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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan  06/17/06 (Day 53)
What's That Sound?

Here’s a confession. We’ve been fully loaded with all this great camping, hiking and outdoor gear (thanks Coleman, Mountainsmith, Brunton and SteriPen), but have gone nearly two months without sleeping outside. That’s what too much time in the city will do to you, so we get out of town and head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The campground is very popular since it’s quiet and right on Lake Michigan and we don’t even get there until 6 pm, but luckily there’s still a spot open for us ($12 per night, per site) so we set up housekeeping. It feels great to finally be using all this terrific gear­­-like we haven’t just been carrying it around for noting! Than it’s time for a lovely meal of Tamarind Tree boil in bag Indian food, which is honestly yummy despite the fact that both “boil” and “bag” can be used to describe the stuff. Not to mention really quick and easy to make should you arrive at camp late in the evening without the energy or supplies for a big involved camp cookout. We bought the stuff at Trader Joe’s (a place Karen loves so much she’s written a theme song which she sings quietly to herself whenever she is lucky enough to walk into one). Unfortunately, we have not been able to find it in stores lately, so email us if you know of a place that sells Tamarind Tree meals, or if you work for Tamarind Tree and just want to send us some. Seriously. We’re nearly out.

Heeding the warnings of the park ranger, who advises us that raccoons and skunks are a campground nuisance, we clean up all food thoroughly and pack everything except a bottle of Maker’s Mark and the cooler back into the truck. Apparently our heeding skills need some work, however, because at about 3 am we wake up to what sounds like someone running back and forth dragging a bag of rocks down a paved road.

Since this is impossible, we peek out of the tent and wave our flashlights around maniacally (sorry campground neighbors). Presently, a non-plussed raccoon the size of a small pig is caught in our beams. The little devil had been clawing at our Coleman cooler trying to get the lid open (they may have thumbs but thank goodness they haven’t read the owner’s manual yet)! As soon as that guy saunters off (reluctantly) we hear a scuffling, huffing, wheezy sound behind us. As if to add insult to injury, the raccoon’s boozy buddy is diligently trying to get into our whiskey bottle! Well, enough is truly enough, so we shove every last scrap into the truck and return to the tent, confident of our place at the top of the food chain.

The next morning we drive our Silverado to the park’s namesake, a giant sand dune that looks a bit like a sleeping bear if you have a really, really vivid imagination. The climb starts right from the parking lot up spectacular, white, fine-grain sand. The top of the main dune offers trails going off in various directions and we are unable to resist the urge to see what’s “over there,” so we push on and soon find ourselves hiking over completely exposed sand at high noon. Be smarter than us and start your climb in the early morning.


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