I Can’t Believe I Did It!

It has been a month now since I finished my physical therapy. My therapist warned me that I would need to keep doing my exercises at least two to four times a week if I wanted to remain strong and have less pain.

So far, I am exercising every day. Eventually I will probably move to just two to four times a week, but I am so glad to be free of pain that spending a few minutes each day in exercising is a small price to pay for this new life.

One of the things I struggled with beside the pain was just being able to walk any distance. It has been so great to be able to shop for groceries or go to the mall and walk with my husband.

However, we recently attempted a walk that was probably not one I should have tried. We went to Ludington, Michigan to see one of the lighthouses there. Since moving to Michigan four years ago we have made it our mission to see as many of the lighthouses here as we can. This was the beautiful lighthouse, Big Sable, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.

French explorers first called this place Grande Point au Sable. This area, approximately nine miles north of Ludington was a landmark for sailors on Lake Michigan. In 1856 Congress gave $6,000 and the Michigan Legislature donated the land for a lighthouse. However, it was not until the end of the Civil War that Congress again gave money – this time $35,000 – and construction began in 1866. The lighthouse was completed in 1867.

We were all prepared to drive to see this lighthouse. However, on entering the park that surrounds the lighthouse, we discovered we would have to walk to the lighthouse. The walk is 1.8 miles. The rangers assured us it was a level walk with benches along the way. Knowing this would be quite the challenge, we nonetheless decided to do it.

At first it was nice. A beautiful sunshiny day with a cool breeze from the ocean, we enjoyed the beginning of the walk.

My husband climbed the sand dunes to get a closer look at the Lake
Although the path was level, believe me walking in sand is not an easy thing to do.

About halfway up the trail I began to have strong doubts about the wisdom of attempting this. My husband offered to turn back. But I had committed to this, and I was determined to finish it. I stopped at every bench along the way to catch my breath. Just when I thought I could not go on, the lighthouse appeared in the distance.

Finally, we made it! I was proud of what I had done but was scared at the thought of making the walk back. My husband, who is 82, was tired but confident he could make it back. I was not so sure that I could.

This man is amazing! Still full of energy when we reached the lighthouse.

We sat by the lake and enjoyed the view while I gulped a bottle of water and ate a candy bar. After almost 30 minutes it was clear I was afraid I would not be able to make it back the 1.8 miles. My husband asked some of the workers at the museum and gift shop if someone could drive us back. Their response was: “The only way you get a ride out of here is in an ambulance.”

Faced with no other choice we started back down the trail. Although there were benches along the way, there were several places where the benches were very far apart. My legs were holding up fine, but my poor heart was not. About halfway back I began to have difficulty breathing. At one point I leaned on my husband and tried hard to get a breath. Other walkers on the trail asked if they could help me, but unless they were willing to carry me, I did not know what they could do.

Just when I thought I could not go on, we saw the end of the trail. Exhausted I sat on a picnic table for almost 30 minutes before I could go on.

We calculated our distance when we got back to the car. It was 1.8 miles there and back but when you added in the distance from the parking lot to the start of the trail we had walked over four miles.

Looking back I am not sure that was a smart thing for us to do – but I am so proud of the fact that I did it.

Before my physical therapy there is no way I could have done that. I was in pain for a couple of days afterwards – more sore than pain – but I recovered and I DID IT!!!

A Desert in Michigan?

When I think of sand, I think of the desert.  But how neat to enjoy sand dunes right here in Michigan – right alongside a beautiful lake!

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We explored the sand dunes at Silver Lake.  They are located along Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Ludington.  Over 2,000 acres of sand, the dunes are part of the Silver Lake State Park.  The park also includes four miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, a mature forest, hiking trails and a sandy beach.

The state has set aside 450 acres for off-road vehicle rides.  Riders can bring their 4 x 4’s or they can rent off-road vehicles specially designed to meet the challenge of driving on sand.  An ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) sticker and a ten-foot orange flag is required to drive on the area.

There is also a section set aside for pedestrians to walk or sand board.

The southern section is reserved for those who do not want to drive or walk on the sand dunes but do want to explore them.  Mac Wood’s Dunes Rides has leased this section from the state park since 1930 and takes visitors on a great ride.

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My husband and I chose to take the tour and it was quite a ride.

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Our driver was a retired school teacher who has been driving the buggies every summer for 20 years.  The ride was about forty minutes and covered seven miles of up and down and around corners.  Although he never went faster than 35 miles (I was sitting next to the driver and kept an eye on his speed), it seemed much faster.  When we got the top of a hill he would speed up just before we headed down.  The kids on the ride loved that and screamed with delight.  We were entertained with silly stories by our driver and he also shared some of the history and ecology of the sand dunes.

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Along the way were things designed to give a laugh like this pair of legs sticking out of the sand.

We stopped at the top of one of the biggest hills and got out to take some pictures.

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Some of the information he shared with us explained a little of how the dunes were formed.  His explanation was simple, but here is a more detailed explanation for those of you who are interested.

When you think of sand dunes, you commonly associate them with the desert. If Michigan is not a desert, then why do we find dunes here? The answer lies in the Great Lakes, primarily Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. All along the shores of these
beautiful lakes, wave action sorts the sediments in the near-shore area. As the waves pound the beach, much of the finer-than-sand-sized materials are carried out into deeper water while the sand-sized grains and larger particles and pebbles are moved nearer to the beach. During storms, large quantities of sand are moved past the beach. Eventually these piles dry out.  Until the sand dries, water between the grains holds the sand together. The adhesive quality of the water makes the sand temporarily immobile. The adhesion does not remain after the sand dries. The dry sand can then be transported and winnowed by the wind.  The wind carries the sand inland, where it is deposited as a dune.  A plant or some other object may deflect the wind. The deflection causes the wind velocity to decrease, and the sand is dropped or deposited. This leads to the formation of a larger and larger mound that will eventually become a dune. In time the mound may
become big enough to cover the object that started its formation.  In Michigan the supply of sand is not constant. So, in time, the dunes become covered with grasses and other forms of vegetation – even trees. In fact, some of Michigan’s sand dunes look more like “tree dunes”.  The climate encourages this vegetative cover. The presence of ground water near the surface further promotes vegetation. When vegetative cover prevents
the wind from moving the sand, the dunes are stabilized.  However, if the protective vegetation is removed, or if there are exceptionally high winds or the groundwater
level drops, the sand is exposed to wind erosion, and movement or migration begins again. The area where migration begins is called a blowout. Renewed dune movement can bury anything in its path, even the forests which once may have stabilized the dune. An example of a buried forest can be seen at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

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