Below is an essay written by Chip May’s oldest daughter Grace. She wrote this essay last year for a 9th grade history class assignment about life growing up in Northern Michigan. She chose to write about a special hike to Old Baldy, or the “Blow Out Hike” to Camp Arcadians. It was published in the September, 2020 issue of the Traverse Magazine.
Mission: Old Baldy by Grace May
Just as the orange sun was lowering itself into the metallic blue waves, my family and I were preparing for a special mission. After sunset on a late August night, my family and a dozen other people drove from Arcadia to the Old Baldy trailhead near Inspiration Point. As we piled out of our cars and reviewed the trail map, I was nearly bouncing with excitement as I assessed our undertaking: We were going to hike out to the dunes and stargaze. After making sure everyone was with us and that we had all our supplies, our group started to funnel through the narrow dirt trail.
As we passed through meadows that gave way to first pine and then hardwood forests, I kept my eyes on the familiar trail that was illuminated only by the lanterns and flashlights we had brought with us. Though I had done this trail countless times before, my family and I had never hiked it at night. However, I was still able to see some landmarks along the trail like the giant beech tree that my siblings and I have climbed so many times and the tree that was unfortunately struck by lightning years ago. Soon we came to the base of the wooden stairs that lead to the dunes.
Finally, we reached the top of the bluff and I remembered all the times I had come here in the daylight as I lay on the cold sand and stared at the slightly cloudy sky. Memories of climbing up warm sand and rocks and playing with clay filled my mind. Even when I was a little kid, I can still remember my family coming here, especially during the summer months. I can remember the lake shimmering with sunlight as I saw that same lake glistening with moonlight. Since I have been coming to this place for so long, I know the trails very well and it is comforting to have an intimate connection with nature. Looking over the lake from the bluff, I could see the different depths of the water and, even when the sky is cloudy, the dunes still hold an austere beauty. Even though the sky was a little cloudy, and we couldn’t see many stars, I still saw a few meteors arc through the sky. After about an hour, we all started to walk back to the trailhead.
As we were heading back, the woods seemed even darker than when we came and my friend, Kayla, said, “What was that?” and asked me if I thought it was an animal.
“I doubt it was anything. And even if it was, I doubt any animal would attack a group of humans this large”, I replied, brushing off her concerns. After all, I had done this trail so many times that it felt like my backyard, and I had never seen any animals larger than a squirrel on it. We were all tired and ready to go and get some sleep.
As my family’s car drove away from the trailhead, I realized that my memories of dunes, water, trees, and sky from this place compose an unique part of my childhood and life. Mission accomplished.