Monday, July 09, 2007


I am here to testify that it is possible, yea, even enjoyable to go backpacking with a four and (newly minted) seven year old. And South Manitou Island is just about the best place I can think of to take them for their first venture into turtle-dom (living with only what they--or mom or dad--can pack on their back).

We had a fabulous 4 day trip. We took the ferry over on a foggy day, but from there on out has perfect weather--not too hot for hiking, sunshine galore--and oh my god, the scenery. We hiked in about a mile and a half from the ferry dock and the ranger station to the Weather Station Campground. Many of the campsites have a view to the South of Lake Michigan and it is just a stumble down the hill to sand-bliss for kids.

As far as kid-amusement went, they each had a moderate sized stuffed animal and we brought a small pad of paper and some mini-markers and a pencil. And that was it.

But with tiny frogs

and four inch millipedes
to play with, plus flashlights, sticks, shells and sand, they kept busy.

I got lucky and picked a really good book for myself--Lately by Sara Pritchard. It is (another) book of linked stories but all of the stories stand on their own as really wonderful examples of the fullness of the genre. The links only start about half way through the book and provide extra resonances to the stories. Each story packed in a whopper of content both in character, time, place and emotional range. It is not a huge book (light in weight, which frankly was a factor in choosing it) but the stories are so rich and packed with detail, humor and poignancy that it reads like a honkin' huge book. And the stories are eminently re-readable (an excellent feature when you tend to have panic attacks when you run out of reading material); I even read one story I liked so much, "Here on Earth", a third time out loud to Brian on the drive home

We devoted one day to a long hike (maybe it was a little too long for the kids--about 7 miles--since Brian did end up giving Ian a piggy back ride back to camp for the last half mile) and took in the major points of the island: the old growth cedars, Lake Florence, an off-shore only partly submerged shipwreck and most spectacularly, the perched dunes:

The perched dunes

Fiona and I sat at the top and contemplated the view which was, trite to say it, breathtaking:
before Brian and Ian convince us to run/stumble/slide down what had to be a 45-degree-angle huge dune to the lake shore.

But for the rest of the trip, we took it easy, exploring some but leaving plenty of time for solitude and contemplation.

Culinarily speaking we were in the "everything tastes good when you are camping mode", but I do have to say if you are going with dehydrated meals, stick with the Asian flavored ones:
Mountain House Sweet and Sour Pork wasn't half bad after a long day of hiking. I'd probably recoil in horror if this showed up on a plate at home, but when you are in backpacking-deprivation-food mode, the pieces of rehydrated pineapple in this stuff were a big treat. We also ate their Thai spicy chicken, which was pretty decent, though I suspect that it isn't being made anymore (our dehydrated food has been in our attic for a looooong time) since I can't find it listed on-line anywhere for sale. Less enjoyable was the Natural High brand of Turkey Tetrazini with Asparagus and Pasta Primavera which we called "gloop gloop". Despite the truck load of trans-fats, the just-add-water Bisquick three cheese biscuits tasted really good on the last morning. I managed to "bake" them without the Outback oven, which we thrifted due to its bulk. I heated up the non-stick skillet with a little oil, dropped in lumps of biscuit dough and slapped on the lid to get them cooked through, then flipped them half way. They weren't pretty, but they tasted fine to the deprived-palate. We cut it a little close on the food front--finished all the trail mix and lunch the last day had us licking peanut butter off of a spoon--but it did make the pack of potato chips we snarfed on the ferry on the way back to the mainland taste even better.


Anonymous said...

Yep, it's beautiful there. And excuse my ignorance, but I thought a millipede was an insect, and that kinda looks like a worm? A few days ago I had a four-inch thing crawl up my limb, but my reaction was far less delighted that Fiona's.

Kate said...

Yea, it looks worm like in color but there were thousands of little legs moving it along her arm. They rippled like waves almost. And it lacked the slime factor of worms (though Fiona also loves slugs and I have become adept at removing slug slime, some of which is very very sticky).