Van Camping with Coyotes
Van camping quickly became one of our favorite activities
when my wife Ana and I bought our conversion van. There is no
tent to set up, and no problem with rain. We can explore all
day without worries, then find any beautiful spot and park. The
bed is ready in the back.
Sometimes you are surprised by what you find when you explore
without any itinerary. There are forgotten places that few people
go to, but are still easily accessible by van. This is especially
true in the north country, like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
It was October. We carried a book of county maps with us,
so we could find the little dirt roads that criss-cross the national
forests and other lands of the "U.P." Somewhere thirty
minutes north of the little town of Ishpeming, we came into an
area owned by the Mead Paper Company. They have a number of tree
"plantations," which they generously leave open to
"Grapevine plantation" is where we eventually found
ourselves. Out in the middle of a thousand acres of three-foot
high trees, we found a clearing a hundred feet off the road.
We parked the van there and didn't move it for two days. Just
two cars went by while we were camping there.
It may seem a strange choice for a campsite, being out in
the open, not near water, and just off a dirt road. It was, but
then that was part of the appeal. There was no traffic anyhow,
and the woods were nearby for hiking. We had a fire both nights,
and the breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The silence is amazing,
as were the stars at night. There weren't even planes flying
The second day we hiked up into the hills and woods nearby.
The trees were in their fall colors, and the air cool. We had
the woods to ourselves, seeing no one all day. In fact, we even
had waterfalls to ourselves, which we discovered when we went
off the small trail. We gave them our own names, since they had
none according to the maps we had.
Campfires and Coyotes
Sitting around the fire that night, I discovered a unique
feature of this place. The area was flat, but surrounded by rocky
hills, and they created the most awesome echoes. Not normal echoes,
but echoes that rolled on and on.
I howled like a wolf, scaring Ana. Coyotes or wolves (we never
were sure which) howled back in the distance, scaring her more.
I encouraged the coyotes until my voice was tired. Then we relaxed
and watched the shooting stars, while the coyotes almost certainly
watched us from the woods. When the fire died down, we climbed
into the van and laid watching the sky through the windows. Van
camping is the best.