I underestimated you.
So when I moved to Michigan in high school and people said lake beaches were great beaches, I scoffed. A lake can’t be a beach beach, I said. A few years later, I saw the Chicago side of Lake Michigan, and the lake itself was beautiful, with the shiny city skyline perched alongside it. But the beach area I saw—just a stretch of sand and water--was unimpressive. So I still wasn’t convinced. I didn’t doubt that the Great Lakes were gorgeous, but I doubted that lake beaches could have the feel of beach beaches.
Then, this summer, we took the long way back from Traverse City on a windy day, over to the west side of Michigan on Lake Michigan. We saw a sign for a lighthouse down a road, so we turned—and found swirly blue and white waters crashing onto the shoreline, slapping the breakwater at the base of a red and white lighthouse. Our second stop was a turnout on the highway at the top of a big hill—we came around the hill and saw a dark teal expanse of water down below, and I had to catch my breath. It was stunning. We got out and climbed higher onto a lookout point, and the bright blue waters extended as far as you could see in either direction, with curved cliffs in the distance and neat rows of waves hitting the shoreline far below. It looked like the Pacific Coast, and it was much bluer than I’d imagined.
And the beach was gorgeous, on a macro and a micro scale. There was a diverse mix of types of rocks, including bright reds, greens, and glittery golds, and some rocks with all those colors woven together. The four of us kept finding interesting rocks to show each other. In Massachusetts, we would hunt for wish rocks, which have a band of a different color all the way around--a layer of a separate type of rock wedged into the middle. They fascinated me as a kid. Here, on Lake Superior, they were everywhere.
A curve of cliffs sat along one side of the shoreline in the distance. It was not very warm while we were there, but I didn’t want to miss swimming in Lake Superior, so I plunged in. It was freezing but exhilarating, and after swimming, I helped my daughters find more rocks and build sand castles, and I let my dog swim. We watched the sun set over the water. There was no salt anywhere, and no surfers, but everything else about the experience was like an ocean beach.
We also took a cruise along Lake Superior’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which is a colorful display of layers of rock that looks like it was just sliced into at the edge of bright blue-green water, and with a forest on top.
So I was wrong, Great Lakes. I’m sorry. You’ve made me a fan, and you haven’t seen the last of me.
|Sunset over Lake Superior in Grand Marais|