Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Secret

It was supposed to be a surprise. My stepdaughter, Genne’, flew up to Michigan to celebrate a major birthday – one that ends with a zero. The details of the trip were a secret. What we finally came to realize that a secret is not a secret if more than one person knows it. In fact, telling someone a secret is impossible because the act of telling makes it no longer a secret.

There were eleven of us involved in the secret, seven traveling together to eventually meet the other four at Kim’s dad’s cabin in the Upper Peninsula. Ten of the eleven knew the secret plan. Genne’ did not – at least, in theory. The plan was to drive to northern Michigan visiting a series of places that Genne’ had visited on previous trips up north, dating back to when she was a child.

Our group included brothers and sisters, cousins, half-brothers and half-sisters, a grandmother (Kim), a grandfather (me), and a granddaughter. Genne’ and Reilly flew up from Florida, Micah from Colorado. We had planned to travel together in a van, but every van in Southeast Michigan had been booked well in advance, so the seven of us traveled in two cars. This sacrificed some of the group bonding, but we had the advantage of talking freely about the people in the other car, plus the disadvantage of imagining the stories they were telling about us. It was a combination of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Genne' tried hard not to ask any questions about where we were going, and she pretended not to hear when someone accidentally blurted a destination, which happened fairly regularly. None of us should get a job requiring Security Clearance.

Our first stop was Traverse City. This was not a surprise for Genne' because Kim had mentioned it to her on the phone, thinking Beth had already told her. Nevertheless, we did find some surprises there.

Beach volleyball with another family staying at the Beach Hauz Resort

Micah and Scott: Acrobats or Clowns?

Lake Michigan Sunset

Close Encounter?

No surprise that for Genne', Traverse City meant a visit to the Grand Traverse Pie Company. 


Decision Time

Not sure if Genne' was surprised by driving through the "Tunnel of Trees" . . .

. . . and on to Mackinac Bridge.

Next stop: The world famous Mystery Spot just over the bridge in the U.P.

Notice how everyone seems to be leaning back. We were a pretty laid back group.

One of the mysteries is how, on these two level blocks, Genne' and Reilly's height seems to change depending on which of them is standing on the eastern side where the gravity is stronger. We believe that Reilly grew up while on this trip, and it may have happened right here at the Mystery Spot.
On the way to Grampa's Cabin we paused to let the young folks hike below the Cut River bridge to where the river empties into Lake Michigan.

Micah, Scott, Reilly, Genne' and Beth. Not sure what Micah is attempting.

Our arrival meant, of course, some pasties - a U.P. delicacy - provided by Emilia, and some crayfish that Micah and Reilly caught in the Menominee River just out the back door.

Scott hauled his side-by-side all he way up here so he could take his sister for a fast ride through the woods, and an equally  fast and thoroughly enjoyed ride with Kim.

Before leaving we all had breakfast in the Farm House Restaurant in Stevenson, a place that Scott and Micah frequent when they are hunting from Grampa's Cabin.

Scott felt comfortable enough there to get up and serve coffee refills to everyone in the restaurant.

Kim asked the group how long it would take to drive from the cabin to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - another secret gone. At that point Scott, who had co-planned this "surprise trip" with Beth, slammed his head onto the table.

The best way to experience Pictured Rocks is by kayak. We were very pleased that this part of Genne's surprise birthday present remained a secret until the last minute. Here are some photo highlights, taken by several of us, mostly with phones. (Kim did not want to risk dumping her good camera into the lake, so she left it in the car.)

The Family - looking smiling and energetic. This was taken before spending 6 hours paddling on Lake Superior.

Two people who don't realize how old they are. Scott was worried that he would have to take care of these old fogies on a 6-hour trip, but we kicked their butts!

We stopped for lunch and some photos.

Scott and Micah caught this fish.

Got testosterone?

Lake Superior was clear and unbelievably warm.

Bro' and Sis'

Pocahontas - or is it Princess Kayaki?


Beth and Genne' - triumphant!

A realtor showing us property near Traverse City told the group to have fun sleeping in a yurt – another secret up in smoke. By the way, if you'd like a smile phone Uncle Ducky's Outdoor Adventures and hope you get the answering machine for a sample of the Yooper accent. (Note to our non-Michigan readers: People living in Michigan's U.P. are called "Yoopers." Those living below the bridge are "trolls.")

Keep walking past these tents . . .

. . . and you get to our yurt.

Not surprisingly, we all slept pretty well.

As it turned out, I did the best job of keeping the details of the adventure a secret from Genne', mainly because of my ability to forget details.


  1. Loved every word and photo! Dave, you are hilarious! And I can totally see Scott slamming his head on the table about another secret revealed! Haha!

  2. Loved every word and photo! Dave, you are hilarious! And I can totally see Scott slamming his head on the table about another secret revealed! Haha!