“A woman camping in the middle of nowhere by herself?! *Gasp* How dangerous!”
That’s the general reaction I received when I told people what I wanted to do with my long 4th of July weekend. But camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is something I’ve always wanted to do and in my head I already pictured it. Me and my dog, in a remote location, enjoying the freedom and relaxation that comes with not having an agenda.
I didn’t want to do a lot of prep for this trip and wanted to go in with few expectations so I could see what I could accomplish. I planned to drive from Chicago up through Wisconsin to a rustic campsite on a small lake in the Hiawatha National Forest. The night before I left, I found and reserved the site on Recreation.gov. It looked too idyllic to pass up.
So I set off with one goal in mind. To prove that I could do this. Not to others, but to my future self who might have more daydreamy ideas she wants to see through. So stay tuned ;)
Chicago Lake Dispersed Campsite, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
It started to become real when I lost cell service as I got off US-2 and made my way deeper into the Hiawatha National Forest. I was truly alone. I didn’t play it safe with this campsite. There were only 4 sites on this lake and as described, they were very dispersed. As I cautiously drove down the tiny dirt path and saw where I would be setting up camp, I knew I had made the right choice.
Nirvana. Steps from my own private access point to the sandy-bottomed lake. Shaded by huge trees. Lots of deer-flies but after a few minutes and some bug spray they gave me my space. This wasn’t your typical overcrowded campground. It was the definition of secluded. No access to restrooms, water, wood, ice, humanity or literally anything else. But the ground was clear and there was a fire pit, and that’s all I needed.
I brought minimal supplies with me not wanting to be bothered with lugging around a bunch of things that I didn’t absolutely need. I mostly relaxed by the lake while Audi took frequent dips in the water.
As it got later, I lit a fire to heat up some food and make a s’more (obviously). It didn’t get dark until after 11pm so I didn’t feel like too much of a wimp when I went to “bed” before it was completely dark out.
My only moment of fear? Around 2:30am when I heard a noise outside my tent. I tried to wake Audi up to see if she wanted to make some intimidating dog noises to scare the beast off but she was fast asleep and completely useless. I listened to the creature shuffle around in the direction of the fire pit for a while but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to peek out and find out what it was. I’m going to believe it was a raccoon because I can’t think of any other animal that I would be ok with sniffing around the thin walls of my tent.
It got pretty chilly overnight and I was glad I had my high-quality sleeping bag and cotton liner. I even had to tuck Audi in some blankets. In the morning, I lit a small fire to warm up and prepare my breakfast. One of the few investments I made for this trip was a stainless steel Coffee Press and it didn’t disappoint.
There’s nothing I would have changed about this adventure except to make it last longer. Is it risky to do something even though you know there could be negative outcomes? Maybe. But how will we ever know what we can accomplish if we never test our limits? And technically I was never “alone”. I had my faithful sidekick Audi. Although, I probably protected her more than she did me.