Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dreams Really Do Come True

So many times I have walked the shores of the Great Lakes in Michigan, longing to get away from all the tourists and vacationers who invade the beaches each summer, looking for the same enjoyment as I. When I would get to the end of the State property and see the sign marked "Private Land", I would stare longingly at the empty shoreline ahead of me and wonder what the people were like who were lucky enough to own a piece of the beach.  I dreamed of letting my dog, Rooney, run on the beach, and not seeing anyone for miles.  Today, for just a few hours, I lived the dream.

After a frantic push to get my 1970 Airstream restored, I was able to finish enough of the work to put her back together this week and head way north to Cheboygan State Park.  I had never been there, but available campsites on the 4th of July are few, and it was the first park I looked at on the DNR website that had a few sites still open.  I have always gravitated to the west side of Michigan, so heading east to Lake Huron has been a new experience, certainly one I will never regret.

A Quiet Campsite

The state park in Cheboygan is one of the best kept secrets in Michigan

My site was shaded and secluded, with lots of privacy and a cool breeze coming off the lake.  Temperatures were in the 90's, but the tin can stayed cool under the canopy of trees that framed her.  Rooney found the grove of pine trees in my site a comfortable place to sleep.  It was so quiet!  Even though the campground was mostly full, people were enjoying the sounds of nature and the sight of Lake Huron peeking through the campsites.  

Rooney, hot on the trail
                                                                             I spent the first day exploring the many trails that are well marked and offer shade.  I felt sorry for Rooney, though, because even on the tree-covered trails the air temperatures were high and he was suffering in the heat.  When we returned from a long hike, Rooney dropped on his bed of pine needles, panting, worn out.  It was then that an older couple walked by with their dog and stopped to ask about the Airstream.  As we talked, they told me of a short trail just down the road that leads to the beach, where dogs are allowed.  I have never camped in a Michigan state park that allowed dogs on the beach, so I verified the information with a DNR officer, and the next day we walked that trail.

It was only a ten minute walk, but when the trees fell away to reveal a sandy beach, I was shocked and elated.  I could see down the beach forever, and there was not another person in sight!  Rooney and I walked for a bit on the water's edge, splashing our feet and cooling off, when in a moment of trust I did something I have never done before; I let Rooney off his leash.  He loved it!  He ran in the water of Lake Huron, then ran out, shook himself off, and loped down the beach.  Every so often, he would stop and turn to look at me, as if to say "C'mon, hurry up!"  It was heartwarming to see my dog do what dogs should do, run and splash and get muddy and hurry back to my side.  I spent the afternoon walking a deserted beach with my dog running free, and it was good.
Rooney, Unleashed!

An endless empty beach

As we returned to the campground, I stopped in to see Rachael at the Check-In Station.  I asked her what she thinks makes this campground so special, and even though she has only worked there a short time, she said,

"It's because we are old-fashioned".

The Perfect Campsite
Ah, she defined what I was feeling.  Only 20 amp service is available there, so there were no big campers with air conditioning units running and people staying inside to escape the heat.  No, all the campers were in tents or simple trailers, and we all were sweating together, not complaining, just glad to be living outside for a bit.  No one was fancy.  It was a campground full of simple people, like me, who want to get away from real life for a few days and let their kids ride bikes without helmets on, splash in the water, and sit outside to eat, talk, remember a childhood that was more basic, yet far richer, than what we know today.

The View
The rocky bottom of Lake Huron
Cheboygan State Park is happily no longer of the best-kept secrets in Michigan for us in-betweeners.  Remote tent camping isn't for everyone, neither is high-tech RVing.  This place is for people who want to be able to plug in a light or a radio, who seek solitude on the shoreline, and who want a quiet camping experience with just enough comfort to remind us of home.

I intend to return often.  For this happy camper, Cheboygan State Park offers just what I need.  A quiet and private site, a clean campground, and miles of empty beach with my dog running free.  If this was a dream, I plan for it to be a recurring one.