Perhaps you’ve wondered if I melted over the weekend. I can assure you we all survived. What was supposed to be a productive wildcrafting weekend turned into a true wet camping adventure. We took my three-year-old son on his first trip out, despite a drippy forecast. The Manistee National Forest in Michigan is a beautiful location for camping, and a lovely place for herbalists and plant lovers, but as I mentioned before, rain is not the best situation for gathering herbs.
Fortunately Friday was kind to us, and we spent some time by the river bank picking some beautiful St. John’s Wort flowers for tincture. The
flowers were surprisingly larger than what I find around here, and I think they’re going to make a wonderful batch of tincture. Even the leaves tasted a little different up there than here; more savory, whereas the stuff I pick closer to home reminds me more of pine. (I noticed that closer to the Great Lakes as well. Perhaps the river location?)
Friday night was constant rain, sometimes rather heavy, always keeping everyone awake and staring at the collection of daddy longlegs hiding on the screen under the rainfly. My son declared he “doesn’t like this place” but by morning had forgotten and was ready to take on the day. Because of all the rain the night before, I didn’t gather any plants but I did see some beautiful things. My beloved mullein was across the river in droves, waving at me and daring me to cross over, but I didn’t feel quite so adventurous as all that. So I simply enjoyed being, when I wasn’t busy knocking mud off something or searching for some elusive item lost in the bottom of our clothing bag.
Sunday morning started out beautifully but quickly turned to a deluge of rain while everyone scattered to gather their gear and pack up muddy tents. Our vehicles were parked a few minutes’ hike away, and we were about a 20 minute drive into the woods down a bumpy, hilly two-track that rambled through thick undergrowth and pine forests, beautiful sights to behold in kinder weather. Fortunately we made it all the way out without incident and were happy to stop at a little diner for breakfast where we dried off and admired the fisherman motif. Never had I imagined so much taxidermy could fit inside such a small restaurant.
Overall the trip was what one would call an adventure – the sort of thing you remember in later years, while on other camping trips, when your traveling partners complain about the cool air or the lack of bathroom facilities. That’s when you lean back into your camp chair, pull out another beer, and tell about the time you camped in the downpouring rains of Manistee National Forest, and even your three-year-old survived to tell the tale.