23 August 2011

Junior Rangers Helping Keep Sleeping Bear Dunes "The Most Beautiful Place in America"

Guess what it feels like to wake up in the most beautiful place in America? Normal! That's because we live in Northern Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (SBDNL), Winner of "The Most Beautiful Place in America", is in our back yard. Now the rest of the world is on to something very special...

The Legend of The Sleeping Bear, believed to be an Ojibwe story, goes something like this --as told by The Mom to The Sisters when they were little:
The Legend of Sleeping Bear
"A big, old sweet Mama Bear was enjoying the good life on the shores of Wisconsin when a forest fire forced her into the waters of Lake Michigan with her two baby bears. They swam and they swam and oh, how they would have loved Michigan, but sadly the two babes weren't strong enough for that powerful lake. Those babies tried to keep up with Mama and they almost made it, but they were too little and where their tired bodies gave in to the waters of Lake Michigan rose North and South Manitou Islands. What happened to Mama Bear?  Well, she did reach the shore of Michigan and laid her sad body down to watch over her babies, like a good mother does, and there she remains forever." We like to think Mama Bear watches over all who visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes and once you visit, we bet you will never forget the grace and beauty of Great Mama Sleeping Bear.
The Sisters with SBDNL
Superintendent Dusty Shultz
Last Wednesday morning we learned about the big win for our local economy --and the big lose for those who would like to keep this treasure a secret. We just happened to be in the sweet little town of Empire, home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes Phillip A. Hart Visitors Center. The Sisters being  Junior Rangers wondered how they could help the National Lakeshore with this newly found fame and thankfully Superintendent of SBDNL, Dusty Shultz, had a moment to share and answer a few questions:

The Big Sister asked Dusty, "how can a Junior Ranger help protect the National Lakeshore?"

Dusty: "By being a great ambassador for the park. And by that I mean when you have a chance to talk to people about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore talk about the very special resources that we have here at the park and how we preserve and protect them so that future generations can enjoy them as well."
She accentuated, "so that YOUR children and your children's children can still come to Sleeping Bear Dunes and enjoy the same things that you are enjoying right now."

The Little Sister wanted to know "mountain lions... are there really cougars in Northern Michigan?"

Dusty: "That's the $100,000 question! A great question! The reason is because we have received numerous, numerous reports of the cougars/mountain lions being in the area and some from very credible sources. But we haven't been able to find any physical evience of the cougar being in the area. We've done things like put up cameras in the woods where we would try to photograph and had some deer that were killed along the road used as bait, thinking it would draw the cougar into the area and we would be able to get photographic evidence of a cougar, nothing worked. We have done snags to try to collect hair, fur from the animal.. nothing there. We've even gone to look for scat. Do you know what scat is?"
What to do? Click here.
Giggles from The Sisters, as they respond the affirmative. 
Dusty concluded, "all of those things have not come up with anything physical that we can say 'yes, there are absolutely cougars in the area'. But, as I mentioned there are numerous reports in the area, so we like to advise our visitors to be careful, be watchful and enjoy the scenery when you are out there hiking, but there is a possibility (of cougars) we just don't know for sure..." 

How do you feel about the publicity? 
Dusty: "I think it is great. The thing we enjoy most about SBD and being here are the wonderful resources we share with the public --you enjoy them, other people have that same opportunity to enjoy it as well. To me, the 71,000 acres that encompases SBDNL is plenty of room for everybody! So, you go to the beach and it's kind of crowded, just walk down the shoreline a litttle bit futher, low and behold, you are all by yourself or pretty close to it! That is kind of remarkable. Go to one of the inland lakes and there are no houses or development all around some of those lakes which is pretty special. There is plenty of room for everybody, we are just going to have to disperse them, if we need to, but right now there is room, just enjoy and experience this place, because it is so very special."

Do you have a favorite spot? 

Dusty: "There are many... Empire BluffsThe Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and Glen Haven. We have some parks that are noted for their natural beauty and natural resources; we have some that are historical; and then we have some other parks that are recreational in nature. Sleeping Bear Dunes ties them all together and that is what makes this place so very special!"
What is a Junior Ranger? According to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore a Junior Ranger is:
"...someone who, after completing the requirements, promises to take care of Sleeping Bear Dunes and other national parks. The Junior Ranger program is a fun way to learn about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and about how you can help protect the park; just like our park rangers!"
Junior Rangers: A great free book and an amazing program 
from Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore
(The Sisters recommend it highly!)

Summer is not over, there are still weeks left --Autumn begins September 23, 2011. So, go ahead, find a National Park near you, click here! No nearby National Parks? No problem, try the on-line Junior Ranger Program, click here, get started and have FUN!

Take a moment and learn more! Have you ever visited Northern Michigan? There is no time like the present and the world could certainly use a few more Junior Rangers!

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore really is special and Superintendent Dusty explained, "there is room for everyone."


  1. Two Bonus interviews we did while visiting Empire --our post was getting long, so we thought we'd add these goodies as comments!

    Empire Village Inn was filled with a late lunch crowd: a three-generational trio from Flint, a booth nearby filled with SBDNL Rangers, another with an octogenarian couple eating juicy burgers; all around there were conversations, friendly and happy. We decided we wanted to know what one of the locals thought of the GMA win, "I think we are all kind of excited about it, that such a small area has been noticed, but at the same time we are protective." Aubrie Parth just graduated from college, "right now serving tables is the best way to make money... it's hard work, but it gets you through college and it would be great if the attention makes tourist season was a little longer!" Aubrie grew up hearing "you're vacation spot is our home!" With a laugh she shared, "I hope that visitors recognize that places like this won't exist if they aren't respected and protected. Lake Michigan is a gorgeous lake, it's clean and it is something to be taken care of." The Sisters totally agree.

    Last stop, one of the best places on earth: Grocer's Daughter Chocolate. Owner Mimi Wheeler shared some of her insights --while we ate our fudgesicles, please, don't leave without trying one-- "I am happy with the great honor to have been given the recognition of being the most beautiful place in the United States and many of us who live here know it our hearts that it is correct, it is true!" As a year round business owner she has a good perspective "I am also happy if it gives more sustainability to the area, meaning more year round jobs and it will give the business community a boost." If you've ever stopped in at Grocer's Daughter you'll recall the friendly atmosphere and you cannot forget the chocolate, this area isn't just know for the dunes, it's also a "Foodie Haven!"

    Do you have any favorite spots in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?

  2. This is great! We are headed out there tomorrow-- where can you pick up one of the junior ranger books? thanks!

  3. @ Megan Get your Junior Ranger at the Phillip A Hart Visitors Center (in Empire!)

    Have fun!

  4. Wow, thanks for the interview! I really enjoyed getting to know all of you and am going to start following your wonderful project!

  5. I had to share this! The Glen Arbor Sun linked to it this morning and it is so funny! It's one man's reaction to all the people coming to Leelanau County...


    (PS) It is appropriate for all ages.