A Bit of Magic: Leland, Michigan

Growing up, I babysat the son of a family friend, C. Blonde. Each summer, she would vacation in Leland, Michigan. I was always included on these trips in the capacity of a babysitter. But these trips were so much more. They were magical trips where I got to get away from my family and spend my time at a vacation home, in a beautiful part of Michigan where everything seemed a bit greener and a bit sunnier. Even though I was the help, I was always treated by the mom like I was one of her kids, just the older one who babysat the younger one a lot.

The family owned a large piece of property with three houses on it, two on the water. There was the cabin, the Big House, and the beach house. We stayed in the Big House, but would walk down this little path each day to the beach house, where we spent the whole day playing in the sand, swimming in the lake, and walking the shore, looking for Petoskey Stones. Once summer, I found one in the shape of a perfect heart. When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I took it with me to school to show my science teacher. Later, I was changing for basketball practice (a team I stayed on for not even a whole season) and the rock fell out of my pocket and chipped. For years, I believed that I was destined never to find my true love because of that broken heart.

I loved going to Leland. We would do something new or fun almost every day: canoe trips, day trips to Manitou Island, boat trips around Lake Leelanau, water skiing. The weather there is near perfect: hot during the day, cool at night. I would always bring stacks of books and fly through them. I loved it! Plus, C. Blonde has a big family, so there was never a shortage of fun, interesting people to meet and hang out with. My favorite thing to do, though, was to drive about 10 miles or so to her father's property on Lake Michigan. He never developed it, so it was just a patch of woods right on the lake. We would go swimming up there and stay late and build a fire. It was the best place to swim since the water dips down and it gets deep fast. Plus, I loved that there was this little stream that came out of the woods and onto the beach. And if you swam out far enough, there was a sandbar you could stand on. One summer C. Blonde swam all the way out there. She got so close, but couldn't find it and turned around. We were trying to scream to her to keep going, but she was so far away she couldn't hear us.

When C. Blonde's grandmother passed away (the owner of the property), the family hung on to the property for a while. Inevitably, though, it was sold, the land was broken up, and the homes sold separately. And summers in Leland stopped. That was probably when I was in 9th or 10th grade.

When I was in my early twenties, I was talking to C. Blonde and she was telling me how she used to go camping up in Leland on her dad's property. I got it in my head that maybe I could relive my Leland youth a bit and go camping up there. Growing up, we were not campers. I think my mother would have died if she had to camp. She can't go get the mail downstairs without reapplying her lipstick. So, I went into this fairly rough camping trip with no experience. After all, where we camp has no showers, no toilets, no anything. I persuaded a friend from work who had camped a little, but not really, to go with me. I remember our coworker laughing at us, telling us he, "smelled a sitcom." We'd never put together a tent, we'd never cooked our food all day on a grill. It was hilarious! But we survived. It even rained the day we laughed. I remember sitting in the tent not really knowing what to do. I had to pee so bad, but it was pouring down rain. Plus, the thought of packing everything up in the rain was, well, not good. I can't believe I ever went again, to be honest.

Proud of myself for putting together the tent

Sitting in the tent while it poured down rain. That's the look of reallllllly having to pee, people.

But go again, we did. I returned the next year with the same friend, then the year after that with a different friend. That friend was a camper. He'd grown up camping with his family. I learned so much on that trip. I learned how to really keep food cool and make it so that you could really cook your own food the whole weekend. It was great. In 2007 and 2008, I went with A.P. He wasn't a camper. In fact, I joke he only does camping for princesses (the first year he almost killed me because we didn't have a mattress to sleep on). Still, he enjoyed taking the dog on a trip and getting to be outside.

This was the summer I learned how to really camp

Burying the dog on our first trip to Leland

A.P., the Camping Princess

Then, we sort of stopped going. In 2009, we went on our Smoky Mountain trip, and last summer we went to Montreal. Every year, I want to go, but every year, it becomes harder and harder. Then this summer, C. Blonde dropped the bomb that she was selling the property. A few days later, she emailed me the listing and told me I better get down there before it's too late. So, the planning began.

I always wanted to take a group of friends up there and this weekend, we are going to. In fact, we leave today. A.P., myself, and three of our close friends are all heading up north to the waters of Leland for a camping adventure. I'm the only really experienced camper (that's what I am now!) going besides A.P. Our friends are all camping virgins. I'm so excited to share Leland with them and we're excited to hang out, eat good food, and create some new and sadly, final, memories in a place I've cherished for a good chunk of my life.

The actual property. So, so beautiful, no?

(Photos by me; Photo of actual property via Trulia)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...