Memorial Day Weekend Getaway

The much awaited long weekend was finally here, flags adorned every household in the neighborhood……

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……backyards were getting ready for the weekend celebrations……

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….the ache to go on a road trip was strong. The weather finally had started to look up, just on time for a weekend getaway, so off we went on a road trip, on the Memorial Day weekend.

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Ideally, it was meant to be a two hour drive to where we were headed, but this being the Memorial Day weekend, a lot of travelers on the road, it took a little longer than anticipated. We were in no hurry , it was a scenic drive along the Lake Michigan taking in the sun and the breeze from the lake, we drove slowly .It was a beautiful warm day. Amidst cars, bikers and trucks we finally reached our destination.

“Warren Dunes State Park is a 1,952-acre (7.90 km2) Michigan State Park, located along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Berrien County. The park’s large sand dunes and lakeshore beaches make it one of the most popular of Michigan’s state parks with an average of about one million visitors annually.” ( source : Wikipedia )

The park has three miles of shoreline, six miles of hiking trails and is open year-round.

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We bought our tickets at the park entry, and drove down the beautiful woods, a few campers were cycling ahead of us, the cool shade of the trees and the sunlight dancing in-between the leaves was a welcome change from the city.

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Our path wound around a scenic route, as we headed towards the lake, we saw glimpses of the lake reflecting silver light along the serpentine road we took to reach the shoreline. Are we closer to the lake, now ? Is that cool breeze we feel ,from the lake ?

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Nothing prepared us for the sight we witnessed, there beneath the curving pathway stretched the vast expanse of the golden beach for miles together.

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The water glistened silver in that bright sunlight, the vast sky stretched like a  blue blanket over the horizon with white wool thrown in for good measure.

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Awestruck at the sight, you have “a kid in a candy store” moment, not really knowing which way to go, to get the best view possible even to park your car.

 

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Finally you park your car and turn around…what do you see across the vast shoreline ? Mighty sand dunes raising 260 feet above the water level. This one is called the Tower Hill, the most significant of the many sand dunes found here.People appear as little toys as they trek up hill on those dunes, little kids excitedly are sand boarding the slopes. The rugged dunes also provide an excellent spot for hang gliding we heard.

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Now we are undecided…should we climb the dunes first or run into the water ?

Water wins any day!

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So we move towards the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan….

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Canoes are lined up for the more adventurous one’s, life jackets beside them in a make shift tent for the doubtful ones !

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Paddling and paddling into the deep blue….Pure Michigan it is ! Oh, to be out in the open breathing in all the sunshine, sand and fresh air…..Pure Bliss !!

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The vast shoreline stretched along even as the park ranger paddled the waters offering help to those who might need it.

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Ah! weekends are meant to be like this, shouldn’t they ? Aren’t you glad summer is almost here, I sure am !

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The shoreline stretches for miles and for those of us with pets, the part of the beach that says “Dog beach” almost feels like a private beach.There were people vacationing yet it was not too crowded to call it uncomfortable.Kids and pets alike enjoyed splashing in the waves.

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Leading from the beach to the wooded area, is a path across the dunes to the campsites, which almost is dreamlike ( believe me, this time I was sure the creator was a designer to start with, how else could  he have made this connection from the sea to the land to the woods ? Honestly! )

A walk in the clouds for sure !  Look ahead, lest you walk right into the clouds !

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Then the land suddenly opens into this wooded area, almost like the lake and the dunes never happened and there is a whole new world to explore.

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The registration office greets every visitor, who has booked a campsite or will do so in future, the friendly staff guide us on the whereabouts of the campsite asking us to park right outside the registration office and not to drive through the campsites as there are too many little kids biking without restraint. We abide by the rules and set on foot….

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We are greeted by the General store at the entry of the campsite where campers could pick their necessities and knick knacks while camping, the closest store on range.

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Walking further along, the road divided into two, I took the one less travelled for the joy it always brings. The campsites were marked and the directions to each one , clearly marked on sign posts along the way.

“Warren Dunes is in the top 5 most popular camping destinations in the state of Michigan. The park contains 2 main campgrounds: Warren Dunes Modern and Warren Dunes Semi-Modern. Warren Dunes Modern has almost 200 campsites and is on the inland side of the dunes so the beach is just a short walk. Warren Dunes Semi-Modern is rustic and much smaller (only about 30 campsites). It has a variety of sites—some with high levels of privacy and others that are fairly close together. Both campgrounds are immensely popular and normally at full capacity in July and August.” ( source : Wikipedia )

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It was  a special moment for me walking along the path , hearing the birds chirp, the rustle of the leaves, the forest sounds, the creaking of my shoes on the twigs beneath my feet suddenly I was transformed in time to a page from my childhood, where we would walk through the forests of Chinnar , a forest preserve and a wildlife sanctuary (http://chinnar.org/ ) in the South of India where I grew up,  the same sounds, the same peace, an occasional  cry of a wild animal, a tranquility unmatched, which one can only find amidst nature,…… perhaps this is what the Japanese call “forest bathing” I thought as I walked along the path, in my mind transformed  to a happy place of laughter and sunshine. It’s amazing how memories visit you without warning , yet after all these years taking your breath away with the sheer beauty of it.

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There cocooned among those huge trees was a quaint little tent of a camper, for a minute I felt like Goldilocks in the three bears story, the intense desire to jump into the tent and see who lived there was strong. I smiled to myself at the thought and moved on, what is it about the wooded area that makes us want to live in tree houses again ?

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A little further down the path , there was another camping spot with a hammock, it looked so cozy, amidst the woods. I just wanted to jump in and sleep. Imagine lying in the hammock and gazing at the stars at night or  watching the sunlight peeking through those leaves in the early hours of dawn.

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Some of the campers were already cooking,  smoke rising from their fire pits, something was definitely cooking needless to say the aroma was enticing too.There certainly has to be some good food after all that swimming in the vast blue waters one ought to be hungry. Right ?

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There is something so beautiful about watching smoke wafting through those camp sites among those tall trees, a picture I will always carry in my mind forever.Talk about going back to the roots and living like cavemen, striking rocks to create a fire among the woods…… there is something very grounding about that!

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Some campers preferred  their tents , some mobile homes… each had their own campsite and much needed privacy  to celebrate the camping experience as they preferred.

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Now I moved on to  fork in the road to the other section, which was the more travelled one, this one was marked for trailer home parking. Campers had set their trailers next to each other and were having a glorious time, smoking fire pit and all. Something about this warm weather brings out the best in people for sure !

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Moving away from the campsite, we took one last look at the lake…..It was time to return home, the waves still glistened like liquid silver, very few cars were still at the parking lot now.

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Can you tell summer is here ?

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Adios ! Pure Michigan , till we meet again !

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