Three Camping Trips to Spider Lake

Spider Lake Michigan

In the 60s my family loved to go camping. In the early 60s we pitched a tent when we went camping. Later on around 1964 dad purchased a small Shasta travel trailer. I remember three camping trips. Let me tell you about them now.

In 1963 dad packed up the car with the tent and camping supplies and we headed north from Battle Creek Michigan to Spider Lake. Dad told me to pick a friend to come with us. I picked my friend Pat that lived near me. I went over to Greg Habenichts to borrow a sleeping bag for Pat. We got Pat’s parents approval and off we went. Spider Lake is a 450-acre (180 ha) “all-sports” lake located about twenty minutes southeast of Downtown Traverse City in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Spider Lake teems with bass, bluegill, perch, pike, and crappie contained within 29 miles (47 km) of shoreline. There are several vacation rentals and small resorts all around the lake as well as jet-ski rentals and many other water sports.

A typical camp setup

We pulled into the camping area and mom and dad set up the tents while Pat and I unpacked the car. Afterwards mom fixed a dinner for our first meal camping.

Campfire

Dad had started a fire and Pat and I were both playing with it. Burning sticks and so forth. We had got in kind of late so dad instructed Pat and I to brush our teeth and get into our sleeping bags. We did just that.

Pancake Breakfast

The next morning after a breakfast of bacon and pancakes, Pat and I combed the area for small firewood to start a campfire. We brought the wood to dad as he built the fire in the fire ring. Then we had a full day of fun and adventure exploring the local surroundings. When the sun set dad lit the fire and we all settled around the fire and enjoyed it’s warmth.

Meanwhile dad made a quick check of the campground including the tent where Pat and I slept. He noticed a strong smell. He felt around our sleeping bags and discovered that Pat’s sleeping bag was soaking wet. The previous night he had peed the bed.

Dad pulled the bag out of the tent and hung it up over a clothes line to dry. Then he joined us around the fire. Pat and I were playing with the fire again. As Pat held a stick in the fire my dad said “Be careful boys. Playing in the fire will make you pee the bed.” Pat immediately dropped the stick he was playing with and sat down on a log and looked down at his feet. My dad took him in hand and privately told him it was okay. Things happen and that it would be alright. After the trip dad bought the Habenichts a new sleeping bag. It would not be right to send this peed in bag back to them.

A Shasta Travel Trailer

Later on in 1964 dad bought the Shasta travel trailer. He had planned a camping trip to Spider Lake and then the upper peninsula of Michigan. He instructed me to pick two friends to come with us. I picked Greg Habenicht and Cliff Graw to come with us. Summer came and dad packed up the car and hooked the trailer up and off we went. This time mom stayed home. It was just us boys this time.

We made our way to Spider Lake and dad backed the travel trailer into the site and them set up camp and unhooked the trailer from the car. Us three kids played around until dad called us. We were going out to eat. We piled into the Rambler and dad put the car in gear. Just as he was pulling out I shouted “Wait! The trailer is following us!” Dad slammed on the breaks and discovered that the trailer was not following us. He looked at me. He was angry. He backhanded me across the face. I meant this as a joke. My dad was not amused. I deserved the smack in the face. Dad later apologized and admonished me to never do that again. I promised dad that I would never do it again. We continued to have fun on the trip. We fished and ran the boat and had a marvelous time!

Fort Michilimackinac

We continued our trip north, stopping at the Mackinaw bridge that connects lower Michigan with upper Michigan. We stopped at Fort Michilimackinac. It was fantastic and very interesting. The following is an excerpt from the Michilimackinac website. ‘Treasures from the past come to life at this 18th-century fort and fur trading village, reconstructed based on historic maps and more than 60 years of archaeological excavations. As you walk through the site, you are stepping back in time to 1779, during the American Revolution. Historical interpreters representing voyageurs, British soldiers, and French-Canadian merchant families are stationed throughout the fort to answer your questions and perform demonstrations.’

Woodland Park

After that we crossed the bridge into upper Michigan and continued on to the camp at the north side of upper Michigan. We stayed at the Woodlands Park near the Light Keepers House Museum. Something that stands out is the tenacity of the plant life there, and the roughness of Lake Superior. It was late in the summer. However there was a chill in the air in the evenings. After staying there a few days we made the long drive back to Battle Creek and home.

Cabin on the lake

Then in 1967 my parents planned a trip to Spider Lake. This time they rented a cabin. My brother Alan was to meet us there. This was after his accident that left him totally deaf. We were looking forward to seeing him.

So we packed up the car along with our Boston Terrier Candy. On the trip, as always when we traveled with her, she clung to my mother. If we left the car for anything she would go insane until mom returned.

We arrived at the cabin and unpacked the car. The cabin was old but spacious. It had three bedrooms, an ample kitchen and a huge living room with a fantastic view of the lake. It was very rustic looking. Bare log were the walls. Fishing trophy’s adorned the walls.

