Most people think beaches are for summertime only but I find early fall to be the best time for a trip to the dunes along Lake Michigan. The water is warm from retaining all the sun's heat over the summer and the beachfronts are not crowded and camping is comfortable with the day temps not being too intense and the overnights comfortable sleeping weather. This last solo adventure, I stayed at Warren Dunes for three days, two nights on a solo trip with my dog, Springer. Warren Dunes is a state park that has a huge campsite with cabins, modern electric sites for RVs or tents and of course rustic semi-modern (non-electric and outhouse style facilities) sites for tents. The park boasts about 6 miles of hiking trails. They are very insistent that no wheeled vehicles enter the sand and wheeled vehicles are to remain on pavement. The first day at the park Springer and I went for a day hike where we explored the wooded areas and encountered a flock of wild turkeys, then we climbed the sandy dunes where each step up the steep slope of fine sand had us sinking back a halfstep as there was no traction to assist with the climb. I gotta say the view of water as far as one could see was definitely worth the climb. The beach officially opens at 8am and is open until dusk. We watched the waves for a bit along with the sun beginning to set before heading back to camp for the evening.
I decided I wanted to be on the beach right at 8 am the next morning and that Springer and I would bike the few miles from the campsite to the dog-friendly section of the beach. It was still dark when we left our campsite the next morning and the sun came up as we headed to the beach. Springer ran alongside the bike decked out in his high-vis gear just in case someone else was also up and moving before the sun. At the beachfront there are signs posted saying, "All Wheeled Vehicles Stay On Roadway." Even if I had a fat bike and it was allowed, I don't think I'd want to ride these dunes- I had to push the bike and trailer through about 8 feet of sand in order to lock it to a post while we went down to the water, and that was exhausting! We walked down to the beachfront and put down a blanket. There was a small craft warning stating that waves could reach up to 5 feet swells and the wind could reach up to 33 knots that morning so we avoided entering the water but just sat and watched as the waves crashed over the sand. We probably sat there for an hour watching the light change, watching the waves roll in, watching the beach become alive with other walkers before heading back to the bike and trailer. From the beach we headed back to camp where I set Springer up to sunbathe as I made breakfast and French Press coffee in my Jet Boil. This small bike ride was such a great start to the day and really made my heart happy.
My initial plan when camping at Warren Dunes was to follow part of the Adventure Cycling Association's North Lake Route and ride from Warren Dunes State Park up to Grand Mere State Park, a 20 mile round trip, as camping is not available at Grand Mere. However, the day of the intended ride had a high of 83'F and I really don't like having Springer in the trailer above 75'F if I can help it. I ended up driving part of the North Lake route and will definitely be planning a vacation to return to this area. The area is absolutely beautiful and its beauty is amplified by the gorgeous fall colors.
For info about the dunes check out michigan.gov/warrendunes For info about the Adventure Cycling North Lakes route check adventurecycling.org