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Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

Camping in Michigan

The entire eastern shore of Lake Michigan from the Straits of Mackinac to the Indiana border and on around the bottom of the lake to Chicago and beyond is one long beach of yellow sand. Prevailing winds are from the west causing the sand to be heaped up into high dunes which continue moving eastward until vegetation finally anchors them in place. All streams flowing west toward Lake Michigan are blocked by the nunes so that the water backs up and forms small lakes every two or three miles. Eventually a channe is cut through the dunes into the big lake and the size of the lake stabilizes. The sand of of the dunes is not good land for agriculture as is left pretty much in its primitive state. It is much as it was when it was inhabited by Indians and is therefore ideal camping country. There are state parks, county parks, township parks, city parks, boy and girl scout camps, YMCA camps, The Elks, the Mason, the Eagles and so on ad infinitum.

Muskegon State Park, located just north of the channel from Muskegon Lake into Lake Michigan, right in the dunes, was a large park with a caretaker where camping was permitted. There was no charge in 1930-40 but you were limited to a stay of two weeks at a time.

Our first camping experience was at Muskegon State Park shortly after we had acquired a car, -it was a De Soto - and then a tent. We bought the tent, a gasoline camp stove and other camping equipment at Sears. It was a good tent mounted on a rigid frame with no center pole and it had a sort of front porch which could be rolled up and stuffed into a canvas bag. We were impatient to try everything out as we made plans with the Caesars to spend a week camping at the state park as soon as the weather got warm, before school was out. It turned warm before Memorial Day so we were able to get good level spots next to each other before Memorial Day campers arrived. Sturdy picnic tables were available and we each set one up next to our tent. The cars were parked next to the tents and the children slept in them. Yvette and I had camp cots.

When classes resumed after the holiday Harold Caesar and I, of course, had to go back to work. We found the whole camp upset Tuesday afternoon when we returned. Alan and Lois, both just about two years old, had decided to go on an exploring expedition without saying where they were going. When Yvette and Goldie missed them a half hour or so later - they thought they were playing with the other children - they turned the place upside down looking for them. Everybody in camp wentt scouring around looking for them. It was three hours or so before they were found by some young men from the CCC camp next to the park. The children hand climbed up over the high dune at the rear of the camp and come down on the other side into a swamp covered with cattails and briars. They didn’t know they were lost when the young men found them and they were not at all frightened.

One of our favorite forms of recreation after we had our car was to drive out to the dunes, park the car and wander through the woods covering the sand hills or take long strolls along the edge of the water. Bronson’s Farm at the end of Sherman Blvd., directly west of the Heights, was the closest to home. There were picnic tables there and we enjoyed taking our lunch along and not returning home until we had watched the big red-orange of the sun sink into Lake Michigan. We lost our first camera, a folding Kodak Yvette had brought from Canada, by leaving it on one of the picnic tables and forgetting it. All of our family pictures from that time were take with an Argus 35mm which I had my brother Bill buy in a second hand camera shop in Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents
Our First Automobile
First Trip Back to French Canada - 1932

Last modified on 16 April 2018 @ 23:31