One of my favorite places is the Sleeping Bear Dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan, about 25 miles west of Traverse City. It’s a vast mound of sand that Ice Age glaciers deposited on the lakeshore about 10,000 years ago. The westerly winds have been buffeting the mound ever since, sculpting the sand into mountainous dunes. There’s a parking lot at the foot of the easternmost dune; when you step out of your car you’ll see a long wall of sand, 130 feet high. Climbing the dune is harder than it looks because the sand is so powdery. With every stride you take up the slope, you slip down several inches. Even if you’re in great shape, getting to the top is exhausting. But when you reach the crest you’re treated to a gorgeous view of Michigan countryside, lakes and farms and forests mottled with the shadows of rapid clouds.

In July, my wife and I took our two children to Sleeping Bear and told them that if they could climb the dune ten times in a row they would earn the title of “dune goon.” This turned out to be a very powerful motivator. The kids trudged up and down the slope, occasionally dropping to their hands and knees and crawling on the sand like dying men in a New Yorker cartoon. I started to feel like an abusive parent. “It’s okay, kids,” I said. “You can stop.” But they shook their heads and labored onward. After an hour or so they finally reached the top for the tenth time. “We’re dune goons!” they yelled, dancing in the sand. Then they came hurtling down the slope in great flying leaps.  

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Published on November 17, 2008 00:00 • 220 views

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