how sleeping bear dunes bewitched Good Morning America and me

There I was sitting across from two bewitching pros at a magical lunch at Blu in Glen Arbor. Traverse Magazine and managing editor Lissa Edwards can light up a room just entering it. And our new friend Sabrina Parise, a producer at Good Morning America charmed us at “hello.” Yup, I’m alluding to the cousins, Samantha and Sabrina, of TVs Bewitched. Early on at lunch it was clear that despite the uncooperative weather, we were going to be able to show the world a little magic by the end of our partnership.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore brought us together. Sabrina was on a mission to film the most beautiful places in America. She had only a few days to capture all that is Sleeping Bear Dunes. And while it only takes one visit to be awe-struck by Sleeping Bear Dunes, one cannot cover it’s grandeur in a single trip. In fact Lissa has spent decades discovering the Dunes and is still surprised by the majesty of the Dunes. So Traverse Magazine and shared some of the footage from last summer’s 6 weeks of filming over all of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Our footage is now part of our special 45 minute DVD, Journey into Sleeping Bear Dunes, and several shots made it into Good Morning America’s coverage of the Dunes.


Our luncheon on the beach was shrouded in cloud cover, but Lissa provided all the clarity we needed, recounting the history of how the park came to be, her family’s creative dune tag and all the secrets of the dunes. We watched paddle boarders and sail boats crossing the Manitou channel without a Manitou Island in sight, veiled by the haze of the day.

And while I was enjoying the stories, Randy Chamberlain, the chef and owner of Blu, put dish after dish in front of us starring local ingredients.  And he worked several seasons into one meal starting with a creamy amuse bouche with a cherry garnish. We enjoyed morels, local greens, walleye, crawdads, cherries (of course), Leelanau raclette and smoked whitefish in an incredible cucumber soup.

As I was listening, I was reminded, again, of just how much of the Sleeping Bear Dunes I haven’t seen. When we were kids coming north from St. Louis, we’d try to fit all our favorite things into the two weeks of vacation, repeating the same two weeks oftentimes because it was all so wonderful we didn’t want to miss a moment. Sabrina’s plan included all my childhood favorites like the Dune Climb, the Pierce Stocking Trail and the Maritime Museum. Plus a few places I’ve discovered since then like Good Harbor Beach at sunset and South Manitou Island. Her schedule didn’t fit a paddle down the Crystal River, shooting the tube. And I don’t think she was able to see the shipwreck rescue demonstration at the Maritime Museum.

To Lissa, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are more than her vocation, and more than her avocation. She has a passion for protecting the dunes like a mother does a child. And she knows every bluff, the turns of all the streams and which trails are more thrilling under cross country skis, covered in fall’s glorious colors or concealing leeks and coveted morels in spring. Lissa is a great resource for Sabrina’s express tour, fitting a lifetime of experience living on the dunes into an afternoon’s tour.

Sabrina is a gracious professional and talked with us about the goals of the story, her life in New York and where she likes to spend her weekends. She’s spent time in Tuscany, likes the Jersey shore and gushed about the little bit of Glen Lake, the Dune Climb and our hazy beachside table that she’d seen thus far. When she mentioned that her goal was to travel more, I asked her where, expecting a list of exotic foreign lands. After a long think, she answered sincerely, “Well, here.”

Now that I live here, I need to find the time to visit all those other places in Sleeping Bear Dunes. My daughter recently extolled the benefits of Shalda Creek, having been to the beach where it dumps into Lake Michigan with friends; I haven’t been there yet. And we have a new favorite, the Manitou Transit Sunset Cruise, that we’ll repeat for the second time with our family this week.  And I’m really interested in canoeing the Platte River, an adventure that’s been on this summer’s agenda since May and just hasn’t quite materialized.

By the time our wonderful server brought a cherry cobbler covered in Moomer’s Ice Cream, we hoped to see the Manitou Islands. Nope, still a secret from Sabrina.  (Note: Moomer’s Ice Cream was declared the best by a Good Morning American poll.) The ladies however had a clear plan for the rest of their day and I had fallen under the spell of Sleeping Bear Dunes all over again. All it took was an enchanting lunch with two magical ladies.

If you’d like a great list of “10 Places Not to Miss at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,” compiled by my knowledgeable friends the editors of Traverse Magazine, download it now.


You can vote for the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the Good Morning America Most Beautiful Places in America poll.


Check out Lissa’s blog on her experience showing Sabrina the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

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