Archive for August, 2011

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

320742_10150302856238846_683938845_7931835_4080433_nAugust 21, 2011–We drove to Traverse City, MI, with the plan of walking around Old Town. As soon as we got to Grand Traverse Bay, we decided to stop and walk around on the beach. It was supposed to be stormy but it turned out to be a beautiful, fall-like day with brilliantly blue, white cloud filled skies. As we walked, my husband said “Let’s go on to Sleeping Bear.” We weren’t really dressed or prepared for it but who wants to shop when the beautiful sands and waters of Lake Michigan are calling? We started over right away.

As we paid the $10 parking fee at the ranger station, Jenna noticed a sign that said to be sure to take water on the climb up the dunes. She asked me about it and I said, “Pshawwww! You don’t need water. This isn’t the Grand Canyon.” My husband has climbed the dunes a few times and has never had a problem nor has seen anyone have a problem. Plus, the temperature was only in the 70s. Big mistake!

The park brochure states this about the Dune Hiking Trail: 3.5 miles. Strenuous—Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Travels over nine hills through the high dunes plateau to Lake Michigan. Blue-tipped posts mark the trail. It can be a hot, exhausting, three to four hour trip. Plan ahead. Take water, sunscreen, hat, shoes, and a snack.

We started our climb. The first dune is by far the worst. When we were a little more than half-way to the lake, Barry and I came to the realization that if our youngest daughter didn’t stop soon or get some water, she would be in serious trouble. We decided that I would stay with her Barry, Jenna and Mikayla continued on to find some. We had seen so few people with water bottles that I knew this could mean they would have to find some way to bring lake water back.

I have been to the Dunes once before but had only hiked up the first dune because I had a baby and two little ones. I was more than just a little disappointed that I couldn’t go all the way to Lake Michigan. Eva and I found a rare shady spot and began our wait. She was so thirsty that I worked hard to distract her. We soon made a game out of trying to write her name in the sand. It seemed impossible at first because the sand is so unstable, but she soon found a way. It ended up that we had a really great time together, just the two of us.

As I saw life start to come back into her face, I decided that we should start to slowly make our way back. I reached for my cell phone to let my husband know what we were doing. No phone! Oh well, “I’ll just get it when we get back to the parking lot,” I thought. I let her set the pace. We took our time, enjoyed the various plant life and beautiful views. I did find a lady who was hiking all the way to the Lake, gave her a description of my husband and asked her to tell him that we were heading back. (She did find him.)

In the meantime, I noticed that quite a few of the people coming back from the lake were in bad shape. No one had water. I started to worry about Barry and the other two girls; especially our middle girl, Mikayla, who is just under 5’4” but weighs only 85 lbs. I voiced this to Eva. We asked God to be with them.

While we were making our way back, Barry and the girls had made it to the lake. Jenna found a youth group (from a Lutheran church in Clarkston) who had three empty water bottles. She asked if she could have them and filled them with lake water. She felt really strong and started back alone with the one of the bottles. Barry wanted Mikayla to rest a bit longer. By this time Eva and I were doing really well and were walking almost non-stop back to the truck.

As Jenna searched for us, a young woman in her 20s who was in rough shape approached her. She asked for some water. Jenna showed her how to filter the lake water with her shirt and helped her find her boyfriend from whom she had become separated. We were very happy to see them at the bottom of the dunes before we left. They made it and the young woman expressed her thanks to Jenna once again.

Eva and I finally made it back. By now, I had realized that I didn’t have keys to the truck. She had money in her pocket but was 15 cents short of the $1.25 she needed to get water. Ugh!!! Fortunately, she remembered the bathroom has drinking fountains. I think she drank them dry! As we walked out of the bathroom, I looked up and saw Jenna coming down the dune!

293456_10150302863818846_683938845_7931883_3420521_nWe hurried to meet her. She told us that she was worried about Mikayla. That’s all I needed to hear to start up the dunes again. We quickly cleaned out the water bottle and filled it with fresh water.

As I started the difficult climb again, my ankle (previous injury) started to bother me. I had ignored the fact that it was already swollen. I knew this wasn’t good but I was worried about one of my cubs. As I climbed, I kept saying, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” When I thought I would have to sit down and give my ankle a rest, I heard a voice behind me. “Hard climb isn’t it?” I turned around to see a very kind looking woman. “Yes! And this is my second climb up this dune today.” She asked me why on earth I would do it twice. When I explained she said, “It’s amazing the strength that is a result of love.” Yes it is!! We kept talking and before I knew it, we were at the top of that first dune and over the other side came Barry and Mikayla. They were tired and thirsty but they were alright.

As we drove back to our campground, we discussed the many mistakes that were made. We left the trail map in the car. I left my phone and keys. No one had money on the climb except for the $1.15 that Eva had in her pocket. The obvious mistake of course, was no water. In our defense, we’ve never seen anyone have trouble at the Dunes (Sleeping Bear, Warren, or Indian Dunes National Lake Shore). We now have a list of supplies to always have with us.

