It’s mid-June and the tourist season has arrived in Northern Michigan. The sunshine is cloaked in a hazy cloud cover and the temperature hasn’t quite reached 80 degrees yet for the day. It is a great day to visit the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb and attempt to walk the trail all the way to Lake Michigan. This is the season that Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) Volunteers are critically needed within the park.

Beginning at the base of the Dunes, you may meet Jim Hickey, a long-time PSAR volunteer. He will advise you that it’s about four miles (round trip) of strenuous sand walking if you want to soak your feet in the cool Lake Michigan water or that the first Dune Climb is 110 feet high

At the top of the first climb, the view stretches for miles over the vibrant waters of Little and Big Glen Lake. As you resume your westward hike, to the left is a dune that will connect you to the Cottonwood Trail. Stay slightly right and look for this post in the sand.

There will be 28 trail markers along your journey. Just after marker #2, about one quarter of the way to Lake Michigan, you may encounter Jesse Lewit, another Preventative Search and Rescue Volunteer with the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. He also has a wealth of knowledge about this trail and the area in general. 

Jesse will make sure you are prepared for the hike ahead; asking if you have enough water for a 2-4 hour hike or if you remembered your shoes! The sand can reach 120 degrees on a hot day! His efforts and the efforts of other PSAR Volunteers have drastically reduced the number and seriousness of rescues within the park since its beginning in 2017.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes Preventative Search and Rescue Volunteers play an integral role in the safety and enjoyment visitors experience at the park. As a PSAR Volunteer, your job is to PREVENT emergencies by encouraging and educating people on how to best be prepared for hiking the dunes or enjoying Lake Michigan. The local police and fire departments and park rangers are spread thin during the peak tourist season. The work you do as a volunteer directly impacts visitors and locals, alike.

If you love to meet new people and spend time outdoors or have been called a people-person, the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes needs you this summer! For just a few hour commitment that can be tailored to your busy life, you will get to enjoy:

  • Fresh air
  • Beautiful scenery 
  • Improved vitamin D levels
  • A potentially great tan
  • A boost to your resume
  • The satisfaction of helping others

There are opportunities to work at the base of the Dune Climb, in the shade of a PSAR canopy (coming soon!), along the Dune Climb Trail or the #9 Lake Michigan Overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. What a fantastic chance to meet new people and enjoy our Northern Michigan summers while helping others in the process. For more information on this or other FOSBD Volunteer opportunities, visit our website under the Programs tab.


Article and photos by Kristy Tompkins