Sunday, August 7, 2016

Nigh On Twenty Years Ago 

Originally posted: February 24, 2014

Flashback ... another one from the mid-1990's.

Gee, has it been that long ago? I guess so. Digital photo files don’t lie, do they? I cheated and scanned-in printed photos to digital files, but that was much later. The scrapbook I pulled these from dated the pictures at Summer, 1993. That’s about right. I’ve had this Coleman tent at least since this camp-out.

Coleman 9x9.
I think this was my first or second camp out in this tent.

I wanted to take a trip from Indianapolis to the Indiana Dunes State Park – just east of Gary, Indiana – along the shores of the Great Lake Michigan.  I’d never been there and it was the closest thing to a big water beach that Indiana has. There is something truly magical about big water for me. I don’t know why. I’m driven toward it by the stars, I suppose. I was born in early July, which makes me a Cancer on the horoscopes,  the sign of the crab, a water sign. I suppose you could say I belong near big water. Trouble is, I don’t eat seafood – something about eating ones own kind. I was raised a landlubber and so give me hamburger and I’m a happy guy. I don’t eat people either.

Anyway, I thought we could just load up the car and head for the dunes, check-in at the state park campground and all would be well. Oh, so not so. I had the car all packed and ready to go so that we could grab a quick bite and hit I-69 toward Chicago and we’d be there before dark. Again, oh so not so. Snarled traffic – held up because people don’t yield to a merge traffic indicator – everybody wanted to be first or next or something other than behind someone who couldn’t make up their mind. Finally, the open road and up to speed trying to make up for lost time by driving 5 mph over the limit. I’d heard they don’t ticket for that. I was pushing for a little more.

We arrived late after dark and the Ranger station was still open, but there was no room within their camping facilities. Ok, now what? We scoured the map looking for a convenient alternate place to camp. It was really getting late and we were both tired. I still had to set up camp before we could snuggle inside the sleeping bags for the night in preparation for the big day at the beach the next day. It was going to be great.

On the map we found a park called “Jellystone Park” and being from the generation that could appreciate Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and the rest, we went there. Of course, little did we know that this was a membership only park – meaning that most of the campers either rented or owned their lots and camped there all season long. This type of thing was news to me, but they did have some spots that could be rented on a nightly basis. We only needed a couple of nights – tonight being the first of two.

We located our assigned spot, parked the car and unloaded the tent first. With the headlights on, I put up the tent while my girlfriend continued reading her book by the dome light in the car. This was my job, which I assigned myself and so to impress her with my pioneer spirit, I took care of the business at hand. All set up, I decided we’d skip the other stuff, take the battery lanterns, sleeping bags and pillows inside, get some rest and assemble the rest in the morning. I got no arguments there, either.

Sleep came quickly, but morning came quicker, it seemed. As people in sites around us began to stir, I dressed and resumed my camp set up after exploring the area of the bath house and restrooms. Of course, I took my camera. Why do you ask?

Maybe I could get some exploring done before breakfast and then the short trip to the Indiana Dunes Beach.

Hey, this was cool. There’s the bear that’s smarter than the average bear waving, ‘hello’.

Jellystone Park Ranger Station

The pool area behind the bath house.

Jellystone Park Beach Club ... of sorts.
Jellystone even had it’s own beach club of sorts. Very nice, but not why we came there. After breakfast, which I admit was dismal. I’m not a good camp cook without Teflon pans. My girlfriend didn’t say a word or offer to help. She knew it was me trying to be “the man” when she could probably have been better at cooking. She often said so, although she never would cook for me. I cooked pizza from Papa Johns delivery most of the time, in those days.

We arrived  at the beach and my fair-skinned girlfriend wore a big, floppy straw hat and oozed of sunscreen – as well she should have. I usually don’t burn much, but when I do it tans rather quickly. So, I’m not afraid of the sun. I love the sun. My soul loves the sun. Did I mention that I love the sunshine too? This was starting out to be the first and last time that “we” go camping. I was sure of it.

The beach at Indiana Dunes State Park.

The Beach at Indiana Dunes State Park is really a State Park within a National Park - part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

She remained quiet and seemed to be enjoying herself, but I could see the fear in her eyes. She couldn’t swim, either. Well, how was I to know? Isn’t it incumbent on the parties involved to state all the facts and preferences when making plans for a trip anywhere? OR should we make assumptions, which could be wrong anyway?

