First Tent Camping Trip of 2021…Soon!

My husband and I have been tent camping together for close to 30 years. In 1993, we packed up a tent we’d borrowed from my parents – and other assorted gear – and went on a trip to Petoskey and Charlevoix, MI.

These cabin style tents were nice for air flow and space, but were a bear to put up – and so, so heavy/bulky/slow to dry out. The freestanding dome tents that are popular now are MUCH easier to set up and are far more practical!

We started our trip at Petoskey State Park, but because we were budget minded, we moved our camp to Fisherman’s Island State Park and finished our trip there because it only cost $6 night (or something close to that)! You did kind of get what you paid for – stinky vault toilets, fresh water you had to pump with a hand pump, and no electricity on your site. That was OK with us then and it’s still OK with us now!

We’ve been through at least three other tents over the years. We recently retired a REI four-person dome tent after about 20 years of faithful service. We gave it a retirement party and a gold watch (LOL).

Here’s our first REI tent – I had to think a minute where this location was – it was a walk-up campsite on the Manistee River near Grayling, MI. Our site was right on the river!

That tent survived a lot of trips and a lot of storms! It kept our gear and us dry through pounding rain storms, held up well in high winds and even kept the Green River near Mammoth Cave National Park from swallowing us up in 2009! Boy, if that tent hadn’t been staked down, we would’ve been in trouble! Sadly, we had no choice but to pack up early the next morning and seek out shelter in a motel – which we only stayed in for one night. After that, the Kentucky rain let up enough for us to set up for a couple of more nights in our tent. Kentucky rain ain’t nothing to f— with!

Apparently Michigan rain packs quite the wallop, too! Heavy storms in SE Michigan recently flooded major interstates, people’s basements and local rivers/streams.

That Mammoth Cave trip was one of four times bad weather forced us to abruptly alter our tent camping plans and seek shelter elsewhere. Here were the other times this happened:

  • 2000 – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula July (or August). Daylong rain prevented us from being able to set up camp pretty much anywhere we tried to be. We sought out shelter at a cheap motel in Newberry, MI. I jokingly called the motel a “Conjugal Visit Motel,” because of its proximity to a state penitentiary. Next day we were able to get a site at Taquamenon Falls State Park.
  • 2009 (October), Mammoth Cave National Park (see details above)
  • 2017, Hoeft State Park, Rogers City, MI (July). Right after we set up our tent, a freak storm decided to blow through the area and cause a stream of water to flow right under our tent. A ranger allowed us to move our tent to an adjacent site on higher ground for the night and we stayed one night in the Driftwood Motel in Rogers City, MI. Next day, we were able to set back up on our original site and finish our trip.
  • 2019, (July), Tippy Dam Recreation Area. A reservation error (my fault) caused us to get evicted from our site after one night and have to seek another site…immediately. We were turned away from Orchard Beach State Park about 20 miles away, but that very same night there was a massive flash flood in that area which caused extensive flooding at the campground. Looking back, we were kind of happy to have been turned away! Rather than drive straight home, we stayed at my husband’s parents’ house for a night or two (motels we passed along the way were either booked solid or too pricey for our tastes). We were forced to pack up our tent wet which sadly caused the dreaded mildewing (a smell that is very hard to get out of a tent). Since the poor tent had served us so well and didn’t owe us anything, we decided to replace it in 2020.

We took our new tent on quite a few trips in 2020:

Our newest tent – it’s tall enough for me to stand in! We decided to go with an REI brand tent again, since our first REI tent served us so well.

Our first tent camping trip of 2021 will be at Rifle River Recreation Area near West Branch, MI. There are four rustic campgrounds and one modern campground at this park – as well as at least a couple of rental cabins. My husband and I stayed here on a tent camping trip once in the early 2000s, and stayed at least once in one of the cabins (also around that time). It was really cool hearing the trumpeter swans during mating season! We’ll be in one of the rustic campgrounds.

Because of overly crowded campgrounds caused by people wanting to find ways to be outside during the pandemic in 2020, we decided to rethink our time off – and camping adventures for 2021. We’re trying to avoid camping on Friday/Saturday nights – and avoid holiday weekends as much as possible.

This means our upcoming trip will start on a Sunday night (July 4). We’ll arrive when other campers are partying – which is good, because that is exactly what we plan to do! We’re hoping by Monday morning, a good number of the campers will be clearing out. We’ll be staying a total of three nights – with plans to visit an old friend from high school, check out the Lake Huron beach at Tawas Point State Park, and float around like idiots in the lake when it gets hot. We have a brand new portable air compressor for inflating our water toys! We also have a new USB/solar fan that my in-laws gave us! We’ll be hanging that thing from the ceiling of our tent to help keep the air moving. If I need to power it back up, I can set it in the sun – or charge from a little portable power supply thingie – or charge while driving the car.

I don’t have any trivia recaps to share at this time…I’ll be putting trivia games on hold for the next few days. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

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