We had spent the previous evening celebrating the wedding of a good friend of mine with some of my favorite people in Indiana, old friends, and new friends that felt like old friends. Talking about backyard chickens, gravity and singing along with the Beatles.
The next morning we moved a little slower than we should have and at some point during our seven hour drive to Michigan we realized that it wasn't going to be possible to reach the Sleeping Bear Dunes before the ranger station would close, leaving us with no permit to be able to camp. So, thinking quickly, I searched for other parks in the area that offered backcountry camping. Ludington State Park seemed to be our answer and we made a slight adjustment to our travel route to get us there with enough time to hike to our destination and set up camp.
After waiting in line, watching RV after RV check into their reserved spot in the park, the woman at the desk told us that their backcountry site was closed. At this point, I was getting rather discouraged. I told her that we had planned on backpacking and she said that if we took their trail to the lighthouse we could then continue on past the park border and into federal land where we could camp wherever we liked. Although I was hesitant about the fact that the woman could offer us no map of the federal land, it seemed as if things were falling into place and Andrew was encouraging and eager to get going.
So we hiked to the lighthouse.
But when we got to the lighthouse our trail came to an end. We wandered a bit. There was no additional trail or signs to be found. No obvious path that others had taken. After many attempts since first leaving the park office, we were finally able to access a map of the federal park on Andrew's phone despite the spotty service. As it turned out, the woman at the desk should have sent us down a different trail. A trail which, at that point, was at least four miles from our location. Not to mention that we would have needed to hike another two once we got past the park border to get to an area that were allowed to camp in. The sun was setting. Hiking miles in the dark was not something we were prepared for. Returning to Ludington to set up our tent amongst the RVs was certainly not in our plans but it seemed to be our only choice.
As we retraced our steps the sun slowly disappeared, the air chilled, and everything became so quiet and still. There was a point when we stopped to look around and on the dune between us and the beach stood a herd of deer silhouetted by the last bit of sunlight. It was that moment that made me stop caring that nothing had gone as planned.
The next morning we packed up and drove to Sleeping Bear.