2011.08.03 Northwoods bear bait

Written by David Green.

North woods bear bait

It’s been a wild week. No electricity for a day. Evicted for two days during demolition. No internet service because of a severed telephone line (“We’ll have it fixed by Aug. 9,” said the friendly Frontier representative.) Anyway, I never got to a column so here’s one from 20 years ago. I wish I were on the shores of Lake Superior right now.



It was billed as the great camping event of the young decade. Three brothers and their sister would meet on the chilly shores of Lake Superior to experience life in a tent. The package included four days, four nights, eight children, all meals, swimming and hiking, and lots of sand everywhere, particularly in sleeping bags.

Actually, there’s some fine print attached to the mention of my sister. Diane’s idea was to stay in a motel in Grand Marais while two or three of her girls would enjoy the camping experience.

We left as soon as the paper was off to the printer last week, heading north and looking for a campsite when dusk was approaching. We pulled into Harrison to check into the state park and discovered it was conveniently located across the road from the Clare County Fairgrounds. And the fair was in full swing.

We weren’t too disappointed there was no room remaining for us. It was like an RV city in there. Hardly an escape to the woods. Add a demolition derby from across the road and it would have been too much.

There was a problem, however. It was getting dark and we already realized we forgot to pack any flashlights. We also forgot matches, drinking cups, insect repellant and socks for Maddy, but it was the flashlight that had us worried.

We pulled into a state forest campground a few miles farther north, and this is where I talked to a dog. We got the tent set up in the fading light, got into bed, and a dog started barking in the next campsite. Ah yes, another peaceful escape to the woods.

After a few minutes I sat up and yelled over for them to quiet their dog. The dog quit for five seconds. I soon yelled again and the dog quit for five seconds more. A few minutes later we heard the “campers” returning from somewhere. Of course, the dog was crying because it was left all alone in the woods. Things didn’t get much better; the humans were noisier than the dog.

Rosanna woke up complaining of what she thought was a moth bite, but we packed and headed up north. Maddy asked, for the first of a dozen times, “When are we going to be on vacation?”

Tom and Dan arrived at the campground first and secured the only two remaining campsites, which happened to be side-by-side. Diane arrived the next day, left a couple of kids for a night, and eventually spent a night in a tent herself. But that was all it took to sell her; now she wants her own camping gear.

The biggest events of the trip involved watermelons and outhouses. We were given a verbal warning rather than a $50 fine for Camping with Open Watermelons. That’s bear bait, Buster. We always put all the food in the car at night when the ranger came around scaring everyone with bear stories. But if we had read the fine print at the park bulletin board, we would have known it was illegal to leave a watermelon unprotected during the day, as well.

I went to read the fine print and discovered we were about $200 in trouble if the ranger got picky. An extra vehicle in a campsite while a friend was visiting, dumping dishwater, allowing a baby to cry after 10 p.m., etc.

As far as outhouses were concerned, Maddy never did use one. Fear of falling, I suppose. She would announce her need to go, walk into the outhouse, turn around and say, “I don’t have to go. I’ll do it at home.”

We stopped to visit friends in Ludington on the way home and Maddy was delighted to look at their toilet.

“There’s no hole!” she exclaimed.

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