Even though the trip didn’t go quite as we thought, it was a beautiful day. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is beautiful and worth the time. There is a lot more to do in the area. We would like to go back and do it all. This time, we’ll bring water!

Water, Water and More Water!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

We found our camper, a 29 foot Wildwood, on Craig’s List in April. It was very clean and had a floor plan that would suit our needs. Being 10 years old, it wasn’t perfect but it would do.

You just don’t buy a camper for a trip across the country and into Alaska, pack it up and leave. We knew we would need a lot of preparation, planning, and trial runs. The first thing we did was to spend several nights in the camper while it was parked in our driveway. Fortunately, it was very cold outside so we could test our plan for heat. We soon felt ready to take off to a park deciding to stay close to home so we could easily run back if we needed anything. This was more than just camping but a time to try to think of everything we would need once on the road for good.

With all our planning things didn’t always go very smoothly. In fact, the first trips were rough. So rough, that there were times that I thought our dream was more like a nightmare. We had an extremely rainy spring. Days and days and days of heavy rain! On a trip to Wisconsin, we noticed water, mud, pebbles and sand in the camper at every stop. At first we thought we had messed up our black water. Yikes! Fortunately, it wasn’t that but it wasn’t good either. The new tires that the previous owner had just put on the camper before we bought it were too big. This caused the tires to wear holes in the wheel wells. Thus all the sludge! The oversize tires also created a problem with our suspension. The leaf springs were worn flat and had to be completely replaced. We literally dragged the camper to Madison, WI, (about an hour from my parents) where they fixed it enough for us to get home to Michigan where we could have the job completed.

Then there were problems with no water at all, no hot water, a leak in our holding tank, a leak in the roof, and of course, more rain (and more rain and more rain…). I purposefully didn’t blog during this time because it would have been a depressing read. Every day we were in the camper was hard. Every day we worked like dogs. Every day there were major, wet messes to clean. Every day there was a new obstacle but with it a new lesson. I’m really glad that that we stuck with it and eventually worked out all the bugs (literally in some cases but that’s another post).

We cleaned up our last big water mess at the beginning of June. As I threw the last of the rags away, I said to our oldest daughter, “You know what sums up this experience so far? Water, water, and more water!”

She replied, “At least it hasn’t been, poop, poop and more poop!”

She was absolutely right!

How It All Began…

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

When we first started homeschooling some 13 years ago, I read an article about a homeschooling family who took a year off from life to travel the United States in an RV. I shared the article with my husband and it instantly became our dream. We never thought it would happen for us, however, because the other homeschooling family was definitely very wealthy. Still we dreamed…

Last summer we left years of tenting behind and bought a 23 year old pop-up. It was in horrible condition so my husband rebuilt almost the entire thing. We nicknamed it the Duct-Taped Ghetto because we had to add more duct tape nearly every day. We had a great time camping all over the eastern side of MI.

At the beginning of that summer, our oldest said to us one night across the campfire, “You know, you only have about 3 years left with me. Then I’m off to college.” We couldn’t believe it. How had the time slipped away? I remember thinking, “Our dream will never happen.”

As the summer went on and different things came up in our life, we began talking more and more about the possibility that our dream just might come true. We homeschool, so school isn’t a problem. My husband’s business is 100% web-based, so that’s another problem solved. But wouldn’t it take a lot of money? Could we afford a bigger camper? Would it hurt our business to leave the area? What would our family and friends think? Is it really sane to take off with three girls and two cats in a camper and live like gypsies? What about church, mail, banking, etc? We began praying about the possibility and then reading everything there is on the internet about full-timing. We started to realize that it was going to happen!

Quincy roasts marshmallows

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011


Quincy likes them toasted, not burnt. How do you like them?

Quincy Goes to Church

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


At Outdoor Adventures, in Standish, Michigan, there is a Chapel in the Woods. Being that Quincy comes from a long-line of Holy Rollers, he, of course was not going to miss services on Sunday!

Quincy Hanging Out!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011


Quincy likes to hangout by our daughter’s tent Open-mouthed smile

Yes, there are people way in the back (not in the picture, beyond the railing) that are watching me take this picture of Quincy in front of a tent…

Proper Introductions: Quincy the Camping Snowblower

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The Adventures of Quincy the Snowblower


Quincy is our snowblower. We are delivering him to SuzAnnes’ dad. He lives in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. We are taking the scenic and very long route from Waldenwoods, Hartland, Michigan through the UP and down into Wisconsin.

When we set up camp, the very first thing we do is take Quincy out of the trailer. It is quite comical, especially when other campers (and they always do) watch you unpack! We have had two brave souls, so far ask “What’s with the snowblower?!” Since it is the first week of August, I wonder if they are quite concerned that we know something about the weather that they do not know! Well… after I tell them that we are traveling through the UP in September, I give them the real story…

Quincy has taken a life on his own! So, we thought we would share his adventures with you!