Monday, September 11, 2017

Sep 11 – Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and Empire Bluffs

We headed from our campground in the very south end of the park to first do a scenic drive along with a hike beside it and then went a bit south of there to do another trail out to the lakeshore.


The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a 7.5 mile looping road with 12 numbered stops. The first quick one was a covered bridge.


Another quick one was the overlook to Glen Lake.


The point that extends into the lake from the left is called Alligator Hill.

Next was called Dune Overlook.


Next the nearby longer stop to hike the 1.5 mile loop called the Cottonwood Trail. Most of the tail can be seen from the Dune Overlook.

I had read a blog post from a while ago and they had found the trail to be very difficult, saying that they barely had enough energy to get back to the car. They must have really been in bad shape because it was actually pretty easy.

Down we go.


There is a booklet at the trailhead that describes some numbered stops. When we got to stop number one, all it said was “Watch out for the Poison Ivy”. We didn’t touch it but I thought the warning could have been made a bit more noticeable.


This area is called a Blowout. The wind scoops out the sand to form a bowl.


The sand on the dunes here is not very thick. Some sections of the trail were hard packed stone, which lies under all the dunes.


The only sandy climb on the trail.


Off in the distance we could see the Dune Climb and its parking lot at the bottom.


The top of the loop of this trail is the top of the Dune Climb.


One of the must do things is to climb this 110 foot vertical dune. It is on our list for later. From the top everyone looks so tiny.


Above, you can see a speck just about dead center.


This picture is zoomed to about what your eye can see. Everyone is still quiet small.


It would have been a good place for lunch but it was too early. Onwards.



I did not expect to find little sandy mushrooms here.


It was not a hugely interesting trail but it was good exercise. Here is our path.



The next 4 (non) stops were just about the local ecology. We just read the brochure.

The next stop was the Lake Michigan Overlook. The platform is 450 feet above the lake over the dunes as they angle very sharply down to the lake.


Looking to the north for the platform. There is a person walking along the edge.



The photosphere from this view.

I exaggerated the colours in this picture but the hues in the water were quite vivid.


Just to the south of the platform was an area where you were strongly discouraged from climbing / falling down to the lake but you were allowed to. It would cost you if you had to be rescued.

I tried to do a panorama but it got very distorted and didn’t show the steepness very well. Here are the 3 separate pictures.



Notice how thin the trail gets near the bottom. Not a lot of people go all the way down.


The photosphere.

I went over and walked down a short way, far enough that I could see to the bottom.


Looking back up at Jennie.


The photosphere from here. Unfortunately it has a glitch at the bottom of the climb.

Looking up at the platform.


These next two picture were to be another panorama that failed. A couple had gone to the bottom and were slowly crawling their way back up.



An out of focus zoom but they were literally crawling, with LOTS of breaks.


I climbed back up to Jennie and tried to climb above her but the cliff falls off too fast to see it.


It looked like this family was going down.



Down another path was a view to the north called the Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook.


The dark green patch just above and left of Jennie’s head is The Sleeping Bear Dune but it has eroded so much it is now just a bump.

There was a nice bench and it was out of the wind so we had lunch here.


Back at the car we drove south to the trailhead for the Empire Bluff Trail. It is a 1.5 mile roundtrip path through the forest to a view of the Sleeping Bear Dunes to the north.


It was a nice wide path with a few downs but mostly ups as we made our way to the bluff.




Part way along they went to a lot of effort and cleared out a lot of trees to give this view.


I think where we were is around the corner.


Once we left the forest.


Then a boardwalk along the bluff edge to a viewing area.


The photosphere.

It looked like the hill above it was used to hang gliding.


An unofficial path continued and I asked a couple just coming back and they said it was worth it to continue. Unfortunately  it was just a narrow trail cut into a very steep cliff so it was a no go for Jennie. I went a short way just to take a look.


Looking back.


And a photosphere from here.

Time to head back.


We were done for the day so it was home to the RV for an ice cream.

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