Camping Without Commitment
New to outdoor overnights? Help resides here.
Last week we attended the Pitch North competition and in an N3 article we mentioned the entry known as Camp Box.
We were intrigued by the concept given our experiences witnessing the trials and tribulations of newbies to the Great Outdoors.
We tracked down owner Tim Liberty and found out they were having a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday from 4-5pm at The Stream in downtown Newaygo.
He agreed to answer a few questions as well as inviting all to attend the grand opening of this innovative initiative available right here in the Near North.
N3-Tell us a little about Camp Box. When you started, what you offer, how it works.
TL-Camp Box officially opened our doors in May this year and we are operating out of Newaygo. We offer a full concierge camping experience. We’ll help you select a campsite, deliver our Camp Box full of all the items you need to camp, set up your site and take it down when you’re done. This allows you to enjoy the outdoors with no stress.
N3-What spawned this idea?
TL-I enjoy looking at products or services and thinking about ways to improve them. I was thinking about camping one day and started listing all the stresses that come with it. Camp Box scratches all those out.
N3-How has the response been thus far?
TL-The feedback has been great. The people I have pitched the idea to, love that we are innovative. No one is doing what we are doing currently. I have spoken with many campgrounds as well who love the idea.
N3-What are the biggest obstacles for most camping novices?
TL-Purchasing all the gear, storing it, packing the car, unpacking the car, pitching the tent, repacking the car, re-storing your gear, repairing it. That’s where we come in. Those are the major obstacles that we try to eliminate. Also, anybody who tries something for the first time will have questions. We have some guides and campsite etiquette sheets in our Camp Box that will answer their questions.
N3-Let’s say I’m camping for the first time with a couple of kids ages 9 and 11 and calling Camp Box. We plan on a week. What do you recommend for equipment?
Tl-You really won’t need any equipment at all. We provide all the equipment necessary for camping i.e. cooking and eating items, lanterns, headlamps, batteries, tablecloth, chairs, tents, cornhole, fire making material, cooler… We don’t rent sleeping bags but we do sell them or you can bring your own. You’ll really just need to bring your clothes, blankets, personal hygiene, food, drinks, and items that you want to use for recreation. However, we also rent out bikes, kayaks, fishing gear and other recreational items. Let us know what you want and we can most likely include it.
N3-Tell us about the first camping trip you ever went on.
TL-I never camped as a kid, which is another reason I started this company. I wanted to remove the barrier of entry into camping, so parents are more likely to introduce their kids to it. I didn’t camp until I went into the Marine Corps. I guess it was more like sleeping in holes rather than camping, but I loved sleeping under the stars in the middle of a desert.
N3-You have 2 weeks to camp anywhere. What’s your choice?
TL-I would go somewhere new. I’ve spent time in the desert out west, in the muggy south in Florida and here in Michigan. I’d probably go out to Montana or Wyoming.
N3-Anything to add?
Tl-I have a vision for this company to be a destination employer and to be a company that the community is proud to have in their area. Everything we do is based around our set of core values : Being genuine, gritty, having passion, being community minded and taking care of nature. We will always leave our campsites in better conditions than when we got there.
Newaygo County– At their Alumni Reunion Weekend, June 10 – 12, the staff and Board of Camp Newaygo honored long-time Camp Newaygo CEO, Jane Vitek, by renaming their Health and Leadership Lodge (HALL) The Jane Vitek Health and Leadership Lodge. Vitek, a retired art educator, took over as Camp Newaygo’s Executive Director in 2002, after a 25-year career with Fremont Public Schools, and later moving into the role of Camp CEO.
Jane has a long history with Camp Newaygo, serving as Assistant Camp Director seasonally during the first 15 years of her teaching career. She was integral in the efforts to keep Camp Newaygo, which was at the time, owned and operated by the Grand Rapids YWCA, from closing, being logged, and then subdivided for residential development. She heroically pulled her own vehicle in front of logging trucks that had already started their work, preventing them from continuing, and then rallied Camp alumni to come up with a plan to raise the money needed to purchase Camp and donate it to TrueNorth (nee NCCS). Vitek had plans to expand a camp that had served four generations of girls and women from Grand Rapids and the surrounding area, its local youth, and increase community initiatives.
