Tag Archives: lake

Of Bears And Other Stuff

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!

The Coffee Snob Returns

Do you remember me mentioning a while back that I have a “Coffee Snob” in my life?  If you don’t, I’ll gladly remind you right now that it’s my brother.  No worries…he wears that title with pride.

As you already know, I and my family are vacationing at a campground just outside of Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan.  It’s been absolutely beautiful having Lake Huron just down the way from us with an incredible view of the Mackinac Bridge which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.  As you can imagine, nothing is more relaxing on a vacation like this than going down by the water’s edge with your chair and your coffee and watching the morning unfold before you!

Well, we met my brother at the half-way point (he lives close by) to take delivery of a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans.  (He has a friend of his that roasts his own and does a fantastic job with it!)  We had originally thought that we would bring a coffee grinder and have this coffee every morning, but at the last minute decided that we would use up the year-old coffee that we already had in the camper and save this new bag for home.  Nice idea at the time, but in hindsight, it was regrettable to say the least.

Then the Coffee Snob found out about it.

My being a “coffee simpleton” in his exotic coffee-press / pour-over / get-your-secret-beans world, I have now been accused of letting perfectly good coffee age and lose some of the nuances of its flavor (being freshly roasted and all; really, it’s not even an accusation–that’s what freshly roasted coffee does when it has no preservatives in it).  And what makes it worse is the fact that we are meeting up with him on the way back down to get another bag of a different kind of freshly roasted bean.  So we very easily could have gone through this first bag and thoroughly enjoyed our morning coffee instead of drinking in what is apparently known in coffee snob circles as “compost” and “swill”.  I threw a scripture at him about knowing the good I ought to do and yet not doing it; he threw one right back at me, something about “woe to those who call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (that last part being communicated to me in all caps; I detect a subtle message in there, but it’s kind of faint).

So we totally missed exceptional coffee by the water’s edge while we got away from it all.  And, instead, we drank year-old coffee (already ground) and didn’t even finish it up.  Say, I think I just got an idea for a Christmas present for him….


Since it’s summer and I have been on the topic here and there about Paradise Lake, here’s another story from my childhood up there:

Let’s talk about bagpipes for a minute.  Now, I realize that some people turn up their nose at even the thought of them, let alone listening to even the sound of them.  If you’re one of those types of people, you have probably already envisioned some red-faced guy with chipmunk cheeks blowing fiercely into a hollow tube for all he’s worth who’s wearing a dress and making an ear-splitting racket with that contraption he’s hugging so closely to his person.

While most of us probably picture Great Highland bagpipes from the country of Scotland when we hear them, there is a close cousin to the Great Highland bagpipes and it’s found in Ireland.  Called the Uilleann pipe, it is a “softer” version of the bagpipes we so easily attribute to Scotland, meaning that it has a more mellow tone to it and can tend to not sound so shrill (the beauty of that sound being in the ear of the beholder).

I, myself, have always enjoyed the sound of bagpipes being played.  One summer, upon arriving at the family cabin on Paradise Lake, I was very pleased to discover that someone a few cabins down from our beachfront had a set of bagpipes–and actually knew how to play them!  Now remember, this is a lake in northern Michigan where the early morning hours can be spent just sitting by the lake and listening to nature:  the gentle sound of water lapping against the beach; the distant cry of a seagull as it floats across the lake’s surface;  the hauntingly beautiful call of loons out on the lake somewhere; and even the possibility of seeing a bald eagle soar overhead!

So this individual apparently liked to play the bagpipes in the morning hours, which was much to my appeal.  I can remember getting up early enough to get down to the boathouse to get the oars to the rowboat and a life vest.  There was no rowing quietly with these oars.  They were metal ones, so every time they were moved in the eyelets of the rowboat, they would squeak…badly.  So picture the above-described scene laid out in front of you and suddenly hearing  the slow but determined sound of “screeee……..screeee………screeee……..screeee” as a guy in a rowboat slowly makes his way out onto the lake.  So, nonetheless, I made it out about a hundred yards and dropped anchor, waiting for the bagpipe player to show up.

I’m telling you….to be out there on the waters of Paradise Lake early enough to watch the sun peak over the treetops and listen to those sounds of nature that were all around me was an amazing experience!  But then, to have the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a set of Highlander bagpipes floating across the surface of the water was just….just breathtaking.  I didn’t want it to stop.  And I would even say that if you are one who doesn’t like the sound of bagpipes, even you would have tolerated what I heard that morning and thought it actually sounded pleasant.

I believe the day will come when the waters of Paradise Lake will once again echo with the sounds of a bagpipe.  But this time, since I’m Irish and love the sound of Uilleann Pipes….

Water Up The Nose

Ever been swimming and gotten water up your nose?

Of course, anyone who is an adult remembers getting water from a swimming pool up their nose as a kid.  Man, that burns, doesn’t it?!  And you don’t know it’s coming until it’s too late…then the tears start flowing.  Remember trying to talk after that?

“Jimmy, you ok?  That slide off of the diving board with a one-and-a-half somersault with the splits was impressive!  How long you been working on that?”

“Yeah, I’b find.  I habn’t worked od id for very log.  Glad you liked id.  Dow help be wid by leg.  Id’s wrapped aroud by head.”

