So our adventure for the day didn’t simply end with me dripping wet in a lake with no stones to show for it, no, our escapade was actually just beginning.
We arrived back at the bus at 8pm, Loops secured the bikes while I tried my very best not to drip all over the carpet as I scurried for the shower. As I finish and am getting ready to think about cooking dinner – sausage and mash, scrummy – there comes a knock at the door. What then ensues riles me a little and I’ll tell you why…
The knock at the door was a park ranger. He had come to tell Loops that in no uncertain terms could we park the bus there for the night and that we would have to leave and go to one of the official campgrounds in the area. He made a point of telling Loops that he had seen us arrive at 1pm and felt we had more than enough time during the day to find somewhere to go and camp. He also decided to stamp home his point by telling Loops that should we park overnight on National Park Service land we would be fined several hundred dollars. With that, he left.
Now, I fully understand that we are not allowed to park our bus willy nilly on NPS land and stay overnight; and certainly would never blatantly ignore being told to move on and just simply push our luck and sit there. We’ve been told to move and so be it.
What really gets my goat about this situation are the following things– first, the guy was an ass about it. He wasn’t pleasant and didn’t approach it in an ‘I’m sorry you might not be aware of this’ manner, he was an in your face, I make the rules and I’ve told you to do this, now sod off kind of bloke. Which just isn’t very nice at all and completely uncalled for.
Second, the guy purposefully informed us that he saw us come in at lunch; he obviously noticed that we were still there at 6pm when the information centre closed. When we left on our bikes, Loops left a note in the bus window with his phone number on it, in case of any problems. The fact this bloke didn’t decide to come and speak with us before 8pm at night REALLY ticks me off.
Why not just enquire when we arrived where we are planning to camp, why not be polite and give a gentle reminder that camping must be done at an official site? Why not come over before or at 6pm and give a gentle nudge about the centre being shut and that we’ll need to be moving on? Why not call us on the phone while we were away from the bus and let us know we needed to come back and get going? If fact it doubly ticked me off because of the conversation Loops had inside that afternoon, when he’d been talking about overnight parking and the staff member could have cut him off right there but instead got an underhanded comment about the centre not being on park land. Why do that? And there are absolutely no signs in the car park at all that say ‘No overnight parking’, how about putting one up?
And then to top it off by finishing the conversation by telling Loops about the fine, well that just felt like a total threat and wasn’t needed at all. In fact, it put a real downer on how I felt about the park service rangers.
As you might be able to tell, I was rather upset at this point.
So we debated about where to go and what to do. Trying to get anyone on the phone at 8pm to book a camp site was a no-no. The NPS campsites either don’t take buses our size or were in the opposite travel direction, so they got ruled out. The nearest Walmart was all the way over in Traverse City, which cut out half of our travel plan and meant we wouldn’t get to see the dunes tomorrow.
We decided the best course of action for now was to drive towards the next town and see if we could find a road pull off to stay in for the night, not perfect, but a lesson learnt for the future.
We make it up to Glen Arbor, north of the dunes, and Loops manages to find a gravel side road with a parking spot meant for the bicycle trailhead across the road. There are no signs regarding no parking, it appears to just be a handy car park, so we pull in. We are both still feeling a little flustered by this point, it’s the first time we’ve been caught short for a place to stay and hadn’t anticipated there being so many stringent rules and bylaws in the small local towns regarding overnight parking; this is certainly nothing we’ve faced so far outside of Michigan. And so I’m going to say it is simply down to this slightly agitated state that what happened next, happened.
As Loops is turning the bus around, getting even more perturbed by the amount of dust we are generating in the gravel (which he hates anyway), we suddenly hear and feel a scraping noise. Loops stops and turns to me and says “Well, we’ve buried the hitch again”, which isn’t such a problem here in the gravel and as he pulls forward, we think not much of it. It’s not until we are fully stopped and he goes to check around the bus for the night that he comes in with an air of disappointment and dismay. It wasn’t the hitch after all. It turns out hidden in the grass behind the bus there were wooden posts buried in the ground and he’s just side swiped the right hand base of the bus across one, denting part of Belle’s metal work and pulling sideways one of the bay doors. I don’t even know what to say, I just want to cry.
We ate our sausage and mash in silence (which I cooked by the way as we drove – tip for other RVer’s – don’t try this – having to turn over sausages while cooking and going round corners with hot oil splashing and the pan trying to fall out of the oven is not clever) and went to bed hoping for a better day tomorrow.
