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.

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