In 2009 I decided to take on a big challenge – an ADVENTURE – and ended up getting to know my favorite place by walking entirely around it. That place? Lake Michigan, the world’s fifth-largest lake.
My journey of 1,019 miles allowed me to see the lake in all its moods and – by tackling the hike in segments spread over 7 months – in all four seasons, too. I walked the sandy stretches most people flock to in the summer, and rocky outcroppings and wild stretches less traveled. By hiking around this immense body of water, I have recorded it in my muscles and bones, as well as in my new book, A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach.
These photos will take you along with me on that hike along Michigan’s sunset coast and rugged Upper Peninsula. It’s a place worth exploring, full of natural beauty and rugged wild parts nestled close to lovely lake towns.
Wild surf near Fennville
A storm kicked up these 4-5 foot waves near Fennville, MI. Did you know that during the summer, some try to go surfing on Lake Michigan?
Frost on Sand
One morning there was a light scrim of frost on the sand near Holland, MI. The sand dunes along the Indiana portion of Lake Michigan are incredible.
Big Sable Lighthouse near Ludington
Big Sable Lighthouse north of Ludington, MI. There are upwards of 50 lighthouses that line all sections of the lake.
Harbor at Frankfort
Harbor at Frankfort. The deepest point in the lake (over 900 feet) is offshore here. Being the third largest great lake, Lake Michigan has no shortage of harbors.
Ghost forest in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This is a ghost forest — trees that have been entombed and killed by the moving sand, then revealed when the sands shifted — in the beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Cherry trees in Bloom
Cherry trees in bloom near Traverse City, MI. When you think of Lake Michigan, you might think of big cities like Chicago, but much of the shore has a much more peaceful outlook.
Due to Lake Michigan’s shape, water that enters it tends to circulate quite slowly (like a big drain) before eventually emptying out into one of the tributaries leading out of the lake.
Outcropping of slate
Near Norwood, MI, a large deposit of shale is exposed at the shoreline. Although a common building material, slate isn’t as wildly abundant here as elsewhere in the northeast US and eastern Canada.
Black Bear Tracks
Tracks of black bear in sand west of Charlevoix, MI. The wildlife of the great lakes is vast, from the birds that fly overhead to fish that are hiding in the waters.
Bolders in the surf
Colorful boulders sit in the surf near Cross Village, MI, probably dropped off by glaciers and the shifting sands and waters of the shoreline.
This temperate orchid, the lady slipper, blooms along the road in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There are many such unique flowers that grow around the lake, such as the state of Michigan’s “official wildflower,” the dwarf lake iris.
Lake Michigan is one of five “great lakes,” made by glaciers that carved these massive holes as they retreated to the north. French traders were the first to explore these lakes, in the 1600s, and the first to name it – it’s been called Lac St Joseph, Lac Dauphin, Lac des Illinois, and even Michi Gami (by the Indians) before becoming Lake Michigan.
Limestone shore on the Upper Peninsula
The shoreline is mostly limestone in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s beautiful – perfect place for a picnic.
Fayette State Park
Limestone cliff at Snail Harbor at Fayette State Park near the city of Garden in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Another unique reminder of those glaciers, who ferociously carved out these magnificent lakes.
To Learn more about Lake Michigan, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach.