Lake Michigan, Michigan - Mike Shriberg

My Watermark is Lake Michigan. One of my greatest memories of my waterbody really has to do with creating memories for others there.

Until recently, I was a professor at the University of Michigan. One of the things that I would do was lead a camping, kayaking, hiking retreat along the shores of Lake Michigan. We would go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as an orientation for students that were in the Environmental Honours program. The first thing we would do when we got there was probably one of the most iconic hikes in Michigan and one of the most iconic hikes in the Great Lakes.

This hike was a dunes climb.

This dunes climb is about a 3-4 mile round-trip and it is a hike where you start by climbing up this massive sand dune. You would then go over these ridges of sand dunes for miles, but when you get to the top of each ridge you can see Lake Michigan just a little bit each time in the distance. Then you would dip down the next sand dune and then you go up the next one and you find that Lake Michigan is just a little bit closer. You would do that probably 7 or 8 times until you wind up on one of the most beautiful beaches that you can imagine surrounded by this national lakeshore and pristine waterbody with the Manitou Islands off in the distance. You find yourself looking straight across and, you can’t see it, but Wisconsin is just on the other side. I’ve done that hike and taken groups of students for years; for many of them, it is their first experience ever seeing a Great Lake.

One of the most memorable reactions from our students was specifically from a student that I had from Singapore. He just couldn’t get over the fact that he couldn’t see across the lake. Intellectually, I think he knew that these were big lakes, but it’s another thing to get down there and say: “Wait, you mean you really can’t see the other side?”

A lot of the students are from different parts of the country (and the world), and they hadn’t been to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore before. For them to catch this sort of fleeting glimpse - as they get closer and closer and then are eventually able to run down and jump in the water - it’s just an amazing experience.

Lake Michigan, USA
Claire Lawson
Mike Shriberg

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