Discover more from This Week in Birding
Journey results in tall tales and circular logic
A look back at camping with a baby and, yes, Caillou.
TWiB is taking a week off so please enjoy these vintage posts and musings, circa 2010.
So I’ve decided to write a summary of my to northern Michigan trip in the style of Steve Rushin, the veteran Sports Illustrated columnist.
We spent most of our time on our vacation on 343-acre Bass Lake, near Traverse City, Mich. The simple names of places in northern Michigan reflect the region’s past. Bass Lake, Long Lake, Loon Lake, Pine River. The loggers and trappers who settled the area didn’t have the time or inclination to come up with fancy names. So there are a few repeats. One wonders how many Bass Lakes or Pike Lakes or Lost Lakes there are in the Great Lakes State. We capped our trip by camping at the cleverly named Lake Michigan Campground. Not to be confused with the Lake Michigan Campground we camped at 12 years ago 220 miles away near St. Ignace. Fittingly, the fish caught at Bass Lake were fine largemouth bass specimens.
It’s easy to imagine Paul Bunyan when you’re in a place like Manistee, Mich. The tall trees, the high skies, the deep blue lakes would seem to suit the legendary lumberjack. So it’s no surprise that the tallest man in history, Robert Wadlow, died at the National Forest Festival in Manistee 70 years ago. James Earl Jones, a man known for playing another large figure—Darth Vader—started his acting career in Manistee’s Ramsdell Theatre.
The Old Mission Peninsula is a skinny strip of land that juts into Grand Traverse Bay. The vineyards and orchards make it feel like somewhere in Europe, like the Istrian peninsula of Slovenia and Croatia. Istria, too, just happens to touch the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. The Sacha Baron Cohen character Borat would be proud of the Eastern European connection, especially since Kazakhstan also straddles the 45th parallel.
Members of the short-lived 19th century Free Soil Party were more tolerant than Borat in many respects. They were strongly anti-slavery for moral and economic reasons. The short-lived (1848-1854) political party grew into the Republican Party, which sprouted in the Midwest and Northeast. Freesoil, Mich., is just a few miles away from Manistee and about 150 miles north of Paw Paw, the seat of Van Buren County. The Free Soil Party’s first presidential nominee: Martin Van Buren.
Traverse City was founded where the Boardman River empties into Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. A sawmill there drew commerce to the town. We happened to see a muskrat, a rodent sawmill of sorts, swimming in the river as we crossed near downtown. Captain Boardman, the river’s namesake, brings us full circle. He was from the Chicago area, in Naperville.
A new camping approach
Taking a five-month-old camping is counter to my outdoor philosophy while being exactly what I wanted to do more than anything else. It’s a strange situation, a little bit heart-wrenching, but not unlike many of the paradoxical experiences of these first five months of parenthood. Quiet and privacy are the central tenets of my camping beliefs, and a hatchling threatened both while ratcheting up the potential for embarrassment-- and worse ruining the experience of fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Further, camping was something more for the parents than the tyke, who would be taken out of her routine while not yet truly enjoying the wonders of nature.
So summarizing this one-night camping trip is all very complicated.
One thing that I can aver is that where we camped was beautiful. We staked our tent in the Hemlock Loop of the Lake Michigan Recreation Area in the Manistee National Forest. The setting is standard car camping, but in a mixed deciduous-conifer woodland in the shadow of a tall forested dune on Lake Michigan. The beach is a short walk from camp and leads to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, the only wilderness in Lower Michigan. We were about 10 miles north of Ludington, Mich., and four hours from Chicago.
We also can state that the weather was beautiful. It was sunny with puffy clouds with a high of about 70. We needed long-sleeved shirts in the evening, and overnight and morning were downright cold.
Mostly, the camping was as expected—we tended to the hatchling just as we would at home. We built a fire, laid out a blanket, had a couple beers and did all the things that one would do while camping. The little one made a few noises, but nothing ear-splitting and likely barely audible from even the nearest campsite. But nightfall soon came along with the harrowing prospect of getting the tot to sleep.
We had to act quickly for fear of over-tiring so we all went to bed at about 9. I was hoping we could build a feeble bridge to morning by getting a few hours of sleep at a time. If it meant getting up for good in the gray light of 6 a.m. so be it. I was also prepared to spend the overnight hours pacing and rocking outside the tent.
All in all, sleeping went well. There were more feedings than usual, lots of careful tossing and turning and one of the sleeping pads deflated. I woke at about 7:30, removed the nestling from the nest, made some coffee and restarted the fire. The girl was talking quite a bit in the morning, but hopefully not so much as to disrupt any people who were sleeping in.
The camping ethos has certainly changed a bit, but it can be done. Hopefully it gets easier from here. Er, I think.
To the producers of “Caillou”
The episode shown on Sprout on 12 February at 6:30 p.m. Central time included a scene where Caillou woke in the night from a bad dream. Caillou's dad went to check on him, and Caillou said that he had a dream about a scary monster. If this wasn't enough, the next scene showed Caillou frightened by a shadow on the wall that he thought was a monster (it turned out to be a shadow of a dinosaur doll he had). This scared Caillou to the point where he went to Mom and Dad's room and asked to come to bed with them. The scene led to a sleepless night for the whole family.
The primary audience for Caillou is toddlers, and children under the age of 5 are highly impressionable. There are many thoughts, deeds and words that my wife and I hide from our daughter so that we don't “plant a seed” in her mind. For example, I would never come home from work and open a candy bar in front of my daughter. There's no doubt she would see the candy bar and immediately request a bite from the bar. I also wouldn't come home and ask my wife if we were going to the zoo the next day. The mention of the zoo would cause our girl so much excitement that any change of plan would lead to a dramatic letdown. Finally, even if I thought making cookies would be fun, I wouldn't mention it if there wasn't time or if we didn’t have the ingredients. I’m finding discipline and restraint are two key tenets of parenting.
There are good habits we are trying to instill in our daughter—potty training, courtesy and patience come to mind—that your program could model for young children. By showing this sleep catastrophe on your program, children now may think it's okay to wake their parents, complain of monsters and crawl into bed. Parents choose toddler TV programming and line the pockets of your advertisers. They also never have enough sleep. You can appeal to both children and parents by omitting the stuff that gives us nightmares.