Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Visit #2

Once is not enough. A few days later, I find myself back at the dunes. This time, friends from Wisconsin are visiting and they’re avid birders. The list of birds we saw on a 3-mile hike includes: dark-eyed junco, robin, chicadee, swift, brown creeper, sandhill crane, northern flicker, seagull, crow, and some kind of hawk. We started early, beating the afternoon Easter “crowds” and the forecast for high winds. But of course before you can get close to a view like the above photo, you have to hike through something like this:
And trek across something like this:
And avoid things like this:
It looks easy enough, but the dunes can be snarled with all kinds of driftwood tree trunks, burgeoning dune vegetation, and pockets of sharp-edged fossils and shells. What I haven’t learned yet are the names for any of these plants. I arrived in winter—the lakeshore and surrounding forests a blurry, white world full of mystery. I learned trees by bark, but only the ones I recognized—beech, hemlock, red pine, white pine, red oak, white oak, cherry, cedar, and poplar (or “popple,” as they say here).
The closer to the dunes I got, the fewer trees I recognized and then, of course, the fewer trees there eventually were. I hear talk of things like “rosemary mint, Mormon tea, squawbush, sopatree yucca, fourwing saltbush, and claret cups,” but know nothing of this low-level vegetation. Time for a trip to the library’s field guide section.
Meantime, here are the campus’ first spring flowers, uprooted and left for me at my door by one adoring pal. “Made with real sugar!”
  • Anonymous

    I figured you'd be back for more at the dunes. Be sure to hit Empire Bluffs and Pyramid Point as well. Also, check out the waterfowl on your own Green Lake–a threesome of swans, buffleheads (for only a little while longer on their migration to Canada), merganzers, wood ducks, and mallards. Bike to one of the many swampy areas along Diamond Park or Riley Roads and listen for the frogs in full chorus. Happy Spring!

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