In her tenure at Camp Newaygo, Vitek oversaw and spearheaded major improvements including - the expansion and winterization of the year-round Program Director’s on-campus home in 2004; the renovation and winterization of Lang Lodge, and expansion of year-round community programming in 2009; the purchase of additional lakefront property for Day Camp use and a Director’s residence at Cassidy Point in 2015; the expansion and winterization of the Peggie Stone Center for the arts in 2016; the addition of the brand new Health and Leadership Lodge, which now bears her name, allowing for expanded nursing care and independent recovery rooms in 2018; construction of Outdoor Adventure Pods for summer campers and adventure-based rental groups in 2022; and the establishment of a financial Reserve and Endowment, also in 2022. She has also overseen the largest growth in Camp Newaygo’s use, both as a Girls’ Overnight Camp, and Co-Ed Day Camp, and as a community asset, in its 96-year history.
“The Camp Advisory Board felt, given Jane's years of service and significant impact and the lead role she took in raising the funds and leading the charge for the new HALL construction, naming the building in her honor was very appropriate, and we couldn’t possible agree more,” said Jalisa Danhof, Camp Newaygo Director.
Vitek was surprised with a program in her honor at a luncheon during Camp’s Alumni Reunion on Saturday, June 11th. Over 120 alums, of all ages, gathered to celebrate Camp’s 96 years of continuous service. “In a time when many camps are being sold or closed, reaching 96 years is monumental, and it was the perfect time to honor Jane before she retires at the end of this year,” continued Danhof.
4th Features Freedom Fest Fete
Croton to host parade, party and pyrotechnics
With the 4th of July weekend approaching there are a lot of events out there aimed at commemorating the creation of our great nation. As America nears birthday #246 (just 4 years from what looks to be a superlative semiquincentennial celebration in 2026) one has ample opportunities to engage in some serious revelry.
But for many there is only one place to fully capture the midsummer festivities in a kind of one stop celebratory venue.
We’re talking Croton.
And it all begins with a parade.
Who, after all, doesn’t love a parade? Even in these election years when candidates turn out in droves to show you their smiles, shake a few hands and compete with rivals for the best giveaways, parades are fun festive and family friendly. The folks at the Croton American Legion Post #381 put on an outstanding one. This year’s commences at noon in front of the Croton Library and culminates in an afternoon of free activities (and a bounce house) for the kiddos post parade at the Legion.
At 6pm the Causeway will close for folks to find a good viewing spot and then beginning at 6:30pm what has become a summer tradition will help ring in year 246.
The River Country Chamber along with Gene's Family Market of Grant, Homeward Health, and other sponsors are filling this kickoff to the Independence Day weekend with some serious fun. Yes, the iconic strip of road that connects the two segments of this riverside town will serve as the place to get in some good times while gearing up for that much awaited finale.
The Denise Anderson Band (a group well known and well liked in these parts) will dish up some fine outdoor tunes, food trucks look to be to be on hand to eliminate the need to return home for sustenance and the fan favorite known as ‘the beer tent’ is to offer adult beverages for those wishing to imbibe.
If previous years are any indication, people will arrive by land and sea (Paul Revere reference) to spend some hours enjoying the day and communing with friends before the piece d’ resistance, the ever popular and never disappointing Croton Township Fireworks.
We asked N3 friend Rachael Porter of the River Country Chamber to deliver the skinny on the beer tent and she offered these guidelines:
PN4 puts a buzz on local biz
By N3 Features
“Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business. ”- Dave Barry
Earlier in the week we went out to the Heritage Market over on Maple Island near Hesperia where the seemingly tireless Julie Burrell of The Right Place hosted the 4th annual Pitch North competition. PN is a kind of speed dating exercise for budding businesses with a chance to win some supportive capital for their ideas. The event was held in a converted barn in back of the Market (a seriously good place for pies by the way) during one of those periodic coalescences of high heat and equally lofty humidity the Mitten is renown for.
Several dozen folks from the area were there with some providing support to their favored contender and others just taking in the unique competitive demos. The panel of judges included sometime N3 contributor Lola Harmon Ramsey and Martha Gabrielse, a fellow Newaygonian who has also written a guest article or two for us.
All in attendance sweated a bit but none more than those who took center stage and delivered their pitches. And being that N3 is a huge homer we rooted for the three Newaygo County folks who finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Northern Rustic Designs showed us some non-ikean rustic woodgoods that looked pretty enticing. Cool stuff with a wide variety of products. They nabbed second.
Breann Conkle‘s Country Breeze Massage out of Hesperia was able to capture 4th. N3 is way in favor of increased access to massage because of its stress reducing qualities and a large group of the citizenry could use a good calming down now and then.
Then there was Camp Box, a Newaygo based business renting out all things camping for those who wish to experience an occasional outdoor experience without having to take out a second mortgage for equipment.
We loved the’ camping made easy’ slogan because if you’ve ever been around folks who are novices and made the mistake (usually first of many) of deciding to put up their tent for the first time at the site, it is truly brutal.
