I grew up camping at state parks in Indiana with two families who had pop-up campers, so we always were at electric sites. My family had a two room tent for four people…just enough space for us and our stuff. We slept on air mattresses snug inside sleeping bags. We would cook on a camp stove and store food in coolers. We would build a campfire to stay warm and roast marshmallows and pudgy pies on. The other kids, my brother and I would ride our bikes around the campground and play on the playground together. We hiked the trails with the adults, as well. We had running water in bathhouse with showers and flushing toilets. This was my experience of “roughing it”
Scott went backpacking with youth group in Kentucky when he was a teen, so his idea of camping was quite a bit more rustic. If you had to go, you went in the woods. You carried all of the food and sleeping equipment you needed. You didn’t need a pillow or cooler or an extra pair of pants. You didn’t follow a trail, just hiked straight through the woods making your own way.
When Scott and I got married, we were given some camping gear and tried camping the way I grew up. We got rained on almost every time we went. We compromised sometimes and went to nonelectric sites. I didn’t mind the outhouse or no electricity. Our first tent got a large hole in it, so we purchased a truck bed tent. It is easy setup and the rain water does not pool under it. We have used it with Elizabeth but have not tried it with William yet.
Now for the point of this history…we attempted to backpack together a few years ago at Hoosier National Forest but the water table was so low we couldn’t find anywhere to refill our water bottles. We ended up at Morgan Monroe State Forest at a primitive campsite. Since we are living in Michigan, it seemed like the perfect area to try backpacking again. We were ready to leave William for the first time overnight. I picked up a book at the library titled, “Backpacking in Michigan”. It listed backpacking trails and one of them was only an hour away and just one overnight. In the lower part of Michigan, if you want to backpack, you have to reserve a walk-in campsite. The nice part is that there is a water pump and outhouse at the end and start of your day…no need to go in the woods!
It stormed the night before, so we were worried about muddy trails, but we found out that the trail was quite sandy so no giant muddy areas to cross. I carried a 23 pound pack, the equivalent of carrying William and Scott carried 40 pounds (more than Elizabeth). We had a great experience with cool weather in the shade and only a few bug bites. The first day, we hiked seven miles into the Blind Lake sites. Our feet and backs were sore pretty quickly. It was quite an adjustment for our out of shape bodies…lol.
The terrain was moderately hilly with a lot of lakes and ponds along the way. The Pottawatomi (or Poto) trail is a loop, so hikers go counterclockwise and bikers clockwise. We got used to listening for the hum of bike tires and the din of voices. Most rode in pairs or small groups so they would warn their group of hikers ahead and then let us know how many in their group behind them. This communication was helpful as we tried to get off the trail for them. We snacked and drank water often. I made homemade granola and we took dried apricots and apples. We stopped for a lunch of honey peanut butter on english muffins. Dinner at our campsite was minestrone (dry mix) made in our jet boil. We went to bed early exhausted from a long day!
Breakfast the next day was oatmeal and raisins plus coffee for Scott and hot chocolate for me. We packed up our tent and supplies and rolled out the opposite direction from which we came. We felt much more limber the second day but still opted for a shortcut instead of a longer route. We now knew our limits. We encountered an old homestead from the 1800’s with only a fireplace and cellar left standing. We also saw large mushrooms and a sand hill crane and we heard many more birds and wildlife. We hope to do the longer Waterloo-Pinckney trail (4 days, 3 nights) next year. Overall, I think staying where there was guaranteed water and an outhouse was a great compromise!