We bundled the kids up and filled a thermos with hot chocolate and went to Hoffmaster State Park where we hiked through the dunes and woodlands for two hours, down to the lake to sit on a log and have some hot chocolate. It was cold. And the wind was hash. But it was worth it. And in the end did the children fall asleep in the car ride back like we had hoped?
No. Not at all.
One of the 200 foot tall parabolic dunes we passed on our approach to the beech had decided at some point that it was tired of sitting around. It somehow shed its trees and soil and decided it was time to move a bit. I've passed this dune dozens of times and it seems to have gone from soil to pure sand all at once...and this time around we found a line of orange flags on spikes situated at the very bottom of the dune. A gas line? A water line?
We went over to examine one and it basically said this:
Leave this flag alone, Bud. We're researching dune movements.
A professor from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan was researching the movement of dunes. Awesome. And as we wandered down to the water front we found yet another research field with a large array of instruments from the same professor, researching dune formation and deposits of sand washed up and blown in from the Big Lake.
For those who want to know more about dunes and dune formations there's some fascinating information here on the Calvin.edu website.
It's a beautiful thing. I don't recall seeing much in the way of evidence of Great Lakes research growing up in the area. Now we've got the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory down by Pere Marquette just off of Lake Michigan. We've got the Annis Water Resources Institute along Muskegon Lake. We've got Calvin College in Grand Rapids apparently researching dune formations. And of course we've got the Grand Valley State University Wind Research Buoy.
There's a renaissance of Great Lakes research going on and it's long overdue.