The scene was nearly silent as we arrived in this new land…and we were not alone. We could see evidence of others who had chosen this place as well to call home for a while, looking for some peace and quiet and a respite from their long journeys. There were little fabric huts and a few older shacks along with some newer hovels…or maybe just cleaner…scattered among what seemed to be tall oaks with their branches reaching out overhead in a twisted and gnarled web. There were chairs gathered around each temporary home with bits of half-burned logs still smoldering in a pile of grey ash. All was silent. All was a bit eerie.
We moved slowly following the barely marked trail and found an empty spot that backed up to a slow flowing stream. With not a soul in sight we backed our humble home into the narrow space and claimed our territory. The four of us had our set-up routine down pat…this wasn’t our first time in a new land. While my son and I would begin to build our house, my wife and daughter would keep an eye on our dogs while searching for twigs and sticks to start a fire. When the house was up we men would finish with the outside while the girls would make the beds and freshen up the inside. We knew the drill and we could get the jobs done pretty quickly…but this time was different, and this place was different.
We opened our car doors and immediately knew why we saw no one about. As if they smelled us coming or had been watching and waiting for fresh meat, their armies came swooping in with sabers sharpened and ready. I looked up and saw legions upon legions of chopper-winged soldiers, each with a weapon poised and primed for slaying innocents. Row upon row in formation they flew from every direction as they began their attack. We were completely unprepared! We had no defenses at the ready and if we had been prepared it would not have been enough to quell this army. There were only four of us and tens of hundreds of thousands of them. We had no choice but to be as quick as we could in constructing our home and hope that the walls would keep the enemy at bay.
We worked frantically, fending off the attackers as best as we could. My wife was a true hero in this battle as she moved from place to place at lightning speed and then provided cover for my son and me as we began to build. With arms flailing and hands slapping we braved the onslaught and completed the set-up in record time. We were still not quite done, however. While the ladies went inside we could hear them banging the walls and cringed at their shouts of, “There’s one!”… “There’s another”…. “Got him!!”. While they were winning inside, we men were still running around outdoors, weaving and darting about trying to make sure all was tied and fastened and hooked up right. Finally, when all we could do outside was done we made our way inside where it was safe. With one more swat or two and a final, “Get that one…”, the battle was over…and we had lost. We were now trapped, just like everyone else in this new land, in our tiny temporary hut.
Yes, the mosquitoes were that bad at Tahquamenon Falls State Park…it was not the most enjoyable camping trip…but a great story to tell!