I’m home now. Kevin and I camped all along the coast of Michigan. For my first camping trip? Wildly successful, despite the fact that much of my time was spent: fending off sunburns, putting up the tent, taking down the tent, learning to tie knots and build campfires (Kevin and his mad Eagle Scout skillz were quite useful), dousing myself with bug repellent, trying to relax, nagging myself for not relaxing, relaxing.
So here’s the basics:
North Manitou island… A rough hour-long ferry ride (choppy waters make for seasickness), then a plunge into pure countryside, just us and miles of trails and lake, and mosquitos, so many mosquitos I could scrape them off Kevin’s back with one swipe and in another moment we’d be covered again. Old farmhouses, abandoned when the island became a wilderness preserve. Treating water with iodine tablets, saving tiny pieces of trash, every meal starting out dehydrated, trying to pee behind a tree. Kevin’s pinkie finger swelled up to four times its normal size from a big bite. And then, the same thing happened to his ear. Both are now back to normal. Backpacking? Ultra tiring; our vacation seemed more like bootcamp; we took the ferry back a few days early and ended up at Sleeping Bear Dunes, along the Michigan coast.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park: We rocked in the lap of luxury — showers, restrooms, fire pits, tap water. With access to a car and the neighboring sleepy beach towns, we inhaled cheeseburgers, Bell’s Oberon, cherry pie. This unplanned leg of our trip meant we navigated via whatever maps we could find: the atlas from the kind fellow on the ferry, the brochures at the drugstore, the ranger’s station maps, the free phone books at the Chamber of Commerce. Whenever we met a local, we asked for suggestions. And they never let us down. We found a completely empty, pristine beach straight out of those ads for the Carribean — but with colder water. Swam without another human in sight, breaking the glassy surface of the lake with every stroke.
Warren Dunes State Park: We’d meant to hit up Saugatuck on the way home, but sorry Saugatuck, you’re too crowded and full of touristy types. With no hotel reservations and no campgrounds for miles, we hit the road again and stopped at a state park. Scrubby and unkempt compared to Sleeping Bear. Was sure this would be a huge bust. But then we started hiking the dunes: I’ve never felt so small, or so far from earth, maybe this is the moon, a moon with sand, running barefoot down a 30-foot vertical drop of pure sand at full speed the entire matrix of my anxieties began to collapse just as with the entire sky turned sherbet-orange and dusty pink.
Today we drove the two hours back to Chicago from Warren Dunes, stopping first at a laundromat to de-smellify our entire existence. And now I’m here.