If you allow a “seasoned” camper to blather on long enough about their various adventures, sooner or later the phrase “camper courtesy” will come up. It can mean any variety of things – Not washing your dishes at a communal drinking water spigot, not keeping lights bright enough to be visible from space on all night on your “rig,” leaving a camp site cleaner than you left it, and lastly but not leastly – don’t tread on or cut through other people’s camp sites.
Had we known when renting the mini cabin at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee, MI that when sunset rolls around – other park visitors/campers WILL “invade” your camp site to ogle and take photos of the sunset – we might have considered renting a cabin elsewhere. We like our privacy, we like keeping to ourselves and dammit, maybe we are a bit antisocial and like to get away from people! Does that make us bad people? No, if we were nasty or violent with people invading our camp site, then maybe we would be bad people!
So how good were these sunset views, you may be asking yourself? Uh, pretty damn good! Even after some wicked storms blew through Monday night, we had enough of a break in the clouds for a lovely “ogleworthy” sunset.
Not only did we have people wandering onto our cabin site, but these same people saw fit to JACK OUR PICNIC TABLE! I had to call the ranger station and politely ask:
“Our cabin is supposed to have a picnic table outside of it, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” the parks worker said.
After getting off the phone, I looked down a ways from our site and saw two picnic tables sitting in a “common area.” I figured one of those MUST be ours. So I called up the ranger station again and mentioned this.
“I think I see our picnic table.”
He asked if we might be able to move it ourselves. Uh, no – it’s about 100 feet away, a bit of a hike and unreasonable feat of strength for two 40 somethings – one of whom has arthritic fingers.
A short time later I saw a John Deere golf cart/utility vehicle drive up to the where the picnic table was sitting. A couple of “oglers” helped the parks worker load the picnic table into the back, and he came to our site. With just one good tug, I managed to slide that thing out of the back myself (maneuvering heavy things is one thing – dead lifting them is another). My husband and I were able to move the table where we wanted it, which was by our fire pit.
Yes, we get it…state park land is for public use, and nobody gets to lay claim to any part of it – even if they’ve paid $52/night to stay in a rental cabin. This is why we didn’t say anything when people wandered onto our site – though it’s not to say we welcomed the “trespassers” with open arms, either! Fortunately, Saturday night was the worst of it for the “oglers,” it wasn’t too bad on the last two nights.
Our first night – we arrived sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. with a pizza from a nearby Pizza Hut, which was going to be our night’s dinner (we like to have “lazy dinners” our first nights of camping). We started hauling in our gear to the cabin, and then we realized…
We weren’t alone! Interlopers on our site! A family of about seven decided they were going to jump a fence and use the sign telling them to NOT do that – as an anchor to try rappelling down the bluff. My husband saw more of these hillbilly shenanigans than I did, since I decided to hide out in the cabin to wait out the sunset viewing feeding frenzy. Sometimes it’s best NOT to be a witness (lest you be questioned by authorities when disaster strikes)!
The next morning, I was up before my husband was, so I set out my chair in front of the cabin and just chilled out with the lake views – and some tunes on my mp3 player. As an added bonus, I got to see some freighters!
We were able to have nice fires outside for the first two nights. But on the third night, a storm blew through, which forced us to spend our night inside the cabin. We entertained ourselves by watching the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I also got a little crafty with some string lights and decided to “decorate” my bunk!
Poor Orchard Beach State Park has had its share of erosion-related calamities in the past few years, not the least of which was epic flooding in July, 2019 which was so bad that people with kayaks were able to use them to navigate flood waters in the campground! Just the day before, we were turned away from camping there because the campground was full (boy did we dodge a bullet there)! Rising waters have virtually eliminated the park’s namesake beach, which was formerly accessible via a long flight of stairs from the bluff. Now those stairs are closed and…there is no beach at the bottom.
I get it. These “regular” park visitors may be lamenting that they no longer have a beach to flock to watch the sunsets, so ogling the sunsets from the split rail fencing is the only way to do that these days.
As further evidence of erosion and rising waters, a historic building designed by Ernest Hartwick (for whom I presume Hartwick Pines State Park is named) and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s is sitting dangerously close to the shore. The building is going to be moved to a day use area farther inland, which I’ve read is a $1 million project. The work to move that building was to begin the day we were going to leave – so we took one last opportunity to get some pics of the lovely historic limestone building:
Across the street from the park are a series of lovely hiking trails, which are on the site of a former dairy farm that was purchased by the state – becoming part of the park. There is nothing quite as enchanting as a fall hike when the weather’s brisk, the colors are peaking and you’re not at work!
So what’s the verdict? Will we ever stay in this park again? Yes, it was annoying having people “invading” our site, but it’s something we can live with. Will we camp here in a tent? Not likely, it’s really more of an RV-friendly park than an ideal tent campground. The modern restrooms are oddly situated (one right near the entrance, the other near the front about a third of the way in), which means for some campers – who don’t have their own “loos” to use – it’s a long hike to the john. A pair of vault toilets was located right behind our cabin, but a good number of the campers were opting to use those rather than do the long hike and risk a photo finish. Can’t blame them…
As for cabin renting here again? That’s entirely likely! But only in the spring or fall, not the summer. Manistee is a cute little town and isn’t too far away, the limestone buildings are really cool, and the park obviously has a very rich history. It’s on a former site of an apple orchard (hence its name “Orchard Beach”). One of the limestone buildings was a bit of a mystery to us…