Tag Archives: Sand Dunes

The Struggle Up Sleeping Bear Dunes

The Quest to the Seven Continents kicks off in my home state of Michigan, recently voted the number one state in the country according to thrillist.com. One of those reasons is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Northwest corner in the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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Google Maps

Hills of loose sand that stretch up and down about 3.5 miles to the coast of Lake Michigan makes it one of Michigan’s most spectacular beauties.

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It doesn’t look like much from the start, but behind this dune are several other dunes, that only those who are determined will finish.

Before I left home for good, I promised a few of my nephews and nieces that I would take them somewhere cool. I knew of a few cool spots up north where they’ve never been that would fit the bill. Along with them, I recruited three friends of mine along with one of their daughters to help me chaperone (and cook) for the kids at the accommodation I booked for all of us.  I rented a 15-passenger van and we set off early Tuesday morning due North!

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Immediately after getting exiting our van, we were introduced to the base of the first dune and the start of a lengthy hike. We couldn’t see what was beyond the first dune, only the hope of a cool clear Michigan lake waiting for us. We were all eager to get there!

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Getting up the introductory dune was relatively difficult in itself, but once we reached the very top, we could see another set of dunes that extended beyond closer to the lake. I had no plans on quitting and told my companions that we didn’t come all the way out here to sit on a dune. We are going to make it all the way! Everyone was on board–some more than others.

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The sun lent itself to the max without any cloud cover. The sky was as blue as its ever been and the sand was hot to the touch. I began to realize that I may have made a mistake in not telling some of my companions a bit more detail about the dunes. Footwear is highly recommended! I came prepared with water shoes, which fit tight around my feet and had a flat, grippy bottom. They worked like a charm. Others wore sneakers that constantly filled with sand or flip-flops that broke mid hike resulting in bare-footing it the rest of the way. Painful blisters on the pad of their feet were the result. So if you’re planning on doing the climb, wear appropriate footwear!

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Noah and Riley, the youngest two of our crew, were troopers through the journey. Riley may have said that this was “the worst day ever in her life” and Noah may have wanted to stop and take a break every other minute, but both never gave up…even with their look of defeat once they finally reached the top of a dune…only to discover that there was a whole other, bigger dune that was hiding behind it.

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Midway through we broke up into smaller groups. Some were way up ahead, thoroughly enjoying the challenge. I was somewhere in the middle with the youngest kids, making sure they didn’t die of heat and exhaustion. And there was a group behind trudging slowly, but still trudging. We all just wanted that glorious lake!

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We all had a bottle of water at the start of the hike, but drank all of it or poured it on ourselves within 20 minutes of climbing. I began to worry some of the kids would start to suffer under the sun from exhaustion and no water, but I reminded them that there was all the water we could ever want just a little further ahead.

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Little Noah, who I thought was gonna drop where he stood, saw the final footing to lake Michigan and ran down the hill to the lake’s welcoming shore. Eventually, the rest of the gang joined us.

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We stayed there for maybe a half-hour and then trudged back, up and down and up from where we came.

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The hike took us a little over four hours to complete. We could have done it faster but we stopped a lot. There was no rush though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t find it entirely difficult. The views were excellent and the lake was a cool reward for such a hot and tiresome venture. The kids complained that they hated it, but once we were finished, they were glad to have did it.

Way to guys! Onwards to Petoskey, Michigan!

 

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Journey to the White and Red Sands of Mui Ne

Our mission: reach the red desert of Vietnam to witness an alluring crimson sunset. But in order to get there, we had to make our way through a few other areas of interest first. My group of twelve split into two off-road jeeps and set off along the southern Vietnam coast!

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The first site we went through is an area called ‘Fairy Stream’, a hidden gem in Vietnam. Basically, it’s a stream that goes through a small jungle and eventually winds through mountainous walls of white rocky slopes laden with red sand that seeps into the water. The stream runs over a bed of soft maroon sand that comes up to your ankles. It was boiling hot outside but the stream was running at a delicate temperature and the white walls and dense jungle that blocked the sun cast cool shadows on random plots of the pass. All of those elements combined creating a magical setting, which gave it the name, Fairy Stream.

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As we walked in the beginnings of the stream trail, a local came out of seemingly nowhere and cheerfully said to us, “Want to ride an ostrich?”. My eyes instantly lit up. “Um, YES!” If any of you have been paying attention to my blog from back in the day at all, then you’d know I have been trying to ride an ostrich ever since my trip to The Garden Route last summer in South Africa. The reason I couldn’t then is because I was simply too heavy. My weight has remained the same ever since, so I doubted that this random Vietnamese guy would let me ride one. “I want to but I weigh too much!” I said to him. I don’t think he understood me at all. He just wanted me to ride the ostrich solely for my money. I debated it, because I didn’t want to hurt or strain the ostrich, so Lucy gladly went first as I thought heavily over it. This particular bird was very tame, unlike the ones in South Africa who would go crazy and chase you all over the place. Also unlike the one I took care of in Peru who consistently tried to bite my head off. But no, this one waited for Lucy to get on its back, and did a lap around the field, and brought her back full circle, peacefully. It was a quick ride, so I figured I’d try it out too.20130705-141314.jpg

