Some of the 13 mainland hiking trails in the Sleeping Bear Dunes are known for their jaw-dropping views. Others become popular for the access they provide to remote beaches. A few, like Windy Moraine, aren’t really popular for anything. And that’s not such a bad thing, says writer Bob Butz. Read on.
Sleeping Bear Sleeper Trail
The little joke in the car while headed out to tackle Sleeping Bear’s Windy Moraine Trail was the name.
“Windy what?” my daughter asked.
“Moron,” my son replied. Or more probably I said it first—the windy “moron” trail.
“A windy moron is what your father is,” my lovely wife said with her eyes before reading the description in our copy of the handy yet unimaginatively titled Hiking Trails put together by the Friends of the Sleeping Bear Dunes (click here for a PDF version).
“A ‘moraine’,” Nancy continued, “is a remnant of the last glacier that deposited rocks, gravel and sand to form the giant hill the trail is built on. It says the trail has a nice view of Glen Lake and an interpretive display about soils along the way.”
“Humph,” my daughter said in a bored, soil-shmoyal-you’ve-seen-one-lake-view-you’ve-seen-them-all kinda way.
I offer this little anecdote as a way to illustrate a niggling little problem for people who spend a lot of time visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—you can get spoiled pretty quick by all the beautiful scenery at the Lakeshore, especially if you’re a hiker.
Windy Moraine Trail—located on Welch Road (just east off M-109)—is one of those short, little Lakeshore “sleeper trails” that often gets passed over by weekend visitors bent on checking out the Dune Climb or the ultra-scenic Pierce Stocking Drive (also off M-109).
Once we found the trailhead parking lot, I remembered it as one my wife and I hiked many years prior. The highlight on that particular late summer day was pulling up and spotting a large parade of wild turkeys parading across the field. After that, the trial loop described in the book as “moderately difficult” never left the woods for most of its 1.5 miles. And half of it is uphill, a gradual incline through rolling a forest of maple and beech.
Taking Time To Climb
We didn’t see any turkeys this time. But one really cool thing we did happen upon roughly 10 minutes after we started was this colossal-looking old tree—or, rather, what was left of it. Not the kind of natural wonder you’re going to find mentioned in any local guidebook, but exactly the sort of unexpected surprise a parent is happy to stumble upon when trekking through the woods with two children who think hiking is a bore.
We let the kids climb for a while before pressing on uphill. I kept thinking while ascending that long, gentle slope what a great workout it would be in winter on a pair of skis. By the description in the guidebook, Windy Moraine Trail is one of those Lakeshore hiking and cross-country ski paths clearly built with the latter in mind.
After we reached the top and the sunny spot overlooking Glen Lake, it was an easy, winding downhill stroll that would have made for a long, wicked-fun run on skis. Aside from a soaring vulture and lots of deer tracks in the sand on backside of the moraine, near the parking lot, there is little else to say about the trail beyond mentioning that Nancy and I definitely plan to put this on our cross-country ski list next winter.