Photography and Words by Emily Cummings
With the school year about to start, we wanted to wring out the last bit of summer togetherness with our version of camping…device free! The Getaway Outpost in Grand Junction, Michigan offered up exactly what we needed. In less than a three-hours’ drive, my 8-year-old son; 11-year-old daughter; husband, Jim; and I embarked on our vacation weekend, where we disconnected, de-stressed, and natured-up.
While we are a family that enjoys trees, water recreation, and the occasional sunset, we are not what you would really call a “camping-family.” But we are a family that is always up for an adventure, and immediately this felt like an effective way to escape the city and rejuvenate — all while having the creature comforts we desire.
The Getaway, situated along a picture-perfect creek, provides forty-one cabins nestled in the woods. Our little cabin was about two hundred square feet — a charming space that perfectly fit our family of four with queen bunk beds tucked up against a large picture window overlooking the forest. The cabins are appointed with linens, a small bathroom with toiletries for the shower, a stocked kitchenette with a small stove and mini fridge, and air conditioning/heat. For us, the cabin provided the essentials to allow our entry into 48-hour camping life.
Evening rounded out our camping (or “glamping”) experience. Right outside our cabin, the Getaway provides a picnic table, chairs, and a fire pit. Obviously, we were prepared with s’mores! With the vast and bright night sky, our son was able to make proper use of his telescope until the fire went out. Then we went inside and listened to the oldies on the radio (the only device in the cabin). It was truly a nostalgic experience.
Jim and I awoke before the kids and began the day in the morning sun with quiet meditation and coffee. Let me stop right here and make you think. When was the last time you had an uninterrupted cup of coffee among the sound of birds chirping and the rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze? Our morning was perfect. Perfect.
Eventually, the kids poked their heads out. We are not experienced enough campers that we know how to cook eggs or pancakes over the campfire. Though the house did have a kitchenette, we decided the day before to skip stocking up with groceries and just go out to eat. Fifteen minutes from the cabin is the beach town of South Haven, situated where the Black River meets Lake Michigan. It has a quaint downtown area with local shops and restaurants – in the backdrop is an historical light house on Lake Michigan that is still operational. We had our pancakes and eggs at Phoenix Street Café. We ordered sandwiches from Round Bread Sandwich Company to enjoy for lunch later, and Jim discovered Harbor Light Brewery right down the street that sold four-packs of beer.
Back at the Getaway cabin, we waked Lester Lake. We found a tiny beach with lots of little shells and pebbles that the kids had fun collecting. We had it all to ourselves. The only sounds were the kids laughing, the slapping of the water under their feet, and occasional croaks from unseen frogs. Jim pulled out the sandwiches for all of us, and he and I cracked open a couple of beers. We took in the scene of our own secluded family moment.
Later, we walked the rest of the grounds. The Getaway offers a myriad of hiking trails that vary in length. We picked one of the shorter ones, which allowed our kids to take in a sample of what the Midwest was like before the taming of our wild area. Having spent their lives thus far in the city, our kids had lots of questions about the various trees and provided their varied opinions about the bugs we encountered. They were delighted to see a deer less than 20 feet from the trail and very relieved we did not run into any coyotes. While the kids shared skeptical opinions about the hike at the outset, they expressed a sense of accomplishment once they made it to the end.
As she often does, our daughter brought a notebook along. She collected and tried to identify various leaves — Eastern Cottonwood, Paper Birch, and Shagbark Hickory. Our son picked up every rock he could carry in his little pockets — the purpose remains undetermined. These trinkets provided excuses for conversation. Jim and I enjoyed the discussions and watching our kids’ curiosity unfold. Through this trip (and others in the future), we hope our kids enjoyed the family time and fostered an appreciation for our world.
Overall, Getaway did not disappoint. We were able to break from routine and relish the natural world around us. For us, it was an ideal weekend away, and I would recommend it to anyone in need of disconnecting from their technology and reconnecting with nature.