Saturday, May 5, 2012

Warren Dunes, Lake Michigan

End of April brings with it the joy of summer holidays. Although 'summer-holidays' does not mean much to a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D, it does provide more time to balance research with non-academic fun. It also marks the beginning of pleasant weather, at least for a few months, and lots of hiking options for amateurs such as myself.

Warren Dunes State Park is just off of Interstate 94W close to the exit 16. About 160 miles from Ann Arbor, approximately 3 hours drive, it is a perfect place for a weekend hiking trip. The trails here, along the lake Michigan's beach and the sand dunes are reasonably tough to hike (when done backwards) and takes roughly 6-8 hours. This time of the year, there is hardly any crowd there, making it very peaceful. On the downside, be sure to pack lunch and snacks and carry plenty of water! none of the eating options are open. One would have to travel for several miles to find an eatery. Also, if you are thinking of hiking the sand trails barefoot, its a terrible idea! There are shards of broken glass on the trails probably from people partying.
Dune Hike - Warren Dunes State Park 
Lake Michigan Beach view from Dunes trail
If you follow google-maps, you will end up at the parking lot close to Mile marker 1. We spent about 6 hrs exploring the trail along 1-14-13-8-4-3 path. The Beach trail starts at marker 1 and ends close to marker 14. There are no visible boards to make a right turn, just a faint bootleg trail. A right turn there leads to a broken 'beach trail' board and eventually to marker 14 stump.
Beach Trail - Warren Dunes State Park
Lake Michigan Beach - Warren Dunes State Park 
Random clicks along the beach trail
Trail 8-4-3 leads through a nice, cool, Warren Dunes nature area. Early spring offers plenty of greenery, a few flowers and meandering streams, making this a very relaxing hike.
Random Clicks along the Warren Dunes Nature Trail
If you choose to make a right at marker 8, which we did, leads to a very hard climb of the Mt. Randall, eventually leading to spectacular views of the beach. The cool breeze and the mild sun (it is almost 5 PM) and soft sand is now the perfect place to relax after a tough day of hiking.
Relaxing on the dunes after a strenuous hike
St. Joseph North Pier lighthouse is located at the mouth of St. Joseph river as it pours into Lake Michigan. Located 20 miles from Warren Dunes beach, it is very nice, peaceful place to watch the sun set over the lake Michigan. Unfortunately it was cloudy and started to rain when we got there!
St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse
Nonetheless, the ambience near the lighthouse beach is soothing. This was our last stop before driving back to Ann Arbor. Overall, it was a very pleasant trip, and I am definitely revisiting these places perhaps during another season.

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