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Checked that one off my to-do list FINALLY. After that, the sun baked us as we walked further along the stream. The slopes along the stream grew into jaggy walls of red sand and white deposits that resembled stalagmites. This was a very cool (not literally) spot to see, as it was pretty unique. At certain points, we were able to climb the sandy hills up to the more rockier areas.20130705-141456.jpg The walls grew larger as we furthered down stream and as the jungle started to shrink away, Fairy Stream transformed more and more into a cavern. It was so scorching hot out that we decided to head immediately to the next area of interest. We went further up along the coast to the fishing market village. This place reeked of something foul, like garbage! It was a pretty cool sight for the eyes, but a pretty wretched smell for my nose. Scores and scores of colorful boats were floating on the shore, catching fish to sell to locals and tourists nearby. We didn’t stay here too long, mainly because the stench was almost unbearable, but also because we wanted to make sure we had enough ample daylight for the sandy dunes. So onward we went!

Fishing Market Village
Fishing Market Village

After a bit of a drive, we made it to the first of the two sand dunes, the White Sand Dunes. These dunes are actually bigger than the red dunes; so big that it looked like a desert took over this part of Vietnam! So big that most of us decided that the best way to trek the dunes was to ride quad bikes over the hills!20130705-141540.jpg

Lucy and Shantai cruisin' through the dunes.
Lucy and Shantai cruisin’ through the dunes.

Everyone partnered up, but I wanted my very own quad. It was dubbed “The Green Frenzy”, a mean little beast that never once lost it’s power. The sun was still blistering but the heat played no factor into the amount of fun I was having, sweeping through the sands. It was my first time on a quad bike so of course I may have flubbed once or twice. I got my quad stuck in deep sand as I was going up a steep dune twice. I had to get off my bike and push it out of the hole I buried myself into as my feet were sinking into the sand. I got the quad out out both times but it sure did take the life out of me! We all had the quads for about twenty to thirty minutes before we were directed to drive back to the starting point. We had to hurry on to the next and last area, the Red Sand dunes.20130705-141522.jpg The Red Dunes get it’s name because…well…the red sand. These dunes were a bit smaller in scope than the White Dunes but still a sight to behold nonetheless. As soon as we made it there, we were bombarded by local children who all wanted us to rent sand sleds from them. I once read on a website somewhere that no matter what, DO NOT rent a sled from these kids. I don’t remember the reason as to why exactly besides the fact that they try to rip foreigners off. I’ll have to look it up. I was also amazed at how great their English was, even some better than the older students at the college. They probably get used to tons of foreigners telling them the same things so they know exactly what to say from memory. I was able to avoid them (they were very determined to sell me a sled) and made my way to the red sands. I knew this was going to be a great opportunity for a few amazing photos so I brought my trusty Nikon. I didn’t even think about the potential danger of all the sand in the wind that could destroy my camera! I was a bit worried about my baby so I had to shoot fast. I also had to get the settings right for others to take the shots with me in it. I was able to get a few in.

Everybody get your Saig On!
Everybody get your Saig On!
Brother and sister, Peter and Nancy, can't stop making fun of each other!
Brother and sister, Peter and Nancy, can’t stop making fun of each other!
Peter and I, handstand battling!
Peter and I, handstand battling!

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Lex, Tom, Lucy, Shane, Shantai, Me, Sophie
Lex, Tom, Lucy, Shane, Shantai, Me, Sophie

Before the sun actually set, Lucy and I had a brawl as we made our way back up one of the dunes. She may disagree, but I won the match.20130705-141336.jpg20130705-141340.jpg20130705-141345.jpg20130705-141354.jpg20130705-141406.jpg20130705-141414.jpg The heat started to lessen. There were clouds that blocked the sun a bit, but it was still a cool finish to this hot journey. The best part was just chillin’ on top of the dunes with everyone, relaxing as the sun slowly sank back into the horizon.20130705-141626.jpg By the end, we were all so beat and worn. Also, very sandy. The idea of going back to the resort and jumping into the pool sounded very satisfying. So back to the hotel we went!20130705-141834.jpg We all rinsed off, played in the pool a bit, and headed to a restaurant nearby called Jibes. It’s an outdoor restaurant with hip music, hammocks, and tasty food. It was the end to an almost perfect night, but then the weirdest thing happened. Lucy, Tom, and Addie all of sudden dropped like flies. It happened almost simultaneously. We aren’t too sure what happened but we think it was a form of heat stroke or possibly food poisoning. I didn’t think it could of been food poisoning because we all ate almost the same things. Had to be a heat stroke; we were in the sun all day. The three were out for the remainder of the night and for pretty much the whole of the next day. Very strange. During our last day in Mui Ne, some of us who weren’t sick went swimming into the ocean for the remainder of our time. This is where we would part ways with Shantai. She was on her way to Nha Trang beach, as the rest of us went back to the college. In a few days, she would make one last stop in HCMC to visit us one more time before she headed back to Edmonton, Alberta. We took another sleeper bus back home. While on the bus, I was able to go through most of the photos I took over the weekend. The weekend that amounted to an extravagant few days along the eastern coast of this amazing country with amazing friends. 20130705-141432.jpg