Spring Equinox on Good Harbor Bay, Sleeping Bear Dunes

Good Harbor Bay on the first day of spring, 2013.

When I first moved to Northern Michigan, I was so surprised at how much beauty I found in what was then called “the off season.” These pictures are a perfect example of what I mean. They were taken at sunset on the first day of spring at Good Harbor Bay, in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I was there waiting for some friends to show up for an impromptu Spring Equinox celebration bonfire. As I waited, a snow squall blew in from the north and west. That might sound disheartening to people tired of winter (snow on the first day of spring?!), but not if you have on nice warm clothes and a camera in your hand. The gathering, by the way, (though windy and sometimes snowy) was a success and lasted well into the dark.

Another important thing happened as I stood there waiting for my campadres. I saw a man down the beach, maybe a quarter mile away, staring at the sand, bending over, obviously looking for rocks. After a short bit, he walked down to where I was. He was maybe in his 70s—clearly a true northerner, since, despite a stiff north wind, he had no hat and his coat was unzipped (while I was totally bundled in hat, puffy down coat and snowpants). He told me his wife had recently died and that shortly before she passed, she asked him to come down to Good Harbor Bay to get her some rocks, because she’d always loved the rocks here. So he came down to the beach in the middle of winter to look for some rocks. And this winter, there was a lot of snow and ice, and the beaches were buried in mounds of it. Think about trying to rock hunt in that—bring an ice ax and snow shovel. But when he showed up, he found a big shelf of ice along the shore, and on the ice shelf there were waiting dozens of perfectly round stones, each the exact same size, a little bigger than a baseball, just sitting there, ready for him to choose. I regret I did not ask him to describe the rocks, but I’m guessing they were that menagerie of stones that the glaciers pushed down from hundreds and even thousands of miles away–polished by ice and sand and water, worn smooth. Basalt a bottomless black, sandstone red like terra cotta, pink-flecked granite, gray-flecked granite, the milky mein of quartzite–all of it living in a time beyond our comprehension, and on that day, when the man came to look, served up to take back to his wife. This story is not made up.

—Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine

Love the colors in this one. 


A smidgeon of sun and patch of blue are the only hints of spring on this day.


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