***Family warning: I know some of you read this, so this is a disclaimer that I talk about some past relationship details you may not care to know. (Though nothing too saucy.) Read at your own risk.****
Today was weird. I’m currently on a trip with my parents in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And this is the first time I’ve been up here since a camping trip with The Guy I Thought I Was Going to Marry.
And, on a boat tour along the shoreline of the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore along Lake Superior, I saw it again. Our Beach.
I’m hesitant to share this, because it was our experience. Our secret. A beautiful moment in my life. But I can no longer reminisce about it with him, and it deserves to live on, so I bequeath it to you, even if you choose to deem it silly or forget about it completely.
Okay, that’s enough sentimental bullshit. On to the story.
It was 2009 and I had just finished my first year of grad school. I had worked for my grad school’s summer theatre while my long distance boyfriend worked at a summer camp for at-risk youth. We had been dating for a handful of months at this point, and I was so excited for the end of my contract and his week off so we could spend some actual time together.
He was an adventurous outdoorsman with a street smart punk rock edge, and I had never even so much as peed outdoors before, but he convinced me to go for-real camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore in the end of July. Seven years ago next week.
We found a designated campsite in the woods, at the top of a half mile hill. We lugged up our packs and exhaustedly set up our tent. It was dark and drizzling, so we ate some granola bars and called it a night.
The next morning, we were cold and damp, but we decided to head down the hill to collect some water from the still icy lake.
There was no one around for miles. We had the entire rocky stretch of lakeshore to ourselves. It was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced, watching the sun creeping out from behind the 200 foot cliffs, striated with steaks of iron and copper deposits. So small and alone, insignificant in the grandiosity of it all.
There was a tiny waterfall only about four feet tall, gushing with a crystalline flow, fed by a trickling cliff. Our own private waterfall.
“I’ve always wanted to pee off a waterfall,” I confessed, realizing how ridiculous and nearly anatomically impossible it was.
“Do it. Now’s your chance, and you’ll never get it again,” he urged.
So I climbed up onto the precipice and did. Or, tried. It was vaguely successful, and it was exhilarating.
We spent more time on the beach, and filled up our collapsible water jug, popping in some tablets that promised to ensure that we wouldn’t catch any diseases from it.
And then, it started raining. Pouring. We were wearing our only dry, warm clothes.
“Take em off. Put them in the backpack. We need to keep them dry so we can be warm tonight,” he said.
I’ve always been pretty comfortable with nudity, so this wasn’t a ridiculous request. I shoved my jeans, waffle knit henley, my hoodie and my only bra into his bag. All I had left was my Fruit of the Looms and my shoes and socks, and I think he may have been wearing even less.
I was so free. We kissed and laughed. We yelled and danced in the deluge.
We looked out at the choppy lake, at the fury that had dragged thousands of ships down to her chilling depths over the centuries.
We were humbled in front of Nature, in all of her beautiful, benevolent, terrifying glory.
Then the lightning started, which was our cue to distance ourselves from the large body of water.
And then we began the slow, slippery trudge up the hill, our vulnerable skin smacked with branches as the rain pelted us through the trees.
We made it back to our tent and tried our best to stay warm, giggling about the whole situation.
The next day, some more campers came nearby, and our little Eden with soaking wet Adam and Eve was no more.
The morning we left, a thick mist was rising off the lake. This mysterious, beautiful place would always remain deep in my soul.
So this morning, as I sat on a boat with a hundred other people, I craned my neck towards a spot on the shore, decidedly quaint and uninteresting in comparison to the grandeur around us. And I spied our little beach, still the way we left it seven years ago.
He and I have both been married and divorced since then. We don’t keep in touch. It’s best that way.
But we will always have the Pictured Rocks, and our own fleeting private Eden.