Whisky

Later that day Alan joined us in is spiffy sports car. He came in and said hi to everyone. He hugged dad mom and I and said “How about a drink dad?” He pulled out a bottle of whisky from his case. Dad did not drink. He did in his past but had not drank a drop when my mother years ago gave him an ultimatum to stop drinking or she was leaving him. He was a slave to the stuff back in the late 40s and 50s. I had never seen him drink until today. “Sure” dad said. Alan was getting good at reading lips. Dad got a shot glass out of the cupboard and two highball glasses. Alan poured and he and dad raised their glass and downed the drink on one gulp. They both slammed their glasses down and Alan refilled them. After those 2 drinks I never saw my dad drink again.

Early Morning Fishing

We had brought our small boat along and we got it set up to do some fishing. We got it set up on the dock and Alan, my dad and I boarded the boat. Alan loved to fly fish. He had brought is tackle box and fly fishing rod and real with him. It was early morning and a mist was over the water, Sounds of creatures of the night could be heard. It was very pleasant. A bonding time if you will. Alan showed me how to use the fly rod and real. He whipped the line back and forth and then slowly brought the line back in. It was fascinating. We caught a few bluegills and mom cleaned them up and we had them for dinner that day along with some grits.

Golf

Alan loved to golf. The next day he took me golfing to at a local golf course. Being deaf he had trouble locating a ball after he made a shot. Something to do with his inner ear that did not function correctly. So I spotted the ball for him successfully. We did not loose a single ball. Then he taught me how to hold the club and let me take a few shots. I was terrible at it. However it was fun being with him.

Diner

The next day before Alan was to go back to Midland Michigan, we went out to eat at a local diner. We sat down and the waitress brought us the menus. Mom dad and I ordered and it was Alans turn to order. Mom tried to help him. We waved off the help. He wanted to do it himself. He told the waitress what he wanted and when the waitress asked if he wanted a roll with the dinner he did not understand. She brought him a roll anyway. Alan was getting better at reading lips.

A little background is needed here about Alan. Alan loved to go watch football games. He had attended a Western Michigan game and as he was coming out of the parking lot his car was hit. As he was looking at the damage another car came along and mowed Alan down to the ground. The driver was drunk. Alan was in extensive care for a long time. He lost all his hearing from the accident. The only thing he could hear was a roaring in his ears like a freight train. It never stopped. Alan also loved music. Music was out of the question for him now. He was not a happy man. One day he had had enough and he ended his life with a revolver. This camping trip was the last time I saw Alan.

After Alan left for Midland Michigan we stayed on for a few more days then we made the long drive back to Battle Creek Michigan. These three camping trips hold a special place in my memory.

Fishing with dad

In the summer of 1963 dad took me on my first fishing trip. Dad had the boat up on the rack on top of the Rambler station wagon and had the motor stowed in the back. He packed us a lunch of ham sandwiches, coffee, milk and snacks. I was excited about the fishing trip. Dad had suggested it to me a few days before. Dad woke me up very early on that Saturday. Around 3 AM. It was hard to wake up. However I did. I helped dad pack the lunch and the tackle box, the can of worms and cane poles into the car and off we went to Beadle lake!

We arrived at the boat ramp at Beadle lake and dad took the boat off the roof of the car and tied it up at the dock. Then he clamped the 3 hp Mercury outboard motor to the transom of the small boat. Dad said “Grab our food and coffee Jim. Let’s get out on the lake before the sun comes up.”

The sun would not be up for another two hours. There was a fog hanging over the lake. The street lights in the parking lot lit up the mist in the slightly chilly air.

Dad got into the boat and took his place at the stern. I handed him the cane poles, a thermos of coffee, our food and the can of night crawlers and he helped me into the boat. I took a seat in the bow of the row boat and dad idled the boat into the lake.

Cane Pole

Dad stopped the boat and threw out the anchor. He said “Come over here Jim. Bring the worms with you.” I climbed over the middle seat with the can of worms and sat next to dad. Dad took the cane poles and a worm for each and hooked a worm on each hook. He handed one pole to me and said “Put the line in the water Jim and watch the bobber. If the bobber disappears for a second give a gentle tug on the line. You will know if you have a fish. You will be able to feel it.”

I did just as dad said. Presently the red and white bobber plunged under water momentarily. Excited, I tugged hard on the line. The line, the bobber, and the hooked worm went flying into the air. “Gently” dad said smiling. I tried again and this time when the bobber disappeared, I tugged gently. This time the line began to vibrate and move about! I had caught one! Dad said ” Raise your pole”. I did and Dad grabbed the little bluegill and took the hook out of it’s lower lip. Then he said “Too small to keep Jim. We will send him back and give him a chance to grow up.”

I did not mind having to throw the fish back. I learned that day what fishing was all about. It was not about catching fish. It was about the preparation. The being out there on the water before the sun came out. It was the smell of coffee and sandwiches. It was the feel of the slimy worms and wiggly fish. But most of all it was the time spent with my dad. Just being there learning how to fish out there alone in the mist with my dad on that fishing trip long ago.