Saturday, July 12, 2008

from the four-corners wireless hotspot on Drummond Island, Michigan

Three beautiful camping spots in a row. Secluded, with views of flowers and lake ripples, and sounds of frogs, birds and crickets. We wanted a fourth. It was not to be.

Maybe we should have stayed in Hessel or Cedarville. In the ice cream shop, CC was there – the man with the pony tail and a generous heart toward hitchhikers. I admire what you’re doing in the kayaks. He tells us. These days, I don’t go out much. Listen, if you want to throw your tent in my place, you’re welcome.

We should have thrown our tent at his place. And learned more about the community – its history, for instance (American Indians, sure, and then boat trippers from Mackinaw and the mainland; no roads up here until after the second World War).

But, we waved a cheery hand and went on to eat a plateful of fried local yellow perch at Pammi’s. At least I did. Ed had just polished off a lot of icecream and so he opted for a spinach salad with turkey. We have such different eating habits.

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The plan had been to paddle from Drummond Island further east (near Canada; indeed, if you weren’t careful, you’d paddle onto Canadian shores). But, I didn’t want to fret the weather issues. Ed distrusts forecasts -- not surprising, since they've been off -- but this one is in my face stubbornly telling me thundershowers all day Saturday. The distances between the little islands are long. I do not want the risk. (Ed sees little risk in being in a boat during a storm; we are different that way as well.)

Still, it could be that the skies will clear and the day would be brilliant and sunny. I’m okay with reconsidering on Saturday. And I’m okay with camping another night. I have never met a person who loved camping as much as Ed does! So we’ll camp.

But where?

Before you board the ferry for Drummond Island, you can detour toward the coast and find a state park with camping options. We did that. It was Disneyland on Lake Huron. Crowded and cramped. We left.

The ferry runs every hour. The boat fills with SUVs and summer people. Our little car with the kayak gets pushed to the side. A first sign that we are not Drummond people.

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Our map and a friendly Ecotours person (she was the one who enticed me to this area back in March, in Madison) assure us that there is state land just up the road, by the shore. You can always camp on state land. But we can’t find it. All roads lead to private property and “no trespassing” signs. I convince Ed that we should give this up. It’s near 10, near dark, and almost certainly this swatch of state land has no land access. Frustrating, but there you have it. Private always trumps here. Step on someone’s land and you can have a shotgun pointed at your nose. And so reluctantly, we go to the official Island campground.

And this one is even more crowded and even more crazy-packed. Here, Ed and I would choose different paths. He would put the tent down anyway, even if the only spot appears to be next to the outhouse. I say no and this time, I stand firm. Ed had been willing before we left to do the occasional b&b on this trip and I wanted to cash in on the promise.

The trouble is that it is the week-end, it is late and we have no backup plan. Our list of inns, b&bs, cottages, resorts, soon runs thin. Cell reception is nonexistent and so we drive from one place to another, in a futile pursuit of a room. Most places are full and nearly all are shut down for the night.

Until finally, we step onto the grounds of a rustic resort type place. Even without words, you can feel the wall of resistance going up within my occasional traveling companion. A resort is like a condominium to him. It represents all that he would like to avoid in life, this man with a real big foot, but with the desire to leave a very small (carbon) print on the planet and live in quiet simplicity.

I wake up some person somewhere and she is willing to let us have a room for a small charge. As well she might, since the place is freaky empty. It’s not that it’s posh at all. But there seem to be no people of any yoke anywhere on the premises.

A less than optimal closure, to be sure, but now I wince when I hear Ed’s final verdict for the day: we should have stayed at the campground.

In the morning we cheer ourselves with a cinnamon roll and eggs over easy. Food so often soothes raw spirits.