__________ August 31, 2016 ___________

Our Adventures: Northern Exposure

NoTe:  Tomorrow at 09:something a.m. it’s the new moon.  I have a terrible time figuring out things.  But basically the 1% moon can’t be sighted until sunset that night, so it doesn’t begin (my time) until Thursday night… going Thursday sunset thru Saturday sunset.  Two days. I believe that’s right.  (((I really need smarter people to help me with this kind of thing.)))  The good news is that I always figure it out the day before.  !!!  The bad news is, I’m not exactly caught up from last week [posting-wise], and so I’m going to have to squish the whole adventure trip into one post, today – hike and all.   Which means this will be long.  Apologies in advance.

Brian and my cousin Steve work together.  They’ve been friends since Brian met me.  I always got on with Steve’s brother John better, but I don’t mesh well with John’s wife, and while Brian managed well enough with John, the wife and the major changes she worked in John made it impossible for our close friendship to continue.  Anyhow, Brian always had an easier time with Steve – probably because he’s so laid back, and John and I were… erm, more passionate people in personality?  Anyhow, I get along with Steve, too… I’d just never spent much time with him, because John and I were so tight all of our growing-up years.  Anyhow, Brian got Steve into his line of work, and they really hit it off.  Even ten years of Steve’s being away didn’t get in the way of the friendship.

Back to the present:  Steve came to work a few weeks ago and said there was going to be a 40th birthday party for him, and he wanted us to come… but it was up in Buckley.  Brian kind of evaded – Buckley is a long ways to go, and we didn’t know any of his friends from the ‘Amish’ days, and it’d mean two camp trips, almost back-to-back.  But Steve kept bringing it up, and Brian got the feeling he was kind of seriously wanting us there, for some reason.

And anyhow, we just got a new camper, and never took a camping road trip with the kids.  It’d be a good way to try out travel camping, right?  A small, weekend trip?  See what kind of gas mileage it takes, how it tows, how it would be for us?  And it’d make Steve happy.  It’d be the kind thing to do for a friend.  So we agreed to go, and because of our Michigan’s Adventure excursion that was already planned, Brian just turned it into a 4-day weekend off.  It’d be fun.

NoTe:  Steve’s wife – Rebecca – is the ex-‘Amish’ gal who’s gluten and corn-free (only not).  We can make it work together with some effort, but… she’d really be better suited to hanging out with John’s wife.  We don’t mesh well, either.  I do try, but I’ve been far too anti-social for far too long, anymore… and she and I are very different people.  Anyhow, Rebecca came out to our campsite the week before and told us that Steve had a choice between getting a tattoo fixed that he wasn’t thrilled with, or having a get-together up north with ‘old friends’. 

Now you have to read between the lines in all of this: Steve hates get-togethers.  He’s a seriously quiet, private guy.  He’s not the type to have ‘old friends’ up north. But Rebecca has LOADS of ‘old friends’ up north (and everywhere else), and spends all of her time getting together with ‘friends’.  Knowing this?  It comes down to Steve wanting the tattoo and not being able to afford it, and Rebecca wanting the party, and her friends would host, put them up, and potluck it, so it was affordable.  This was NOT Steve’s party… it was Rebecca’s.  Steve didn’t even want to go, let alone have a party.  And now we know why Steve wanted us to come so badly.  We also found out that his family wasn’t going to be there.  All the more reason we needed to go for him, we decided.

So!  After a very full and fun day at Michigan’s Adventure, we got up the next morning, took our time packing and getting around, and then headed off on our north-ish adventure.  [People in the upper part of the mitten think they’re ‘up north’.  Technically yes, but that is NOT ‘up north’ to me.  They call it ‘Upper Michigan’, or ‘Northern Michigan’.  Um, no – there’s a whole ‘nother penninsula further up, kthankxbye.   Former Yooper girl not appreciating that whole thing.]

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I got camping reservations last minute at a place called ‘Northern Exposure’.  There’s Lake Mitchell in Cadillac, but we’ve done that (and it’s not the kind of place to go twice), and there’s Interlochen, but with it being the week before school starts we thought it best to avoid that.  So this place sounded like it might be quiet.  It’s on a reservoir – the Hodenpyl (?!) Dam backed up the river and flooded an area and made a sort of a lake.  I can’t for the life of me remember the name of that thing (nobody can up there, apparently), so I was calling it ‘Hoogerhyde’ and ‘Hygerphyl’ and ‘Hydrogen’ and… I don’t know what all.

