Saturday, July 5, 2008
Tough times in a tough place
Homely details gleaned for an upcoming novel on a July Fourth in Porcupine County, upper Michigan, by a mystery writer seeking evidence that economic times, fueled in part by skyrocketing gasoline prices, are growing worse in his bailiwick:
1. Only two massive motorhomes were to be seen in the Wolverine Mountains Wilderness State Park campground. There were quite a few travel trailers, but most campers hauled pop-up trailers or tents.
2. At least a dozen sites at the campground were still available. In previous years reservations for the weekend of the Fourth were full by the beginning of June.
3. Almost all the license plates were from Michigan and Wisconsin, with a smattering of Illinois and Minnesota. Those who aren't staying home aren't traveling far to camp.
4. Far fewer swimmers and agate hunters waded and walked the beaches than in previous years.
5. Another big motel at the entrance to the park has gone out of business -- that's two in two years - - and so has the little general store in Silverton. Now, to buy a quart of milk, campers have to drive to Porcupine City 14 miles east or Lone Pine 7 miles south.
6. A couple of cabin resorts at the entrance to the park are on the block, and their "For Sale" signs are faded and tattered.
7. The gravel shoulders of M-107, the state road into the Wolverines, have become overgrown with a waist-high riot of wildflowers -- daisies, buttercups, Indian paintbrush, Queen Anne's lace. It's beautiful, but hikers have to walk on the pavement and step aside for oncoming cars, another potential headache for a county sheriff and his deputies. The economically pinched state of Michigan hasn't the budget for maintaining these seasonal roads.
But the Wolverines are still gorgeous. No amount of privation is going to change that.
(For those who haven't read my Steve Martinez novels: The real-life counterpart of the Wolverines is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in western Ontonagon County, on which Porcupine County is based.)