On a recent trip to Michigan to visit my dear friend Gabe, I found myself on the edge of Lake Michigan—a place I’d never been before (well, except for five minutes in Chicago, but that was completely different). Having grown up spending part of my childhood on Cape Cod, I was struck by the feeling of being at the ocean.

Shore of Lake Michigan

Shore of Lake Michigan

Deep, almost tropical blue water like the ocean, waves like the ocean, endless expanse of water like the ocean. But no salty residue at the end of a swim. I was enamored. Esch Beach, Charlevoix Beach (we found Petoskey stones, even!), and my favorite: Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Beginning of Sleeping Bear Dune area

Beginning of Sleeping Bear Dunes

This is the legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes (warning: it’s not a particularly happy story): There once was a mama bear with two cubs, forced into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire on its shore. They swam and swam for hours to reach the other shore, and the two cubs, growing tired, lagged behind. The mother bear reached shore first and took a place on a nearby bluff to keep a lookout for her cubs. The cubs never reached the shore though—their exhaustion overcame them, and they perished in the Lake not far from shore. The mother bear never left her lookout post, though, and eventually she grew tired, and laid down to sleep. Never leaving, she died there, the sand covering her in time. The universe was moved to create two islands in the spot where the cubs met their fate (North and South Manitou islands), and the mother bear at her lookout became the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Sad legend, beautiful place. The dunes were huge, and it felt like we were at the edge of the world.

Edge of the world—or at least the edge of Lake Michigan.

Edge of the world—or at least the edge of Lake Michigan.

On our way out of the park as the sun was setting, we stopped at the Dune Climb, where I scrambled up to the top of the first major dune (it was that kind of thing where you get to the top, only to realize there are more dunes and more crevices and climbs to explore). From the edge of the world to the top of the world.

Me at the top of the world at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Me at the top of the world at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Another cool thing about northern Michigan: lots of milkweed to nourish the local monarch population; we saw quite a few caterpillars and a couple butterflies, too. There’s an informal census ongoing.

Gabe appreciating the local flowering milkweed.

Gabe appreciating the local flowering milkweed.

There were many other delights: the Cook’s House in Traverse City, several co-op visits, birthday celebration, history lessons, porch sitting, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire (highly recommend their fudgesicles and sunflower butter chocolate bar), Short’s Brewery in Bellaire (I had a beer called Strawberry Short’s Cake—it’s brewed with two pounds of strawberries per gallon, plus cream and biscuits and sugar, and it’s really good), Hummingbird Nectar tea from Light of Day Organics, more porch sitting, walking, lounging, all sorts of talking. It was a magical visit all around—northern Michigan adventures, low-key downtime, and quality time for connecting with a dear person.

Me happy to be in Michigan.

Me happy to be in Michigan.

See, look, that's happy.

See, look, that's happy.