July Evening at Point No. 9 - 07.23.15
Nothing embodies northern Michigan more than the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and there is no better spot in the dunes than Point No. 9 along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
The drive weaves through forest and open meadows and along panoramic overlooks. It features views for miles to the west over Glen Lake, to the north over Glen Haven and Glen Arbor, and to the south over Empire and North Bar Lake. No spot can can compete with Point No. 9 though, which sits atop 400 foot Sleeping Bear Bluff and provides visitors with views that seemingly stretch to Wisconsin.
I recently visited the dunes and timed the trip perfectly to hit Point No. 9 at sunset. Easily accessible from a parking lot, a boardwalk leads up a slight incline before one of the greatest views in the United States emerges -- that of Lake Michigan from atop Sleeping Bear Bluff.
One of the remarkable things about Sleeping Bear Dunes is that, even after some amazing accolades in recent years, it still sees far fewer visitors than many other national parks and national lakeshores in the United States. On this night, there were roughly fifty people milling about, dropping their blankets for a sunset picnic, and taking in the view. The small crowd even cleared momentarily, allowing me to get the sunset shot below.
For those willing to venture just a bit off the main boardwalk and do some easy climbing, there are beautiful dunegrasses along sandy trails that provide different vantage points of the lake. This particular bluff was atop a shelf sitting about twenty feet above the main boardwalk.
Stepping out to the edge of this shelf gave a great view not just of the lake, but of all the tourists getting ready to take in the sunset, as if arriving early for fireworks on the Fourth of July.
The overlook itself, adorned with the "9" logo, is the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset from what feels like the top of the world. Of course, everyone there wants to crowd the edge, so it is not exactly the best place to get solitude. Here, about thirty people crowd the overlook for a peek down the bluff and over the lake. Among them was a boy scout troop from Ohio, one of whom excitedly declared, "This is the most awesome thing I have ever seen." I certainly cannot disagree.
Not wanting to lug my camera, tripod, and gear through the crowd above, I snuck down below for a shot from under the Overlook just a few minutes before sunrise.
Within minutes of the sun setting, all but a few people left. Too bad for them. The best light of the day starts when the sun goes away, especially if you are trying to get some great photographs. Looking back along the boardwalk, the light was perfect about fifteen minutes after sunset. I would have stayed there all night to photograph the stars, were it not for the front gates closing in a few minutes.