Life in a Northern Town

Michigan Island Camp

Spring is in the air, even though it's mid-February and we should have a couple of feet of snow on the ground, and that means a couple of things: I start to plan the garden and Ted starts to plan our May BWCA trip. In honor of this annual rite of spring-in-the-middle-of-winter, I thought I'd share some photos from our August trip to Michigan Island.

It was a momentous trip -- Will was leaving for his freshman year in a few weeks, it was our first time camping as a family in the Islands and it was the first time George and Gus had been invited to come along for the ride. A trifecta of 'firsts' played out on one of our favorite islands. We packed the Karl with enough provisions to last a couple of days and headed out on the Lake. 

Ted is a big, and I mean BIG, fan of camping preparation and that means he has bottles, jars, packages, stuff sacks and baggies for everything you can think of.....including Ulf's curry powder. Our friend, Ulf, makes his own curry powder in Washburn and it's the gold standard in our kitchen and in camp. 

Bordeaux, red vermouth, whiskey and a roll of paper towel -- essentials for a Dougherty camping trip. 

George and Gus took to the camping life remarkably well until they realized I left their bed at home and they had to sleep on the ground. That was clearly troublesome for our two little princes but they managed to find ways to cope -- like sitting on top of the picnic table. 

Michigan Island has a single campsite and it's a sweet one. Tucked back from the beach among the pines, it had two level spots for the tents and a fire ring with huge pieces of driftwood re-purposed as benches. The bear locker made a great cooking surface and the picnic table was a nice touch. My camping experience is limited to the BWCA (where tables are improvised) and I have to admit, there's something about a picnic table that seems mighty civilized when you're in the woods. 

We got up in the morning and headed out for a walk down the beach. While I'm not the biggest fan of camping (sleeping on the ground and pit toilets in the middle of the forest require a open-mindedness I'm not always ready to embrace), I do love the slower cadence of life outdoors.  We spent three hours exploring the beach, watching the fishing tug pull their nets and hollering for George (who was having the time of his life eating seagull poop...more about that later). 

It started to rain while we were walking on the beach but we were resolute in our commitment to camping. Well truthfully, Ted and Charlie were resolute --- Meg, George and I were ready to abandon ship. But Ted set up a tarp, George got up on the picnic table and Meg and I decided to play cards...it was actually quite pleasant until George jumped up on the table and sat down on our game of gin rummy. I think Meg put him up to it because I was winning. 

Gus needed a helping hand to get around the logs that littered the shoreline. He's a sturdy little dog but swimming, given his short legs and wide girth, is not his idea of a good time. 

You'd never know it from this photo of George, looking oh-so-regal and self-composed, that he threw up sea gull poop (that he was eating on our morning beach hike) in our tent at 2 AM in the middle of a rainstorm. There's nothing quite like a heaving 80 pound Lab, a bunch of zippers (between sleeping bags, tents and rain flys...camping is a zipper-lover's dream), pouring rain and utter darkness to get your heart pumping. It was yet another unforgettable experience thanks to Handsome George....hopefully he'll go back to rolling in poop instead of eating it. 

The time flew and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home. Will had to get packed for Madison, Charlie had soccer practice, Meg's iPhone was out of juice and I had a serious hankering for a shelter without zippers. With the smell of wood-smoke in our clothing, we loaded the Karl and headed home. Even with the rain and George's puke-a-thon, it was a good way to mark Will's last week at home before he started his new life as a Badger. The islands and Lake Superior have been the backdrop for many funny, tender, chaotic and trying Dougherty stories and thank God, we're still composing chapters in our tome about life in a northern town.