Aaron and I have never been hugely outdoorsy people. I have only been camping once in my entire life, and we aren't particularly athletic individuals! However, when we moved to Grand Rapids, we realized we were suddenly only 45 minutes away from a lake the size of a small ocean, and our interest in the outdoors instantly became deeper.
Our first trip to the lake, we went to Saugutuck Dunes beach on a Sunday evening to watch the sunset. As we sat on our bench and witnessed the sun slowly slipping down past the horizon, I fell in love with the immense, majestic lake and the wild dunes and forest surrounding it. I have never been much of a beach person, to be honest, but this one captured my heart. It reminded me of the beaches I have visited with my family in England; cool, windy, and forested, with multiple dunes and ridges instead of flat stretches of sand.
The sunset-watching part of our first lake trip was magical. However, the night didn't end as well as it had started. At Saugutuck, there is a small forest that one has to hike through in order to get to the lake. The forest was well-lit with beautifully filtered sunlight when we hiked to the beach, so we didn't even think about what it would be like to walk back in the dark. It was definitely dusk by the time we started our hike back to the car, and the forest was black. We took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and didn't realize it until we emerged from the woods into an open field, which was clearly NOT where we had parked our car.
We spent the next fifteen minutes or so trying to find our bearings and figure out how to get back to the car. We set out again along the only trail in sight, hoping it would lead us closer to where we needed to be! I was a little bit nervous, but I also had full faith in my husband's ability to get us safely back to the parking lot. There was still a glimmer of light on the horizon, and I was hopeful.
We wandered until we came across a giant brick house and started to wonder afresh how we were going to find our way back. It turned out that we had accidentally stumbled across the Felt Mansion, a beautiful, stately old home that has now been turned into a popular wedding and reception venue.
At this point, though, I was starting to get worried. The sun was all the way down, night was settling in fast, and we had no idea where we were. We also didn't have great cell phone service. In my moment of panic, I started freaking out a little bit and worried that we would end up spending our night sleeping on the side of the road. Ha. Aaron started walking again and said he was pretty sure he knew how to get us back to the car now. I asked if he was positive, to which he responded, "no!" How comforting, Aaron.
But since we didn't really have an option, we set off. We had to walk all the way out to the highway, follow that for awhile, and then take the turn onto the same street that had led us into the state park area earlier, when we were in our car. The parking lot came into view and I could have almost cried in relief!
Fortunately, since that time, we have not gotten lost again at Saugutuck! We've enjoyed the beach both in the burning afternoon sunlight and again in the cool of sunset. And even though my first Lake Michigan experience was a little bit traumatic, it has only deepened my affection for it, if anything. I am looking forward to many more lake trips!