We spent the Fourth of July weekend camping in the U.P. (Champion, Michigan, to be exact), surrounded by good people, beautiful lakes and bears. Without knowing much about the area, we reserved a spot on the “rustic loop” of Van Riper State Park, figuring that area would be more secluded.
Apparently “rustic” just means no electricity, so we were bound to a loop of families in close quarters, listening to children crying and complaining about how hot it was. We still had a lovely time and even befriended some of the neighboring children, who became fast admirers of our Hippie Horseshoes yard game, which is a brilliant combination of beer cans, sticks and a Frisbee.
I learned how to play Hippie Horseshoes when I lived in Missouri and have since heard many variations. The beauty of this simple game is that you can create your own rules — like that you get five points if you catch the can in your teeth, for example. Check out the how-to below, and learn how to create and play the game.
The next day, my aunts and uncle encouraged us to join them and their friends at Craig Lake State Park about 15 miles from where we were, assuring us that we would find the solitude we were looking for. So, we packed up in the morning after some eggs, bacon and grainy percolator coffee and set out on a stretch of highway followed by a 7 mile, one-way dirt road into classic lake-in-the-woods territory. The campsite was about a ¼ mile hike from the parking lot, and of the three picturesque sites, we were the only people that opted to set up shop there.
We were so lucky to find a wooded spot right on the water without the sight or sound of any other human. We hiked a half hour to the cabin where friends and family were staying and enjoyed dinner on the charcoal grill, fishing and a comical canoe ride.
There is nothing more DIY than camping in the wilderness. You have to create your own entertainment, pump your own water from the well, set up your temporary home for the evening and harvest warmth from the campfire. (Starting the fire is possibly my favorite thing to do in life.)
I wanted to be able to remember the trip outside of photographs so I made Nature Journals, inspired by this blog for children. Though none of us are technically children, I thought it would be fun to create journals for everyone to record their observations and thoughts on the trip. I added prompts to some of the pages and left others blank for the imagination. One of the prompts asks the writer to sketch a picture of the bear that attacked them, which I thought was hilarious because we were camping in black bear country.
I use comedy to deal with my fear. Don’t judge me.
We did not have any bear sightings or encounters, but if you’re looking for what do do in case of an attack, definitely watch The Edge starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin—intentionally intense, accidentally ridiculous. Check out the nature journal how-to below and share your favorite camping spots in the comments section.
To get yourself in a rustic state of mind, check out this pretty video of our trip created by Ryan Hurley.
2 dowel rods approx. 4 ½ ft. tall and 1-inch in diameter
2 empty beer/soda cans
Use a pocketknife or other sharp tool to carve one end of each dowel rod to a point so you can stick them into the ground.
Find a log (nature’s hammer) and beat those sticks into the dirt about 30 feet apart.
Place the empty beer cans on the tops of your rods; they should balance just fine. On a windy day, add some dirt to the cans to weigh them down.
The object of the game is to knock the can off of the rods with the frisbee. If you hit the stick and the can falls off you get 1 point. If you hit the can clean off, you get 3 points. If the opposing team catches the can, they get a point and the Frisbee thrower team gets nothing. We usually play to 11 and throw in a couple wild cards. For example, if the can gets knocked off and you hit it into the air, do a 360 and catch the can in your opposite hand—game over. You are a winner. You can play one-on-one or with teams of two. Playing with teams is always more fun.
Also, this is a one-handed game. You must have a beer or soda in one hand at all times of play. Have fun, and make up some rules!
Scrap paper (blank, lined, recycled, etc.)
Brown paper bags
I used sheets of 8 ½” by 11” paper and cut out sheets from my brown paper bag so that they were about a 1/4” larger on each side. The brown paper will be your cover.
Fold the sheet in half along with your brown paper cover to create a line down the middle.Follow this line and sew the sheets of paper together.
The rest is up to you. I titled each Nature Journal slightly differently with a simple image. I then created prompts such as Observations (i.e. Human behavior, animals, foliage, odors, etc.), Draw your favorite hiking trail, Illustrate your wilderness home, etc.
Be sure to date the journal and record the location. These make for a lovely memento if you are camping with others.