My family and I recently attended a wedding in Michigan near the Sleeping Bear sand dunes. We went up for the weekend and I knew that the weather was going to be unpredictable. I packed accordingly with my waterproof shell, my hiking shoes and your typical hiking/survival kit.
We arrived at our hotel early and unpacked. There was not much to do in the small town itself, but my wife and I thought it would be great to see the nearby sand dunes and that the kids would get a kick out of it. We found out it was about a half day hike to explore the area and we had plenty of time.
The weather wasn’t cooperating. It was Michigan after all. It was in the 50’s, windy, and the rain was off and on. Not the most comfortable, but with the right gear we could have done a good half day hike without much of a worry and seen some of the state we had not visited yet.
My two kids, ages 6 and 8, had tennis shoes and winter jackets. They would have been alright unless it poured pretty good. My wife wore sandals as usual. This would not have stopped her at all from hiking as she has hiked Red Rock Canyon in sandals, but she only had a sweatshirt which would have soaked up the rain like a sponge. No one but me had any kind of rain gear and I didn’t think to bring any for them because we were only here for a wedding. So, even though I was sorted for the outdoors, the rest of my family was not. We didn’t want anyone getting sick for the wedding the next day, so we decided to skip the hike.
Instead, we spent the time on a fun, but very short trip to a nearby Lake Michigan beach and searched for rocks and shells. As we played, the wind blew hard out from the water and was making small white caps. The clouds got more and more gray as the minutes ticked by. Fortunately, the sand was damp and it was great for tracking. We followed some dog tracks along the beach and tried making out as many different animal tracks as we could. Not twenty minutes later it started to drizzle and the drizzle quickly turned to a steady rain. Luckily we had parked right by the beach. It rained the rest of the day and we were stuck running in and out of tourist shops to pass the time.
As a family, we were definitely not prepared for any real length of exposure outdoors. Normally for a planned hike we each have our own gear, small packs and plenty of water. This unplanned hike was kind of like a survival wake up for us as a group. Because after all, survival situations are never planned and your whole family has to be ready, not just you.