It is embarrassing to admit that I somehow missed Tim’s note (on the sidebar) explaining the banner picture at the top of the blog. Ahem. Sorry about that, Dear. I should have known that a conscientious blogophile like you would be sure to identify the picture for our readers.
While we were visiting my family in Michigan, we had the opportunity to go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes with my parents and my brother’s three children. I have to write about our dune adventure lest people (who, like me, didn’t read Tim’s note) think the picture at the top of the blog is just some random shot of the beach and nearby lake.
And, frankly, a rather boring picture at that.
Well, in our defense, that isn’t just some dull old two-dimensional shot of sand and water, it’s where we stood overlooking the water, 400 + feet above Lake Michigan on a mountain (okay, hill) of sand. Sand that we were going to climb DOWN. Truly a picture fraught with danger and excitement.
The picture looks a little more impressive now, doesn’t it? Oh yeah.
We didn’t make it very far (okay, it was the observation deck before we even started climbing) and one of the children took a little tumble. Thankfully, there were “nurses” on hand to distribute bandaids and supervise the first aid care.
The plan was for the hikers (Grandad, Tim, the 8 children and myself) to climb down the sand dunes to the water, walk along the beach and meet up with the driver (Mamie) who would park at a vehicle-accessible entrance to the lake. This tidy scheme was devised so that the hikers wouldn’t have to climb back up the sand precipice. We were a bit confused about where to begin our descent, but said a hearty farewell to my mom and set off like the intrepid explorers you read about in books.
It turns out those fearless adventurers, plucky though they may be, are FICTIONAL. In real life, things are a wee bit more complicated and, er, rather fearful.
It wasn’t until AFTER my mom left that we realized there wasn’t any clear way to descend the dune, certainly nothing that seemed fitting for four and six year olds. Ooops.
Standing on the sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan is a good time for a little father/daughter talk.
“Daddy, where is the path down?”
“I don’t know, Sarah.”
“Are we going to die, Daddy?”
“No, Sarah, I don’t think we are going to die (just yet).”
“But there isn’t any way to get down the mountain and Mamie already left!”
“I know, Sarah. Why don’t you go see what Mommy’s doing?”
The older children thought it was a grand adventure and were eager to help Tim and Grandad find a good spot to navigate the near-vertical descent of the dunes. I spent most of my time shouting, “Don’t go too close to the edge until we’re ready to climb down.” I’m sure that was very helpful.
One push and David could seriously eliminate the competition. We’ll see who gets “voted off” the dune.
Reluctantly accepting the fact that we had to get to the meeting place where Mamie was waiting and couldn’t really stay at the top of the dune all day (although eventually she might come back looking for us), Tim and my dad found a possible path that just might get us to the bottom in one piece.
Tim went first with Daniel following at a cautious distance. The sand shifted alarmingly beneath their feet, and they stopped frequently to avoid excessive momentum. Despite a brief slip on Daniel’s part, they really made it look quite easy. Tim later shared his fears that one or more of the children would flip forward and tumble 400 feet to their death; happily, he didn’t describe this in any detail until we were safe at the bottom. Tim claims he had already made up his mind to shout, “As you wish” (ala The Princess Bride) if he fell.
The rest of us climbed down in teams, emboldened by Daniels courageous example. Joshua stuck with David, Rachel and Tahlia went together, Dad had Chase and Aydia, and I held (tight) to Sarah. David thought the whole thing rather grand and practically ran down the dune, towing his brother after him. Rachel and Tahlia talked the entire time, following behind Joshua and David. Chase and Aydia were quite scared (perhaps they shared some of Tim’s visions of plummeting, tumbling, falling children). My dad intended to take Aydia down and let Chaseton accompany the older boys but Chase insisted he wanted to go with a grownup. A little bit of shuffling (very careful shuffling, so as not to disturb the shifting sand) and Dad had a child on each side. Aydia cried a good portion of the trip with Grandad doing his best to keep his balance and comfort her at the same time. No easy feat. At one point Grandad and Chase and Aydia were riding a moving wave of sand about the size of a picnic table, barely moving their feet but descending at a good pace.
To Tim’s considerable surprise, we all made it safely to the lakeshore, where the kids enthusiastically greeted the surf.
That was fun. Let’s do it again!
About a mile south along the water, we rejoined Mamie and spent a pleasant hour swimming and building up an appetite for pizza on the way home.
We’re Alive! We’re Alive! We’ve got drinks and cards, now to get some pizza and life will be good.
Although it certainly didn’t eclipse Phil’s wedding as the event of the week, it was a near thing in the minds of the children.
Project 365 – Day 177