Upper Peninsula locals have been telling us about how horribly wet the spring and early summer were in northern Michigan. Apparently, they had over 20 days straight of rain in June. This uncharacteristic level of precipitation directly relates to our current Michigan experience a month later: oppressive humidity and swarms of mosquitoes.
Living in the dry Mountain West for the last seven summers has made us incredibly weak in humidity. Add in how disgusting we get in it (reference a previous post), and you can then understand the desperation building up to this moment. We missed the aforementioned rainy spell and arrived in Michigan to meet its successor: incredibly muggy weather. The Michigan state and county campgrounds in which we have stayed have been without showers. When I asked someone about the shower status at the upcoming campground I was advised we just take a dip in the lake. After Tango got a leech in a Wisconsin lake, we find ourselves a bit reticent to jump in another, even though locals shrug that off as a normal hazard (city slicker weakness on our part, I guess). It had only been two days, but there were many layers of sunblock, bug spray, salt residue from sweat, all topped off with the dirt clouds kicked up by the passing logging trucks that stuck to our sticky skin. To paint a clearer picture: the skin creases at our elbows and ankles were blackened and salt streaks were visible along our hairlines. Old Man and I were unsettled by the prospect of trying to sleep another night in temperatures too cool to be without a sleeping bag, but too warm to sleep in one without sticking to it. We entertained the idea of a bucket bath once at the campsite, but instead, God sent us a thunderstorm. We got to the nearly deserted campground (we were the only campers on our side of the campground), set up our camp, and waited for the ominous rumbling in the sky to deliver our relief. The kids were set up in their tent, but Otter chose to sit outside with Old Man and me, curious to find out why we were not in our own tent. He thought we were joking when we told him we intended to bathe in the storm. Once he realized we were serious he yelled over to the kids’ tent to announce this absurdity. Sissy immediately expressed her embarrassment of us from inside the tent and remained in there to minimize her further discomfort. Lil’ Mo was altogether disinterested and opted to continue coloring in her coloring book without commenting. Tango, however, thought this was a great idea. He unzipped the tent and emerged shirtless, loudly announcing, “I’m coming out…. Just. As. I. Am!” His glaring farmer’s tan and gangly arms streaked across the campground in eager anticipation of the impending rain. Tango’s craziness sparked something in Otter, and with a twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous grin he removed his shirt and joined in the uninhibited fun. When the rain finally hit, Old Man and I did in fact strip down to our bare necessities with a soap bar in hand and successfully achieved a bare minimum of hygiene as the rain dumped on us. As the rain ran down my face I could taste the salt streaming down with it. The boys ran around like wild men with brown streams of water running down their bare, fluorescent chests. The girls remained in their tent, reading and coloring with dignity. It felt great to be somewhat clean again, even if it only lasted until the following morning when the temperature and humidity began to rise again. As I lay in the tent that night and relished not feeling sticky for the first time in days, I reflected upon what had transpired, and wondered if my jokes about the kids going feral over the course of this adventure are correctly limited only to them. I also found myself hoping that when my kids think back to their childhoods that this event is not their go-to image of their middle-aged parents. Otherwise, we should probably start setting aside money for their eventual therapy to overcome the damage done by immodest parenting….
If our parental immodesty does not scar them for life, they may still be at risk of developing tics and twitches after our experiences camping. We have never encountered more blood-thirsty mosquitoes in our lives. They were relentless! Undeterred by repeated layers of bug spray, biting through our clothes, in our hair and on our faces. Old Man deliberately stood in the campfire smoke path while doing dishes to discourage their continued assault, until he noticed his lips going numb from excess smoke inhalation. We sent Sissy and Otter to the water point to fill our water bottles, not realizing how far behind enemy lines it was. Sissy returned, struggling to keep hold of all her filled bottles while flailing her arms to swat mosquitoes, with bites on her forehead and knuckles. She took inventory of her battle scars and counted no fewer than 23 bites on her left leg and 15 on the right. Otter has 18 on his right leg, and 11 on his left. While this battle had the most casualties, others were close in their resulting itchiness. We conclude that mosquito-density increases the further away you get from Lake Michigan.
The only reachable campsite tonight put us 7 miles away from Lake Michigan, and solidly in enemy territory. We are weak and a nearby motel is relatively cheap, so tonight we hunker down indoors with freshly showered bodies and only occasional swats at phantom mosquitoes.
Stay tuned for the next TMI installment: The Trials and Tribulations of Breaking in a New Bike Saddle…