Betty Duffy

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacation, part 2: Camping in the UP

From Wisconsin, we drove thru Greenbay, and then north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We aimed towards a campsite at Indian Lake, near Manistique.

Because our former tent had been ruined in a long early summer stand in the yard, my husband picked up a new tent on clearance at Dick's right before we left town. We didn't have time to practice setting it up.

Unfortunately, once we'd circled the Indian Lake campsite thirteen times in search of the perfect site, then changed our minds three times, officially, with the camp reservation seal on our receipt marking our location and effects (five children, one large tent, and a car), my husband was unable to assemble our shelter. It appeared to be missing two hubs, according to the instructions in the bag.

He went to ask the rangers for duct tape, or maybe a drill and a block of wood for makeshift hubs. By the time all the supplies had been gathered, we were in the midst of a solid downpour--thunder, lightening, streams of mud rolling through the area where we planned to lay our heads.

It was lucky we had put everything back in the car when we couldn't find our hubs, but we were still cranky, and at nearly ten p.m. the kids and I were staging a mutiny. My husband was intent to camp no matter the weather, and I, with all the whining will of five children behind me was planning to drive on through the night to the lake house, or at the very least, so as not to lave my husband stranded in the Upper Peninsula, to a motel.

Yes, I had seen on the radar that the storm was set to pass over quickly, but still, a wounded tent on wet ground, the assembly of which was to take place in the dark by the light of the car headlights. I was ready to stake anything on leaving.

When the rain lightened up, my husband set forth again to raise the tent. He found some instructions on his ipod, which indicated that our clearance tent had been packed in the wrong bag, so the instructions were for a different model (thanks Dicks)--ours did not require hubs at all.

The kids kept asking why we hadn't left yet, while their dad stood out in the dark wrestling with large panels of nylon. They were starting to get on my nerves--these people in the back seat, whose votes on the issue don't register, considering me in league with them against their father.

I got out of the car to help set up the tent, and the peanut gallery booed, saying "Don't help him Mom! What are you doing?" If there was any sign that God was on my husband's side, it was this: nothing is more likely to cause my defection from an issue I hold dear, than the loud specter of popular opinion. We were camping.

The sky cleared up. The tent slowly took shape in the dark. The kids gave up their stand and started bringing the sleeping bags and pillows out of the car to fight for their spaces on the floor of the tent. We'd switched sites one more time from a muddy one to a grassy one, and the new tent was mercifully waterproof. For me, my husband pumped up the air mattress.

We roasted some brats over a smokey fire of damp kindling and a few logs of purchased firewood. We ate two marshmallows apiece, then sticky with sand and melted sugar, we went to sleep in the cool northern woods, water dripping off the pines when the wind blew, and the moon very nearly full through the roof of the tent.

I enjoyed myself, and I believe everyone else did too.

A week later, however, when my husband and the boys, still pumped up on camping, proposed sleeping under the open sky without a tent on the shore of Lake Michigan, I declined, heading back to the lake house with my daughter.

They went on with their plan, and once again, after waking at dawn, they came home damp and sandy with invigoration, bearing donuts, talking about shooting stars and coyotes, and smelling vaguely like fish and fire.


Erin said...

I love the way you tell a story. :)

Otepoti said...

Roasted some brats?! You had me there, for a moment.

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