The first big stop of our family camping trip in 2017 was to Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. I remember hearing about massive sand dunes in Michigan decades ago, and had always wanted to see them, so I figured that this was the trip to make it happen. We didn’t have a specific place to camp at the Dunes, but that never worries me, as every time we look for a place to camp, we always wind up with stunning locations.
It’s about an 8-hour drive from our home near Akron, OH to the Dunes. Because of unexpected delays with our departure with Sammy and his type 1 diabetes, we wound up leaving near sunset, which wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. I’m a morning person, and driving late at night is always a challenge for me. However, my lovely wife Elicia wanted to get on the road and put some miles behind us, as we were already a day behind and we hadn’t even pulled out of the driveway.
We got dinner at a Sheetz and let the kids order subs there, which turned out to be a mistake with them costing us nearly $60 for that one gas station meal. I drove on and around 1:00am I decided that I needed to get some sleep, so I found a rest area that was mostly empty and stopped for the night. However, sleeping 12 people in a van overnight, one of them being 2 years old, is never fun, and it didn’t help that it was a hot night, so there was much complaining and whining and kids complaining, so I finally decided enough was enough, grabbed a pathetic little kid-sized blanket, and walked into the fields surrounding the rest area to find a dark place to get some sleep on the ground under the open sky.
Turns out that was the right move, as nobody else got much sleep at all and I got about 4-5 hours of slumber, and got up around dusk. When I got back to the AdventureVan, all the windows were all fogged up, everybody was laying on top of everybody else, there was much snoring and, and I was happy I had slept on the ground alone and content.
On the road, everybody slept the morning away until we were about 5 miles from Sleeping Bear Dunes at around 10am. The first thing I did was drove to the D. H. Day Campground which was right up the road from the big dunes and booked us a nice double site, with space for the van, camper, and two tents. We then went to the dunes.
The kids immediately started running up the huge sand bank, not understanding how massive it really is. Its size is deceiving and the were worn out before getting to the top. They also didn’t bring any water, just some pop, and were soon very sad about that decision, as they were thirsty quickly. I had the joy of dealing with a cranky two year old who just woke up, and also a sick ten year old who drank too much pop and ate chocolate before climbing the dunes. It all added up to me spending nearly no time climbing the dune before everybody was ready to go back to the campground.
We got back to the campground, we set up the popup camper, set up the tents and let the kids run off and explore the campground. Sadly, there was excellent cell phone coverage up there, so the kids spent more time on their phones than we wanted, but we knew it would end soon enough when we got into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
D. H. Day campground was super nice and exactly what we hoped for. It wasn’t overbooked, and had clean toilets. The sites are quite large, with most of them being large enough to handle an RV plus a tent with room to spare. There was no electric, which was fine with me, as the idea of the trip is to connect with each other and nature, not the online world. At the north end of the campground is a beautiful little boardwalk that takes you to a sandy beach on Lake Michigan, where I got to live out a childhood dream of mine and had a fire on the beach at night. It was all I hoped it would be!
There was a nice little town close by where we were able to do a little shopping and guy ice and some touristy things. I wish we had more time to spend in the area, but two nights were all we could afford and we packed up, poison ivy covered kids and all and headed into the UP.