I love camping. Lots of people love camping. There are so many ways to camp and a whole range of possibilities, from bare-bones backpacking with just the smallest, compact but pricey necessities all the way to the largest, most expensive campers and trailers. You can camp in a basic campground with no water in sight or in a fancy place with lots of rules and signs. Camping happens on small, man-made lakes and huge, glacier-made lakes. Here in Michigan we are so fortunate to have gorgeous fresh water all over tarnation! (At least, we are until the new version of the EPA impacts it and then all bets are off…) Doug and I are somewhere in the middle to lower end with our 12 year old tent and constantly evolving “camp boxes.” I have always taken pride in my ability to and enjoyment of, “roughing it.” I would boast about the fact that there are absolutely NO facilities. We don’t pay to camp and we don’t deal with reservations, rules, signs, or other nonsense. Nope. (and I know you are wondering about bathrooms because that’s what EVERYONE wonders. No. There aren’t any. No portapotties either. I can write a whole entry about that if you really want me to.) I found this spot when I was in college and for some reason it remains free of all that nonsense. If you can drive down the two-tracks, you can go there. It’s not managed. It isn’t patrolled. It IS legal. It isn’t plowed in the winter and no one cares if you go out and howl at the moon every night. You can use a camper or a tent depending on where you land when you come to a stop. It’s just you and a lot of national forest bordered by our most lovely Lake Michigan in all her wildness. If you can drag your ass up and down a couple of exceedingly steep, wooded dunes in pursuit of that gorgeous lake, then you are good to go. (Oh, and if I choose to give you directions…)
I will admit that as I age, my need for comforts has grown. I no longer sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag. We bring a nice, queen-size aerobed that we plug into an adaptor in the car to expand. We bring sheets, quilts, and a down comforter. All three of my down pillows accompany me. We haul chairs to sit by the fire and chairs to sit down on the beach. We made a rather ridiculous impulse purchase of a Yeti cooler last year when ours wouldn’t hold ice for more than half a day. The cooler weighs as much as I do. (and doesn’t even come with built-in cup holders!) So we definitely are NOT the backpackers, free to hike along a trail and set up wherever. In fact, we used to use a fold down wagon to haul all of our crap to our site. And I admit I have always been a bit scornful of camper-users. But I think I get it now. I’m on board with why people have campers and trailers. I totally get it. Scorn-free.
No more wagon. I’m too old and tired already. We drive right up to our camp spot. The place I camped for the past 20+ years is nearby, but it requires too much physical labor. Our new place is lovely; right on an ankle-deep, red creek that flows into lake Michigan. It’s overhung by hemlocks and cedars, ferns and thistles. It is attended by hundreds of shimmering green, black, and blue dragonflies and damselflies while water striders skate across the surface, their feet creating six little shadows on the sandy creek bottom. At night the entire world fills with the lights of fireflies, the queries of owls, the calls of the whippoorwill, and howling of coyotes. Totally enchanting.
The Lake! Oh that pretty, pretty lake. We can look down the beach in both directions and often see no one. People who have never seen a great lake in person would believe they are staring at the ocean. Big waves to play in or tiny ripples lapping at my toes. Sandy, tropical turquoise to deep blue-black, and silver in the rain. It is a place of utter peace. I can float with eagles overhead and not a stitch between me and that therapeutic water. (Seriously; NO ONE is there a lot of the time!) Sigh.
This is all a preamble to set the scene for the crazy shenanigans that occurred last week. I wanted you to know WHY I would go to all this trouble. I admit I got off track there because I really DO love our camp spot. It is my absolute favorite of all Happy Places. We were engaged on and honeymooned at that beach. It’s the place I go in my head when I have to have blood drawn. (If you know me, you know I desperately need happy places when needles are in the room.) I was so anticipating the peace and calm that I inevitably experience when I leave all the obligations of home and sit beside the fire or the lake with my book, my husband, some junk food and a drink in hand. (Well, my husband isn’t usually, “in hand,” but nearby… tee hee!)
But what would one of my stories be without my dogs?
Night 1: Luna rolls in human excrement. I don’t mean just a little either. No. She really ground her neck and collars, all down her side, right to the tip of her tail in it. Here we are in this remote place with only one other small group in sight and she finds shit to roll in. Great. I haul her into the creek with some dish soap in hand and wish fervently that she could understand, just once, the logical consequence of unpleasant baths in direct proportion to her habit of re-scenting herself au natural.
Following Morning: Doug lets the dogs out of the tent without looking around first or locating their collar remotes. Moments later I hear him roaring, “ TANGO NOOOOOOO!” And before I can even verbalize my question I know. I smell it. Tango has met a skunk, face to butt. I make the 10 mile drive to the handy camp/grocery/gas station store to gather up every possible ingredient for making my own skunk removal solution. I return to find that the dogs have treed a porcupine. I am somewhat surprised that treeing is all that has occurred with said porcupine. No pliers needed then. Whew. We sure are lucky!
Night 2: Storming and rain. Tent begins to leak actively. We lie on our backs with our camp headlights pointed at the multiple leaks swiftly expanding on our roof and ponder which is worse, the dripping ceiling or the foul smell emanating from our wet dogs.
Night 3: After relocating the campsite, Doug left to go to his golf league and I insist that he leaves me there so I can continue this fabulous vacation. I am happily surprised by my best friend and her girls who show up for the night despite knowing about the poop, the leaks, and the skunk. (That’s one way to know who your best friends are, if you ever want a good test…)
When Doug returns I ask him if he has checked the forecast while he was out in the world of available internet and cell service. He assures me that he has done so.
Night 4: We are exhausted, body and soul, after all day on the beach and then back to camp. Doug has relocated our campsite to higher ground and we have swept, aired, and hung up every single thing on clotheslines all through the forest. The bed is made and dogs are relatively less malodorous. I have thoroughly bathed in the creek and am ready to settle in for the night. One more time, “What was the forecast again?” He checks the screenshot he wisely chose to snap of the forecast.
Doug: “Tonight… 50% chance of rain… um… tomorrow morning… uh… 80%.. Then just 30%, but then… huh…”
Me: “!!! ??? !!!”
Doug: “How about we head home tonight?”
We pack by the light of camp and truck headlights. Dogs are thoroughly nonplussed. Mosquitoes are thrilled to have our company by dark.
11:30 p.m. we leave.
12:00 a.m. “Why are you pumping the brakes? What’s that sound?”
Doug: “They don’t seem to be… um, working very well…”
Me: “So we are 10 miles from anywhere in the pitch dark in a 19 year old truck with no brakes at midnight? Fabulous.”
We make it to the closest Meijer and find that there is NO brake fluid in the truck. Where did it go?
Crazy. That’s where it went.