IMG_6644 (333x250)The campground was really nice – there was space between campers (on our end of the campground, at least!), and a trail thru the woods right down to the waterfront from our lot.  The kids were geeked, because someone had left beer bottle caps of all colors at our lot.  Owen is collecting them to make a bottle cap animal, like we saw in the gift shop at John Ball Zoo (also here and here).  Someone had also left two petoskey stones (michigan’s state rock) for Ethan to nab… and they were sure there were more to be found, this far north.

IMG_6645 (375x444)View from in front of our campsite, thru the trees.

IMG_6649 (444x333)The kids found eight petoskey stones, along with some nice fossils.

IMG_6663 (444x324)Northern Exposure Campground.  The seasonals are around the bay from where we were.  But this shows the beach.  There’s a playground and camp store and it’s really very nice, there.  Same price as camping at the State Park, too.

IMG_6673 (333x180)The next day, we got up and it was raining.  Checking the radar, there was ugly coming across the lake.  It was supposed to rain and thunderstorm all day.  We called to see what they were going to do about the party, and they were thinking of rescheduling for the next day – it was already torrential in Grand Rapids, where they were getting ready to go.  That was fine by us – we’d still be up there.  But what to do on a rainy day?  So I coaxed the gang into a little drive to Frankfort.

IMG_6702 (444x333)We’d visited Port Betsie Lighthouse in our West Michigan Adventure five years ago, but it was closed when we went.  Not so, this time.  I thought it’d be a fun (INDOORS) thing to go to.  It wasn’t.  They charged way too much [IMHO] for way too little.  Only a few rooms were open to the public, they were mostly dry-as-dust information stuck in picture frames on the walls with a few antiques here and there.  The tower climb is timed, so you can’t stay up and look around.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience, compared to a lot of the other lighthouses we’ve been too.  I guess I was just expecting more?

IMG_6691 (444x247)The dunes were beautiful.  Not as big or impressive as Sleeping Bear,
but the color and contrast was very nice.

IMG_6696 (444x222)Out across the water I could see something, so with the zoom lens,
I took a picture… look at that!

IMG_6680 (405x444)In the gift shop, there was a little interpretive room, and here were some interesting things.  A slide show, a series of life-saving murals that I loved, and this boat that’s way too tippy to load – the kids tried, anyhow.  It was fun.  And there was a scavenger hunt inside the lighthouse, which would’ve earned the kids a free postcard… if we hadn’t already bought them with our tickets.  (The lady at the counter in the gift shop never said a word about it when we’d made our purchases/got our tickets.  Grrr.)

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Did I mention it was supposed to rain all day?  Well, it wasn’t just the Doppler radar indicating it.  Look at that sky!!  The water is light compared to it!  It looked dreadful.  And imagine my astonishment when Rebecca called and said the party couldn’t be rescheduled, due to a conflict for the host, so it was still on for that night.  I always pray for rain, but at that point, I was starting to think maybe I should make an exception?!

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We were SO. SERIOUSLY. late to the party.  We got lost.  There are no road signs up in Buckley – just ‘seasonal road’ signs.  And we were curving around, doing circles for over an hour, trying to find it.  Steve wasn’t answering his cellphone (he was in a pond with the kids), so I just kept texting him silly things, like ‘you may never see us again’, and ‘Oh, look!  A toilet!’  It’s… kinda seriously white trash up there.  To the tune of hillbilly hell.  But we finally found the place (amazingly!) and had potluck food, and let the kids out to run and play for a while.

I was kind of shocked – but shouldn’t have been – to find out that of the people there?  Six of them were Rebecca’s siblings/partners.  Another four were Rebecca’s next-door neighbors from when they were growing up, together.  There was also my cousin David’s daughter, Kendra… she kept far away from everyone, walking her toddler around the property.  I don’t know if that’s a ‘Plain’ thing or if she just didn’t like the company.  (Kendra is still ‘Amish’-ish.)  She and her husband left early, but we did get to talk to him before he went away – he was the nicest guy there.  We were pretty bummed, would’ve liked to have gotten to know him/them better.

Steve was drunk.  I’m betting from how he was that he’d been at it for quite a while.  He… was not having a good time, and it was evident.  Hence the drinking – it seems to be a coping mechanism for him, these days.  He was restless and awkward and drank to try to relax, and it wasn’t helping.  These weren’t his people, and he wasn’t enjoying himself… until the guy who owned this place decided to get out fireworks.  It gave the men something to do.

IMG_6744 (333x250)The fireworks were a nice distraction.
And blessedly, it didn’t rain.

