A walk out to Sleeping Bear

The other day I went for a walk…

I decided to take a bit of a hike last week, or possibly the week before. It seems hard to determine time these days. But such temporal differences is irrelevant for those who tend to drift and Timelords. But I digress. The important part is that a hike was taken and this should be that story, hopefully.

Setting out, to where?

I went for a drive to the dunes, and as usually when I cannot think of where I want to go I drive to the historic shipping town of  Glen Haven, Mi which is tucked away on Sleeping Bear Point. Glen Haven is a part of and operated by the National Park Service and many of the few buildings are museums. I parked at the main beach area that is overlooked by an old fishing trawler and a canning facility turned into a maritime exposition. I set out to the north along the beach with the backpack of gear strapped on.


I did not have a destination in mind but I figured that it would become apparent as I traveled. I saw a small thrust of land that did not seem that far off so I selected that as a good place to start. As I headed north there were a few opportunities but there were all too familiar, I soon found myself on the beach right off the old life saving station. This is where one of the most intriguing things I have seen all day was discovered, a recently dead seagull. I have never been a fan of these winged rats, but I have never gotten very close the more mobile ones. There was an amazing whiteness that the feathers possessed and it provided a wonderful but morbid still life study for a while. After circling the bird for a whole with a macro lens I decided it was time to move on before someone summoned the police for this strange fascination.


The point of land that I was fixated on was still a little ways off, at this point I had traveled 1/2 mile via sandy beach, and it looked as if I had a similar distance to go. As I approached the point it seemed that it was already occupied by a gaggle of people who where sitting, laughing, and drinking a fair amount of wine. I also noticed some Cannon photographic gear strewn about. As a testament to their lack of ambition they seemed to not even notice the beautiful light that surrounded them. I always know that there is a time for beer, women, and wine; however when the light is golden and crisp, it is not. I proceeded past them with a nod and salutation, as I remembered my own stash of wine that I was carrying in a nalgene bottle. One note about this particular nalgene though, it was one of the more original ones. The translucent whitish hardy plastic of legend, the kind that legend spoke of withstanding many torments. I have carried this bottle for about as long as I have been shooting somewhere since the year 2000. I bought it for my hiking and exploration in the White Mountains in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This bottle along with my Nikon FM have seen a whole world of torment and abuse that these mountains have thrown at us.  It truly has been a companion of the ages.

As I approached the point…

As I left the jolly group of folks behind I started to approach Sleeping Bear Point. I could tell this by a few indications, The sloops of the dunes suddenly got steeper and the water was becoming closer the the base of them. There were a few of us hiking out this way, I was passing people now and again, only to have them in turn pass me as I was shooting. I found some interest in the sloop of the dunes as I walked along. The sun was shining in such a beautiful manner.


I made my approach to the tip of the point passing lovely sights such as this along the way. Such a fragile structure to be poised near such a powerful thing as a great lake, with the slightest disturbance this sand will roll down the dune and be lost into the lake, well until it is spit up somewhere else on the shore. The travel got a little more on the difficult side when cresting the point and there was only a foot or so of shoreline to tread upon, no to mention the obstructions that seemed to appear from nowhere, such as a tree or more so a clump of them that had to be navigated through or above.


The tip of a point is a rather destructive place, where a constant battle between land and water rages. The weather batters it, the life struggles for survival, the fishing is usually excellent as well.

As the sun sat, so did I…

I decided that with the sun about to disappear I should probably settle down somewhere and find a good sunset photograph and then start making my way back to the car. So I picked a location where I could frame up the sun through the clump of trees that I had to climb around on my way out. As I waited I decided that the wine was too much of a burden to carry back with me, and that problem needed to be resolved. With a short wait the sun began to creep down to and below the horizon.


I captured a few images, praying that I could be stable enough to do so with out the use of the tripod. It was not an effect of the wine, or lack of motivation to set up the tripod though. I was precariously perched on the extreme angle of the slope at the tip of the point. As you can tell from some of the previous images it would be mighty difficult to set up a tripod in those conditions. To make it worse I was having to crouch to get the proper framing I desired in the image. This all tallied up for some major stability issues on my part, the wine consumption admittedly probably did not benefit the situation either.  I finally managed to get into a uncomfortable stance that usually is reserved for contortionists and old men in lazy-boys. It was this half reclined crouch with my side on the dune and an arm pitted into the sand in an attempt to get the stability I needed. After this effort the above was obtained.

It started to get darker…

After the small ball of light descended below the horizon I determined that I would rather get closer to the car than not before it got too dark out. With the recent sightings of cougars in the past few years I am not one to wonder unarmed when the lights go out. Not that such fear would weigh too much on my mind, but I still had a ways to venture. I started to hike back down the shoreline. It was a peaceful walk for all the others had left, with the exception of the wined up group of jolly folks. ImageThey still did not seem to have touched their camera gear and were still in full on wine mode. I stopped to talk to them for a little bit. Apparently one couple was from somewhere overseas, Poland or something like that. I proceeded further down the coast and then stopped to grab a few more photos at the remaining light that was reflecting from the clouds.

Since I was on level ground and not clinging to sand and plant roots for stability I set up the tripod and made some proper exposures. The lighting required a second or three and there was no way that I could stay that still. I fired off the camera a few times, hoping that the folks down at the jut of land would stay still and stop standing up. I finally got what I had come for, although I did not know it when I set out.


I proceeded to head back to the car. Back down to the south I went passing the life saving station, the dead gull. Down I went past the private property signs, and the almost tidal pools of water that like to sneak up in the darkness and soak through my boots.  There were a couple beach fires with a good amount of people siting around them further to the south. I shortly tended the notion of saying hello, but questioned the appropriateness of such an act. After a short while I saw the cannery through the darkness and knew I was at my destination. I clambered up the board walk and found the car. Surprisingly there was another vehicle in the lot although the immediate area was vacant.  With a sigh I removed the gear backpack and placed it in the trunk, it felt wonderful to be freed of the burden of weight for the moment. Homeward I went, with hopeful expectations of my next visit.

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– JC

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