A Life Changing Experience
Five years ago this past weekend, I had an experience that would forever impact my life. I purchased an A-frame cabin and moved to the Gaylord area two years prior. I always thought it would be fun to rent out my adorable little cabin, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about doing it. Out of the blue, a work colleague (someone I knew from an online training, we had never met in person) messaged and asked if he and his wife could rent out my cabin. Sure! I was totally up for that. I worked hard to prepare my living space. A few days before their arrival, he learned it was my house - not a vacation home. He felt horrible about asking to rent out my home, but I explained I’ve always wanted to do something like that – so this was my chance to try it out.
In order to make it financially viable, I needed to find an inexpensive place to camp. I saw there was a state forest campground just east of Vanderbilt – about 30 minutes from my house. It was perfect! It was only $12/night to camp there, which meant I could actually make money while renting my house. I was also a little nervous about going too far away, just in case something happened. The proximity gave me peace of mind; I could easily run back home if they needed anything. I knew nothing about the campground, but it met the criteria I needed, so I was going to enjoy my fall camping weekend. I had my new kayak, my tent, a camp stove, warm blankets and a good book. All would be well.
What did I get myself into?
What I hadn’t factored into my plan was the amount of time it would take to make my house presentable for renters. It took way longer than I anticipated. So, by the time I turned in Vanderbilt to head to my campground, it was definitely dark. The further I drove, the darker it got. As I made my final turn toward the campground, I was really beginning to question myself. Where in the world was I? I felt like I was driving further and further away from civilization into the middle of nowhere. And did I mention it was dark? I don’t mind camping by myself with others around me, but I really did not want to be all by myself so far from civilization. I didn’t have great cell signal, so I wasn’t even sure my guests could reach me if they needed anything. But it was really late. I decided if there was at least one other group camping, I would stay. Luckily, as I was pulling into the campground, I saw a couple walking with a big fluffy white dog. Bingo. I could stay. They had to be safe with a dog like that.
Once I knew I would stay, I realized I had no idea where I should camp. I knew there was a lake, but it was pitch black. I didn’t know which campsites were good – or even which direction the lake was from where I was located. I took my best guess and pitched my tent with the help of my car headlights. The next morning, I woke up, unzipped my tent, and wow! This was my view. Literally. Not only did I survive a night sleeping in the middle of nowhere, I nailed the lake view!
Pigeon River Country
I soon learned I was camping at Round Lake Campground in Pigeon River Country. I had heard of Pigeon River Country a number of times, but I really had no idea what it was – or even where it was, for that matter. I felt like a magical world was opened up before me, and I had a free weekend to explore to my heart’s delight. I grabbed a photo copied map from the visitor’s center, loaded up my Jeep, and drove for hours. Not only had I stumbled upon a huge unpopulated area of state land, it was peak fall. Like brilliant, beautiful colors as far as the eye could see into the surrounding forests. Since fall and exploring happen to be two of my favorite things, I was in heaven. My own little slice of heaven – only 30 minutes from my house.
A month after this event, I came home to find my neighbor’s house for sale. I purchased that house and listed my little A-frame on Airbnb so I could make this dream a reality. Two years later, I found myself “exploring” NE Michigan through the internet, researching content for our new website. Every time I started researching a new county, I had the same experience as when I unzipped my tent that glorious fall morning. A whole new world unfolded before me. A year after that, I began exploring the region in my car, taking pictures for social media. Every trip is a new adventure.
Little did I know just how much that weekend five years ago would impact my life. The entire experience was a metaphor for a new phase in my life journey. Unzipping the tent to find that stunning fall reflection in the magical world known as Pigeon River Country not only changed my weekend, it changed me. It gave me confidence to take a risk. It brought joy and delight to my spirit as I let go of what I knew and allowed myself to experience the unknown. It helped me realize there is room for me to explore, discover what is inside me, and see how I fit into the world around me. It freed me to pursue a new path that brought me life and freedom.
And this is what I believe NE Michigan has to offer you. Whether you feel you are already familiar with the area around you – or whether you have yet to experience NE Michigan at all, I believe our region is beckoning you to find your view. Let go of what you know, take a risk, and go explore. As you find a new view, maybe you’ll find a new you in the process. There’s room to be you in NE Michigan.
P.S. Need ideas? Check out our Outdoors page to get the inspiration flowing.