Face it. Men? You’re always wrong. Live with it.

Still, I was almost having a good time. I was at the beach and enjoying the hot sand, the little tiny waves lapping on the shoreline and the complete absence of hot-looking babes to ogle from beneath my sunglasses when nobody was watching me or where my camera was pointed.

More beach and some shade.

My favorite beach shot this trip.
I think this might be my favorite shot. At this point, I’d like to apologize for the small photos in this blog. I scanned these images from film very early on in the process of film to digital conversions. I knew little about getting the best from the decidedly primitive (by today’s standards) equipment. Images show grain and lines from the scanning process and, in general, were not of the best quality. In truth, I never intended to publish them in any way and yet, here they are. Please don’t judge them too harshly.

I call this next shot, “Sand mountain and teeny mole hills”. (Oh, I’m so bad!)

Kids busy working on their tan lines.
Moving on now. We continued to explore the landscape and finding not one single place along this long beach to lay down a beach towel and soak up some sun – which I thought would be good – we headed back to the shower house to find some shade and shelter from the intense heat. I did notice a bead of sweat now and again. WE (she) decided that the beach wasn’t so good and there was sure to be water pollution from the steel mills of Gary, Indiana, which we could see off on the distant horizon so off we went to explore the state park’s Nature Center. It was also air-conditioned.

Elsewhere in the park is the Conservation Center.
Inside the center were various specimens of native birds professionally stuffed and hanging – as if in flight – from the ceilings. That was all very interesting, but it WAS air conditioned, after all, but decidedly NOT the beach. As we left the building to take the nature walk through the accompanying protected marsh lands we found stinky, stagnant pools of algae covered water and exotic mosquito swarms that could carry off a young child and fest all season.

I think it's Honeysuckle - the bees liked it.
Taking in the flower and fauna of the area along the pathway, we noticed a solo bumble bee busy at this lovely, wild-growing flower. I watched intently as the bee hovered over the stamens and pistols of the inner flower parts trying to taste which parts to take back with him. I wasn’t bothered in the least because I didn’t carry the fear pheromone. I understand that nature must be respected and the bee seemed to know I was there only as an observer and he was safe of any harm from me. My girlfriend, on the other hand, went screaming and running back down the trail waving her arms for no apparent reason. It was just one, single bee doing it’s thing – too busy to worry about silly humans with nothing better to do.

I caught up to her, calmed her down by speaking in low tones so that the mosquitoes couldn’t hear and we continued to walk at a faster pace back toward the Conservation Center. I did get a few shots of the fungi and toadstools. I dunno why. I had lots of film left over.

It was a very lovely visit at the state park and we couldn’t wait to get back to camp. Not the beach, mind you, … to camp and away from it all. It had been a particularly harrowing day of insect dodging and anti-sun worshiping; besides we were hungry for more of Jim’s poorly prepared food. I thought I might entice her with some freeze-dried trail food – just add boiling water and wait for 10 minutes for the food to reconstitute. I forget what we settled on, but it would have been worse than that.

I finished the dishes and packed away all that we didn’t need for our big Saturday night’s activities. She read her book and I did I don’t know what. I took a picture of her by lantern light. It wasn’t romantic, but it was a good shot.

I’ll leave you with a parting shot and a word of warning. Camping isn’t for everyone. Splashing along the shores of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world isn’t for everybody. We tried camping one other time before I put my camping stuff into storage. It ended up the same only it was fear of viewing the Ohio River from the top of the fire tower. I did get a photo of her doing the dishes. She stuck out her tongue when I commented on her contribution. I got that shot too.

Relationships are difficult, at best. Camping is not as rough as it was in pioneer times. We didn’t have to worry about Indian raiding parties, bear and mountain lion attacks on our food stores or even where we could get a nice hot shower for free. What we get, sometimes as we try to expand the lives of others and to show them who we are as people will sometimes backfire. And so I leave you with this final image which should explain how I felt about this weekend. It was clearly not the fault of the Jellystone Park Campground, Indiana Dunes State Park or the Coleman company for making my tent and sleeping bags – I should say that. Its also sad that we didn’t make som’ mores over the campfire that never got made. I guess I’m just a bad cook.

What would Jellystone Park be without it’s own Old Facefull? Yogi and Boo-boo would be proud to stay here.


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