The Legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes

This weekend my husband & I renewed a fall tradition and headed to Northern Michigan for a long weekend getaway. It was a fantastic trip. We hit some of our favorite restaurants and discovered new ones. We participated in their Toast of the Season event which pairs a small plate with a wine at each winery along the Leelanau Peninsula – a delicious way to spend an afternoon (or two!). We slept as long as we wanted and – this might have been my favorite part – we hiked each morning (except the last morning because it was sleeting).

Our first day was the only day with sunshine. There was a definite chill in the air and the smell of snow (which fell intermittently throughout the weekend) but most of Friday had big puffy clouds blowing across a blue sky. We headed straight for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Now, in years past we’ve visited this beautiful park and I had to coerce my husband into taking a hike. (He might go so far as to say that I lied about the hike distance just to get him out of the car. And I might have. Slightly. But just so he’d go. And just that one time.) This year however my husband himself picked a good, long trail (there are a lot of good trails here) and off we went to discover Alligator Hill.

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We meandered through the forest that was still filled with trees of gold. We climbed up and up and up to the top of the hill to be rewarded with this view:

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Those islands? They are officially called the Manitou Islands. However, in my mind – and the minds of my children – they will always be known as the baby bear islands because of the Legend of Sleeping Bear. This is a story that tugs at my mother-heartstrings. We have it in book form with beautiful illustrations and I still tear up every time we read it. In case you don’t know the story, here’s the short version:

Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tired and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear.

It’s a beautiful legend for a beautiful place. Truly, one of my most favorite places on earth. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

SleepingBearIf you want the long version, I highly recommend this book by Kathy-jo Wargin (just buy a box of Kleenex to go along with it).

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