The last day of any camping trip to our property on Big Bass Lake was always bittersweet. As the kids folded up the tents to be stored in our grainery on the way out they had bittersweet memories. Sure, they were going back to their own towns and families but this period of independence was about over. They thought back to the visit to the Haunted Island at midnight, the trips to the Pine River Bridge near Wellston or the visit to the Lake Michigan Recreational Area for swimming, or even the night hike down the Bloody Antler Trail as those times were about over.
They talked some about those things during the last campfire the night before. They laughed at how much fun they had swimming, boating, or fishing on Big Bass Lake. They even talked warmly about their camp chores, except for cleaning the latrine. They wouldn’t miss that part at all. They spoke of the night hikes on our property in the deep forest and of picking blackberries to go with cattail pancakes which they made for themselves on the trip.
As they loaded up my station wagon they glanced about at the forest and Noreika Road, taking in many memories and some for the last time. Yes, some trips had repeat campers but some would never come back to this place. And, as we drove past the Big Bass Lake Store for the last time, they knew their trip was at an end. Sure, there were many miles before we reached either Columbus, Ohio, Marion, Indiana, or Hoffman Estates, Illinois, but the trip home was often more relaxed.
Rarely did I hear that refrain on the way back to wherever the kids came from, “Are we there yet, or, how many miles are left to go?” As we sped along the kids would talk openly about all their experiences which made the return trip go all the faster.
We always stopped for a snack once leaving the Manistee National Forest near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and for the kids that was the last vestage of their camping experience as from them on only cities and flat farm land was left to see. But, what memories they would have for the rest of their lives!