A Dune on Lake Michigan: We Couldn’t Climb Eagle Top — So We Paid Homage From Afar

Turn of the 2oth century men and women on vacation struggling to climb the steep sandy slope of Eagle Top on Lake Michigan.

A turn-of-the-century postcard showing ladies and gentlemen struggling to climb Eagle Top on the hot, sandy side facing Lake Michigan that was — and still is — bare of trees.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Eagle Top is private property now. Somebody owns the steep sandy dune on the shores of Lake Michigan that my cousin Jeanie and I used to clamber up as kids. It’s a 45-degree-angle climb, so steep that no matter how fit you were you huffed and puffed the whole way up.

a one-lane road into the woods originated as an Indian path to Lake Michigan. Photo by BF Newhall

The old Indian path is now a one-lane road. A tree-shaded Eagle Top looms to the left. Photo by BF Newhall

For me and my cousin all that panting and sweating meant we were have a genuine adventure. And Jeanie and I loved adventure.

We weren’t the first to climb that hill. Our mothers had climbed it as kids. So had our grandmother and great-grandmother. So had generations of resorters from Chicago and Detroit beginning early in the 20th century. At first they arrived in the area by boat. Later they came by train. Then bus. Now there’s a freeway.

When our mothers were girls the local Indians still used the footpath along its base and climbed to the top to make baskets.

Nowadays there’s no need to climb Eagle Top. Its owners get to the top by a motorized funicular.

I grieved the loss of this special place on these pages a couple of months ago and resolved to visit it in May when I traveled to Michigan to bury my 98-year-old aunt.

Before I headed to Michigan I emailed Jeanie. Did she want to get together and visit some of our old haunts, like Eagle Top? Was she up for an adventure?

Of course she was.

Some things haven’t changed.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like “Impermanence — Everything Changes and So Can I.” Anything to add to this post? Feel free to comment.

a tree covered dune along lake michigan with a channel and its dam at its base. Photo by BF Nehall

Eagle Top today. The Indian footpath wound along its base to this beach. Photo by BF Newhall

a woman sits on a cement dam alongside a channel emerging from a woods on lake michigan. photo by BF Newhlall

Jeanie. Photo by BF Newhall

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