Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Family Vacation You Won't Believe Part III

Our campsite in Michigan
     Having a good night of sleep in a much cooler environment, we packed up our tent and headed out on the highway once again bound for Canada.  When it came to crossing the border, we had no difficulties.  In fact, I think the officers at the border took one look at the back end of our van and all the children and decided to let us go on.  We traveled all day around the northern perimeter of Lake Superior through mountain passes with stunning views all around us.  That evening, we decided to make camp at White River.  There was a nice campground there and we were all tired from the long day on the road.
Along the Trans Canada Highway
     When we got out of our van, we knew it was going to be a very cold night.  The air temperature had dropped even more so we were glad we had borrowed a few extra sweatshirts.  As we began setting up the tent, we noticed something we had not seen in quite a few years - snow!  Yes, it had begun to snow.  However, this did not deter our teenage daughter who was determined to wash her hair at a nearby outside sink.  The water was ice cold, but she continued to complete the task.  Then, she stood, in her shorts blow drying her hair in this small shelter near our campsite.  All the while the snow continued to fall along with the temperatures.  Our sleeping bags were designed to withstand the cold up to 32 degrees, and I believe we were near or at that temperature that night.  All of us donned extra socks, pants (if we had them), sweatshirts, jackets and even knit caps for our heads.  My husband and I zipped our sleeping bags together and placed our youngest, Nathan, between us.  He was three and having a hard time going to sleep in the cold.  We figured we could use body heat to keep him extra warm.  Somehow, in the middle of the night, we awoke to him crying.  He had worked his way to the bottom of the sleeping bag we were in and could not find his way out.  This, too, proved to be another long night without much sleep.
     In the morning, we packed up quickly and drove into town to look for warm clothes.  We had not come prepared and obviously the borrowed items helped but we were still freezing.  Canadians know how to prepare for cold weather no matter what the season and we found plenty of nice warm clothes for the children as well as ourselves.  In fact, we all became acquainted with thermal underwear and heavy wool socks.  It felt so good to be warm again!  The only one who resisted wearing cold weather clothing was our teenage daughter who continued to wear her shorts.
     Around lunch time, we pulled off into a nice picnic area along Lake Superior to enjoy our sandwiches.  As we were sitting at the picnic table, our daughter commented that she was very cold.  Her father, who was not at all surprised that she was freezing, said, "What's the matter?  Aren't your Arctic thermal shorts keeping you warm?"  We all had to laugh at that comment, but as most parents know, teenagers have a mind of their own when it comes to what to wear.
     By late afternoon, we rolled into the campground at Sand Bar Lake near Ignace Ontario.  Our in-laws had gone on before us and were waiting to greet us.  We found a nice campsite and set up our tent.  The children were delighted to be able to roam around.  In fact, our three year old Nathan met two twin girls his age that lived at the camp.  Their parents worked there, so he had some friends to play with.  We tried to keep a close watch on him though because we had been warned that there had been a black bear in camp recently.  With tall woods all around the campground, it would not be a surprise to have unwelcome visitors of the furry kind.
     When we finished setting up our campsite, we suddenly became aware that Nathan had disappeared.  I had thought his siblings had been watching him play with the girls, but he was no where to be found.  My heart started racing as we began calling his name and searching all around the area.  There was a drop off that went down to the lake and I was almost afraid to look over the edge for fear of seeing him in the water.  Panic was beginning to rise for all of us.  Soon we began to knock on cabin doors and ask around if anyone had seen him.  No one had.  The camp owners and workers all stopped their chores and assisted us with the search.  Thinking about the bear that had been spotted and how easy it would be to get lost in the woods, I came near to tears.  Then, all at once after looking for nearly 45 minutes, our son appeared with the two little girls casually walking down a path from a cabin where they had been getting some candy from one of the guides in camp.  He had not heard us calling his name.  After hugging him, we had a very stern talk with him as well.  What a frightening episode on a trip that was already pretty challenging!

