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Van Camping with Coyotes

Van camping quickly became one of our favorite activities when my wife Ana and I bought our conversion van. There is no tent to set up, and no problem with rain. We can explore all day without worries, then find any beautiful spot and park. The bed is ready in the back.

Sometimes you are surprised by what you find when you explore without any itinerary. There are forgotten places that few people go to, but are still easily accessible by van. This is especially true in the north country, like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

It was October. We carried a book of county maps with us, so we could find the little dirt roads that criss-cross the national forests and other lands of the "U.P." Somewhere thirty minutes north of the little town of Ishpeming, we came into an area owned by the Mead Paper Company. They have a number of tree "plantations," which they generously leave open to the public.

"Grapevine plantation" is where we eventually found ourselves. Out in the middle of a thousand acres of three-foot high trees, we found a clearing a hundred feet off the road. We parked the van there and didn't move it for two days. Just two cars went by while we were camping there.

It may seem a strange choice for a campsite, being out in the open, not near water, and just off a dirt road. It was, but then that was part of the appeal. There was no traffic anyhow, and the woods were nearby for hiking. We had a fire both nights, and the breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The silence is amazing, as were the stars at night. There weren't even planes flying overhead here.

The second day we hiked up into the hills and woods nearby. The trees were in their fall colors, and the air cool. We had the woods to ourselves, seeing no one all day. In fact, we even had waterfalls to ourselves, which we discovered when we went off the small trail. We gave them our own names, since they had none according to the maps we had.

Campfires and Coyotes

Sitting around the fire that night, I discovered a unique feature of this place. The area was flat, but surrounded by rocky hills, and they created the most awesome echoes. Not normal echoes, but echoes that rolled on and on.

I howled like a wolf, scaring Ana. Coyotes or wolves (we never were sure which) howled back in the distance, scaring her more. I encouraged the coyotes until my voice was tired. Then we relaxed and watched the shooting stars, while the coyotes almost certainly watched us from the woods. When the fire died down, we climbed into the van and laid watching the sky through the windows. Van camping is the best.

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