We just got back from vacation in Michigan. Namely north west Michigan in the Manistee/Traverse City area. This area is a sportsman's dream. With superfluous amounts of public access and an array of cold, clear streams and lakes it beckons to the core of my being. This was my third trip there, but the first for all four of my children. My earlier two trips had been idyllic getaways, an opportunity to gather my senses and rest my soul. This time was to be none of those things. In fact it seemed doomed from the very start.
In making preparations we realized that our SUV was seriously short on space, with six passengers plus equipment and personal effects. So we made arrangements to use my father-in-law's hitch carrier to accommodate the space needed. Storage totes were strapped to the carrier and a car packed with kids was on its way north. Picture the Beverly Hillbillies and you would be pretty close to how we looked.
Stop number one was in Cloverdale for breakfast pizza, no trip is complete for my wife, April, until she has breakfast pizza. Leaving the gas station and trying to eat the otherwise innocuous piece of pizza, I had a coughing fit commonly known in my family as "the Swaby curse.' This coughing attack resulted in a piece of pizza becoming lodged in my nostril for the ensuing 200 miles.
Stop number two was in Michigan City for fuel. Stepping around the car to check our cargo I noticed an odd spot on a tote, it had been melted by the exhaust and was oozing down onto the carrier. Unable to do anything to fix the problem we piled back into the car and hoped for the best.
Four hours and three stops later we finally pulled into our campsite near Mesick, Mich. Assuming the worst was behind us, we unloaded the car and went for a walk. Running alongside the campground was a small spring fed creek where the boys wanted to unwind. Sounding like a good idea, we made our way down the hill, kicked off our shoes, and felt the shock of the cold water running over our toes.
The three boys, Cade, Liam, and Ayrton took to the creek as boys do and were gone in an instant, racing up the stream. Meanwhile April, my daughter Brooklyn, and I stayed back and watched. Finished with checking the conditions upstream the boys decided to race back to us. Anyone who is a parent can see where this is going, three boys running barefoot, at top speed, down a creek, the youngest trips and falls face first into the water, emerging with a panicked look on his face and tears in his eyes. Ayrton had stepped on something sharp and had subsequently sliced open the bottom of his foot.
Hobbling back to camp we attempted to clean his wound and ease his pain. Crisis averted we loaded up and headed to town for pizza. Fortunately, we made it through the rest of the night without issue.
Day two started off beautifully, the sun was shining and I was up before everyone cooking a camp breakfast of bacon and eggs. It's been my experience that the simplest way to rouse children from a slumber is the aroma of bacon in the air. Breakfast served we loaded into the car and headed north towards Traverse City for a day of tourism at its finest.
Everyone was having a great time and our fortunes seemed to be turning until the clouds began rolling in. Deciding our shopping was finished, we still wanted to experience a Lake Michigan beach before the day ended. Rain or not we would stroll barefoot in the sand! Driving north on the Leelanu Peninsula we pulled off at a state park hiking trail and made the mile walk to an isolated beach. Upon reaching the sand dunes everyone kicked off their shoes and sprinted for the shoreline. In the process Ayrton reopened his cut and could be seen hobbling along the edge. Not to be deterred he and the other two boys jumped into the lake only to come back up shivering intensely, they were not expecting the cold water temperatures.
After a short swim the rain started coming down harder and we were forced to head for camp. The farther south we drove the harder the rain fell. Arriving at camp I was prepared for the worst. April and the kids stayed in the car as I dared to peak inside the tent. Looking dry I gave the thumbs up and April proceeded into the tent to change into dry clothes. Kneeling down onto the sleeping bag she felt water soaking through her pants. The rain had leaked into our tent and the sleeping bags and bags of dry clothes had absorbed it all. Without a stitch of dry clothing or gear we made the despicable choice of heading home two nights early. Packing up and driving through the night to come home was not an ideal end to our vacation. I'm just thankful to have packed in as much activity as we could in the time we had and to have had all of my children with me for the experience.
Jon is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 21. He can also be reached via email at email@example.com.