Just so you know…Part 24, Lake Shelbyville, was published out of sequence, by the fingers of a sleepy naked guy on a couch. Once it is done….
We’re looking for a secluded place, a spiritual experience, fewer people, certainly no crowds, solitude. I figured that it would be up here in this part of Michigan, as I remember it. It feels down right crowded today, in the height of the summer season. Things have changed. There is plenty of countryside, but it is all private lands. People are packed in otherwise.
The public lands are near. Big Bear Dunes, again as I remember, are fun and there may be a spot just south of them, down the coast of Lake Michigan, where people don’t go, much.
Finding a Hike:
Finding a Hike:
We use some back-roads to get across the peninsula to look into what has become a tourist mecca. It is set up to walk, to bike, to horse, to drive and look at. We drive, meandering around half lost for slightly too long. Eventually, instead, we decide to try the tourist information center.
Inside, an old timer, with his rugged experience projecting from his grey beard, looks out of place in the Forest Service uniform. He is standing behind a huge 3D map of the area under a table of glass helping a couple, probably from Japan.
We wait our turn for his woodsy wisdom and knowledge and then explain our desires. He is obviously thinking hard about how we can fit into the scheme of things here. He says Bayview is his “# 1 pick.” After a pause, “Alligator Hill will be okay, if the parking lot isn’t full, 10 cars isn’t much for the size.” And then, “The Kettles just opened up last year, off the beaten path.” It is not on the map and he shows us where it would be. It sounds best to us. I get out my new map. He is pointing where a road line passes into a space past the edge of the colorful sheet of unfolded paper.
We decide to have a look at the huge Big Bear Dune. You can climb it, and then I had surmised that there may be a more private area near the lake to the south. Today, it doesn’t look as awesome, or intrepid, as I remember it. A great parking lot lies at its base, absolutely filled and busy, as people arrive and depart.
We soon see the futility here. We’ll just go on and try the Kettles. When we inquire about it at the ticket/toll station, the ranger doesn’t know where it is. This is encouraging, but then where, more exactly, is it?
The route isn’t clearly marked where to go. We travel the up and down of the road where ancient Great Lake sand probably hits tall old glacier paths. We turn off the main road, onto a road that should lead us there, but no signs confirm this. After a couple of miles up hill through residences, it just doesn’t look right and we turn back, hoping a clearly marked route off of that main road will turn up.
Construction has us sitting waiting, bundling our bodies for the guy standing next to the car with his “stop and go” sign. No turn is found after a few miles. We have to backtrack, touring the same road construction lines of traffic, twice. While we wait naked a few cars back, from the other guy with a sign, a bee comes into the open window. It produces some excitement
Trying again, going further this time, we find the road that we are looking for, but still no sign. I drape clothing across my lap and DF puts her dress on, as we pull beside a woman with a baby carriage walking along the road. DF hangs out of the window to inquire.
“I think it is just over there, turn left not right,” she explains.
We park and slowly, stiff from sitting, stand out in a clearing, surrounded by tall grass and small trees. It is a rolling hilltop, where a Michigan farm field is overlooked.
Standing around nude, we have lunch, a combination of left over hors d’oeuvres and snack food. There is one other car here with Florida plates. It is very quiet compared to the tourism and encroaching real estate development that we have just made our way through.
The trail is wide, wandering back through old fields. Typical still stunted Michigan trees are spaced around, slowly taking back what was theirs and making a living.
We are about a quarter mile in, as the trail begins to drop past a field of ferns and into taller deciduous trees.
We’re in light cover-ups, when the Florida plate people come huffing up the hill. She looks as though she may collapse. I ponder if she is out of shape, or the trail is steep, along with the possibility of her having a heart attack. We do know from this that the forest and trail is all ours from here on out. Walking pleased into our new state of home free, we quickly and happily strip.
We are soon in a green cathedral of tall sticks leading up and arching above as a canopy. A spiritual sense of majestic creates a new mood within us. We have been blessed again.
There is quite a plethora of plant life on the floor; it is shady and sometimes dark. I sense a comfortable sense of freedom and safety for all the life. The current two track trail is soft. The surface is wide enough for two to walk abreast. It is so soft, that I consider taking my shoes off. Sandy at first, this has turned into a wonderful mat of moist mulch.
We come to a sign at a fork for a “BOG!” It doesn’t sound like a good place for naked people who are vulnerable to flying bugs like mosquitoes.
It brings to mind that not everything is better nude. Even free skin cannot improve a bog.
Between the depth of the canopy and the sunlight being caught up in passing clouds, we find our cameras going to automatic flash.
Then sun spotlights in long beams.
There is no chorus singing “Halleluya,” only calm silence.
The sign says “one mile loop.” We take it.
A spur runs off the beaten path, asking to be explored. It eventually leads us to a break in the canopy. A chain is draped across the trail. It is refusing entry to a clearing, which is basking in bright sunlight and contains a road leading off of the property.
Thirty feet from the chain leads us to an asphalt surface. It is a circle on the end of a long straight road to the highway. Across the way, a real estate sign advertises property for sale.
We know that there is a lake near here, just off of the Federal/State lands. Perhaps it will lead us to a view of that lake. We walk across the public street. As we begin walking into a forested dirt drive, in the distance, there is the sound of that construction we waited through, out on the distant highway, which is somewhere far down the hillside.
This single lane dirt track wanders back across a ridge through a thick stand of trees. There are no hard slopes to walk up. There is no view of a lake, the forest is too thick. Someday, there will be another expensive vacation retreat here. We turn back to the public lands.
The rest of the loop has no taxing slopes in this steep hilled region. It goes past two bogs. We take pictures through the trees. There is a swampy mysteriousness to them. The light and clouds interact with the brine in an interesting way. It is a good trail.
I think back to Vermont. This would make a good 5K run.
Again and again a thought and feeling reoccurs, “It is good to be nude.”
Nearing the end of the canopy, the trail is steeper, as we look up at the light of the initial clearing. Just as we are getting to the edge of the forest, in sight, are three people and a dog.
We are caught getting dressed. They wait politely for us to cover. As they happily pass, we are asked about our Arizona plates. “How did you find it? Not even locals know about this!”
When they have passed, it feels good to hike at long last on a hilltop, with the full warm sun on my body.
We stop for ice cream, where we find a better map.
A trip to the lighthouse:
We wander across the peninsula, near the Great Lake, Michigan, with its boating. There is an oceanic sense, bordered by a tree lined coast.
There is a lighthouse and a camping spot that we have heard about that sounds exceptional. There on the very tip of the peninsula is a park.
We stop in to inquire. It is booked up something like a year in advance, but we are allowed to tour, in case we have plans to return.
The campsites are spaced well apart. People walk next to the lake. Small ripples of Lake Michigan waves slap at a sandy and rocky shoal.
There are sites right next to the beach. A tall bushy vegetation gives some privacy and a little wind break.
It would be a nice place to sojourn, unless the weather turned rough on the vulnerable spot.
Maybe, some other time, the camp could be strategically set up for stealth nudity.
We take a nice drive, to a nice place, for a nice dinner and walk lakeside, with the cute baby ducklings. Our camp feels like a safe home base.
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