     By the second day, a huge lake of water had puddled on our children's side of the tent over their heads.  We warned them not to touch the tent ceiling or the water would leak through.  We went outside and lowered this end of the tent to drain off the water.  All of us were cold and the only relief was to visit the nice indoor bath house or our in laws cabin.  In fact, our daughter wanted to sleep in the bath house if we didn't do something soon.  She said that was preferable to freezing in the damp tent.  We thought we would give it one more night though.
     As we turned in that evening, with no let up in the rain, we lay on our foam pads in our sleeping bags trying to rest.  In the middle of the night, my husband rolled over and told me "That's all I can take.  We are either going home, going to a motel or getting a cabin tomorrow.  I just rolled over and my foam pad was full of water.  Now I am all wet."  I had to agree.  This was not a pleasant way to enjoy a vacation.
However, I did not want to go home after traveling 2200 miles for a fishing trip.  I suggested we try to get a cabin if one was available.
     In the morning, we inquired about a cabin, and luckily, one was available that would take care of our crew.  Everyone was thrilled at the prospect of having a nice, comfortable, warm bed to sleep in.  Of course, in the meantime, I had to go to town again and spend another thirty dollars to wash and dry all our wet clothes.  I didn't mind as long as I would not have to do this again.
     By the fourth day, the rain had let up enough to allow us to go fishing.  We took turns going out so that someone could keep an eye on Nathan.  After our scare, we wanted to make certain he was accounted for at all times.  My husband took our daughter and our son Reid out to fish on Sand Bar Lake.  They went out quite a ways from shore, and were gone for some time.  The rest of us were waiting for their return so we could begin our evening meal.  When it began to get towards dusk and they had not returned, we went down to the dock.  I could see someone in an orange jacket and I wondered if it was my husband.  The boat seemed to be dead in the water.  About half an hour later, the boat returned having been pulled in by another fisherman who was out on the lake.  As luck would have it, their engine quit and they had been trying to paddle back to shore.  However, they had too far to go.  Our daughter yelled as a boat came near, and they got an assist to get back to shore.  Yet, again, another adventure on this vacation nightmare.
     The last two days in Canada were relatively calm, and we even had a chance to see the sun on the last day there.  No one complained though.  We had been delivered from the tent, the cold and the wet.  As we began to pack our van for the long trip home, my husband vowed to take the tent back to J.C. Penney as soon as we got back.  It certainly was not waterproof or even water resistant.  What we did not know nor did anyone ever tell us was that we needed a fly to cover the tent and protect it from rainfall.  We found this out after we came home from our long adventure.
     Thankfully, our trip home was uneventful and we enjoyed the comfort of a motel instead of a campground next to I 75.  We have never been tent camping since that eventful trip.  Oh, I still have the camp stove which comes in handy if a hurricane heads our way, but our days of adventure are long past. The children have grown up, some are married and we are now grandparents who can spin the best yarns for our grandchildren.  This was a true story and none of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  I hope you enjoyed traveling down memory lane with me.  I also hope that you had a few laughs too.  This will certainly be a trip we will never forget!

Along the icy waters of Lake Superior
Have you had a vacation like this?  I welcome your thoughts and reactions to this true life adventure.


Patricia said...

I remember when y'all went on that "vacation". You always do seem to have the best/funniest/memorable family adventures. It was fun to read about this one again.


Libby said...

Barb, I definitely have childhood memories that are day soon I'll share some of them. Thanks for the laughs.

Barbara Thayer said...

I am glad that both of you enjoyed this adventure. As you could probably tell...I didn't have very many pictures of this trip. That is because we were too busy putting out fires and trying to regroup!!!

Yes, Pat, I remember telling you about this trip. Even now as I recalled all the details I still can't believe it all happened to us.

Libby...I look forward to hearing your stories too. We all need a good laugh don't we?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a true Canadian camping trip! Fortunately none of the times I've been tenting did it snow. Sometimes rain, though, and then a fly over your tent is very useful!

Penned Pebbles said...

That is an awesome trip to remember for sure. How we take our beds for granted until we have a few tent experiences like the ones you've described! Did JCPenny take the tent back?

Barbara Thayer said...

Yes, Petra....J.C. Penney did indeed take the tent their credit. We haven't bought another since then. I think if we ever attempt camping again...we would go to some place like a Bass Pro Shop that knows more about equipment. LOL! We will never take our beds for granted again!!!!