In the summer of 2011, after many months of pouring over road maps, routes, and places that we’ve wanted to visit and revisit, my family ventured North West for what was at least our 4th look see. This trip was unique though in that we desired to blog our trip. This seemed to us a very smart way in which we could not only share our thoughts on the road and all that it gives, but also let us limit the number of times we needed to check in with our family. They could follow our traipsing across this country and be a part of it in a very different way. On this specific day, we were only day 5 into a trip that numbered 35. In this snapshot of our summer trip, we make an attempt to capture that elusive “feel” that some places hold……the unfolding of a day, and the insightfulness of a young girl learning to love the road.
Today’s route took us from the KOA in Newberry Michigan through to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was raining the morning we left the KOA cabin. The KOA itself had had a worn down feel, but it kept us dry. The day before, Henna fished on a small nearby lake and caught two fish! She looked so big taking care of it all herself, even baiting the night crawlers on her hook, because lord knows I wasn’t going to assist. We chose the scenic path (scenic because the dots on the map told us so) in order to search out our next adventure. While driving through one of many small Upper Peninsula towns, I heard from the back seat, “This place is so sad”. That was my exact sentiment as we wandered through and then out of this town, but how can my daughter Henna, at such a young age, already know the “feel” of a place? Now I cannot explain what the “feel” is exactly, I just know it when it’s there. It’s a feeling of being “home” even when your miles from it. Similarly as the KOA of the previous night, the “feel” was missing. As we continued our way through the cold Upper Peninsula I noted how indifferent it seemed folks were to visitors in these parts. I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to see a sign stating, “Tourists urged to visit at their own risk”. That sentiment was not the reason for the absence of the “feel.” In fact, we mostly avoid tourist traps and usually seek out more genuine feeling places.
Along our way, we stopped along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and braved three hikes, in 48 degree weather. I was yet again reminded of how much respect Lake Superior commands, both for its beauty and power. We hugged the narrow beach tight as one monster wave after another crashed close to our feet. We also discovered the remains of sunken ships (a few planks of wood and a lot of iron bits). Although our side trip was worth it, we found ourselves crabby and cold, with no plans for the night. We stopped into a local restaurant called The Bear Trap, and the “feel” was there. The feel of the place was one of people talking about the weather and a friendly staff with smiles for strangers passing through. Henna and Noel played pool and the locals were kind. After filling our bellies we headed off for our last stop along the National Lakeshore, Miner’s Castle. It was a short walk down to the sandstone bluffs overlooking the lake. The signs all told of the geological explanations for what we were seeing, but you’ll have to visit for yourself to find out what it says. Henna and I laughed the whole walk down the cement trail to an over look for our last chance on this trip to take in this beauty of a lake. Henna was making up her own language along the way, and then pretended that I was a horse the whole cold way up. Surprisingly the hike had that “feel” again, although it might have been our full bellies to thank. We pushed off yet again not knowing what the night would bring.
It was teetering on 48 degrees and night was fast approaching. A Holiday Inn Express sign seemed to beckon out to us with its promise of warmth and comfort after a long day’s journey, but the “feel” was not there. We instead checked into the Bay Furnace National Forest Campground in Christmas, Michigan. Eight bucks on the honor system gave us all the wood we needed to have a warm night (thirty eight degrees by the time we went to bed). The fire was warm, the smores were yummy, my home away from home was set up and ready to keep me warm through the night. And yes, it had the “feel”.
Note: After reviewing this article my editor asked me to think of places that had “the feel.” After careful consideration, I thought of a few especially special places: Waterton National Park (the town site campground); The Great Smoky Mountains (Cosby Campground); Southern Illinois; and Bozeman, Montana. These places, although some more obvious than others, held that “feel” that cannot be described but just lingers softly at its perimeter.
All photos by Hennacornoelidays
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