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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Exodus

Bad decisions are made in a variety of ways. Sometimes you're foolish, sometimes you don't have enough information, sometimes you choose not to see what is right in front of you. All three of these are to blame for what happened over Labor Day Weekend.

The Scene: Sleeping Bear Dunes
The Cast of characters: Me, Katherine, Emily, Eloy, Justin, and three small children: Ally (age 6), Nick (age 4), and Kora (age 4)
The Bad Decision: To walk 7 miles round trip across the hilly, sloping sand dunes to get to Lake Michigan (which we could have easily driven down the road to get to).

All of us adults had memories of going to Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan when we were children. We all thought that once you got to the top of the main hill, the lake was right there. Wrong. We couldn't even see the lake from there. Dipping into our faulty memory banks we thought, "it can't be that far." So we kept walking to the top of another hill. Still no lake. "It must be after the next one," someone said. Once again, that proved incorrect.

Wondering how our memories could have failed us so much, we decided to walk a little bit further, thinking that any minute now, the lake would appear. However, every time we reached the top of another peak, the person who reached it first would turn around and say, "Bad news, guys."


The kids were getting a little tired out, mainly from running in a zig-zag formation, thus prematurely draining their energy sources. But they said they wanted to keep going. Reaching the lake became our main focus. I vaguely remember someone saying, "I think I read it's a three hour hike to get there and back." But we chose not to listen.


Eloy had the opportunity to turn back at one point with Nick, who was getting worn out. However, after watching the rest of us continue on the path, Nick decided he didn't want to miss out on the "fun." Eloy took three deep breaths, said, "ok" and turned to face what was ahead.


And what was ahead, you ask? Hills and sand and hills and sand. But eventually... the beach. And it really was a gorgeous beach. Not that any of us adults could really enjoy it though, remembering those steep hills we'd walked down, and knowing how unpleasant they would be to walk up. Justin tossed around the idea of breaking his ankle so we could be carried back by helicopter. We all got behind this idea but in the end he chickened out.


With the kids on our backs, we faced our destiny, and headed back. Our backs could only take so much though, so we made the kids walk some. At one point, with Kora on my back, I thought I heard gentle sobbing coming from behind me. I turned around to see Ally walking along, quietly crying. I put my arm around her shoulders and told her she was doing great. She just said, "I know," kept crying quietly, and walked ahead of us.

Thankfully, we had brought water bottles with us so no one was dehydrated, but our muscles were feeling it. The walk back was a mental game. Lying to ourselves, "this hill isn't as steep as I remember it. As long as I don't look up, I'll believe I'm almost there. This child I'm carrying is light as a feather...."


By the time we reached the final hill, we reflected on what we'd been through. One thing we all agreed on was that we were different now than we had been before we'd begun this journey. As we began our descent to the bottom of that last dune, we wondered if we'd be able to relate to those we left at the bottom of the dunes - those who were smart enough not to continue past the first huge hill. Justin said, "I feel like I should have grown a beard in the time we were gone." "Me too," I said.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, we refueled on pb&j and other sweet snacks and once they had eaten, the kids ran around in circles as if the last three hours had never happened. We collapsed on the ground and watched them run, knowing we would never be the same.

13 comments:

Ashley said...

What an adventure! Glad you're all okay! Sounds like a parable...

Katherine said...

Perfect! You captured the whole experience brilliantly! I never will be the same. Sigh. How young and naive I was on that first hill. My calves have been screaming in the days since!! But seriously, good times!!

Eloy Trevino said...

As we get older we continue our education from the School of Hard Knocks. As funny as it is I still think we'd be hard pressed to find somebody in our group that wouldn't do it again. I think you are exactly right about relating to the others. There was a forever bond formed that day. Next time we leave nobody behind. All or nothing.

Linda said...

Oh my gosh, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. A funny look at human nature at its most questionable. It kind of makes you wonder how the human race has made it this far. The pictures are priceless!

Melissa C said...

Love your take on the Dunes. This sounds very much like my experience last summer, except I wimped out and stopped once I could see Lake Michigan. Partially because it was super late when we got there due to a navigational error causing us to drive the whole lealanue (sp) pennisula prior to getting there. I had left my mom and Keira (who was 3 at the time) on the first hill and carried Soren with me on my back. It was probably a wise decision that I turned back when I did, but I would love to do the full hike sometime.

Amy said...

I felt tired just reading this post! I loved your description of the ordeal :)

Sara said...

You did it! I'm not sure if I'd want to or not. Probably not. But maybe. I'd be like the little girl. ;)

Emily said...

I felt so bad for the kids, especially poor little Ally. She was so tired. Near the end we gave the kids one last pep talk and I think they were really proud that they finished (and that they didn't die). Those crazy kids didn't even fall asleep on the way home.

Kristin McElderry said...

Yikes! So we actually had a convo at work about this a few weeks ago-- someone had the same experience of endless searching for the lake. I should have known to warn you!

I am glad you made it!!

I always just visit the sand dune on the scenic drive further south, which is right on the lake. And, if you don't want to climb 450 feet back up you can walk down the beach and send someone with a car to pick you up at the state park about a mile south.

Sarah said...

When we've gone up there before, we always tell the kids/parents not to attempt to reach the lake...it looks close, but it's a total optical illusion! I can't believe you made it there and back and lived to tell the tale!

Mrs. Church said...

My husband and I fell victim to the "surprise" hike a few years ago. Seriously one of the worst experiences ever. It was at least 85 degrees out, the sand was SO hot, and we had two bottles of water between us and nothing else. I sat down at one point on the way back and refused to walk any more. Eventually I relented and trekked on... But I will NEVER do that again!!

singlemormonchick said...

i went to the sleeping bear sand dunes as a kid. we drove and all i remember is sitting in the back of our pinto station wagon(it was the 70's)as my dad was trying to turn around and go back down one of the dunes. i felt like i was falling off a cliff. terrifying!

Brooke Romney said...

Okay, I am SO glad we didn't "keep going." I used pregnancy as an excuse! Walking up and down the first dune was just fine with us...then we drove to the lake. You guys are such troopers...your descriptions made me feel like I was there with my own kids and it would not have been fun.