A stretch of pristine shoreline – not in the Pacific Northwest, but northern Michigan's Good Harbor Bay.
  • A stretch of pristine shoreline – not in the Pacific Northwest, but northern Michigan's Good Harbor Bay.
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A recent trip home to northern lower Michigan afforded me one of the greatest summertime pleasures a Michigander knows: a sunset swim in Lake Michigan. There’s nothing better than finding a secluded stretch of golden sand late on a humid evening and jumping into the warm water to cool off.

The Thursday after the Fourth of July found my family and I on a beautiful stretch of beach known as Good Harbor, a 45-minute drive from Traverse City, Michigan.

no crowds here

The beach was "busy" – there were about six to seven groups of people in the quarter-mile stretch where the sand path from the parking lot spilled open to the beach. We had no trouble finding the spot we wanted, and tossed down our chairs and towels.

Our first priority: a cooling swim in the water. Even at 8:30 in the evening, there was another 60 minutes of light in the sky and the temperature was in the upper 80s.

The water was warm enough to be comfortable, cool enough to be refreshing. It was clear and calm; I could see my toes below as they gripped the soft ripples of golden sand that blanketed the bottom. Diving in, I swam out a hundred feet or so to where the water was over my head.

Surfacing, I caught a glimpse of the "lake people" to my right. In the old logging days, a pier was here, but the only reminder of that now are the weathered wooden pillars that rise six to 12 inches out of the water. Clustered together, they're easily mistaken for groups of swimmers. In the setting sun, their dark shapes seemed to shift, so I kept an eye on them.

Floating on my back, I stared up into the sky, watching the clouds. Far in front of me, the sun was slowing sinking towards the horizon. A lone kayaker passed in the orange reflection. There was no one else on the water.

hazy summer sunset over Good Harbor Bay

From behind me, I heard the occasional shrieks of kids and murmurs of adults talking. As the farthest swimmer out, I felt like it was only me and the lake.

10:30 found me back on shore. The light in the sky was almost gone, and I was warming myself up by the heat of our beach bonfire. Most people had left; the only sound was the rustling of the dune grass as a light wind passed by. The full moon would rise soon over the dunes.

Perhaps there would be time for a moonlight swim...

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