IMG_6730 (444x186)The kids played in the dark, together.  We had some serious problems, because Rebecca’s kids (the ones in karate, horse therapy, gluten-free and taking boxing to try to curb ‘behavioral’ and ‘violence’ issues) were throwing sand up in the other kids’ faces.  Owen (6) got the worst face-full… right in his eyes.  But they were all just sandblasted by the end of the night, and several other kids tried to talk to Steve about it.  Steve was a little too drunk to care, and Rebecca was embracing her family (and cellphone) and not really interested in the kid scene.  We gave Steve his present and left early to give the kids showers before bed.

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The waterfront, after breakfast, the next day.

IMG_6758 (444x333)I love this picture of Brian.

IMG_6763 (444x333)The kids were still very much about finding petoskeys, fossils, and shells…

IMG_6762 (444x260)They had BIG shells up here, too!

IMG_6777 (444x333)Another story… when we got home from the ‘party’, we had new camp neighbors.  They were loud and totally schnockered.  They were singing John Denver and the national anthem and shouting things like, “I want to knock on the doors of all these campers and wake ’em up!” or “Everyone needs to know this…!  I LOVE THIS MAN!!!  I LOVE HIM!!!”  or, “Excuse me, people, but… I’M A RETARD!!”  ?!?!?  Drunk people are kind of messed up, you know this?  Anyhow, they were gone when we started packing up, but left bags full of trash and beer cans on their lot.  So my kids (being very ‘Leave no Trace’) took the trash up for them.  Our mitzvah of the day.

IMG_6783 (333x444)We wanted to see the Hydroxypropyl dam (<< whatever.), so we drove down to the power plant, and there was a big parking lot, as people came there to put their canoes in.  There was a staircase leading up to the top of the dam.  Naturally we had to go and see.

IMG_6786 (444x291)It wasn’t as inspiring as we expected.
Unusual, and a good lesson in how dams work, though.

IMG_6785 (444x270)The view of our camper, below.  The river is on the far side of the lot.

IMG_6791 (444x333)Overhead view of the dam [snapshot of a picture].
It’s far prettier from an aerial view, apparently.
(The parking lot is lower left in the picture.)

IMG_6794 (333x444)Walking down to the canoe launch, just to check it out.

IMG_6812 (444x333)Then we went for a longer walk, because I wanted to cross a suspension bridge that I’d read was up here.  There was a place up the road (our trailer wouldn’t make it) that was a trailhead to the North Manistee Trail system… a 23-mile loop around the river that is supposedly really popular with backpackers and hardcore hikers.  The views are supposed to be gorgeous, as it’s the second highest elevation in lower Michigan.  So that’s where we were headed… on a hike!

IMG_6873 (444x333)The perfect photograph – it has the suspension bridge, the kids hiking,
and below us, a kayak and canoe taking to the river.

IMG_6820 (444x333)We love getting out in the woods, and this was the perfect day for it.
A breeze to dry and cool down the air, which was warming back up again.

IMG_6825 (431x444)The views from up where we were were just beautiful.

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IMG_6831 (444x333)Bridges over the creeks along the trail.  Some of them were *long*!

IMG_6858 (444x333)I’m putting this picture here for posterity’s sake.  But I’m NOT going to get into what happened on-line.  Just know that the whole ‘give kids more freedom than I currently am’ thing that I was contemplating?  The Lord gave us an illustration of why that’s NOT how we are to parent.  I’m the MOM for a reason – to keep bad things from happening.  I didn’t stop what I saw because I thought it was me ‘hovering’ and being too worry-wart – I wasn’t, and there really was a problem.  The Lord kept us from any serious injury (Baruch ata Adonai Elohenu!), but that cliff took about eight years off my life, Sunday.  Just so’s ya know.  I’m a hands-on parent.  Not a helicopter parent, but one who’s not going to let the kids just do whatever comes in their heads.  And that’s just the way it’s going to be.

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One last bounce on the suspension bridge as we return.
We did about three miles of hiking, and it was just right for us.

IMG_6878 (325x444)Taking the ‘shortcut’ back to the road.  Yes, even Brian and I did it.

IMG_6882 (444x328) (2)Ah, Grand Rapids and your US-131 S-curve and construction.
We did not miss you while we were gone…!!

At any rate, it was a very busy weekend, and we made a lot of memories.  It was far cheaper to spend two days in the camper (even with the increased gas mileage, pulling it) than two days in a hotel.  And the camping and exploring part of things went perfectly.  We made it thru the party, and had a [mostly] good time.  So we’re calling this one a success.

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