Life has been crazy the past couple of months. I finished up school at Great Lakes in Chicago, flew home to Virginia, then hit the road to visit family in Texas (I’ll expand on that at a later date). There are a lot of unknowns surrounding my family and me lately. While it hasn’t been easy to deal with, we have been pressing on and focusing on the future. I imagine when everything is wrapped up and settled, I’ll put pen to paper to reflect and laugh at much of it. I know I’ve left you with a cliffhanger and some vague information, so, now, a continuation of our family trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We had arrived. We unloaded the kiddos and took a quick tour, from the Millionaire to Conway Lake. Then we headed over to the “Tupa” to check out our quarters for the next week. Tupa is Finnish for “little cabin”. It is the size of an efficiency apartment. Inside were the bunk beds my brother and I shared as kids, an air mattress and a small kitchenette. It was a blank canvas ready to be worked on. Krissi and I unloaded the truck and got settled in.

We went over to the Millionaire for dinner. It was a keto diet special, burgers without buns. My Aunt Ruth had prepared them for everyone. After dinner the kids took a dip in the lake. There is nothing like getting all washed up and clean with a lake bath. It gets you close to nature. By the end of “getting cleaned up” nature’s way, the matresses were calling our names…Ben, Krissi, Kash, Lincoln! Exhaustion was upon us and it was time to get some good, solid rest. Now, it doesn’t get dark until around 10 p.m. in the U.P. during mid-summer. Of course, we had to explain to Kash why it was time to go to sleep while the sun was still visible. And, after convincing the Sandwich maker that a bear wasn’t going to bust through the door and eat us, we finally zonked out.

Camp is a calming, yet amazing experience. There is no cell service and plenty of forest to run around in. You have to hall in your drinking and cooking water. There is a pump from the lake to fill the trash cans used for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Did I mention that you have to use a bucket to flush the toilet? There is an abundance of fish to catch with a few rowboats and canoes for lake cruising. The mosquitoes are as big as a small horse and will leave a welt on you the size of Georgia with a single bite. They can also be as thick as Black Friday shoppers at Wal-Mart at midnight.

I remember as a child always running through the woods, playing in the lake and attempting to catch fish (it has never been a strong suit of mine). My Nanny helped me catch a small garder snake, named him Conway. We took him back to Texas as a pet. We would hike to Lake Superior and climb Breakfast Roll. My cousins and I would build forts and explore the area around camp (we did most of this without parental supervision) for hours and hours on end. The sauna would be fired up throughout the day for our use. If you ever get the chance to use a wood burning stove sauna, do it. A lot of saunas now-a-days are electric. I enjoy pouring water on the hot rocks and choking on the rush of steam (it really opens up the lungs, ha). This trip, I took the time to learn what makes camp tick. I am at the age where I want to invest in learning the responsibilities that my parents had when I was a young’un. I started with the sauna. It wasn’t difficult, just simply starting a fire in a cast iron stove and keeping it fed. This meant keeping the wood pile stacked and the stove clear of ashes. We used it to relax and bathe. Both the kids enjoyed a sauna bath. We would stick them in dish washing bins. Hot Rod found enjoyment in splashing water everywhere, while Kash was all about using the ladle to bathe herself with.

We had the pleasure of Alexis and Ali (two of my cousin’s daughters) join us for a couple of days. They took Kash under their wings and showed her the ropes of being a kid out there. They took her to the fort in the woods, out of sight. There was some hesitation from Krissi (because of bears), but it was calmed by the “screams” of fun and laughter. They had a blast! We took a canoe ride later that day. It was a bit windy, which made for a fight on the way back to shore. Come to find out, it was both Krissi’s and Kash’s first time in a canoe. As dinner approached, we made our way over to Chris and Dave’s (GramB’s cousins) for a meal. They were the next camp down and live there full time during summer. Rachael and her dog Dude met us out there. Dinner was full of great food, good drinks, and superb conversation. Dave took the girls for a tour of his wood shop and Hot Rod crashed from all the excitement he experienced. We had some ice cream for desert and then headed back to “our place”. After we got back to camp and put the kiddos to sleep, Rachael, Krissi and I relaxed on the porch of the Tupa. We swapped stories and enjoyed some more adult beverages.

I could go on and on about camp. This just covered the first couple of days. There is still Lake Superior, adventures in Marquette and shenanigans at Pike Lake I want to share. I’ll save those for another day. My time up there has always been limited, leaving me to cram as many activities as I can into a short time. Camp is a real vacation from society. It forces you to put down the electronics and get your hands dirty. You can see an endless number of stars at night and hike through nature at it’s core. Kids make the forest their playground and adults can enjoy the calm of nature. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Do work, be rad

Mustache