Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Not-So-Adventurous Adventures of Two Anti-Social Introverted Recluses

In October 2012, I tried to ignite a passion in my best friend Debbie for outdoor adventure.  It was an epic fail.  To be fair to Debbie, getting her lost in the wilderness for 11 hours probably wasn't the best way to introduce her to my love of adventure.  She gave it her best shot, but Debbie will never share my love for hiking in the middle of nowhere among the wild animals, though somewhere out there is a hibernating bear who can't get "God Bless America" out of his head, thanks to Debbie's attempts to warn him of our presence.

Our annual Fall Camping Trip had become such an important part of our friendship, that despite her fear, Debbie agreed to join me again in October 2013, though she offered up a few rules, contingencies, and guidelines.  She would come, but if I wanted to set foot on a trail, she would be happily waving me on my way from the campfire.  If I wanted to venture any distance from the campground, she would only accompany me if we were going someplace with lots of people.  And electricity.  During our travels, she must have the opportunity to take a break from exploring and eat real food, not the leaves from a plant that is probably not poisonous, if I'm reading the Field Guide correctly.

Ok, it's not quite the way I camp, but for Debbie, I would do anything.  After exploring the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness area for a week on my own, I agreed to meet Debbie at Brimley State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Brimley is a little more connected to civilization, has hot showers in the Bath House, and is close to the Bay Mills Ojibwe Indian Community.  After experiencing temperatures in the 80's the week before, we arrived during a steady rain and 40 degrees.  Brrrrr.

I got there first, and found a deserted campground located on the shore of Lake Superior, just north of Sault St. Marie.  Much to my delight, I only saw three other campers in the entire park.  Then the park ranger informed me I had arrived on the busiest and most fun weekend of the whole year, HalloweenFest!  Within a day, the campground filled up, happy campers turned their sites into haunted houses and cemeteries, and echoes of eerie halloween music and owl calls were ringing through the air.  Lovely.  The two introverted anti-social recluses on Site #55 didn't stand a chance.

I like to join the spirit of things, so I ran back into town, and on a meager budget, did what I could to decorate our campsite.  I thought it looked nice, until
another camper remarked, somewhat snidely, that my decorations were "very Martha-Stewart".  I don't think it was a compliment.

By the time Debbie arrived, I had the camper all set up and a fire going.  It was drizzling rain, but the massive tree in our site kept most of the rain at bay.  I grilled the Salmon, brought by Debbie, over the fire, while she used her legs as a barrier to keep Rooney from stealing our dinner.

Debbie and I could easily spend days doing nothing more than sitting by an open fire, reading, talking, laughing, eating M&M's, and enjoying the outdoors.  But there were a few things in the area worth seeing.  On Friday morning we took our time getting ready.  It was very chilly and rainy outside.  I think we both were reluctant to tell the other we really didn't want to go anywhere, so we each showered and prepared for the day ahead, reluctantly getting in the car to go explore the nearby civilization.

Our first stop was at a delightful coffee cafe in Bay Mills.  Owned by an authentic Ojibwe Indian woman and aptly named "Coffee House", the ramshackle building held the promise of intrigue and treasure within.  The owner proudly explained to me her ways of growing organic beans and preparing the purest cup of coffee I've ever tasted.  She did not disappoint.  Debbie and I enjoyed fresh bowls of soup while we surfed the internet - yes, I said internet, while camping, no less - for the timetables at the Soo Locks.  Then, after a leisurely exploration of the local art for sale in Coffee House, we left to watch the big boats go through the time honored tradition of transferring from Lake Huron to Lake Superior through a 21' drop in the St. Mary's river.  Canada lies on one side of the river, Michigan on the other.  In Sault St. Marie, visitors can view the ships passing through the lock system from a platform, and the Visitor's Center provides schedules, information about each vessel, and an in-depth look at the history and construction of the locks.

If you have never been to the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie, it is worth the trip.  While the two oldest locks are no longer in use, vessels carrying iron ore, coal, cement, limestone, grain, salt, or sand use the MacArthur Lock, built in 1943, which accommodates vessels 800ft long, 80 ft wide, and 31ft deep.  The big Lakers need to use the Poe Lock, added in 1968, built 1200ft long, 110ft wide, and 32ft deep.  Debbie and I were lucky enough to watch the largest vessel on the Great Lakes, the Paul R. Tregurtha,
go through the Poe Lock.  It was an awesome sight to see, even though we had lost all feeling in our fingers and toes and our noses were turning blue from the cold rain.  We toughed it out, then walked across the street to a local bar and had a hot lunch, which had no leaves, berries, or twigs whatsoever on the menu.

We agreed that seeing the Soo Locks was a
worthy experience, but we were ready to head back to the tin can for heat, naps, and dinner.

Even though Brimley State Park isn't exactly in the wilderness, there is something about walking
through the door of the tin can when you are wet, tired, and cold, feeling her warmth descend over you, and welcoming you to rest.  I crawled into my bed, Debbie fought with Rooney over the couch and won, and as we drifted off to la-la land, the rain was singing a lullaby on the tin roof.

When we emerged once more into the rain, Debbie, Rooney and I spent a relaxing evening by the fire, admiring the campers who strung huge tarps over their campfires while we huddled in our chairs with blankets and umbrellas.  Debbie will be the first to tell you, it is hard to pour more wine when you're hanging onto an umbrella and fighting off the glowing embers that keep landing on your lap, but she rose to the challenge.  We watched with some dismay as the new campers continued to arrive late into the night, setting up their rigs in the rain and cursing their spouses loudly.  (That's what happens to otherwise loving couples when setting up camp in the dark and the rain while the kids are running loose, wreaking havoc).  Halloween lights were being strung, dry-ice fog machines were fired up, and the general atmosphere of the campground was a spooky forest surrounding my Martha Stewart decorations.

The next day, however, and in true Kiki-Debbie form, things got much more interesting.  Unfortunately, children are about to descend into my quiet writing space, so you'll have to wait to hear the rest of the story.  Suffice it to say, it was a cold and blustery day, and our good friend Captain Morgan made an appearance.