Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Most Beautiful Place in America

Prepare for some rampant Michigan homerism.  And... GO!

Whenever I try telling someone from elsewhere in the country that Michigan is a very pretty state, they inevitably look at me like I’m crazy. For most people, ‘Michigan’ conjures images of Detroit, urban decay, civil unrest [looking at you, MSU fans…], the decline of the auto industry, poor governance and the Michigan militia (a group recently called ‘goat-raping rednecks’ by my very own kin).

People don’t normally think 'pretty' when they think of Michigan, but for a lot of the state that’s exactly what it is: pretty. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who appreciated that and recognized the importance of passing on an appreciation of their home state to their kids.

And I’m telling you people, from Sault St Marie to South Haven, it’s very, very pretty.

Nearly every summer we would take that trip ‘up north’ to that corner of the lower peninsula; normally we would camp, though sometimes we’d stay in Traverse City – the land of cherry pies, beaches and pirate themed mini-golf. But without fail, we would always take a trip over to the Dunes and to tiny Empire, Michigan.

Here is a picture of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore:

The Dunes
According to legend, a mother bear and her two bear cubs went running into Lake Michigan. The two cubs fell behind the mother, who reached the shores of Michigan only to find that her children had drowned in the lake. The mother bear waited on the shore, and eventually she waited for so long the sand covered her over and she became the dunes. The children became the Manitou islands off the shores of the dune.

It’s a sad story but a beautiful one in its own bittersweet way, and the natural beauty of the Dunes reflects the timelessness of the legend perfectly. For countless centuries people have come to the Dunes to witness the beauty, reflect on the peaceful atmosphere and to simple enjoy the lake shore.

As little kids, though, we didn’t really care about legends or timelessness or any of that. In fact, we usually wouldn’t even make it far enough to see the beautiful vistas, to hear the gentle crashing of the waves against the shores or smell the aroma of that Great Lake. Instead we would spend hours climbing and tumbling back down the glorious mountain of sand. We played in an enormous sandbox, where any falls were cushioned by the sand and where the wind picked up your kites and carried them high above the Dunes for all the other children to see. By the end of the day we would be too tired to walk to the water, too covered in sweat and sand after climbing up and down the mother bear’s back for anything other than a nap.

After leaving the National Park, we would always drive over to Empire and have dinner there in an old inn. Afterwards, we would walk over to the Empire beach and swing on the swing set or take a dip in the water.
The beach at Empire.
What brings this up? Sleeping Bear Dunes was just voted by viewers of Good Morning America as the most beautiful place in America. I’ve seen many a beautiful place in America, but what can I say? I’m biased.

If you ask this Michigan ex-pat, though, I will tell you it’s worth the trip.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you kids quit fighting long enough to make some good memories! LOL