This year we took our 4- year old granddaughter with us. The down side was that she woke up a lot earlier than we care to, 'especially on vacation.' Frankly, I have no regrets! It is exciting to be with someone you love as they experience so many new and exciting things for the first time! Madison turned out to be a very good traveler!
When I was her age, my parents took us kids on many long trips. I can remember riding to Florida in the back of a station wagon, a pickup truck, and on the back seat of a sedan! We had toys and books to play with and no confining seat belt. Well, it is way different today. Madison is too big for her infant car seat and she is now using what she calls her "big girl seat," which is actually a child's booster seat. But the point is, that is where she travels and there is no roaming around!
Madison's first night to sleep in a camping trailer was at our favorite campground, Mackinaw Old Mill Creek Campground. Let me tell you, these people know how to do a campground right! They have over 800 sites and they are all premium in my book! Usually we ask for a site overlooking the Straights of Mackinac, but this time I opted for something near the largest of their many great sandy playgrounds.
If during our trip, we pass any type of playground, even if we are going 70 miles per hour, chances are Madison will spot it! And we will know about it right away!
"Can I play at that playground?" she will ask.
Deb and I spent a good deal of time watching her play in the camp playground. On any one of our past vacations, that would have been time that I would have spent playing with my metal detector. The largest camp playground is like a half acre sand box with lots of neat handcrafted playground equipment. It is amazing what you can do with old truck axle hubs, wheels & tires! Just following Madison from one teeter-totter or one swing to the next, I kept spotting the edges of quarters peeking out of the sand with my naked eyes!
One morning we took a trip to Mackinac Island. This is something that we wouldn't have done without having Madison along. Deb and I love the island, in fact that is where we spent our honeymoon! We stayed at the beautiful Windermere Hotel that was built in 1887 and since 1904 has been a hotel. We have explored almost every square inch of the island in the past, so we don't visit that often anymore. Frankly, after experiencing the high price tags in Mackinaw City, I figured the shops and restaurants on the Island would really drain me!
Well, we were in for a real surprise! The price tags on the island were very reasonable! Considering the high gas and the weak economy, at least the business people on the island were thinking! Everywhere else, one of the worse things about this vacation was sticker shock! We are not usually the type to stop at McDonalds, but this time I was very thankful for the Golden Arches! For example, we stopped at a restaurant in Escanaba, where we have dined before and their prices have really shot up! One of the lowest prices on the menu was a hot dog and it was seven dollars! At Mama Mia's Pizza in Mackinaw City, soft drinks were nearly $2.00 and no free refills!
Madison really enjoyed Mackinac Island. What Deb and I love to do on the island is walk and walk! On our honeymoon, we must have walked around the island and on every inland path several times. With Madison, we knew that our walk would be limited, so we decided to walk to the main cemetery to visit the Holden plot. It is a beautiful walk past Skull Cave and in toward the center of the island. Madison did a great job getting there, but grandpa had to carry her most all the way back!
One morning Madison climbed into our bunk and my wife was the first to wake up. Deb told Madison to get down and go back into her own bed. She wasn't happy about it, but she reluctantly started to get off our bed. She stood up, and that's when I heard a really loud bang! When she stood up, she hit her head really hard on the corner of the cabinet-bunk right over our bed. It is just amazing that it didn't knock her out cold! She started crying really hard and that is when I finally started coming around. I was sleeping when I heard the bang, and nothing was very clear to me about what had happened. Half asleep, I listened as my wife explained to me that Madison had hit her head really hard!
By that time her crying had died down to a whimpering. I propped myself up on one elbow and held up my other hand with my index finger pointing up. Still in a moderate sleep stage, I asked Madison, "How many fingers do you see?"
She composed herself, swallowed, and said, "Four."
Still mostly asleep, I told my wife, "Good, she's OK," and laid back down.
It was one of the rare times that I can remember my wife really laughing hard!
Madison is a strong-willed, feisty, little red head sweetheart! She was born 2 months pre-mature and she only weighed 1 pound 7 ounces at birth. Because she was premature, she lags behind a little in development. At four years old she is about par with a typical 3 year old. I need to start working on her finger counting. God has been so good to Madison. Many premature babies have many more serious issues.
Even though her speech development is a little behind, she does the best she can. If asked about her vacation, she will tell you that she got to see her Great Grandma and Grandpa in Amasa and she will tell you about the big "Macaroni Bridge," and "Macaroni Island!"
As always, we had a great time at Deb's parents in Amasa. People who spend this life in a beautiful place like Amasa are probably kept in the basement in heaven! On the other hand, the price they pay to live in paradise in the U.P. is called winter! The weather was a little cool most of the time we were there and it was rainy. Usually it is very hot and we spend a good deal of out time in their screen house listening to the bubbling Hemlock River. On this occasion it was too cool to enjoy the screen house and a good book.
A couple years ago my father-in-law took me out to a location on the Paint River where there was once an 1800's lumber camp. On that occasion, we drove as deep into the woods as possible, then parked the truck to continue on foot. Well, we parked the truck, walked just a couple steps to get our detectors and other gear out of the truck bed, and in those few steps our legs were covered with wood ticks! Naturally we changed our plans!
