Columns

2007.09.06 A few hours at the big lake

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

It was less than a month ago that I wrote here about a quick trip to Kentucky for a wedding. It was a great journey into beautiful country and I concluded: “Maybe I don’t need Lake Michigan this summer after all. Maybe I’ve had my fill of natural beauty.”

I saw some incredible sites in Kentucky that I could never find up here, but...there’s something about the color of Lake Michigan, about that view of the sandy beach and the dunes above and the way it fades off into a hazy horizon miles away.

Let me pull out one more line from that column: “How can a person go an entire year without staring at Lake Michigan for a while?”

I didn’t have to find out the answer to that question. Not this year. Colleen and I—kids gone, just the two of us—headed north for a quick look.

To write about this publicly means two sets of friends know that once again we’ve passed them by. Oh, the guilt.

We could have turned west and headed into Ludington, but we continued farther north. We could have made a little side trip into Tustin, but this was such a short trip—less than two full days—and we still had many miles ahead of us.

Going up north has come to mean only one thing in recent years—heading to Benzonia to spread out on Kate’s basement floor or grabbing an empty bed if available.

It’s a pretty complete respite from life-as-we-know-it when you hit Kate’s house. No newspaper, no internet, no television. I never laughed with glee about the University of Michigan football game until a day and a half later.

When we pulled up to Kate’s house—her wind turbine spinning away and her solar panel sucking up the rays—we encountered a bowl in her yard with a questionable-looking red substance at the bottom that seemed to be moving toward the disgusting stage.

Kate said she knew it should be tossed, but she wanted to take a look at it through her microscope. She has an appealing curiosity about her.

The red glop was a failed batch of kimchi, a fermented Korean food that she was trying to make with beets. She’s always looking for inventive ways to use beets. I’m sure if you questioned each of my children individually about beets, they would all speak of Kate’s beet-infested chocolate chip cookies.

I’ve fallen quite behind in newspaperland because of this trip, so I only have time to recount tidbits from the journey.

As always, we allow geocaches to take us to interesting territory. We sat on Kate’s couch for only a few minutes before she urged us to gather suits and towels and head for the lake.

But first, a geocache.

We failed in this endeavor, but it took us on a beautiful trail that led to a bluff overlooking the lake, then down a poison-ivy strewn path to a set of steps down to the water.

The coordinates on the GPS receiver never worked out right, but did it matter? No, of course not. And Colleen thought she saw a black bear cub crossing the road into the woods. That added a little suspense to the evening hike as darkness closed in.

The next morning we found a cache along the Benzie River before heading off to find one hidden up in the dunes. Old Baldy is the name of this particular sand dune.

It was a good three-fourths of a mile in, then another quarter mile along the top before we reached the “oasis” where the cache was hidden.

Then down to the water for a swim. Going down meant running/sliding along the face of the dune, down to where people looked like ants crawling on the beach.

We knew this journey would necessitate an uncomfortable climb back up where we would very slowly transform from ants back to humans.

Down we went, pausing to gaze at what we expected from this rushed trip north. The dunes stretching for miles. The sand beach nearly uninhabited. The large waves breaking in dozens of white rolls along the beach in both directions.

We were soon in the water, standing waist deep until an enormous roar of water crashed overhead.

Right then it was so obvious: This is why we came. This was the reason for the long drive.a

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