Eclectalife, Michigan — July 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

My Socialist Independence Day Vacation in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore



I’m sitting here sipping on my water bottle this morning, the last piece of My Socialist Independence Day Vacation: it’s filled with the deliciously pure water from the D.H. Day Campground just outside of Glen Arbor, Michigan. Anne and I spent the past week there and I always return refreshed but also reminded that one of our greatest national treasures is our National Park system.

Take a look at this picture:

Yeah, it’s a cute picture taken by Anne of our pit bull Sunni playing fetch in Lake Michigan (Anne documented this, his first camping trip, in photos on her Facebook page.) That’s the majestic Empire Bluffs in the distance. But it’s also a great example of why this socialist place, paid for and owned by ALL Americans, is so special. How many people do you see on that beach on this warm sunny day? Almost none. It’s a place where you can kick back on a perfect sand beach on a summer day with your dog and see almost nobody else. And that’s on the mainland. Go out to the Manitou Islands for a backpacking trip and you can be on your own for days at a time if you wish.

There’s a great book called Sixties Sandstorm that tells the story of the Sleeping Bear Dunes area becoming a national park. I’ve read it twice and both times I came away wondering if, in today’s political climate dominated by tea party types who reject anything done collectively as a society, it would ever have happened in the 21st century. It’s a great solace to me that my “power place”, the place where I got married to Anne nine years ago, in fact, is there; protected and maintained forever for the people of the United States. Given the corporatist drive to privatize everything, I can’t help but think this place, which was chosen as “The Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011 by Good Morning, America, would be mined for its sand and turned into a commercial sideshow a la Niagara Falls by those who would make money from it.

But, it’s not and so we are able to enjoy its fabulous beaches, its unique geological features, the quiet forests, and the idyllic rivers anytime we wish. And, even on the busiest tourist weekend of the year, find empty beaches where we can reset our mental and emotional levels back to zero and refresh our souls.

In a rather interesting moment of randomness and irony, we were watching the 4th of July parade in Glen Arbor (where dog bones rained from the sky for Sunni’s enjoyment), this was tossed to me from one of the parade floats:

Even in The Most Beautiful Place in America, the story of our state’s largest city was part of the experience.

Other highlights included:

  • Breakfast with Betsy Coffia and Rochelle Noel, the organizers of the recent Save Our Public Schools rally at the Capitol
  • A beautiful morning hike to the top of Alligator Hill where you can see nearly all of the park dunes from above, towering over the spectacular Lake Michigan
  • Fireworks along Sleeping Bear Bay on the 4th of July where no fewer than seven different displays were happening simultaneously
  • Meeting a new friend, Peggy, from Saugatuck, involved with the “Until Love is Equal” LGBT rights group out of Holland
  • Watching the sun set over South Manitou Island (twice!) from Sunset Beach, the place where Anne and I got married nine years ago this August

So, Hooray for Socialism! and our ability to work together collectively to do amazing things as a union of caring citizens. I hope your holiday was as socialist as ours was.

  • Amy Lynn Smith

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder of the beauty that’s practically in our backyard — and that belongs to us all.

  • Cecelia LaPointe

    Do you know the lore and legend of Sleeping Bear and the Anishinaabe people? I am glad you enjoyed your socialist Independence Day in Anishinaabe Territory. Sleeping Bear area is very bourgeoisie. I danced in the jiingtamok (powwow) celebrating community and my culture in a proletariat, rural, rez community called “Manistee.” Most pass through our community to go to the fancy places “up north.”

    • I absolutely do know the story. I also hope I honor your people’s reverence of the area by focusing on the energy and power that emanates from it, rather than on spending my time shopping and being a “tourist” while I am there. The most powerful experiences are to be had along the rivers, on the lake shores, and in the forested dunes, not in the shops.

      • Cecelia LaPointe

        Exactly. :-)

  • Great vacation there, and I’m glad for the reminder that these beautiful places belong to everyone. Our grandson (age 12) is at Sleeping Bear today with his dad. They love it there, too, and I would hate to think these special places would be in danger of being commercialized. If they belonged to the state of Michigan, that danger would be very real.

    We went to Pictured Rocks National Seashore a couple of weeks ago–one of our favorite places and equally, if not more beautiful. It was a lovely summer day but we had the beaches nearly to ourselves. That, of course, suits us just fine. There are also no concession stands within miles of these places. I love that. It’s as close to wilderness as I’m likely to get these days.

    • Lake Superior, particularly around the Pictured Rocks (Grand Island, too!) is definitely a power place if equal importance to me.

  • BillW

    Your post made me remember an interaction I had when canvassing last fall. I knocked on a door here in Milan and the guy who answered, once he figured out I was canvassing for Obama, asked me what the 4th of July was about. Fearing the worst, I said it was about independence from England. He then told me that if Obama was reelected there would be no more freedom and no more 4th of July! I must admit that I was tempted to knock on his door on the 4th and ask if there was still a 4th and whether the US still existed, but sadly I know better than to feed the trolls…

    • Hah! I had a guy honestly worried about Obama banning people from buying seeds and growing their own food. He was, of course, a big fan of Glenn Beck. Yeesh…

  • potter12

    Hey, while I couldn’t agree more– we take an annual vacation to SBD with our dog every year; it is truly paradise– please do me a favor and quit blabbing about this. We’d just as soon keep it to ourselves!