We’re camping on this Labor Day weekend. Which is what we were doing up in Michigan’s U.P. during our stay in the backwoods wilderness of that beautiful country. Which leads me to the black bear story…..
As I said before, we all stayed in tents both times that we went up there. The cabin sat on a corner lot of sorts, with the lake straight out in front of it and a thirty-foot wide tributary from the lake that passed the cabin on the left and became a smaller lake behind the cabin property. So our tents were on one side of the cabin and the tributary was on the other. An old bridge made of railroad ties, as I recall (as was the main dock into the lake), spanned the thirty feet of water and connected the cabin’s mainland with an island on the other side of the tributary. This bridge was a good five or six feet above the water (as a sharp 25+ year-old memory reveals) with a very old wooden rowboat on the cabin side of the shoreline.
If you recall my mentioning Nate and Jesse (the same Nate who went fishing for some Kelly in a previous story), Jesse was about four or five years old at the time of our first venture up there. Even though we were told to stay away from it, Jesse somehow miraculously found himself standing in the old rowboat. Then it started to sink. And he started to cry….loudly. His Dad was clear across the other side of the cabin where the tents were when he heard his youngest son cry. He was a blur of arms and legs as he came sprinting across the property to where his son was in the rowboat (don’t be too concerned–the water was only a couple feet deep where the boat was). He leapt into the water as he lunged for his son and whisked him right out of the boat. Once Jesse was deemed safe and unharmed…..well, then the crap hit the fan for why he was even anywhere near the boat to begin with.
That same bridge, it was said to us kids, could possibly hold a black bear or two, which meant that there were possibly black bear in and around the woods that surrounded the cabin. We didn’t see any, but I’m pretty sure I heard one. The bathroom was a two-hole latrine about fifty-feet into the woods behind the cabin. Not much of an issue during the day, but at night that distance became a very significant obstacle. I remember one night making that very long trek through the fifty feet of trail that was surrounded by trees on either side, armed with nothing but the flashlight in my hand. The latrine was within sight at twenty feet away, but just as I came within sight of it, I heard significant rustling behind me just off the trail on the right. I don’t think my feet touched the ground those last twenty feet, and I certainly didn’t have to use the bathroom anymore by the time I found myself safely inside the confines of the latrine. I have no idea what I heard in those woods just off the trail, but I wasn’t about to go look. I waited a few minutes and then ran like I was shot out of a cannon those fifty feet back to the camping area where my parents and safety awaited me.
My fondest memories, though, are God’s nature that surrounded us up there. We had blueberry bushes all over up there, so one day for lunch, all we had were fresh blueberries in pudgy-pies (with sugar, of course); Todd and I took a canoe ride clear to the other side of the lake where a little nook offered us such solitude that the hushed tones of our conversation sounded like we were shouting; no sounds of civilization in the morning, just loons out on the misty water as the sun came up; and more than anything else, for me the very presence of God Himself to meet me there every day in His beautiful creation that was all around.
Should you get the chance to vacation in Northern Michigan–anywhere from the top of the mitten or higher–you will create for yourself a very memorable experience!