We have personally witnessed the transformation that occurs when a couple, new to camping, excitedly arrives at the site and begins the process, generally eschewing any directions that likely fall out when they unpack the new digs.
The enthusiasm wanes quickly, frustration sets in and the talk often regresses to a lot of accusatory questions and comments like “Where is the (insert expletive) hammer, or stakes, or poles, etc.” This is followed by the conversation transitioning into terse remarks that eventually blossom into snarky sarcasm.
“Well Mr. ‘Oh yeah, I’ve put up tents before’ what’s your next brilliant idea?”
Sometimes one person walks away, sometimes someone cries, sometimes both cry and sometimes the twosome will retrieve the directions which are by now undecipherable due to the unsuccessful initial attempts. Finally they are approached by a seasoned camper with a dollop or two of pity who says “need a hand?” This leads to a modicum of mortification but ultimately the raising of the tent.
It tends to taint the weekend a bit and even if mutual forgiveness is achieved there are likely no plans made by the campfire for the next excursion.
Instead, those looking for a camping experience without commitment can test the waters of outdoor overnights hassle free and see if their future might involve similar journeys into nature.
Or perhaps opting for a nice B&B, because camping is much like opera. Either one takes to it and loves it or strives to avoid any and all future exposures to it.
An interesting sidebar to this endeavor is that prior to going to PN4 N3, where we strive to be the media finger on the pulse of the area, had no knowledge of these three businesses operating in our county.
Three that can now be referenced particularly after putting faces to their names and hearing what they do from their own stories.
Now if we hear of someone searching for a massage therapist Ms. Conkle is added to the mix since we liked her presentation. Impressed with the designs of Northern Rustic their biz will come up in future conversations about local woodworkers.
And Camp Box?
Believe us, this is a wonderfully creative camping option that may very well save a relationship or two down the line.
Kudos to all who were involved in putting this on. And while we’re certain the prize money was the main course…
A little side of exposure certainly can’t hurt.
“Mom, camping is not a date; it's an endurance test. If you can survive camping with someone, you should marry them on the way home.”- Yvonne Prince, The Vinyl Princess
Discover 4-H! Discover You!
UPDATE!!! The Trail Walk Scheduled For June 18th Has Been Canceled
Summer programs on tap via 4-H
Now that school is out, are you looking for activities for your kids? Check out what Newaygo County 4-H has to offer this summer. With over 33 4-H clubs throughout Newaygo County to select from, 4-H has something for everyone! Through a variety of projects - from gardening to woodworking to photography and arts and crafts– 4-H youth have fun learning and develop life skills through all kinds of projects. If raising animals interests your kids, consider joining a 4-H club that centers on dogs, rabbits, chickens, swine, sheep, cattle, and horses to name a few. 4-H’s hands-on approach gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement to make great things happen.
If that isn’t enough, join us at Legends Ranch in Bitely on Wednesday, July 13 from 9:30 am – 2:00 pm. 4-H families will engage in numerous environmental hands-on activities with staff of Legends Ranch as well as walk the trails and observe the wildlife on the grounds. The Wildlife Center of Legends Ranch which features 2,500 animals from around the world will be open for families to explore as well. Bring your lunch and discover this hidden gem.
Newaygo County 4-H will be returning to the Gerber Baby Food Festival on Wednesday, July 20 to host the 4-H Petting Zoo from 10:00 am – 11:00 am and 4-H Activities Stations from 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm. Families will have the thrilling experience of coming face-to-face with farm animals, learn about the breeds, and how to care for them. Following the Petting Zoo, be sure to stop over at the 4-H Activity Stations to create pipe cleaner insects, solar bracelets, and leather-stamp wristbands to take home.
To learn more about Newaygo County 4-H, contact Laurie Platte Breza, 4-H Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 231-928-1056. 4-H is open to youth, ages 5 – 19 with age determined on January 1 of the given year. Participating in 4-H is fun and free!
This, That & The Other
The skinny on carp containment, a decision on lakeside dining looms and the passing of an icon.
By Ken DeLaat
Fish Fotos By Mary Spicer
The Carp Wars
N3 World Headquarters & Monarch Hatchery is located on Hess Lake.
A Lake currently engaged in one of those epic battles between man and beast.
And while overwhelmed in numbers the human element seems to be gaining a bit of ground when it comes to attrition.
Carp cages were introduced via the Lake Association and those who have set up these ingenious contraptions along their lakeshore have seen the surrender of scores of the Cyprinidae family members.
