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August 23 1998, Sunday


he sun rose and broke through the clouds and the Camry started getting hot, so Kim and I rolled down the windows to take advantage of the lake breezes and went back to sleep. Eventually David Unger, Spunky Lisa and Matt Rogers all appeared outside the car looking well-rested and cheery. Indeed, Matt Rogers looked content enough for Kim and I to whisper that perhaps he got lucky last night. They had all gone skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan, which was just brisk enough to wake them up but warm enough to linger in. After that, they'd hauled all their gear back down to the car from the dunes. Kim and I still had to gather our rain-soaked clothes and the tent, which Matt said was a total loss.

Some young hippie kids we'd seen last night had dropped a bag of their marijuana on the trail and David had found it. It was damp and schwaggy, but he rolled a joint and we all smoked it, especially Kim. I was surprised how little hangover I was experiencing considering the vino and tequila we'd been drinking last night.

A couple Eastern Kingbirds frolicked in the tops of weeds and Matt Rogers thought they might be Mockingbirds. I was amazed that he could so easily misidentify such an obvious species. After all, while I consider myself a bird dilettante, Matt Rogers was once a "bird nerd," paid to go out into the field and tally up bird species professionally. I suddenly found myself wondering about the accuracy of official bird tallies.

Kim and I hiked back to the campsite, the scene of our miserable night in the rain. The tent was squashed absolutely flat and two of the fibreglass poles were snapped off, showing bundles of frayed fibers. We sorted the clothes, shook off the sand, folded them up and figured out a way to haul them back. Everything was substantially heavier than it had been last night, having taken on so much water.


t was exhausting work, and by now I needed a break. Lake Michigan wasn't too far below the dunes of the campsite, so I ran down the steep sandy bank, stripped off all my clothes, and waded out into the cool water. Right along the lakeshore, cobbles and stones were all neatly sorted according to size, and as I walked further and further out the cobbles grew in size until they were the size and shape of cucumbers. Then the cobbles abruptly ended, the water became somewhat more shallow, and the bottom covered with a comfortable layer of sand.

The scene was absolutely gorgeous. The water directly around me was a yellowish cream colour from sediments stirred out of the sand, but further out the water was turquoise, and still further out it was dark blue all the way to the distant foggy horizon.

Kim had been reluctant at first, but soon enough she'd gotten naked and joined me in the lake. She didn't regret it for a moment.

As we'd been working on packing up the campsite, Kim and I had been deviled by species of northern biting fly that looks and sounds almost exactly like an ordinary peaceful housefly. Several of these flies even followed me far out into the lake. I killed one of them there, but for the most part they were too fast to smack. Still, having only me to land on, they were vulnerable, so I splashed water at them as they circled me like attacking warplanes a little too far from home. Eventually they had to head back to shore; apparently flies cannot stay airborne for very long.

Unlike Matt and Lisa, at this time of day we were no longer the only people on the beach. Skinny dipping in the presence of strangers is something that usually causes more discomfort for the strangers than it does the skinny dippers. Our great nation was founded on unwritten puritanical principles, and it's amazing how persistent these principles are. It was amusing to see the very ordinary-looking (probably fudge-devouring) tourists either way up the beach suddenly notice our nudity, stop, shuffle their feet, and wonder among themselves whether it was safe to proceed in our direction. Of course, their dogs didn't care in the least. They were too busy running up and down the steep sandy bank and wading out into the water.


he walk back to the car was a nightmare of strenuous exertion. Climbing those soft sandy slopes with a heavy load of wet clothes taxed my strength, and by the time I'd made it to the highest lookout on Pyramid Point, I just wanted to lie down and die. Kim wouldn't allow me to rest, though. She was cranky with hunger. Walking downhill through the forest, my legs felt like over-masturbated penises. Every step was exactly that kind of torture.

David, Lisa and Matt had already gone out for coffee, probably in nearby touristy Glen Arbor. But now we all needed something more substantial, or, as Lisa put it, "a big greasy breakfast." We trusted David Unger's judgement on such things, and again he led the convoy in his Subaru sketch-mobile.

concepts about which Kim and I giggled in the back seat:

"yeast detection," "yeast erection" & "yeast rejection" (don't ask; it's an in-joke)

Matt Rogers gesticulating wildly as he rode shotgun with David Unger while we followed behind in Spunky Lisa's Camry.

We drove all the way back to Traverse City and ended up in the parking lot of an authentic greasy spoon (not one of the many places posing as a greasy spoon), an establishment known as J.S. Hamburgs.

