Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fulgurite And Test Hill

When we arrived Wednesday at Silver Lake State Park to pitch our tent, the ranger warned that a big storm was forecast to hit in a couple hours. My wife Wendy expressed her doubts, then asked, "What are we supposed to do. Go to a hotel?" The ranger said he was just passing along the information.

After the designated hour of 3 p.m. passed with nothing but sunny skies overhead, Wendy felt obliged to stop by the ranger's office to let him know he was wrong. "Yeah, we missed that one," was his response. But he actually only missed by a letter. The big storm hit around 3 a.m., not 3 p.m.

That night while we slept in our three tents, a thundershower accompanied by some very strong winds rolled through the campground. Our small tent was weathering it fine, but I peeked out to see part of my son Greg's tent flapping violently, as if it were a flag in a gale. Greg was working on making adjustments.

We had problems of our own. Our queen air mattress developed a slow leak and by the time the storm passed we were sleeping on mother earth. Not as soothing as it may sound. So we escaped to our car, only slightly more comfortable, where we stayed till dawn, occasionally turning the electricity on to check the time, which also turned on our headlights brightly illuminating my in-laws tent and waking up the occupants . . . which they complained about later. Hea, no reason all of us couldn't share the grief.

Next day I convinced my son and nephews that there was gold in them thar sand hills. Gold in the form of fulgurite, a tube formed when lightning hits the sand dunes, fusing the sand particles into a type of glass. Four of us scoured the pedestrian area of the dunes but camp up empty-handed, though I did get a digital photo of a bobcat track.

Later when we took our traditional MacWoods dune scooter ride I asked the driver who said he had been roaming the dunes for over a dozens years whether there were bobcat prowling the sandy hills.

"No," he said simply.

Bummer. No fulgurite, no bobcat.

But I did experience something new this year that I hadn't in our 15 or so previous trips to Silver Lake. My brother-in-law Randy and I got to ride in the public ORV portion of the sand dunes, the only such designated area in Michigan.

My son Greg joined us. His wife's sister-in-law Kate was at the wheel as we plowed sand, skimmed through standing water and dodged other off-road vehicles of all makes and models. For a finale, Kate debated whether to climb "test hill", a very large dune that provides a definite challenge for the driver. Go for it, we said.

First attempt ended well short of the summit and we backed down. Try again, Kate wondered? Randy said sure. This time we made it almost to the peak, to the sand ridge that ran along the top of the dune. That's as far as we got. And with our front wheels hanging a few inches in the air on one side of the peak, with the back wheels buried in sand, that's as far as we were going. Stuck!

So we were a spectacle for other drivers (see pictures) until rescued by a nearby Jeep. They attached a strap to our back-end and pulled us backwards to where we were drivable again. No more attempts on the summit today.

Remember the Rat Patrol, the old TV show in which soldiers raced around the desert in jeeps and stuff? Kinda felt like that until test hill. After that, I felt like the "drat patrol."


Blogger Carine said...

looks like you had a great time, despite the weather and the flat mattress Dave. Love the pictures. Still, I think I would have gone to a hotel/motel and left the camping to the kids and joined them after breakfast!

10:42 PM  
Blogger TechnoBabe said...

You are seasoned campers for sure, so a storm does not cause distress, you have to be flexible when camping don't you. It sounds like you had some fun times even bugging the in-laws. Did you send a picture of the paw print to the campground?

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No," he said simply.

That's bull.... I've been going to Silver Lake for at least 15 years and I know bobcat tracks when I see them.

Did you ask that tour guide how long he's been doing that? I'll bet he's a rookie.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Lynilu said...

I agree with Anon .... bobcats are dang near everywhere. My guess is he has been told not to freak out visitors, thus his "no."

I had a problem with a deflating mattress, too, and it was also during a heavy rainstorm. I woke to find the pillow portion of my mattress had deflated, and my head was resting on the floor of the tent. I couldn't move my head without the assistance of both hands! Dang, my neck was sore the next day!

7:31 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--We're wondering too whether we're getting too old for this. Maybe we'll get a camper next time; that would be a fair compromise I guess.

TECHNOBABE--I should print that picture out of the paw print and bring it to show to the park ranger next year if we go back. He would know better whether it was a bobcat or not.

ANONYMOUS--He was an older gentleman who in his younger days went by the name of "Wild Bill." So I figured he would know what was out there in the wild.

LYNILU--I don't think you can camp for very long without getting sore or coming up with some bruises. I have a very healthy bruise on my elbow. I tell Wendy I think she elbowed me there while we were sleeping. She denies that, of course.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong man Gregory should have just pulled you from the sand.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

ANONYMOUS--Not sure Greg could have done it on his own. With my help though, no problem.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ ou sure had a fun time with the rainstorm and mattress. The ride on the sand dunes sounded a bit risky, even with no bobcat is sight.I hadn't heard the word Fulgurite before so glad you explained it.
Thanks for your comments. Glad you figured out the Labrador joke. We have mostly them for guide dogs too.Both our soccer teams went out early - maybe next year. The pigeons coo like doves. Glad you enjoyed the bra joke. I don't get troubled with political e mails or phone calls. Where I live is a Conservative district which we usually win and we get the odd card or calendar in letterbox.
They may do differently in closer
districts. Take care my friend,
Regards, Merle.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

It all looks great fun except for the storm and the flat matress. The ground is cold and hard with nothing much between you and it.

3:24 AM  

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