2020 Put your feet in the water again and again

Once we returned from Myrtle Beach and welcomed our newest grandchild we and the rest of the nation began our Covid huddle. We reserved and discarded a trip to Virginia Beach and the New York Finger Lakes region planned for late April and early May and stayed home in Michigan. We barely saw family, restricting any visits to mostly outside and held with a significant lack of hugs and sitting close. We kept our hugs to elbow bumps, wore masks and only handed out real hugs to grandchildren – because …….grandchildren. Sadly we did not get to see our grands in Indiana due to Covid and I can’t share pictures of the foster grands but the days we did get to enjoy the grandchildren were the best!

About this same time, my father started a steady decline. He was 97, still living in his own home, with some assistance with chores and cooking. We were very fortunate in being able to keep him at home where he passed quietly in his sleep at 97 in early July.

At the beginning of our Covid lock-in, John took up bread baking. Consequently he has steadily blessed us with fresh sour dough loaves each day. They are stupendously delicious every time!!!

In mid July we joined our son and daughter with their families at Bay City State Park for a family camp weekend. Again we social distanced with the adults and let our guard down to hug and enjoy grandchildren. The weather cooperated with warm and dry outside temps. I don’t think any of us will be returning to the park though, the park was OK but the water at the beach was sooooooo gross. Muddy and murky water, obscuring the mucky, yucky ankle deep muck and silt on the bottom. All the grandchildren were disappointed and wanted to go find Nana’s nice clean water in East Tawas. The campground was completely full for the weekend with tents through large rigs taking every spot, but it cleared out Sunday afternoon to less than 30% occupancy. Being retired we had the luxury of staying over until Monday.

On Monday we tagged on a few more days to our trip by traveling north to Otsego Lake State Park near Gaylord, Michigan. There we snagged a fabulous site for a few nights on a bluff that had a great view overlooking the lake. It must have been a late cancelation as the ranger remarked it was the “nicest spot in the entire campground.” This park is heavily shaded with many nice lake view sites and a nice sandy beach. It would be particularly nice for boaters as there is a boat launch and large areas to dock or anchor just offshore in front of many sites. We talked about renting kayaks from the camp store, but the day turned quite breezy, so we just enjoyed a long swim and sitting at the waters edge enjoying the lake. Being Covid careful we stayed pretty much at camp and just enjoyed a laid back couple days.

in September we decided to keep our tradition of a fall camping week with our friends Karen and Chuck. Karen’s goal is to visit every State Park in Michigan so I let her choose where we are going and we make the reservations while the snow is still flying in March. This year we started our week at Cheboygan State Park. Cheboygan’s campsites were created back in the days of tents and smaller campers. Many nice private sites, just not big rig sized. Karen and Chuck camp with a popup, so they had no issue,but we barely fit our 34′ fifth wheel on one of the larger sites. Electric was limited to 20 amp service, but a ranger told me that it will be upgraded to 30 and 50 amps throughout as soon as Covid related delays allows. The swim beach is separate and about a mile or more from the campground. but there was a walk in type small craft launch area adjacent to our sites. Karen and I were able to enjoy our favorite camping activity, sitting with our feet in the water enjoying cool beverages and lake views with lots of chatting and laughter. There were a few kayaks and a paddle board enjoying the calm bay waters too.

Cheboygan has an extensive trail system, that we were able to explore. One trail wove a zigzag path through rather damp woods near the water and it was chock full of the most interesting fungi and sometimes brightly colored mushrooms. The area had recently received heavy rains. We managed to keep our feet dry for a long stretch but eventually turned back due to the trail being too soggy. The next day we followed a different set of trails leading away from the lake. There were folks navigating on bicycles as well, although there was a boggy area that they had to walk or abandon the bicycles to get through.

Our next stop was Hoeft State Park in nearby Rogers City. We had one of the few sites with a view of Lake Huron. The waters were Caribbean blue with picturesque small white capped waves rolling in. The water was actually decently warm but the air temps and winds did not invite anything more than dipping our feet in while we again took up our sitting, gazing, snacking, drinking, chatting position along the shoreline. When the cool air changed to drizzling rain, we retreated inside our Clam screen house where we could still keep an eye on the water and we were entertained by our like minded “I will go to the beach no matter the weather” peeps who determinedly navigated the slick wooden board walk that led down the sand dune hillside to the water. We also enjoyed following the trail systems that went out from the campground parallel to the lake, through the pine woods and dunes.

We drove a short ways to Ocqueoc Falls, the largest falls in Michigan’s lower peninsula. During warm weather people swim, splash and play in the waters here. We only got our tootsies wet.

Our last stop was Onaway State Park on Black Lake. Here we had reserved lakefront sites but upon arrival found that the only open bath house was a long walk up a steep hillside. Karen and Chuck do not have a bathroom in their popup so this was an issue. The park was able to switch us to a couple sites near the bathhouse. Turns out it was for the best. The temps turned cool with even cooler breezes coming off the lake plus shockingly the ranger came around and warned us that the lake was experiencing a bad algae bloom that was harmful and could be fatal to pets! The water looked fine – maybe it was only in certain areas, I don’t know but its good we we didn’t have those lakefront sites, because Karen and I would have been feet deep in the water again. Karen and I followed some interesting trails through the woods along the rugged rocky lakeside bluffs and then took up our posts, sitting up high at the day use area where there was a great view of the lake.

Black Lake is known for good fishing, especially for the huge Lake Sturgeon that can be seven feet long! The Lake Sturgeon season held in February each year limits the total fish harvest to about a a half dozen of these monsters and usually opens and closes within minutes after the 8 a.m. start. We neither fished or saw fish but it was fun to sit and imagine these monsters out in the lake in front of us.

We brought the fifth wheel home and settled her in Hale, where she lives as John’s hunting cabin through the fall. Theresa and family keep their travel trailer there as well and we enjoyed some glorious fall days with them including a Halloween party with the children enjoying a Halloween scavenger hunt at the camp.

Now its December and the virus has worsened instead of improving. We are back in our home, not visiting family or friends indoors or outdoors. Our daughter in law (she’s a PA) received the vaccine this week. Hopefully we are entering the beginning of the end and we will be out of this virus mess this time next year. For Christmas greetings this year – this is the letter I sent:

We missed you at Easter

We missed you on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Your birthday, my birthday, his birthday, their birthdays and pretty much every holiday

We missed your wedding celebration, the shower and the pig BBQ

We missed the new baby the graduate and saying goodbye to loved ones so dear

We made masks, wore masks and lost masks

We baked bread, ate bread and baked more bread

We made lots of soup and sometimes felt a bit droop

We didn’t travel to see you and you missed sleeping on the air mattress in the spare room… It delates so that may have been OK

But never let it be said, that you weren’t in our heads

We were thinking of you…………loving you……….missing you everyday

Your phone calls made us smile. Your shared photos and videos were gazed upon, smiled upon, saved and watched again and again

We learned how special family and friendship is and we will hug you a little harder, laugh with you a little longer and enjoy our time together when this is over

So we dream of the year ahead when maybe the virus will be behind us, we send you our love and jugs along with best wishes for a joyful, happy, healthy Christmas and New Year

Best wishes to all - Kati and John

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