By Megan Wirts
Last week my family and our friends set off on an adventure to the north-east side of the state. Something none in our group had ever done before. After weeks of searching for the perfect family camping destination we settled on Hoeft State Park located on the shores of Lake Huron. Being Lake Michigan lovers, we were excited to experience another one of our Great Lakes.
Seven of us, 3 adults (my dear husband had to stay home due to work obligations) and 4 kids ages 13-8, loaded up in the minivan (that was packed from top to bottom and everywhere in between) and headed toward our destination. It took us around 5 hours to get there with stops included for various reasons like broken sandals, questionable trailer hitches and starvation. You know, the usual road trip happenings. I just have to say...
...thank you to the minivan goddesses for creating Sanity Saver minivans with dvd players and headphones..
Once we arrived at Hoeft State Park we were pleased with what we saw. Beautiful wooded lots, an updated and cute playground, bike trails galore and super friendly campground neighbors. Our campsite was in a prime location. We took up two lots right across from the bathroom and showers. Since I have a hard time walking far distances (especially if I gotta pee!) because of my dystonia, it was one of my favorite parts of the experience.
We had great neighbors on either side and woods to the back of us. Through the woods just a few hundred feet was Lake Huron. We were so close we could hear the waves crashing in the quiet of the night. This is one of my favorite campgrounds ever.
The beaches that we discovered along that part of Lake Huron were excellent for rock hunting, which proved to be a highlight for the small people in the group. We had a pile the size of a tiny mountain sitting on our picnic table filled with Petoskey stones, interesting fossils and a few that will soon be painted and hidden around our beautiful county for rock seekers to find. (#rockinNC)
Lake Huron is also home to many shipwrecks. One day we took a trek to the Besser Natural Area to check out the Portland, a wooden schooner that wrecked in 1877. The beach there was less than desirable, scattered with dead crayfish (that let us know they were there by their aroma before we saw them) and muddy quicksand sitting there ready to swallow up flip flops at any given moment.
We made it to our destination though and were ready to swim out to see some awesome history, but not before we heard one of the small people say, “Um, Mom, I really have to go to the bathroom, like…now!”. He was a little nervous about it because in the parking area there was a sign that said “NO DUMPING” and we had made jokes about how it was a poop free place, and he wasn’t sure if this was allowed. I tried not to laugh, without success. Then my son quickly learned that moss makes a decent toilet paper in a pinch and that he should really let us know these things before we are out in the middle of nowhere. He also found out that when I say I’m not trying to take a selfie with him in the background, I really am.
When everyone was ready we all headed out in the chilly water. The shipwreck was around 250 feet off shore and 8 feet below the surface. I headed out with the group about halfway and quickly realized this was beyond my ability and headed back to shore.
Plus I was freaking freezing.
When I made it back, I sat in the sun to warm up and watched as the rest of the shipwreck searchers dove down to see the large planks of the wooden ship that lay at the bottom of the lake. It was an awesome experience and our resident history nerd, Rob, was totally geeking out.
Everyone’s favorite part of the trip though was the Ocqueoc Waterfalls. A hidden gem located just a few minutes from our campsite. Most Michigan waterfalls require you to stand back and look, while these are just asking you to jump in. Another unique feature is its accessibility. There is a fantastic ramp that leads right down to the falls, so that people of all abilities can get up close and personal.
The first day that we visited the falls we spent over 2 hours jumping, splashing and exploring. Rob was brave enough to bring his phone into the water to capture some awesome photos. The girls sat on the rocks under the falls like mermaids, while my son spent most of his time trying to catch fish and other creatures that might be living in the water. The water was warm and inviting and we could have stayed there another 2 hours if we weren’t so incredibly hungry.
We were hungry a lot and luckily, we always come super prepared for food. Usually over prepared. Each year we go camping we always say, “We are not packing too much food this time!” and every time we do. This year was our best try though. I like to make a menu, list all the ingredients and shop from there. It’s almost the only thing in my life that I am organized about. This year we pre-made a pasta salad, foil veggie and potato packets and taco meat for walking tacos (it’s not camping if we don’t have walking tacos). We tried exceptionally hard to only bring things on the menu and stick to it. It’s so much easier said than done. By the final day of our trip we were force feeding everyone as much food as possible so that we wouldn’t have to bring things home with us. I don’t think I will be eating pasta salad again for at least a year.
On our last night, we decided that we would wake up early the next day to see the sunrise. We thought we better do it at least once since we were on the east side of the state and when else would be get another chance to see the sun come up over Lake Huron. We weren’t sure exactly when the sun would rise because we didn’t have any cell service and we kept forgetting to ask people, so I decided we should get up at least by 5:00am. I set my alarm for 4:45am, knowing that I would be the one to wake everyone and coax them down to the beach.
It was tough, you guys. Nobody wanted to get up. It was cold and dark and honestly, I didn’t want to get up either. But we said we wanted to do this. We all did, and I reminded everyone of that, including myself.
When we finally reached the beach and huddled together on the bench we found, the wait began. We were all so cold and tired and were willing that thing to reach the horizon. The sky was filled with dark pinks, oranges and reds and it was beautiful. Even with its beauty, the kids and I bailed early, we didn’t even see the sun crest over the horizon. After about 30 minutes of waiting and shivering we headed back to bed. Faune and Rob stuck it out and said that it finally rose at 5:58am, which means we could have all slept an extra hour. We all agreed that a Lake Michigan sunset beats a Lake Huron sunrise any day. Mostly because waking up that early sucks, but we did it, we just won’t do it again.
It was a fantastic trip overall. It was a trip full of adventure. It was also the first time I had been camping since my dystonia diagnosis.
I was nervous to go and I did push myself to my limits, but it was worth it. I am so lucky to have amazing friends to go on adventures with and we all have great kids that get along and are so much fun to be around. The only thing that would have made it better was if my husband could have gone. Every time we did anything, we would all say, “Man, Jeremy would love this!”, or if any heavy lifting was involved we would all collectively say, “I miss Jeremy!”.
So, now we just have to go back so that he and I can go back to the falls, rock hunt, search for shipwrecks and go on more adventures. No more sunrises for me though.
He’s going to have to see that on his own.
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