So, in the last post I originally melded two days together and wanted to get my story straight. Our first night in da UP, we stayed in Grimley State Park on the shores of Lake Superior. Before we departed, the kind camp hosts recommended we stay in Baraga State Park, which is also on Lake Superior, when we let them know of our upcoming plans. They both gushed about the park’s beauty and access to Copper Harbor, which they assured me was not to be missed. We had been up late the last few nights doing research and found that there were only two campsites in the UP that had room for us for all six days of Flight’s impending absence: Baraga SP and Van Riper SP. We had only a few critical qualifications: 1) we had to be close enough to Marquette to get Flight to the airport to commute to Boston early in the morning to start his next trip; 2) be centrally located enough so that the kids and I could reasonably explore the area in his absence; and 3) be more than 1.1 miles from a maximum security prison. Baraga State Park fell out of the running for failing to meet all three of these requirements and we happily made our reservations at Van Riper State Park.
From Brimley SP, we got underway and, because we hadn’t clearly discussed who was running what part of the checklist, we made a few rookie moves when we omitted a couple of important steps (NB: It’s good to have a “Getting Underway” checklist, yet it is far less effective if you fail to reference it while actually getting underway). The most embarrassing of these was when I pulled Davista out of our spot (Flight was driving the Toad until we found enough straight roadway to hook them up) to much fanfare from our former neighbors. I waved and wasn’t sure why they were making such a commotion until I caught “…STILL PLUGGED IN!!” through the window. Not anymore. Yep, did that. Strong work, Navy, strong work.
The second oops wasn’t too bad (or maybe my pride was still stinging from the first one)… We pulled up to dump the tanks and a kind fellow (also dumping unmentionables but in the next lane over) let me know that one of our vents was open. We have three vents that crank open for increased airflow, and, when open, the portal covering of each extends about a foot above the top of Davista. These wind catchers should most certainly be closed while moving or they might be ripped off in the wind and leave gaping holes in the roof (that’s bad). Roger, use the checklist. That’s why we have one. Appropriate tanks dumped, fresh water replenished, and vents closed, we sheepishly pulled out to begin our journey to Van Riper SP.
Our first stop was at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, a location that rescues black bears separated from their mothers too young to make it in the wild or those from families who have taken them in as pets only to be overwhelmed when they outgrow their expectations. Like that of most zoo-like experiences, my reaction to this place alternated between awe (where else are you going to be able to feed and pet a bear cub?) and a touch of sadness as I projected my (human) perception of their plight. Moving on…
We stopped again near Pictured Rocks to give the kids (and me) another look at Lake Superior’s shoreline. We were all surprised and enchanted by the red and very fine sand beaches – I had no idea that lined some of the beaches of Lake Superior. My only visual data point of the Lake Superior’s shores was taken from a puzzle our family had done a couple years ago showing a gorgeous rocky shoreline – I guess the coast line varies widely around the Lake. Who knew?
We also did a short hike through the wetlands along a boardwalk and learned about the entire circle of life in that region. For some reason, after reading The Martian with Flight and then seeing the movie, Keeper has glommed onto striking his interpretation of “The Fonz” pose at every opportunity.
During the remainder of our trek to our next port visit, Flight and I started second guessing our decision to go to VRSP. We tried to come up with some specific criteria for staying, but realized we really didn’t have a better option and would just have to make the most of it. Flight asked if I’d be okay if there was no cell phone coverage in this remote part of the UP, meaning we’d have zero communication during his 6-day absence. With more bravado certainly than I felt, “Sure – we won’t be at the park all day every day. We’ll be out exploring. I’m sure we can make it work. And, besides, I can move us to another campground if need be.” As if.
At last we made our way to Van Riper, noting the turn off to the airport as we’d be seeing that at zero dark thirty the next morning, and breathed a collective sigh of relief. Our new spot (number (94-2) if you are taking notes) was probably the best one in the campsite. We were steps away from the new bathhouse, a short bike ride/hike to four different playgrounds (two of which were on the beach), and 4 bars of LTE – WOO HOO! Flight, you’re cleared for departure…