Been there, done that
Manistee National Forest, dirt track near Lilley Township, Michigan
We pass through the Lilley Township (or is it the Bitely Township?) preparing for their Homecoming Weekend. Fireworks, crowning of the Homecoming Queen, dancing in the public town square. No football, right? And schools not in? What exactly is homecoming, then??? Strange folk who live in small towns in this national forest
We try for an official campground (only 3 bucks here), but all is full this late on Friday night. We end up deep in the forest, following a dirt-track to a clearing in the rows and rows of pine-trees. Skip scouts with our amazing new bicycles! He rides into the woods to find a place to turn the van around tomorrow morning.
We use our new fan for hours until we decide the noise is too obnoxious in the pristine silence of the forest. We take a bike ride, following the road until it disappears in a knee-high wall of fern. We walk the dogs. We read and cook and play cards. Peace, quiet, just our small family.
Growing amongst the planned pines in their regimented rows are bigger, older, darker hardwoods. Skip calls them Ents (Lord of the Rings reference) and some of them are quite stern. We walk toward one and we can feel the energy flowing out of it, Stay Away From Me energy. Weird.
A new, brilliant realization: an early morning swim is almost as good as a shower. We pack up the van, wear our swimsuits instead of normal clothes, and head up the road to a National Forest day-use area with a small swim-beach. We are there before anyone else, and we exercise, play, and rub our sticky parts clean with lake water. We are still fresh and wet when we slip into the van to drive north, and the heat of the day doesnt seem to hit us quite so badly. Perfect. Learning. Experience. The road is getting better, easier, more fun.