. If he senses that he might have to walk even sixteen paces, he immediately turns towards me with outstretched arms, while saying ‘you carry me.’ The third boy-child actually is incapable of walking and needs to be carried or strollered wherever we go.

Only problem is, our car was so full for this epic trip, that there was no room for a stroller; only the decidedly uncomfortable Baby Bjorn carrier.

So I Bjorn-ed our Percy. And the professor piggybacked our Hen. And the Gort had to walk on our journey into the unknown. It started out well, we were in high spirits. The boys were excited about the possibility of adventure. Our muscles were not fatigued.

But after about six minutes of walking, things changed. It was hot and humid. The mosquitoes were eating us alive. The Gort was wailing ‘I don’t like this jungle. It has bugs and I don’t like bugs!’ And we had no idea how much farther we had to go.

Finally, after fifteen or twenty minutes, we heard something that sounded like water. And then there was sand underneath our feet. Like castaways searching for dry land, we searched for light at the end of the forest-tunnel. And then we emerged from the dark, mosquito madness into light. And sand. And water.

The boys, relieved to be out of the jungle, made their way to the water. Aside from another couple and their dog, the beach was completely empty.  The boys played in the sand and water. And the baby crawled around like a crab.

It was magical. Except for the 0.6 mile hike back to the car.

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