The next stop on my Michigan trip is Ludington. Ludington State Park features 12 miles of beach just north of the town of the same name along the shores of Lake Michigan. I chose Ludington as the furthest north that I would explore on this trip. Cecil and I rolled in and found the park almost deserted, on a windy cloudless Monday. It took me forever to choose a site, but once I did, It was “Game On’ to see how fast I could set camp, and then….get out for a spin on the sand.
I rode from the campground with the Big Sable Lighthouse as my target with a strong gusty wind at my back. It’s a couple of miles from the main beach to the lighthouse. I noticed that Michigan’s beaches seem cleaner than the beaches across the lake in WI. Maybe cleaner isn’t the best way to describe it. There are almost no zebra mussel shells. Rocks and pebbles are pretty rare, as well. The way to the lighthouse was pure silken sand that required a very low gear anywhere away from the surf-splash-zone. It wasn’t long before the 112 foot tall Big Sable Lighthouse broke the horizon to the North. I pedaled up and found I had the place all to myself.
I spent the good part of the next hour steeped in touristy indulgence The cobalt skies and the striking monochrome structure made for some good photos. The area north of Ludington State Park is the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness (No Bikes Allowed), so I decided to ride back south on a hilly sand doubletrack park road, that offered a little shelter from the wind, while showcasing delicious dune topography.
On my way back to the main beach area, I couldn’t help getting that ‘twilight zone’ kind of feeling, because of the eerie absence of people. I hung out at the CCC constructed Beach House without encountering another person. I pulled a cold beer from my frame pack and enjoyed that TZ vibe and the voluptuous specter.
After a bit of poking around riding along the Big Sable River up to the dam and Lake Hamlin, I finally rolled back to camp. That night after dinner, Cecil and I laid in our bunks and watched a parade of racoons work the campground for scraps. I fell asleep to the sound of thunder and dreamed of tomorrow’s beach ride.
The next day I pedaled through the park, south from the Big Sable River to the town of Ludington. I would guess I rode about ten miles of beautiful pristine beach and only saw two people the entire way. I would wager to say that in “high season’ these beaches would be pretty crowded and should be avoided, but beacause this was ‘off-season’ they were deserted. This was perfect beach cruising, with the exception of the ample head wind.
Ten miles of beach riding into a headwind made me thirsty! I found a bar and enjoyed a Bell’s Oberon and topped that with a burger for lunch. I shopped for a few key provisions and then (with the wind at my back) pedaled the beach back to the river and camp. Cecil and I whooped it up and stayed up till past ten o’clock for the first time on the trip – wHooT! There’s nothing like outdoor live’n to tucker me out! Ludington really whetted my appetite for further beachsplorations north of there. Leelanau County looks like a treasure map of beach riding, with islands and coastline that undulate, resembling amoebic pseudopods…….and don’t get me started on the UP of Michigan……I’m obsessed with UP Beach riding!
In Episode Três – We migrate south to Silver Lake State Park for more from the singing sands of the Michigami coast…..