Inside, the clients were all wrinkled old white guys with big brown age spots. The staff consisted of a shaven-headed possible alternadude cook and a youngish middle-aged waitress. She had a strange unearthly calm about her that masked an unusual inquisitiveness. She wanted to know where we all were from and where we'd been. When she overheard Matt Rogers talking about the wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald (Matt had been on nearby Whitefish Point on the Upper Peninsula at the time)1, she suddenly somehow threw an incredible silence over our dialogue and then quietly said she'd been dating one of the 29 guys who had drowned in the wreck.

Everyone except Matt and me ordered breakfast foods, but Matt and I don't really understand the idea behind breakfast foods, so we ordered lunch-type foods. As usual when I eat breakfast with friends, I had to avert my eyes from their plates. Eggs revolt me so much that I lose my appetite when I see people eating them.


he next stop was the "Sand Lakes" southeast of Traverse City. It's a series of five small lakes with a number of unusual features, perhaps the best of which is the fact that it lies off the beaten track of most fudge-devouring tourists. When we'd gone down the appropriate gravel roads and parked our cars in the Sand Lakes trailhead parking lot, I decided to download my pictures from my digital camera. We'd brought Kim's laptop computer, so it should have been possible, but when I looked to find my Panasonic-proprietary-camera-card-to-PCMCIA-card adapter, I couldn't find it anywhere. I tore the entire trunk apart but it had vanished. My camera is useless without it, so I immediately fell into a miserable funk. I had a dreadful last memory of seeing that adapter lying on the wooden edge of the Pyramid Point trailhead parking lot while I changed my clothes and prepared to swap pocket contents. There was no way to go back; Pyramid Point was a good fifty miles away. Everyone was sure the adapter would turn up, but I knew it wouldn't. As we all headed down the trail towards the Sand Lakes, I hung my head in despair. I overheard Kim and Lisa talking about the situation as they walked behind me. Kim was saying she felt sympathetically miserable.

But then she called out to me and I turned around. She'd just miraculously found the adapter in her tiny rubbery backpack. How it got in there, I have no idea, but I was so overjoyed that it suddenly became extremely difficult for anyone to ruin my day. It crossed my mind that it might be good to periodically hide treasures from a loved one so he or she can be overjoyed when the hidden items resurface.

Through unfertile forests rooted in sand, we walked down to "Lake One," the northwesternmost of the Sand Lakes. On the way we stopped to chew on some Spotted Wintergreen, one of the very few plants in the forest undergrowth.

Lake One is a small lake, no larger than 20 acres in size. On the west end was a rectangular car-sized pit where blue-grey lake clay had been excavated, probably by someone intending to use the clay for pottery. We continued on to a small sandy beach on the south side. We all stripped off all our clothes and jumped into the water. Everyone but me swam across to the other side, but since I swim poorly at best, I didn't follow them. According to David, the lake is 20 feet deep in some places.

I ran around to the other beach, where the beach consisted entirely of lake clay. Already my friends were covering themselves with the stuff, looking increasingly like anthropoid mud monsters. I climbed into the muck with them and put the stuff over absolutely every square inch of my body, including my hair and even inside my nostrils. Those places I couldn't reach, someone else took care of. Then we put sticks in our hair and affixed flowers to our bodies. We had become mud people.

I went for the super-crusty look, sprinkling sand on my wet clay.

We all ran around on the lake shore, acting like primitive peoples who have never heard of fuel injection and the World Wide Web. The clay gradually dried, cracked, and fell off in flakes. The others did some more swimming, but I stuck to the shoreline trail.

Eventually I went the long way around the lake (to avoid troubling an unknown father and little girl with my nudity) back to the sandy beach, where I thoroughly scrubbed all the clay off my body.


n the drive back north up to M-72, we followed David for one last time, but on M-72 we headed back east towards civilization and he headed west to Traverse City. Lisa was extremely impressed with the fact that he'd given us his undivided attention to lead us on a tour of the obscure local retreats. She was also pleased that he had blended in with our group so seamlessly and comfortably, that she had felt completely comfortable getting naked with him after knowing him less than a day.


he ride back to Ann Arbor was mostly uneventful. Lisa did the driving, the entire time fighting the impulse to speed. She picked up on my Total gas station obsession, mostly going to Total stations whenever we needed to stop. I could tell Matt Rogers hated my Total station fixation. His irritation with this and other "old concepts" was frequently expressed with the line, "Next concept, please!"

I eagerly awaited the Zilwaukee Bridge crossing, this time getting a look at the scrawny western view of the Saginaw River.

Back at Kim's place, we divided up our stuff and went our various ways home. Kim and I went to bed early.

1Matt Rogers says there are plenty of bitter folk musicians on the Upper Peninsula who are very upset that Gordon Lightfoot's song about the Edmond Fitzgerald became the popular one and not the songs they wrote. [back]

Thanks, as usual, to Nancy Firedrake for corrections and, this time, links to images of birds.

one year ago
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