I also remember swimming in Lake Michigan as a kid (which is only about ten miles from Paradise Lake).  We had about five innertubes my Dad would load up in our trailer to take out there–a huge one that was probably over six feet tall when stood up vertically, one that was around five vertical feet with a third that was a little smaller than that and two other smaller ones (about three vertical feet each) that were kept in the cabin’s boathouse for everyone to use.  My brother and I would take all five out onto Lake Michigan to chest-deep water and stack them up like a pyramid.  Then we’d attempt to climb it and try to get to the top without it collapsing or the waves toppling the whole thing over.  If we made it to the top, we’d attempt to stand up on the top innertube and ride the waves for as long as we could balance up there.  Usually Lake Michigan would tolerate our fun for only so long before she would send forth a larger wave than the others that would send us toppling six or seven feet into the water below.  It was a blast!  But sometimes the water-up-the-nose thing would happen and we’d come out of the water sputtering and holding our nose, waiting for the burning sensation to go away (although it wasn’t nearly as bad as what a chlorinated pool feels) “add souding like a sudded cold had cub upod us.”

So have you ever put water up your nose intentionally?  And have it not hurt?  We do it all the time now–with a sinus rinse kit that we each have.  It took us a while to psyche up to the idea of intentionally flooding our sinuses with water, but it didn’t take us long at all to get used to.  Why?  The salt packets that come in the kit neutralize the water, which takes the sting away; and secondly, you’re in control of the water flow, so you know it’s coming (unlike a pool or lake where you suddenly realize too late the violation that has been committed against your sinus cavities).

I’ll tell you this:  Any physical inconvenience this has caused is so minor in comparison to what it has done for my health!  It was inevitable that at some point every winter I would get a sinus infection.  We’ve been using these sinus rinse kits for well over six years now (all four of us, so that means our kids have been doing it, too).  And for the last six years, I haven’t had a sinus infection.  We don’t fight dry sinus cavities, either, which is a huge problem for me in the winter with all of the dry air I breathe from the furnace being on.

So, just some “FYI” for you.  We get ours at Wal-Mart, but they’re also available online at www.neilmed.com.  (By the way, this isn’t a commercial for them.  It’s simply something that we found works for us.)

The Ride Home

I believe you could say that this is where it all started….

If you haven’t been to northern Michigan, you really must make the effort to get up there!  Not only do you have the Big Lakes to enjoy (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the Big Three that surround the State as a whole), but you also have countless smaller lakes that just beg for a relaxing swim.  Add to that the beauty of the Pine,  Maple and Birch trees that are so plentiful up there, and you are simply surrounded by Nature’s expression of God’s smile.

The Mackinac Bridge (the spelling is French–it’s pronounced “Mackinaw”) connects the upper and lower peninsulas of the State.  It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the western hemisphere, connecting St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge and Mackinaw City on the south side.

About seven miles south of Mackinaw City is a lake with two names.  Its original name is Carp Lake.  I have heard that the lake got this name from the man who first settled on it.  He thought it was so beautiful there that he figured a name like “Carp Lake” would help keep tourists away (there aren’t even any carp in this lake–but you can find bass, walleye, perch, sunfish and even northern pike).  With that said, if you look on a Michigan map you’ll see that the lake is also referred to as Paradise Lake.  This is due to the efforts of a construction company from Cadillac, MI, who got the name legally changed back in the early- to mid-1900s to bring up more people from down-state.  Nice idea until they tried to change the township name from “Carp Lake” proper to “Paradise” proper only to find that there was already a Paradise, MI in the upper peninsula.  Oops…..

My great-grandfather on my Dad’s side discovered this beautiful place and had a cabin built on it in 1928.  Our family has been coming up to this cabin ever since!  So I grew up with family trips in the summer (at least once, sometimes twice) where we would leave around 3:00 in the morning to get up to the cabin about 4 hours later.  I’ve got memories of my Dad carrying me from bed out to our big Chevy van where he would lay me and my brother down in the back.  The lull of the street lights passing overhead and the hum of the tires on the road put the two of us back to sleep in no time.  Then we’d wake up a few hours later and my Mom would have donuts and milk for us to have in the van.  Then, the inevitable would happen:  Kids need rest areas like fleas need dogs–something my Dad hated to stop for (you know why:  all the cars that have been passed will all get in front again).  But that all counts towards fond memories….

One memory in particular stands out.  There is a place on I-75 (somewhere between mile marker 333 and 334) where you come around a bend in the highway and you can see the top of the Mackinac Bridge over the treetops.  For a kid that loves to be “up north”, that thrills a kid’s heart to no end!  It is also the worst place to be for the trip home.  At that same point heading south, you see the top of the bridge disappear behind the pine trees–it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend that you don’t know when you’ll see again.

It was on one of these trips home that I was watching the bridge out of the back of the van.  I was somewhere between the ages of 10-12 at the time.  I distinctly remember that as I watched the bridge disappear over the treetops, I began to cry.  It wasn’t the usual “I don’t want to leave” tears that happen at the end of a vacation.  It felt deeper than that…more than just some reaction.  I remember thinking, Some day I’m going to live up here so I never have to leave.  And you know something?  I remember hearing these words in my spirit, “Say it out loud”.  (I know now that this was the Holy Spirit prompting me.)   So I did…I said it as I watched the bridge disappear from view.  And I remember feeling like something significant had just happened.