I seem to be using the word “flat”  a lot in my notebook this week, as I’ve been traveling through the U.S. Midwest. Not a surprise, really, this is a part of the country that’s well known for minimal elevation changes.

Which made my first sight of  Mt. Baldhead, in Saugatuck, Michigan something of a surprise indeed.

This is a sand dune, 600 feet tall.  What you see here is a brand spanking new staircase, 302 steep steps. (It replaced an older staircase of 282 steps.)  When you get up top, you get an aerial view of the towns of Saugatuck and Douglas.  And then you take a sandy path down to the lake, which does its best impression of an ocean. The only thing missing is salt air.

It turns out that Michigan is home to the the largest assemblage of fresh water dunes in the world — some 250,000 acres.

This is some serious sand. I first appreciated that fact when I got to the top of Mt. Baldhead, and even more so when I read about Singapore, a nearby lumber town that was abandoned by 1875 after the area was deforested — and entirely buried by a sand dune in less than five years.