Friday, November 29, 2013

Northern Odyssey

It was an early trip for us, possibly a bellwether for future years. Before September was out we took off on a Wednesday afternoon, travelling straight up I-75 and over the Mackinac Bridge. We were fourteen in number, the extra seat on the bus crammed with sleeping bags, fishing gear, maps, and contraband snacks.

The first night was all about acclimation, camp set-up, cooking, and chatter. Tents were pitched all over the lakeside lawn of the property, with a view across the Straits of Mackinac, the bridge a soft creamy green to the southeast. We switched off cooking and cleaning, ending up with home-cooked meals of pancakes, bacon, pasties, pizzas, curry, braised fish, sandwiches, and plates piled high with leftovers. The kids frolicked on the rocky northern shore of Lake Michigan well into the late dusk. After dinner Rachel and I introduced the Our Whole Lives curriculum to the kids. Mike tended the fire and we all got to sleep at a decent hour, some indoors, some out.

The next morning we scarfed breakfast, packed lunches, and headed north to Tahquamenon Falls. A short rainy hike off the park entrance brought us to the Lower Falls. We rented three rowboats which traced routes across the river so circuitous they made Odysseus' trip look like the express train. Then we hiked the circumference of the island, wading under the falls on both the east and west branches of the river. Kids are oblivious to cold when they feel like it. This was doubly true at Whitefish Point, where we took off our shoes to walk on the Lake Superior beach, holding collection there amidst the whipping winds of the sweetwater sea.

We drove back to the Straits. We made dinner, held a delightful two-hour OWL session, held another collection under the stars. Then we watched O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brothers' Depression-era version of Odysseus' story, and hit the sack after midnight.

That wasn't the end. The next morning we spent three hours packing and cleaning, following a master list posted on the wall, writing fourteen thank-you notes. (I understand that both the list and the thank-you notes are still on display in the house.) There was one last trip to the lakeshore, a sandy beach at Michigan Dunes ten minutes west of the house, before we hit the bridge again, traversed the Lower Peninsula like the good Trolls we are*, and made it back to SK at 3:30 on the dot.

* The good people of the Upper Peninsula, also known as Yoopers, sometimes refer to residents of the Lower Peninsula as Trolls, because we live under the bridge.

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