We Love Camping, But Hate Other People – So Where/When/How Do We Camp?

My husband and I have been camping together since we were both 21 years old, and finishing college. We did our first camping trip together at Petoskey State Park, using his 1985 Chrysler New Yorker, and my family’s borrowed Coleman canvas cabin tent. Because we were both budget-minded college students, we did the last couple of nights of our camping trip at Fisherman’s Island State Park, which was not far from Petoskey. But it was more rustic – with vault toilets, pump water and was…cheaper (back in the early 1990s rustic sites were $6/night, similar sites cost $17-$18 per night now)! The sites were also larger and more spread out. Because of these things, it remains one of our favorite places to camp when we go “Up North.” Going “Up North” when you live in Michigan can mean a million different things, and it all boils down to perspective. For me, “Up North” begins when you reach West Branch, if traveling by I-75 north, and Clare, if traveling by U.S. 27 north.

A scene from our very first camping trip together. That 1985 New Yorker was a talking car!

Ever since that first camping trip together in 1993, we’ve worn out/stopped using at least three tents, a few sleeping bags, and have done nearly every kind of camping imaginable – modern camping in campgrounds with running water/electricity and showers, rustic drive-up camping with hand-pumped water and stinky vault toilets (no electricity) and even backcountry camping requiring us to hike in to our camping spots with all of our gear stuffed into heavy duty backpacks. In colder weather, we’ve become fond of renting cabins, which are either rustic or more modern.

The most common things throughout all of our camping adventures are a mutual desire to get the fuck away from other people (unless they’re our friends/family), not being woken up before 9 a.m. by screaming/crying toddlers, not enduring excessive noise made by yappy dogs or overly yappy humans and the best thing of all – enjoying a nighttime campfire. Preferably without having to be in a sea of shiny metal and fiberglass boxes (aka RVs, travel trailers, fifth wheels, etc.). They clog up the scenery and usually cause too many humans, (tiny and adult), dogs and…more humans – to congregate. Please don’t get me started on dogs! I love the “idea” of dogs, but you simply can’t count on them to be quiet and leashed while they’re camping. Or stay quiet until at least 10 a.m. I had an unleashed yappy canine run up to me a few years ago and nip at my legs when I was making a very hung over early morning bathroom trip. Obviously neither the human or the dog obeyed this sign:

It absolutely kills me that people have become SO entitled about their precious dogs that this second sign was needed.

Dogs are supposed to stay on a six-foot leash at all times in Michigan’s state parks, though everyone’s dogs seem to be excluded from this rule. Really, it’s not the dogs I hate so much as the people who “own” them (who really owns whom in this case…I think the dogs are really the ones in charge of humans). I mean, look at how they rule the lives of humans with their demands for walkies, attention, squeaky toys, heavy petting. Yes, humans benefit from the companionship of dogs and other pets, but as one of my friends said about dogs a while back:

“I like dogs – just not other people’s dogs.”

Quote from a friend about Dogs
A “walk-in” site at a campground on the Upper Manistee River near Grayling, MI. Watching tubers/kayakers/canoeists was our afternoon entertainment (along with day drinking)!

With that first line item in mind (getting the fuck away from other people), we’re taking a look at changing up our camping adventures this summer. There are a couple of reasons for this – one, we like getting the fuck away from other people (have you gotten that memo yet, LOL), and two – camping became REALLY popular last summer because of the plague. This meant that not only were campgrounds more crowded and full, but also full of more camping “amateurs.” Here’s how we plan to accomplish our recreation goals this summer:

  • Avoid weekend adventures (no Friday/Saturday night camping)
  • Avoid holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Arbor Day, Victoria Day, Labor Day, National Pizza Day, etc.)
  • Avoid the most popular campgrounds
  • Go as rustic as possible (especially walk-up style camping), maybe even give dispersed camping a try (more about that in a bit).
  • Camp where the people with travel trailers aren’t allowed

I found a few state parks in Michigan that have walk-up style camping available and can be reserved. Bewabic State Park, Ionia State Recreation Area, Lake Margrethe State Forest Campground, Ludington State Park (they have a rustic hike-in section), Pinckney Recreation Area and Wilderness State Park. In this style of camping, you basically have to park in one spot, then somehow schlep all of your gear to a camping spot a short distance away (you don’t get to have a vehicle on your camp site). Which forces you to bring less stuff.

We’ve been thinking about getting a folding wagon, now we have a few other things to think about, too! Like maybe giving “dispersed” camping a try (basically just putting your tent up and providing all of your own campsite amenities, including toilets). A friend has a spot of land “Up North” that she has offered for us to use in this fashion! It’s tempting to think about…

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