The story of my side quests in Michigan


In the dead of Michigan’s semi-frozen winter, it sits. Tented by a cave of snowy white plastic, sheltering various kinds of backyard structures and mowers, the camper rests, awaiting the thaw of spring.

I, as well as my family, anticipate the day we can finally hook it up and pull it to a campsite and lay in the sun, soaking up rays as the forest around us whispers with the breeze, and the lake creeps up and down the beachside. 

Ever since I was five, my family has made it a point to take trips around the state, experiencing nature in its finest ways, alive with summer rays and breathing with spring waves. The trailer was a Shadow Cruiser brand with one bed at the front and a room of two bunks at the end. Spanning the middle length was a kitchen with a stiff couch and unstable table. The dog liked to sit perched on the divider separating said table and couch.

Waltman Lake, a forty-five-minute drive north, was the first ever trip we took. My dad and I went together, my brother and mom arriving later than us because of a birthday party. We ate pizza pies cooked over a fire and drove a quad around the lake, exploring what felt like miles of trails. Waltman, however, was not our first true camping trip. 

Not long after, we hauled up to Sleeping Bear Dunes, our first state park. I have vague memories of the place; however, the sandy hills were steep and Seth learned how to ride his bike without training wheels. 

I will stand among the towering trees of redwood and sequoias, I will explore the vast Mojave Desert, and capture the moment of Old Faithful shooting steam and water high into the air at Yellow stone National park.

Over the last 12 years of camping, we’ve been to the tippy top-most part of the upper peninsula, all the way to the jagged black hills of South Dakota, and to the shore of Drummond Island looking out at the border of Canada.

I have seen waterfalls, long caves, rolling hills, and large forests.  I’ve been in copper mines, gazed over the entirety of the Keweenaw on Brockway Mountain, climbed above clouds in the Porcupine Mountains, seen bears, soaked my hiking boots at the Pictured Rocks, explored valleys of sandstone, and practically broken my legs when jumping down dunes at Ludington State Park.

A few years back, we had to abandon our Shadow Cruiser in South Dakota because the wheel bearings kept us stranded on the side of the highway with views of nothing but Iowa corn fields. At that point, my parents made an executive decision to get a new camper and say goodbye to the old one.

The new one, a fifth-wheeler, was comfortable and aerodynamic. With the hitch in the bed of dads truck, we could pull even more. One time, we trekked up the state with a small enclosed trailer riding behind the camper. My mother said, and I quote, “we are the circus in town.”

I have so many memories, some hazy with the wear of time, others sharp with brand-new experiences. My brother no longer has time for it, so the last year and a half have been without him. My life is getting to that point, and I dread the day I have to pass up an opportunity to tag along. 

This year, we have reservations to go back to Sleeping Bear Dunes, making it come full circle. There’s also the possibility of my parents and I going out west to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. I can’t wait for it, but it tells me the end of annual trips are less and less likely.

Someday, I will get to the places I have yet to see. Being raised, I have learned to value experience and make the best advantage of the money I can get. I will stand among the towering trees of redwood and sequoias, I will explore the vast Mojave Desert, and capture the moment of Old Faithful shooting steam and water high into the air at Yellowstone National park. The ancient forests of Maine, the glaciers of Alaska, and the Everglades of Florida all wait for my coming. 

It is all a matter of time. And, well, the people I bring along.