In the U.P. a cabin is called a camp, a term that describes not so much a place but rather a way of life. Camp life is simple. There is no electricity, no running water, no cell service and it takes upwards of 45 mins to get there from the nearest town, Ontonagon, MI. There are flashlights and coolers filled with ice. Lots of bug spray. Piles of firewood and an outhouse.
At Camp Whiskey Hallow, the camp my Dad and brother built with and for family and friends, time is spent hanging out on the porch, fishing, watching meteor showers at night, reading a good book, snacking, drinking (lots of canned beer) and taking late night saunas. There's kayaking, 4-wheeling and this funny little ATV that goes on land and in water called an Argo. It's the bumpiest ride in the world.
Our daily schedule revolves around two things. First, preparing and eating meals. There are usually two meals a day: breakfast and dinner that are separated by heavy snacks in between. Breakfast is always huge. We're talking waffles, French toast, eggs Benedict with slices of Spam because we're classy like that. And if you pay close attention the breakfast almost always includes remnants from dinner the night prior.
Dinner can be anything from burgers and brats on the grill with homemade fries to the annual Low Country Boil which is seafood galore! This year Jason and my sister-in-law Rachel prepared a slow roasted corned beef roast, something I've never had, and it was quite tasty.
The second thing that drives our days is my Dad's list of projects. Camp is his forever project and there is always something to be done. Whether it's chopping wood for the sauna or grading the trail, he's good at putting us all to work. This year's big project was finishing the wood siding on the gable above the porch roof. It ended up taking longer than expected and filled two full afternoons. Jeff doesn't mind the work - it's good break from his usual work at the office - but I personally had a hard time sitting still with my air-cast boot! I ended up reading most of the time while the kids napped, or didn't nap because of the nail gun against the side of the cabin wall while the guys worked. But alas, the gents got the job done and were rewarded with more Bud Light and a steak dinner.
In other parts of the week we spent time on Lake Superior with friends. The water was certainly colder than Lake Bella Vista back at home, but the temps were in the 80s and the chill down was welcomed. And besides, the kids don't care how cold the water is. The beaches there are lovely and includes lots of privacy. It's peaceful. It's pretty bizarre to look down the beach in either direction and be the only folks in sight. And not many boats either.
Twice we stopped by our favorite bar in town: Stubbs. I should probably mention there are only two bars in Ontonagon, Stubbs and The Shamrock. Stubbs has walls filled with 'stuff.' Taxidermy, neon signs, old photos, hornets nests (common decor in those parts), fishing poles... plenty to keep the kids busy with discovering new treasures. They pour stiff drinks, make a mean frozen pizza and it's a great place to run into old friends.
Visiting Ontonagon is a Smith Family tradition and one we continue to honor. Family vacations are tough to come by these days and we're grateful for the time spent together last week.
To read more about our camping trips to the U.P. check out the Ontonagon Travel Series.