Sand, sand and more sand

Little SableLast weekend we took the Fun Finder to the west coast of Michigan for a quick getaway. Silver Lake is in sand dune country on the shores of Lake Michigan. Silver Lake is a smaller lake between the dunes and the campground of the state park. We got there late Friday night, well after dark even though we took the kids out of school early so that wouldn’t happen. Somehow we end up behind schedule no matter how much we plan ahead. I don’t get it because the only things we need to pack and haul to the camper are our clothes and food. Everything else we need for a camping weekend is already in the trailer.

We weren’t even 15 minutes into the trip when The Girl tells us she has to go potty. Of course, she does. Since she’s only 6, we take these pronouncements very seriously lest we end up with a puddle in the back seat. Then we had to stop for dinner because we would be getting to the campground too late to fix dinner there.  Then we had to stop for gas because the fuel mileage in our Durango is atrocious when we’re towing the camper. Then we had another potty break before finally arriving at the park. What should have been a four-hour trip became a more-than-five-hour one.

Now it’s time to fill the freshwater tank. We can never remember which side the fresh water is on and which side the black and gray water pipes are on. I think I’m going to make a sign that says “fresh on the right, gross on the left” to keep in the car so we don’t have this debate every time we take the camper out. Every campground we’ve been to with the Fun Finder has all the water spigots on the left. Silver Lake was no exception. Great. A little maneuvering and all is good. We have water and get the camper parked on our site.

Did I mention that Silver Lake is made of sand dunes? This became important as we tried to level the camper around the drainage ditch that ran through the middle of our site. We have those snap together blocks to drive the camper onto to level it. After multiple attempts and using pieces of wood to keep the blocks from sinking into the sand, we gave up and said “good enough”.  It was actually fairly level but I think that may because the whole trailer sank into the sand.  The kids fell asleep pretty quickly that night so Daddy and I enjoyed a couple of adult beverages with some of the people we were camping with before calling it a night too.

Some of the reviews we read about Silver Lake before we left said the DNR staff was very strict about noise levels. I believe one review related the staff to the Gestapo and stated that people were forced to gather in the restrooms to hold normal conversations. It was a pretty quiet campground but the only issue we had was when a ranger asked us to turn off the outside speakers because it was officially quiet time. It was well after 10 p.m. when the ranger came by so I don’t think Gestapo is really a fair description. “Rules enforcer” would be more accurate.

Despite our late night, the kids were up bright and early the next morning. The Boy, using his 8-year-old logic, decided he’d let Mom and Dad sleep a little more and get his own breakfast. That would have been fantastic if he hadn’t taken a box of Rice Krispies into his bunk and spilled them everywhere. His bed, the floor, the bunkhouse dinette seats were all covered in little crunchy bits of cereal that were crushed underfoot as he tried to clean them. A little help from Mom and all the Rice Krispies dust was swept up.

The Girl has a love of the beach and begs to go every time we’re near one. We relaxed at camp until after lunch when we decided to give in to The Girl’s pleas and head to Lake Michigan. We followed the signs for the lighthouse and found ourselves on a beach. Little Sable light house offers tours and you can go all the way to the top for a 360-degree view of the area. We did not take the tour because neither of the children wanted to and I didn’t feel like listening to them whine all the way up. I’ve been to the top of a Great Lakes lighthouse (Au Sable in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) and The Pilot is afraid of heights, which is a pretty odd phobia for someone who flies airplanes for a living. I think it was $5 per adult and maybe $3 per child for the tour but I’d check that if you want to go. There was a small gift shop on site too.

There’s a roomy beach at Little Sable and it wasn’t very crowded. I’m assuming it would be much busier before Labor Day but the weather in mid-September was perfect, mid-80s and sunny. The water on Lake Michigan was a little rough. A few people were trying to surf but they weren’t having much luck. The kids played in the cold waves for a little bit before we decided to head back to Silver Lake for calmer, warmer water.

Silver Lake has a nice beach too and there weren’t many people there. Again, I’m sure it’s a different story during the peak summer season. Silver Lake is a large lake that can handle speed boats and Jet Skis. The beach is really shallow for a long way out, making it perfect for my less-than-perfect swimmers. I didn’t have to worry they would accidentally step into deep water. I was even able to lounge in the sun on the beach while the kids were playing in the water. We spent several hours at Silver Lake and there’s a playground available for the kids to enjoy while drying off. The park has a picnic area with charcoal grills and clean bathroom/changing facilities.

We had a potluck dinner that night with the rest of our group and called it a night pretty early. The sun takes it out of you, ya know? Part of our group had spent the day SCUBA diving a shipwreck in Lake Michigan and the others went to a nearby winery, the Fox Barn. Yes, I had them bring back wine for me, including a delicious blueberry one. The divers said the shipwreck was neat so if you’re into that sort of thing you could check that out too. Silver Lake has a designated off road vehicle area so people are able to play on the dunes with their ORVs. One member of our group took her four-door Jeep Wrangler out.

Sunday morning was spent relaxing over breakfast and packing up to head home. Check out time for Silver Lake is 1 p.m., which we missed by a few minutes. The campground was pretty empty so I don’t think the rangers would have enforced it even if we’d left a little later. All in all, I’d recommend Silver Lake as a fun getaway, though definitely be prepared to have sand everywhere. It was in my teeth, my hair, the camper and we’re still finding pockets of sand at home. I would recommend an off-season visit as it would be pretty crowded with summer travelers.

For more information, you can visit this website: http://www.michigan.org/property/silver-lake-state-park.