photo, white trillium ds
This is the time of year I go back to visit the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. I first started camping in the 12 Mile Beach area when I was still working a couple of jobs and also operating the wildlife center on my farm. I had never camped before and I needed a little prodding from a friend to get me going. He noticed that I was talking a lot about doing it and finally one day he said…” Diana, are you going to camp or are you going to just keep talking about it? So, he gave me an old U.S Military mess kit, told me to buy a warm sleeping bag and take cash! So, I did.
The first night I managed to get as far as the other side of Mackinaw bridge and find a campsite which I thought was secluded. (until I woke up the next morning and realized that by driving to the back of the campgrounds in the dark, I had parked about 100 feet from the interstate highway I had traveled on). I slept on the ground in my new bag, close to the fire. The tent assembly seemed too complicated for such a late hour of the evening. At one point during the night I was awaken by a skunk sniffing my head. Fortunately, when I sat up…the terrified creature scurried back to the forest. That was beginners luck with skunks.
I usually take about 4 days away from my home. I begin the journey with little preparation, taking along the essentials and then stopping as I go to pick up food supplies, things I forgot and gradually making my way toward the first campsite, which varies from year to year.
My last stop before camp is the “Woodmans” house. The same place I have buying firewood for the 27 years of doing this. It’s dry, neatly staked in cubicles and preciously selected for variety of sizes. I put $5 in the plastic jar attached to the back porch railing. No one was home this time. Sometimes the man is there cutting wood and we talk as he helps load the wood in my car. A few times I chatted with his wife about the long winter and how maybe they were thinking of living in Florida someday. One time she even wondered where I was the year before when I was sick and skipped an annual solo camp… “we wondered where you were?” she inquired .
That was the day I realized that the camping had nurtured relationships as well as solitude. Even though I spend most of my time alone while on these trips, there is a part of the tradition that connects me in an intimate way with people, with whom I have barely exchanged a paragraph worth of language.
So, I got another load of the best deal on firewood, in the backwoods of northern Michigan and left a note with the $5…”thanks for 27 years of great firewood”. I drove off, grateful, because the day when they move to Florida hasn’t come yet.
The weather was fabulous this year. I bought a new journal….sketched my travels, and walked the trails. Much has changed in the area. There is a paved road now connecting Grand Marais and Munising, MI. The feeling of remoteness is diminished and the forest is being harvested of many large trees.
The experiences of knowing these places, before the changes, is a gift that stays with me. I have grappled with anxiety about the paved road, the crowded campsites, the logging, etc. Yet, the changes found me exploring other areas, camps, places and roads. In this process I can find calm within myself along with the inevitable course of change.
I used to think that I was one of a rare group of kids who did not go camping when they were young. So, if you are one of the group, I am offering this blog as a suggestion that it is not too late to consider it. I was 40 when I took the plunge.
I live on Lake Superior now and “the camp” is my backyard. I still do these trips. Then when I return home with more stories and memories, I think of how much of life there is in $5 worth of firewood.