Sunset Dune/Pier Run

(GoPro Video of this post was posted a couple days ago.  See previous as well)

Friday night I drove out to Lake Michigan to the town of Grand Haven. I didn’t have any plans to do so, but when I looked out my window and saw the colors in the sky, I knew I couldn’t miss the sunset that would be happening in a couple of hours. I threw on my gear and dashed out to my car and got on my way.

I arrived at PJ Hoffmaster State Park with about an hour to spare. The sky was a mix of pink, orange, and red. I drew the speedlaces on my Salamon Fellraisers and hit the trail.

I ran a couple of loops I had never been on before there, and ultimately wound up at the beach, which was my ultimate goal. I met a runner out there who was starting his way back. We introduced each other, swapped some stories, and were on our ways. I began to head along the beach down toward a sand dune, the tallest one in the park.

The sand was frozen in some spots, which made for really good traction. Other times it was really sand on top of snow, and you would just sink right on down. I had on my gaiters, which saved me from getting a mess inside of my shoes. The climb up was a good effort. Nothing difficult, but a steep dune nonetheless.

I arrived at the top with about 10 minutes to spare before sunset. From the top I could look out and see the city in the distance behind me, and lake michigan, complete with a frozen, icy, iceburg shore on the other side. The sun was low, and made pink streaks across the lower sky. The sand and snow reflected some of it, and everything was kind of a glowing orange color. I watched as the last sliver of pink was swallowed up by the iceburgs, disappearing until another time.



I began the run (*sprint*) down the dune, dodging stray branches and ice on the way down. I trekked the beach out to the “danger zone” where the water/ice met the sand. It wasn’t worth death by hypothermia for me to see the open water at the edge of the iceburgs. I went back in.

I took the trail back. It was getting dark, and once I was in the woods it became even darker with each step. I clicked on my headlamp and illuminated the woods around me. Again, I forked off to a loop I had never been on. It followed a “back dune” with a few guardrails along the edge, rolling up and down some small hills. I got back to my car just before full dark. Running on a runners high, I still wanted more. I hopped in and drove back to Grand Haven. I parked along the Grand River and began my run on the boardwalk.

The boardwalk was a little bit sketchy. A large section of it was snow piled up to the edges of the handrails. A mis-step running that high on the handrails would have landed you in the icy channel below. I made sure to keep it slow and distant from the edge. The occasional streetlamp was helpful as well.

The pier at the end was a magnificent sight. Lights lit the pier up every 10 feet or so on the catwalk that runs down the middle of the pier. It was easy to walk down, as the ice covering it was extremely gritty. Huge ice chunks surrounded the pier, as well as the frozen waters of lake michigan. It was as if i was walking to the edge of a new world. The lighthouse at the very end end was covered in ice still, with the red light at the top. The tallest of the two lighthouses was clean of ice, still beaming the red light across the night sky. Lights from the city reflected across the ice and puddles from behind me.



Once off the pier, I continued down Lakeshore drive. I ran into a palm tree with Christmas lights strung up in it. I laughed at the thought that I was somehow in Key West- Wouldn’t that be nice? (except turn up the temperature about 60 degrees, please)


That about summed up the run for that day.

I did a 23 miler earlier in the week, mostly along the Grand Rapids Marathon course. I wanted to do the whole course, but had to improvise a lot of it due to snow and ice on the normal trails.

Today, I actually am planning to head to Grand Haven to do the dunes, yet again, and hit a coffeeshop for some homework. It will be a good sunny day for it!


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