This year, Bob learned that the area had been recently logged so we decided to give the location another try. It had been rainy while we were there, but up until then it was very dry. From a bug standpoint 'dry' is good news. The day we decided to revisit this area, it was sunny and nice, but just cool enough to dress for the woods.
When you are detecting in the U.P. woods you don't wear shorts and t-shirts! No matter how hot, you wear long sleeves, long pants, a hat and plenty of bug dope! We parked the truck and hiked into the forest, heading south towards the Paint River. After a very long walk, we he found a gate made from chain and iron pipe. This type of gate is common to see at the entry of most camps in the U.P. When we reached the gate Bob was surprised to see a one-lane paved road!
After that long walk, and now seeing a road, I was thinking, "Why didn't we drive here?"
That is when we spotted a small house that Bob recognized.
"Years and years ago, I used to visit a guy who once lived here. We need to head back in the other direction." Bob said
I was glad to see that Bob was able to find a point of reference, as to our location. Now we would be able to change course to find the long lost logging camp. After backtracking about 1/4 mile, we found a side trail heading due south. We walked along that trail to our intended target which was the Paint River. Even one eighth mile away, as we walked downhill approaching the river, you could see the sparkle of the mid-day sun reflecting off the water through the leaves and thick brush.
As we approached the river, our modern logging trail turned away from the river, which meant we needed to leave the trail and push on through the brush. Bob originally found the tell tale signs of this old ghost logging camp several years ago. That happened when Bob and his crew crew logged the area. As he remembered it, the camp was near the river. As we followed the river, headed in what I thought was an easterly direction, we spread apart for a while. We would stop from time to time to check the ground with our detectors in hopes of finding evidence of the old camp.
I never let Bob get too far from my sight, and on the occasional time when I couldn't see him, I had to fight off that anxious panic-stricken feeling. You could get forever lost in these huge forest areas! Finally we reached a high, solid, rock cliff that went about 40-feet straight up and, high on top of this rock cliff, was a very well built deer blind! Even though it was just a slate gray-colored plywood shack, it blended well with the rock and it looked pretty majestic perched over us. All during our vacation, I carried my new camera with me everywhere and I cannot believe I didn't take a picture of it!
This wall of rock forced us inland, away from the river, and it was like walking into a beautiful sea of green ferns! The problem with the ferns was that they masked the very uneven forest floor. My mistake was that I wore jogging shoes without good support, which made the going very hard! I followed Bob the best that I could, trying to avoid twisting or breaking my ankle. We hiked on and on and, before long, we had moved far away from the river.
We continued to hike and I started to have an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. Finally I realized we were in a bit of trouble when Bob let me catch up, and said, "You know, we could be within 50 feet of the trail and not be able to see it."
Oh my gosh! My first thought was of spending the night in these woods with the wolves, bears and, worst of all, the dreaded wood ticks! Pictures of search parties, the sounds of bloodhounds, helicopters dangling rope ladders all crossed my mind, but still I didn't panic! I just stumbled along carrying my detector and trying to keep up. I remember my mother-in-law asking Bob to tell her where we would be hunting.
"Along the Paint River," was his answer.
"Do you have your cell phone?" she asked.
"Yes, It's in the truck."
In the U.P., they use the old- style, large, "bag phones." and for good reason. The bag phones are heavy and bulky because of the large battery packs that they use. The large battery packs provide extra power for a phone signal that will travel an extra long distance. The extra power is needed in the U.P., where the cell phone towers are much further apart. However, the bag-phone is heavy and you simply wouldn't want to carry it through the woods! That is why it was in Bob's truck, which wasn't lost--- we were! If we were at the truck, we wouldn't need the cell phone!
As I stumbled along behind Bob, my mind started to wander. What if we did have the cell phone, who would we call?
"Hello Honey, I'm with your dad and we are lost."
"Where are you lost?"
Well I guess that phone wouldn't do much good after all. Then, Bob stopped in his tracks, turned around and started walking towards me.
"Do you have any of these down where you live?"
Bob pointed to a green berry with tiny points sticking out.
For a split second, I was distracted from our situation as I looked at the unusual berry.
"What is it?" I asked.
Bob responded,"It's a Goose Berry!"
Oh my gosh! We are looking for edible plants! Next he is going to show me how to trap rain water!
I looked at Bob as he examined the tiny berries and explained what color they would be when they were ready to be picked. There was absolutely no sense of panic or even a tiny trace of worry. Having spent most of his life in the woods, he knew how to get out. We simply needed to be patient was my guess. After admiring the tiny gooseberries, Bob continued to walk in the direction that he had been walking and, within 20 paces, he found the trail!
The question now was, "Is this our trail?"
Bob responded, "I'm not sure, but let's go this way."
I was glad we found a trail, but it can either lead us deeper into the woods or lead us to a road. Our chance of going the right way was 50/50! But even those were better odds than we had! After hiking for quite some time, we finally came across a landmark that I recognized! Yes, within another half mile I saw that beautiful old black Ford pickup! That night at supper, I thought about how much fun it will be doing all of the things that I hate to do.
We really had a great time this summer with my inlaws and I look forward to the next adventure before I even get home!