Hess Lake Improvement Association President Terry Roelofs pushed the cage initiative after seeing the results during the annual carp collection last year. Residents could collect a $2 ‘bounty’ per carp and one person turned in around 30.
“I asked him how he did it and he told me about the cage he had made. I brought it up at one of our meetings and it was decided to go ahead with building ten cages that have been placed at various waterfronts on the lake.”
Permits were granted and the cages went lakeside.
And thus far over 200 have exited the waters of Hess via the cages.
“If it had stayed warm we would probably have 400 by now,” said Roelofs, who added that he has received a lot of help from Jerry Reynolds in building the traps and managing them for cottage owners who are limited to weekend residency.
From what we understand the skirmish isn’t personal. It’s just that the big lunkers tend to not be the best of neighbors, rooting out some of the good plant life while muddying the waters with their bottom feeding frenzies.
Our hopes for an unconditional surrender aside, any reduction of these titans of turbidity would be most assuredly welcome among the residents so a shout out to Terry R. and the Lake Board for thinking outside the box...
And inside a cage.
Dockside Dining Decision?
And speaking of Hess Lake we are intrigued by this recent public notice.
“At a meeting to be held on June 27, 2022, the Brooks Township Planning Commission will hold a public hearing regarding: A request for Special Land Use Permit and Site Plan review and approval for the re-construction/rebuilding of the former Smugglers Cove restaurant, docks and related items located at 864 E 88th Street, Parcel #62-19-32-101-006. The applicant is Team Thompson LLC. The meeting and hearing will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Brooks Township Hall located at 490 Quarterline Road, Newaygo, Michigan 49337.
In a previous TT&O we featured a photo of the ‘Coming Soon’ variety of signage now gracing the property where the proposed rebirth of lakeside dining is hoping to happen.
By all accounts this meeting looks to be the next step in helping that process along.
N3 will be there to cover the meeting and from what we are hearing…
We are unlikely to be alone in the public seating area.
Ann Turner Cook
Quite possibly no face that has resonated across the world more than that of Ann Turner Cook a.k.a. The Gerber Baby. She graced the jars, packages, bottles, boxes and everything Gerber for nearly a century.
And on Friday Ms. Turner Cook left us at age 96.
Her passing reminded me of several years back when she came to Fremont as the guest of honor for the Baby Food Festival. I was walking around at the staging area of the parade and came upon her sitting alone in a convertible getting ready to take her parade ride.
I came up and said “I understand you were the Gerber Baby Food baby?”
“Yes, that was me,” she said with a rather radiant smile.
Feeling a bit prankish I said ‘Well, what a coincidence because I was the Northern Tissue Baby.’
“Really?” she said with a bit of a head tilt.
‘No. Just kidding.’
She had a pleasant laugh that she shared with me at my small fabrication and we chatted briefly before the parade got called into action.
While it was just one of those short encounters one has from time to time her laugh and smile remain in my memory to this day.
R.I.P. Ms. Turner Cook. You may have passed from this earth but your image remains a symbol that endures.
While also holding a rich part of the history of this area.
Concerts In The Cloud
City, Chamber bringing free music to Rotary Park
One of the many bonuses of our finest bipeninsular season is outdoor music.
There is something about sitting outside on a summer evening listening to some good tunes while relaxing in a lawn chair, chatting it up a bit with friends and family and maybe enjoying some food you didn’t have to make.
Such an opportunity exists on a monthly basis at the hidden gem of a park nestled along the White River in our county seat.
Rockin’ Rotary Park is a summertime musical initiative put on by the River Country Chamber of Commerce and the city of White Cloud. A monthly offering of music with a variety of performers bringing their sound to an outdoor stage.
Best of all it is FREE. Yes, you can enjoy some live music with not a dime nor dollar leaving your pockets.
Unless of course you are hungry. The tunes are free but the eats, provided by local organizations, are not.
This Wednesday, June 8 from 5:30-8:30pm the series kicks off with the David Yonker band, a faith-based group of rockers with some local roots.
From their website:
“...multi-generational rockers who demonstrate that Rock & Roll does not discriminate based on age! The message of their lyrics is carried by a sound that stimulates and captivates people of all ages. They believe strongly in the power of music and its ability bring people to a place of worship before the King of Kings and challenge their walk with Christ.”
July brings Luke Warm and the Not So Hots to the Cloud for those who like a bit of country/newgrass sound, August will see the dad and daughter duo The Faulkners take the stage and September brings in Gabe Schillman to wrap up the series.
Need more info? Hit the link below.
And rock on White Cloudians.
From Hiking To Disc Golf
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- Eric Qualman