We opted for a lie in before deciding that a bike ride was in order to cheer ourselves up. So leaving Belle where she sat, we cycled onto the Heritage Trail, a pathway that would lead us nearly 7 miles back to the dunes. The trail was really rather wonderful and very diverse in it choice of path and scenery. The first part of it took us through backwoods residential streets, so we could gawp at the million dollar mansions tucked along the wooded lake shore, before dropping us into the centre of Glen Arbor.
A total tourist retreat, the streets were paved with restaurants, gift shops, a tea and oil shop (but I don’t do posh tea) and amenities such as the post office and a small mom and pop grocery store. There were people everywhere. We decided to fuel up by having burgers at Boonedocks, which tasted pretty good but with a high price tag it didn’t really deserve.
We resumed our bike tour and now the path became far more scenic and peaceful, threading through woodland (though half of it had blown over in an epic storm from last year), passing by a campground, through the heart of Glen Haven historic park; and then the final push and into the area with the gargantuan sand dunes.
It turns out there was some type of running event taking place in this area as we had to carefully weave through the joggers on our way to and from the dunes, trying not to run anyone over. The bicycle ride for me had been the experience I needed, and so I decided not to bother climbing the dune.
Size wise, it was rather impressive to look at and when I asked the lady in the shop if you could see the lake from the top, she said that you actually had to walk a fair way over several dunes before the water came into view.
I suppose here is a good time to part with the story of the name of Sleeping Bear dunes and it goes like this… (courtesy of http://geo.msu.edu/extra/geogmich/bearlegend.html)
THE LEGEND OF THE SLEEPING BEAR
Long ago a great famine had spread over the land. Longingly, a mother bear and two famished cubs walked the shore on the Wisconsin side, gazing wistfully across the great lake at Michigan, which in those days was the land of plenty (as it is today). Finally hunger overcame their timidness and the bears launched out, trying to swim to Michigan. As they got closer and closer to the Michigan shore, the mother’s words of encouragement urged on the weary cubs. When only twelve miles from the land of plenty, the mother’s heart was rent as she saw a babe sink and drown. With the remaining cub she struggled to gain the beach. Two miles of slow dragging and the second of her beloved cubs also perished.
The mother reached the beach, alone, and crept to a resting place where she lay down facing the restless waters that covered her lost ones. As she gazed, two beautiful islands slowly rose to mark the graves of the cubs. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands (North and South Manitou Islands) to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear.
So there you have it – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Time to mosey on back and retrace our steps, with a brief stop in the historic village which had a cutesy candy and general store and a very interesting historic display on this area, explaining how the original founder of the Glen Haven village used the land for a variety of purposes; first logging the trees for timber in 1884 until the industry declined, then opening a canning plant to preserve cherries from the local area and finally moving on to open an exclusive inn and resort before the land was eventually sold to the National Park Service in 1972, where the village was left to rot for a fair few years before anyone considered restoring it.
It was near on 4pm by the time we got back to Belle, with a quick stop for ice cream again in Glen Arbor from a small wooden shack called The Pine Cone. By the way, if you’re visiting the area and decide to frequent this place, be forewarned, it appears to be run only by 16 year old kids (in a rather Peter Pan Lost Boys manner) who seemingly keep the milk that’s used to make milkshakes out on the counter and don’t put it back in the fridge, and also the general place looks like this…
So we are sat back inside Belle and discussing our next move, we are contemplating staying for one more night and heading out in the morning when guess what we hear…yes, a Ranger has come a knocking.
Cue Loops’ second conversation with an NPS Ranger who starts off with ‘So, we meet again…’, but it turns out this isn’t Ranger number 1, but an entirely different one who has obviously been told by his buddy to keep an eye out for us, like we are some type of environmental menace.
It seems that although we thought we had left the NPS boundary after passing through Glen Arbor, apparently we hadn’t, they own another whole section of land on the other side of the town. And despite that there are no signs whatsoever indicating we are sat on NPS ground, apparently we are. And even though we clearly have our bicycles here, are sat in a parking space and have obviously been availing ourselves of the bike path, we get yet another stern warning, a second reminder about fines and told not to camp here, and they will be back to check I am sure.
Well, now we’ve well and truly had enough of it around here and I’m also feeling really miffed I bothered spending $12 the other day in the NPS shop for stickers. So we fire up our engine and head off where we will feel much more welcome… Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown.
Did I mention how much I am beginning to like casinos?