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Train Up a Child

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

My son Arie and I sat close together, staring into the warmth as intermittent flames hopscotched the remaining charred logs atop a bed of glowing embers. In the distance, waves gently lapped the shoreline. It was late August, and our beach fire was a welcomed contrast to the cool night air and chilly sand, sure signs of a fast approaching autumn. The silence broke slowly, as my son’s prepubescent rasp came with some reservation at first. “Daddy…. I’m nervous about going to Kindergarden.” I cleared my throat and sat up in preparation. This was the talk I had hoped for, the reason for our entire trip, actually.

Each day in the two weeks leading up, my wife and I had come to our wits end trying to de-mystify our five-year-old’s sudden shift in attitude. He’d been recently accepted into a local Spanish immersion program around the time when something flipped. Our joyful & pleasant boy had become confrontational, emotional and honestly a bit of a downer to be around.

This called for a father-son adventure. An honest, me-and-the-kid camp out. With a rudimentary plan including backpacks, basic provisions, and a willingness to commit to a night in uncharted territory, we headed for Noordhouse Dunes National Lakeshore.

Once at the trailhead, we reviewed the signage and studied the map of hiking trails. There were a handful of rustic sites, several looked to be within view of the water. With these in mind, we set off. Flora & fauna abounded. We encountered a porcupine, several deer, and a variety of colorful mushrooms, but by 7 o’clock we had seen no sign of the lake. Hopes for a picturesque site started giving way to anything flat enough for a tent. We followed an unmarked game trail to an unimproved site cut into the heavily covered hillside. It was underwhelming at best. “Bud we still have 20 minutes of light, do you want to stay here and play it safe, or keep searching?” He voted we keep searching for an epic view, and we moved on.

The woods darkened quickly. As I began to question the decision to press on, fingers of light split through the trees to the west and then everything began to sparkle. We jogged the next hundred yards to a better view of the shimmering lake. As the sun slid into the horizon, the scene before us was picturesque. It was more than any painting could do justice. Lake Michigan, among the greatest fresh water gifts known to mankind, was in all her glory. It was a shimmering ocean, surrounded by a sky of vivid pinks, oranges and blues. We sidestepped the final decent to a neat little campsite along the sugar sand beach and natural grass. It was 400′ from shore and ideally blocked from the wind from all sides. Indeed, it was an epic spot.