As many of you know, we own a camper and it is parked on a permanent site in Northern Wisconsin. In fact, it is right on the Wisconsin/Michigan border, in Presque Isle, Wisconsin. It has been a source of joy, entertainment, and relaxation for the entire family.
We’ve been parked up there for a while now – I think this is our 5th year. Since we’ve been up there, we’ve always intended to find a day to go up to the Porcupine Mountains in the northern UP (That’s “Upper Peninsula” of Michigan for those of you geographically challenged). Well, last Friday, July 2 was a beautiful day. It was the perfect day for an adventuresome trek to Lake Superior and the Porcupine Mountains.
My wife and I announced our plans to the family, and those plans were immediately met with lamentations of various sorts from our beloved, and yet seemingly boring, children. “I want to swim!” “I want to go fishing!” “I want to go shopping in Boulder Junction!” (Disturbingly, this last cry was not echoed simply by the female apportionment of the family, but a couple of the boys as well.)
As the wiser and elder parental members of the family unit, Wendy and I explained how great this would be. They were guaranteed to enjoy themselves and appreciate nature and God’s wonderful creation, while basking in the sun of a beautiful day on the golden sands of the lakeshore. My marketing for the UP finally worked, and I at least convinced them to have a good attitude about our little trip.
The ride up to Lake Superior went more swiftly than even expected, as we arrived to the shore after a mere 1 hour. As soon as all the kids saw the beautiful expanse of blue, their faces lit up! Immediately, they wanted to get down to the lake! Dad and Mom were heroes! Yay us.
Before heading to the Lake, we went to the visitor center to get a map of all the cool places we could check out in the area. The Center itself was small, but a neat little place with different taxidermied animals and some interesting facts about them. The kids enjoyed the short museumesque tour and a browse of the gift shop.
But it was already past 1:00 in the afternoon and we had not eaten lunch. So the fun was about to begin: we’d locate a small little area with a grill and a picnic table. A couple of these were designated on the map, and we had our choice of three different sites. All overlooked the shore and were picturesque dreamscapes.
And then we opened the van doors.
Immediately, as if locusts blackening the Sun in the days of Pharoah, black flies pounced on us unlike any pouncing of any insect I have ever witnessed or experienced. It is no exaggeration to say that 30-50% of our bodies were covered in black. Screams emanated from multiple mouths – adult and child alike. The screams were short-lived, for fear that flies would engage the facial cavity.
We were bewildered and confused until logic prevailed: It has to be better down by the water.
And so, all of us went to the water. There was momentary excitement due to water and waves. Myriad stones that had been eroded over years down to marvelously flat platforms for painting beckoned. Flies were forgotten for two or three minutes.
But, like bloodhounds after a rabbit, they found us. In droves. They attacked mercilessly. Each swat that prematurely ended the life of one seemed, like Hydra, to rear the ugly head of three or four more. Soon, as a family we were swatting and yelling and running. Within 15 minutes of our arrival, it was decided by all that we could take no more.
Perhaps it was our imagination, but the prospect of our sudden departure seemed to infuriate the flies. For, as soon as it was decided to collect shoes and grab the cooler, and traverse the treacherous 45-degree angled hillside to approach our van, the fervor with which they attacked was perceived by all of us to increase fourfold.
My second eldest son proved his genius by reaching the van, opening the door, and then turning around and swatting flies while leaving the door open. My oldest son proved his maturity by melting down into a 2-year-old’s frame of mind by standing there crying about the flies, while doing absolutely nothing. Chaos ensued. I, the parent, whose idea this all was, became relegated to the – in retrospect, unfortunate and embarrassing – role of screaming and angry parent. “Close that door! What are you doing! You… stop crying. They’re driving us all crazy, so deal with it! Hurry up! Where are your shoes???!!!! You left them down there? #@%^$^&! Now I have to go get them! Thanks a lot for being responsible!!!”
To think, an hour and a half before I was saying: Now, have a good attitude. You’ll really enjoy this!
Before the kids were even buckled in, we were moving. We quickly loaded the cooler back in. It was like the army trying to get out of Hanoi.
We rolled the windows down to try and encourage the 35,000 flies now in our van to leave. But all this did was send them to the back window. So, we stopped in the middle of the road, ran back, and opened the doors (after clearing away the flies clinging to the back of the van). This got rid of about 20,000 of them. The rest we just swatted and pushed out the windows the rest of the ride home.
So, this is almost the end of our harrowing little tale. But we gave the benefit of the doubt that the rest of the area wasn’t like this. So, we stopped and talked to the woman who would otherwise be collecting our money for a day pass into the park area and asked if the flies were this bad everywhere. She, quite nonchalantly, replied “Oh, yeah.” We further questioned if this was unusual, or it was just a peak time for the flies. “Oh, no. It’s pretty much like this all summer long. That’s just the way it is up here.”
Our response: “We’ll pass on the day pass.”
So, we turned around, still not having eaten lunch, and headed back home. We did stop at a park inland next to Lake Gogebic and grilled our hot dogs and steaks. There were no flies because the winds were 40 MPH the entire time.
One of those days.