Monday, August 02, 2010
Camp Bliss on Oak Knoll
I don't ever camp in the summer. Not ever. Not unless tied and dragged through the heat and humidity, wincing between the crowds of vacationers, screaming for cool. I will camp in summer, however, if accompanied by my son. For my boy, who hasn't been a "boy" in quite a few years now, I'd walk through summer hell. Or a state-owned campground.
Don't get me wrong. I love to camp. I have a deep need to camp. To get out into the woods, sleep under the stars, sit aimlessly by a crackling campfire and watch the sparks dizzy-dance their way up toward the tree tops, and leave civilization far, far, very far behind. Yes.
Just not in summer. I have a legendary low tolerance for heat. Let's state it here in public print firmly: I do not like summer. I barely tolerate it and not well. It is my least favorite and least productive season, the season I would be happy to do without, and I have no ability to comprehend those who speak of it with longing. How can one possibly enjoy sweltering heat under a blazing sun with air so thick it looks like milk? For me, fall is the most wonderful, although I will happily debate, with myself or others, if winter isn't tops. Air that is cool and crisp, leaves on the trees turning an array of colors, nights that refresh. And winter snows, lots and lots of that white stuff ... yes, by golly, I love it. My time living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan holds memories of snow reaching half way up my bedroom window .... and my bedroom was on the second floor. Glorious.
Still, serendipity combined with an acceptable July weather forecast (Saturday in mid to high 70s Fahrenheit with overcast skies and slight possibility of showers, and Sunday in low 80s with blue skies), combined with a restlessness for a bit of adventure and that ever present need for green, combined with my 28-year-old son's cheery shrug, "Sure. I'll go," combined with a late cancellation that freed up my schedule, all came together to point toward a camping weekend.
The moment felt right, the stars had aligned, and I was excited to pack up the camping gear and GO.
State and county campgrounds, alas, as I quickly found out, were booked solid. My son and I weren't thinking of going far. We didn't want to spend precious time on the road. We aimed for about two hours north, along the Lake Michigan shoreline, and when I called the Muskegon State Park for a possible tent spot, I was told the campground was booked for July at least six months ahead, prime spots as much as a year. The voice on the other end of the wire sounded stunned that I hadn't thought of this.
A light rain pattered on our windshield. I glared at the sky and the rain stopped. Okay then.
The campground owners had kept their word, and our spot really was the best on the grounds, a corner area snuggled up against the woods. Not perfect (that category is reserved for Michigan's UP and nearly all Alaskan camping areas), but oak trees shaded us from three sides and the center of the campground was mostly pine. My son hadn't pitched a tent in many years, at least ten, and he was pleased to see how user-friendly camping equipment had become. We literally had the tent up in less than five minutes. Two flexible poles crisscrossed at center, and our home for the night popped up effortlessly with open door flapping and waving us in.
I had convinced my son that there was no need to be so manly when he kept insisting he would do just fine throwing his sleeping bag, or even just a blanket, on the tent floor and snoring through the night. Granted, my boy is made of hard and well-tested mettle. When he says he could sleep on a bed of nails, I believe him. He has adventure and misadventure stories most dudes wouldn't touch with a ten-foot tent pole. I'd slept in some pretty odd places, too, and had once given up my lease on an apartment and camped in a tent for three months solid, traversing ten states from Wisconsin to Maine, looking for a new place to settle (which is how I finally ended up in the UP of Michigan). I suppose I qualified as homeless back then, but never stopped long enough to think about it. But maybe it is precisely because of those adventures that I appreciate a little luxury with my rustic these days.
"Trust me on this one," I said. "Snap open the little cot, and you don't have to inflate any air mattress nor feel rocks and sticks biting your soft flesh all night, even through eggshell padding. Toss your bag and pillow on it, all set to snooze."
"Eh," he shrugged with a manly shrug.
"Trust your mama."
When he watched me open up my cot and set it in one end of our little blue tent, toss bag and pillow on top, he nodded in appreciation. He opened the box for his brand new one and set it up on the opposite side.
Tent up, beds made, we headed for the water. For those who have not been to Michigan, land of the five great lakes, the name of Lake Michigan may bring to mind some small puddle of blue. Lake Michigan, however, is more like standing on the shores of the open sea. She's big. Her horizon is not visible, not even with binoculars in hand. Her waves plosh softly at your feet, or rile up for a fight in white foamy curl, depending on her mood. Her dunes rise like golden hills and ripple on for miles, and miles, and miles. And miles. My favorite of the great lakes is Lake Superior, aptly named, but Lake Michigan does me right when I am not quite on the ocean.
Posted by Zinta Aistars