I had heard tall tales of the Huron Islands – 1000 foot jumping cliffs, flea flies, a Princess named Pat, a worm named Herman, a species of rock bass named Ooohh Kaleyla, a mysterious cream colored island of rock, “Dick van Dykema” hot dinner out meals, a strange phenomenon in which camp fires will not burn, and a Weed Monster living in the abandoned lighthouse who many years ago moon-killed campers so badly that no one dares to stay on the island past sunset. But for 24 years, the Huron Islands were only a visual curiosity to me – at least until the summer of 2010.
I was lucky enough to be invited aboard a vessel captained by Abby and Tess English, who were flanked by me, George and Claire Jordan, and their significant others. Much like the departure of the Titanic, crowds of curious and jealous onlookers waved and cheered us goodbye as we floated under the Main Bridge. After a brief SNAFU due to the raging currents, sand, waves of the Mouth, we finally made it out to sea.
Once at sea, we were blessed with calm waters and a strong Northern wind (read: a motor). The pleasant journey to the islands concluded as we arrived at our first destination: the before-mentioned jumping cliffs. Tess anchored us at the edge of the cliff’s shadow, and the jumpers, George, Claire, Tess, and I, ate some chocolate chip cookies to energize our bodies for the climb ahead. The morning’s eggs benedict had already worn off. To the average outdoorsman, scaling this cliff would be much too daunting. But we weren’t average outdoorsman. Under the tutelage of Jan, Brad Potola, Arann Harris, Big Nick, Dennis, and the rest of the Children’s Program, we were well prepared for the challenges ahead. We were silent as we swam like Navy Seals to the shore to begin our ascent. After all, there was no need to say anything. We all had the same phrase running through our minds, “Safety first, last, and always”. Except for George, who was singing “Princess Pat” to himself. At the summit, without a peek over the edge or a moment of hesitation, we leaped into the cold, crystal clear waters below.
Upon our return to the boat, we set sail for our next destination: the rock. With the accuracy of Captain Ron, Abby and Tess successfully anchored our boat and we bounded and skipped our way to the lunch rock. We dined (PB and Bacon, Turtle Rock Sandwiches, Mississippi Mud, Gingersnap Cookies, Huron Mountain blue berries, Loop Road thimble berries, and small cans of orange, grape, and cranberry juice were on the menu), played Marco Polo in the waters below, and chatted the afternoon away. Suddenly we heard voices! And then rustling! Out from the bushes emerged two shirtless men. Could it be? The natives of the Huron Islands?
Instinctively, Claire quickly tore her white lunch slip from her brown food bag and waved it as a sign of peace. One of the men spoke, “Hiya! How ya’ll a’doin’? Eh?” This was a dialect of the English language that I was unfamiliar with. Abby, an expert in tongues, quickly replied, “Oh yah, eh! Howa boot the weather, eh?” She motioned to us that they were friendly natives and they spoke true “yooper”, later explaining that these days there are “suits” from a company called Kennecott, who are trained at their corporate headquarters to dress and speak like yoopers in order to deceive local families and government officials that a controversial Sulfide Mine is necessary. We exchanged pleasantries with our new friends and continued our exploration of the rest of the big island.
At the lighthouse, we encountered exactly what we expected: an abandoned, Weed Monster-less lighthouse. The Weed Monster is rumored to be nocturnal, although during the summer months, children always seem to find it on the banks of Pine River gathering the river’s rich and diverse assortment of seaweeds for winter hibernation. Exhausted and sweaty, we took a water break. Tess picked a blade of grass and let it drift away in the wind. Her face grew concerned. She then measured the angle between the sun and the horizon with her arms to gauge the time. With her arms spread like a ballerina, her face grew more concerned. “Guys! It’s 16:18 right now and the wind is gusting at 8 mph to the Northwest! If we don’t leave within 13 minutes, we won’t have time to dock the boat, clean it out, and get ready for SIPS!” We all exchanged panicked looks.
We scrambled back to the lunch rock, performed a quick (but thorough) leave no traces garbage sweep and boarded the boat. As if Princess Pat blessed us, the wind stopped and we safely made our way back to the Club, in plenty of time to clean up and get our stories straight of what had happened at the islands that day.