| It was the first Lake’s annual family camping trip since the kids were all grown. Dave and I were camping in a conversion van with a fold down bed and refrigerator. The kids were all roughing it in tents. My son Eli and his wife Christy brought their daughter Chloe who was only four months old. Baby Chloe let everyone know she didn’t like camping so she only lasted one night. The next day the other grandma and grandpa picked her up and took her to their house to everyone’s relief. My daughter Kilah, her son Judah, her boyfriend Tom and his three boys Tommy, Nick and Ethan were another group. My son Asa and fiancée Melissa and their Labrador retriever Tai were there too. I was grateful to have my whole family together except for Jesse who was living in Taiwan at the time. Each group had their own campsite but they were all next to each other. We put all the picnic tables together for communal dining and all the chairs around one fire pit. As usual I was the cook so it wasn’t really much of a vacation for me just like when all the kids were little but I had more people to feed. I really didn’t mind though because I suspect my cooking is what really keeps everyone together.
We were only camping for an extended weekend so we planned our activities to make the best of our time. We picked Traverse City State Park, which is like camping in a parking lot since it’s right next to one of the busiest highways in the area with hotels, restaurants and attractions. We use it as a cheap place to stay but it’s also conveniently located right next to the Leelanau peninsula with the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, Lake Michigan and many lakes and rivers, which I like to visit.
The main thing I wanted to do was tube down the Platt River, which runs into Lake Michigan right beside the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Dave and I had done this once before and it was a tranquil float winding through beautiful scenery lasting about an hour. We all went in separate cars except for Christy and Eli who rode in the van with us. When we got to the boat livery and saw the rental prices the kids decided it was too much money to spend. I was really looking forward to a trip down the river but being a democratic family I went along with the majority. No problem I said we could still enjoy the sand dunes and the beach at the end of the river. So we all headed out to the sand dunes and had a great time. By then Asa and Melissa and Kilah, Tom and the boys decided to all go their own way. Christy and Eli were stuck with us since they went in our van.
As we were heading to the beach we passed a store that had flotation devices out front with a sign that said half price. I yelled at Dave, “ Stop the car”. He did and we all got out to look. I told Christy and Eli we could buy this stuff cheaper than renting and we could go down the river and still have our boats when we were done. We couldn’t launch at the livery but I knew a place where we could. The last time I went down the river with Dave it passed by a little lake called Lost Lake. All we had to do was find it and launch there. Dave the old fuddy duddy didn’t want to go along with my plan as usual but that was ok because we needed someone to wait for us at the beach. Christy and Eli bought a two man inflatable boat and a paddle for twenty dollars and I bought an inflatable raft for six dollars. I thought that was quite a bargain.
Now all we had to do was find Lost Lake. I was sure I could find it and while Eli and Christy sat in the back of the van inflating the boats the hard way I gave Dave directions to Lost Lake. I had a general idea where it was but didn’t know for sure. I never tell people that though I just tell them where to go and cross my fingers. We only passed by it once and found it when we backtracked which I thought was pretty good.
There were a lot of people at Lost Lake that had the same idea I had. The only difference was that they had real boats. We were still blowing ours up. Dave dropped us off and the minute I got in the water with my raft I knew I was in trouble. The lake was small but paddling with my hands wasn’t getting me very far. With each stroke the lake started looking bigger. Christy and Eli were behind me and not having much better luck. It was apparent that their two-man boat was designed for two small children. Since Dave had already left the only way to get out of this problem was to go through it.
Luckily the lake wasn’t too deep but the bottom was very mucky. I tried walking but didn’t have much luck. The muck besides being gross just slowed me down. I found the fastest way to go was to pull myself with my hands while floating on the raft. It was still gross but I was desperate. I even found a flip-flop in the muck and held it up and yelled at Christy and Eli who were way ahead of me by that time “look what I found”.
Across the lake I saw a woman in a boat with her pants down and her backside facing me full moon. I wondered what she was doing there but just turned away glad that they were on the other side. By the time I reached the river mouth Christy and Eli were long gone but my mooner and her friends were right by me. There were two middle aged men and two women. They seemed to be having a great time and I was close enough to hear their conversation. It was obvious they were plastered and still drinking beer. I thought they’d pass me soon but I really didn’t mind their diversion. They were quite friendly and entertaining. I figured they’d get ahead of me soon enough, but I was wrong. Since they were drinking so much beer they had to make frequent stops to relieve themselves. They weren’t the least bit shy about it either. Someone would say they had to stop and yell out, “There goes another beer.” This continued most of the way down the river. I just made sure not to look in their direction when they did. I already saw one full moon and at their age it wasn’t a pretty sight.
I had thought that once I reached the river I could relax and let the current take me. No such luck. The river was down and slow and if I wanted to make it to the beach before midnight I knew I’d better keep paddling. Also there were shallow rocky places where I would skin my knees. I tried walking again but the bottom was too rocky. Too bad I abandoned the flip-flop it may have helped on one foot anyway. Each time the river turned a bend I would get my hopes up that I had finally reached the end only to be disappointed. My arms were really getting tired. This was the hardest workout I’d had in a long time, actually the only one since I don’t work out at all. I felt like a guy in boot camp the first day.
By now a lot of other people were passing by either snickering or offering sympathy, but no one invited me into their boat. I would have gone with anyone even my Moonie friends if they had offered by then.
Finally I got to the beach. Christy and Eli met me first and said Dave was mad. Not worried about me like he should be but mad because he had to sit on the beach for over three hours. He was also hungry. We had some cherries in the van and devoured them. I wanted to go to a restaurant, have a good meal and relax. I knew there would be a crowd at the campsite waiting to be fed and I didn’t want to let them down. We finally settled on an easy meal of hotdogs followed by s’mores over the campfire and went to bed ready for the next adventure tomorrow. At least I was.