Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Sturgess River Camp

Before Tent

After Tent

Camp Chef

Camp Gourmet Caprese Salad

Camp Cooking Fish

Camp  Dinner

Apparently I'm Big in the UP, too.

The next morning we finally managed to make it to the Monks to buy some bread and jam. And when I say some, I mean that we were at Poorock Abbey for about ten minutes and managed to buy about $140 dollars worth of bread and jam. You feel almost obligated to, though, when you read such happy titles as “Portwine Jam” and “Lemon Pound Cake, Soaked in  Brandy.” So we bought a lot of delicious bread and then tried to make up our minds about what to do.

Eventually  it was decided to stay at another National forest campsite on the Sturgess River (where we had successfully managed to avoid bears the previous year) and to try a trip to visit the Hungarian Falls, a little-known, but rather pretty, set of waterfalls that was on the way.

This resulted in rather a little more time in the car, a stop off to grab some food for camp dinner, and consulting the magic box of knowledge for directions to the falls. The falls are located in an old factory and mining area that has seen better days; not least because the factories were horrible polluters that had destroyed a great deal of the land, causing them to eventually fall into decay and disrepair on a giant sledge of polluted runoff that was in the river. There were old factory mine tours and museums dotted along the way as we drove, and my boy remarked on some of the history of the region he recalled from his summer camp trips there as a young teen. The summer camp trips were how we had first learned about the Monks, the pretty parks, and Hungarian Falls.

The falls, it turns out, were not really a park, but sat on privately owned property; however, the owners had opened it to the public for visits, which we were very happy to take advantage of. Once we had  managed to find the actual turn-off we disembarked with  the dog and wandered up the semi-steep trail to the first of the two falls.(The falls are divided into two pieces, the Upper Hungarian Falls and the Lower Hungarian Falls.)

“These are very pretty,” I said to the Boy.

“As I recall the lower falls are more impressive.”

So we wandered off to check out the lower falls, back down the steep incline and following the river trail. He wasn’t kiddingthe lower falls were very pretty to behold and as I stood back from them I admired the view. To get closer I walked toward the edge of a bit of cliff and leaned over, looking down.

Down  below there was a woman and her son. The woman waved up at me. “Hi Sara!”


That  was unexpected.

“I know you; come on down.”

Clearly she knew me, but I wasn’t sure who this was. I racked my brain a bit but had some ideas. We managed to find a rather steep section of cliff that had some reasonable handholds, and grabbing on, very carefully, I scaled the cliff down.

“Shimer person?”

“Yep, I told you, I was on the UP!”

I was now making a bit of a better connection. After having acquired $140 worth of elicit Monk goods I had made an offhand social network post about said goods, to which one person had responded; it went like this:

Me: Who has 140$ worth  of Monk bread and jam.
Shimer person: I do, I’m on the UP.

At the time I was confused about what being on the UP meant, but hadn’t thought much of it. What I learned, however was that UP was apparently short for Upper Peninsula (pronounced U-P, rather than up). Furthermore, apparently when Shimer people visit the UP they do things like buy ridiculous amounts of Monk bread and visit Hungarian Falls. This confirms my belief that my life is wildly random.

We hung out for a few minutes, got eaten alive by mosquitoes, allowed the dog to be properly praised and loved, and finally scaled back up the cliff we had climbed down to find a car and head away in time to set up camp on the Sturgess before dark.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Late Night on the Upper Peninsula

We didn’t have the place to ourselves long, which amused. Two guys came driving down the road from hell and pulled off on our rocky promenade. As I munched on chicken sausage and asparagus I listened with one ear to the conversation and looked at the Boy.

“That’s not English; what is that?” I asked.


“Not English. German?”

“I wasn’t listening” he managed to mouth back at me around a mouthful of food. My curiosity was definitely piqued and I was sure I was quite right about the fact that these were not native English speakers. We ate; we cleaned up. We put all potential foodstuffs in the car, and really, everything else involved with our camp went into the car.

“What are the chance of bears?” I didn’t know why I kept asking this question. I knew I wouldn’t like the answer.

“Not zero,” was the response I got. “However, if I were a bear I’d probably go to a state park that has trashcans, not this national park that is 'pack in pack out.' State park campers are a lot more careless with food and waste, which makes it better bear hunting.”

As we closed up the lights started to fade down, and we wondered what was going to happen with our visitors in the bay. We didn’t have to wait much longer before they hailed us and wandered over.

“Hi there, how are you?” person one with the red cap asks, with a clear accent of...something.

We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and then finally, somewhere in the middle found the point.

“So, we just wanted to let you know we are going to be wandering around all night with flashlights and we just don’t want to spook you.”

“We have a dog,” I mentioned and pointed out the big black silent dog who was watching everything closely and quietly.

“That’s okay. We are astrophotographers; we will be up all night shooting pictures.” Astrophotgraphy, that has got to be the coolest hobby ever.

“That sounds like fun,” I replied.

“Last night there was aurora borealis and we are hoping to get lucky and catch some pictures of that.”

The sky was already beginning to dip to dark, crystal clear, as it dimmed from blue to black.

“It looks like you will have good weather for it. So, um, where are you from?”

“Ah, yes, we are Polish.”

“Polish, I knew that wasn’t English!” There was a moment then, a moment I recognize when someone feels like they are being called out or put on the spot for not being a true-blooded ‘Murican. It’s something I have been able to spot now, when I see foreigners in the States, when they get caught out by their accent, the only way to tell they are not from here, so much different from Korea that way.

“I’m an EFL specialist,” I added, and watched them visibly relax. We talked quickly about my adventures abroad before splitting up, them to spend the night taking pictures on the bay, and us to retire to our all-too-dark tent. At some time around three in the morning, we both woke up for camp bathroom breaks, me probably convinced I heard a bear, but what was probably just the dog turning over, and wandered outside into the very cool night. Even though it was mid-June the temperature was just barely above freezing (although our tent managed to keep us warm).

I’d say it was dark and cool, but that would not be correct; it was bright, like the sky was light up by a thousand jewels, with the words “Oh my god, it’s full of stars” running through my brain as I stumbled into the night. Everywhere you looked were pinpoints of light shining in the darkness, and through the center of it, like spilled milk, rain a strip of the Milky Way. It was breathtaking. With all the light pollution in the cities I live in I forget just how amazingly full the night sky can actually be, and this, this was an awesome thing to behold. Had it not been for the cold chilling through my bones, and the warm sleeping bag waiting in the tent, I might have sat for a while longer and enjoyed it.

As it was, I crawled back into my tent, grabbed my boy, and drifted with a head full of stars, back to sleep.

Camping Tents and Dining