Wednesday, August 09, 2006

North Woods Primer

Have you been to the North Woods? No, I don't mean the stretch of highway just outside of your suburban area. I'm talking about the North Woods of Michigan. Now, some would argue that those are not the true North Woods...they'd tell you the North Woods are only found in the state that begins with "W" where everyone walks around with cheese on their heads. Poppycock. Our North Woods are of mythic proportion to our family. And they exist in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Now, they haven't always been so special to our family. In fact, our first trip there was something of a shock. It was some years ago. And I have to tell you. Tacky Princess was not prepared for all the nature. For all the spiders. For all the mice. And mosquitoes. And general lack of...facilities. Ah, this takes me back, WTM's. And I'm really not sure I'd call them the good ol' days. Those of you who have been with us for a while know that there was a time when I was dangerously close to the dark side of Muffiadom. Well, when we first visited the North Woods, I was still there. Let me lay the scene, if you will... Piling into our van, we crammed suitcase after suitcase filled with everything we owned. Having heard that it can actually snow in the U.P. (forever after referred to as the UP) even in late July and August. So - we needed parkas right along with our swimsuits. Uh huh. I'm not joking. When we arrived, I discovered what outdoor facilities meant. OUTHOUSE!!!!! OK, you can take the Tacky Princess out of the city, but it's darn hard to take the city out of the Tacky Princess. I'm all for scaling back and all, but schlepping outdoors to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (which you inevitably have to do if you've had any children and/or are over the age of 30 and/or don't do your Kegal's faithfully...) - OMG. That is painful. And to a city girl like me. It's downright scary. I know. I'm a whimp. Then, there was the bathing situation. You guessed it. No running water. Bathe in the ice cold lake. Our cabins are a 10 minute car ride from Lake Freakin' Superior. Can you say, "Arctic"? Try shaving your legs in that water. So, the first time I was heading into the lake outside our cabins to take a dip / shower / shave, my host says to me, "Oh, don't forget to hustle in to avoid the itch. Once you get in over your shoulders, you don't have to worry about it." "The what?" certain I had misunderstood him. "The itch. Didn't Susan tell you?" "Uh, no." "Yeah, sure she did. You know, get in super fast, so you don't get the itch." OK, so now my skin was starting to crawl. "Um, no, I'm pretty sure I would have remembered a conversation about something called the ITCH. Why don't you fill me in?" "Well, it's just that the geese poop in the lake and all, and the first twenty feet of water or so can make your skin itch all over. It's not dangerous or anything. No big deal, really. Just hurry in." "It makes your skin itch. . . All over? How long does this last?" "Not too long - maybe six or seven hours. But really, just forget about it. I shouldn't have even mentioned it. Sometimes it's not even a problem." (Visibly freaking out now...) "Oh, that's ok, I think I 'll just wait a while." We're going to be there six days. Thoughts start racing through my head. Which is worse? Not bathing or getting "the itch"? I'm truly not certain, but I sure as hell don't want this "itch"! Would you? I walk back up to the cabin, reporting to my husband that I will be smelling like B.O. for the remainder of the trip, and there's nothing he can do about it. Furthermore, he will learn what it's like to live with Mountain Mary because shaving is now out of the question. Like you can do that while in the water over your shoulders. Keep in mind this is all on our first afternoon in the Woods. As dusk falls, I realize that the one "light" in the big cabin is only enough to light a small area in the kitchen. I likened going upstairs to the four bedrooms to going through a haunted house at Halloween. Dark, unknown, no idea what might be coming next. Stuff everywhere you turn. 1 AM - Daughter has been crying inconsolably for two hours. Scared. It's too dark. Not used to the creepy sounds (nature is scary...). Sounds like frogs, mainly. She can't get to sleep. I'm afraid she's keeping the other seven people upstairs awake, too. 2 AM - Daughter finally falls asleep - in our bed - there are now three of us in a double bed. Very comfy. I am wide awake. Nature is so very restful. What is that awful smell? Oh, goody. I think it's me. 3 AM - Have to pee like a racehorse. Willing it to go away. Damn those vodka tonics. I figured they'd make me sleep. What was I thinking? Should have known I'd need to get up. Periodically, I hear a scurrying around downstairs - I'm hoping for a mouse, but Lord knows what it is, and I can't go down there. I'm such a wuss. 4 AM - God, kill me now. If I wet this bed, I will never forgive myself. Will blame it on our precious inconsolable daughter. Never mind that the stuffing is coming out of the mattress, and it smells of mildew. This isn't my place to soil. 5 AM - OMG, OMG, OMG. This is hell. WT hell. Where is a #%**$ toilet when you need one? Can no longer turn over in bed for fear of leaking. Would slit my wrists, but razor is still outside from failed bathing attempt. 6 AM - Sun is rising. Courage returning. Bears probably sneak off when it's light out, right? Along with the Boogey Man? Geez, what a wuss... 6:15 AM - Hubby wakes up; bounds out of bed to go outside to take a leak. I beg him to wait for me to slither out of bed (avoiding leakage...) and go with him. Safety in numbers, right? Must continue tomorrow. Sorry so long. This is making me have to go to the bathroom. In the one with the real live flusher. And electricity. And a mirror. And a shower - with razor. And fan. Ah, the luxury...North Woods Part Deux next time... :)


Blogger LLA said...

Oh, how you've got me laughing!

I always love the idea of time spent in the Great Outdoors - but I find that the reality of it involves way more bugs and itchiness than I enjoy....

8/10/2006 4:57 AM  
Anonymous Stacy said...

Funny!...even though I've peed in the woods without even an outhouse to save me many times.

Is this roughly the same North Woods from the John Candy movie "The Great Outdoors?"

8/10/2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger tacky princess said...

Hmmm...every bit as remote. And lovely in so many ways. Just a shock to a city slicker like Tacky Princess. More later!

Keep those comments comin', WTM's! Are you with me?

8/10/2006 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

Oh TP... you would NEVER have survived my childhood summers. We peed in an outhouse. We lived without electicity, and we bathed in a steel bucket on the porch beside the hand pump.

8/10/2006 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you freaking kidding me? My idea of roughing it is a motel with no pool. The "itch" - that is so gross I can't believe it! I guess I am a city girl after all!

8/10/2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger molly said...

LOL - You're my kind of woman! My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service. I won't garden because I'm afraid I'll encounter bugs or worms when I dig in the dirt (I hate wildlife). In this life some things should be inviolate :indoor plumbing and pest control.

8/10/2006 8:04 PM  
Anonymous angie said...

I'm originally from the UP and it is definitely a different way of life up there! Summers are beautiful, except when you have to deal with too much nature! :)

I was up there last month visiting my parents and I did end up with swimmers itch for the first time in my life. And I didn't even go swimming! I had it all over my feet and ankles from wading with my son. Looked hideous and itched like hell!

8/10/2006 10:35 PM  
Blogger NeverEnough said...

Haha!! I feel you!

8/11/2006 4:37 PM  

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