Coming soon: Camping & Canoeing Extravaganza 2010

Our next camping trip, July 30-Aug. 1, is our annual Camping & Canoeing Extravaganza.

For the last several years we've been taking a three-day weekend for camping and canoeing with my brother-in-law, Craig, and nephew, Andrew. Sometimes Andrew brings a friend, as he will again this year. My daughter will also be bringing a friend with us.

But the real reason for excitement is Craig's wife, Melissa, is coming! This is exciting news because Melissa doesn't do camping. She and her sister, Sharon, and her husband, Mike, came once five or six years ago in a borrowed pop-up that had not been used for many, many years. It smelled funky, the power didn't work and that made for not-so-happy campers in Melissa and Sharon. Melissa hasn't been camping since.

This year, though, she's ready to give it another go. We're kicking the kids into the tent and Craig and Melissa will be staying with us inside the camper. We trust she'll have a much better experience this time. In fact, since she's already talked about coming out with us for the Cheeseburger in Caseville trip two weeks later, we're thinking maybe she is prime to be bit by the RV Camping Bug!

As a side note, the last time we went tent camping was the second year of our Extravaganza. Right after we set up camp, my cellphone rang with bad news. My grandmother passed away earlier that afternoon. We stayed the night, but packed up and went home the next day.

A couple of years later we bought the camper, and I'm sure Craig and Andrew have told Melissa all about how comfortable and fun camping in an RV can be.

For the Extravaganza, we try to never stay in the same campground twice and always canoe either a new river or at least a new portion of the same river. We've camped two or three times at White's Canoe Livery and Campground on the Rifle River (heavily used by rowdy partiers; be sure to specifially request the family section) in Sterling, Michigan. We've also camped at Hartwick Pines State Park and canoed the Au Sable River in Gaylord, Michigan (one of our top three favorite parks; be sure to ask for the older campsites with mature trees), and Coolwater Campground and the Pine River in Wellston, Michigan (same description as White's).

Actually, we're going back to Wellston, Michigan for this year's Extravaganza -- but at a different campground and on a different river. This year, we're going to stay at Twin Oaks Campground & Camping in Wellston, Michigan. Wellston is about 30 minutes east of Manistee and Lake Michigan. We made the reservations several months ago, and Jackie at the campground said sites $45 and #46 were her favorites. We hope they're our favorites, too!

We're renting our kayaks from Wilderness Canoe Trips in Wesick, Michigan, about 27 miles north of our campground. The trip that we're doing is the Harvey Bridge Trip on the Big Manistee River, in which we're deposited with our kayaks 10 miles upstream at Harvey Bridge. From there, it's about a two-hour moderate paddle back to the livery. There's no time limit, and the river is deeper, faster and more scenic. Sounds perfect!

For the first time, we're all renting kayaks. The first few years, when the kids were much younger, we opted for the big, wide, un-tippable rafts. The last few years we went with canoes. We're all looking forward to trying out the kayaks.

The menu is a work in progress, although we've divided up responsibilities with Craig and Melissa. They're taking care of breakfasts Saturday and Sunday, we're taking care of dinners late Friday night and Saturday. We're all on our own for the picnic lunch during the Saturday canoe trip. Friday night's dinner will be pies over the campfire, especially since Craig, Melissa, Andrew and his buddy won't be arriving until 9 p.m. or so. After a long day on the river, Saturday night's dinner will be a hearty affair. I'm thinking steaks cooked over the campfire, plus a variety of sides (corn on the cob?).

Man, I'm getting anxious, and hungry, just thinking about it!

Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts join Leave No Trace

Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, the Milford, Ohio-based campground chain, is the first in the country to join Leave No Trace, a non-profit organization that develops educational programs to help children become better stewards of the environment.

It takes two to five years for cigarette butts to decompose in the natural environment, while disposable diapers require 10 to 20 years.

Aluminum cans? 200 to 400 years.

A plastic six pack holder? 450 years.

These statistics may sound trivial, but when children hear this information, they tend to act more responsibly and take better care of the environment. Children across the country will have a chance to hear how they can be better stewards of the environment while camping at Jellystone Park Camp Resorts.

The Milford, Ohio-based family campground chain is the first campground organization in the country to join Leave No Trace, a Boulder, Colo.-based non-profit organization that develops educational programs designed to help children and adults take better care of the environment.

“Our franchisees attended training sessions with Leave No Trace earlier this year, and many of them are now incorporating LNT’s nature based educational programs into their weekend activity schedules,” said Kelly Jones, director of franchise development for Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Parks.

The Lake Monroe Jellystone Park in Bloomington, Ind., was one of the first to implement the program.

“It’s been very popular,” said Cheryl Smith, the park’s general manager, adding that she has scheduled nature activity weekends periodically throughout the summer and fall.
Young children typically participate in age-appropriate discussions about the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. “That’s when they learn how long it takes for different things to decompose in the natural environment,” Smith said, while classes in environmental ethics are offered to teenagers.

“In the environmental ethics class, teens learn about the erosion that takes place when they take shortcuts on hiking trails or the lasting damage that occurs when they carve their names in trees or leave trash behind,” Smith said, adding, “The whole point of this effort is to raise awareness about things we can do to lessen our negative impact on our natural surroundings.”

Other activities include crafts classes in which children make various crafts out of recycled materials, garden activities, in which children plant various trees and shrubs in the campground, and short educational videos, which parks can show before their regular nighttime movies.

Dana Gabriel, who co-owns the Jellystone Park in Swansea, S.C., said her park has already had Earth Day activities and plans to offer additional nature activities based on the Leave No Trace curriculum this fall. “We do as much education as we can with the kids,” she said. “We tell them, ‘If you pack it in, pack it out.’ And we see that this helps produce tidier campers. They start to feel a synergy with the park and we’ll even start to see kids out there picking up after each other.”

About Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts
Launched in 1969, the Jellystone Park system is the second largest chain of campgrounds in the United States, boasting 75 campgrounds with more than 15,000 campsites in 28 states and Canada. Its Camp-Resorts, which focus on the family market, are among the best campgrounds in the industry with a quality reputation for being fun, friendly, clean and service-oriented parks. Additionally, each Jellystone Park is themed with Yogi Bear elements providing instant recognition and consumer appeal. It is truly a place “Where You Camp With Friends.”

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts are franchised through Leisure Systems, Inc. (LSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of The Park River Corporation, Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit

Oakland County (Mich.) offers discounted camping in honor of Parks & Rec month

Oakland County Parks and Recreation celebrates, advocates and recreates with discounts and events for everyone as part of National Park and Recreation Month.

Oakland County, located northwest of Detroit, has a population of over 1 million people.

“Oakland County Parks and Recreation offers activities, events and programs for all ages and interests,” Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. “Our 13-parks system provides close-to-home recreational opportunities and entertaining staycations. This month we hope everyone will join us in celebrating the varied resources of natural landscapes and recreational programs that the parks system has to offer.”

Campers can save with lower rates Sunday – Thursday at Addison Oaks and Groveland Oaks campgrounds. Both parks offer cabins, modern and group sites; as well as trails, fishing, swimming and bike rentals. Addison Oaks offers 7.5 miles of marked mountain bike and hiking trails, a 2.5-mile paved trail and a 24-hole disc golf course. Groveland Oaks features a giant waterslide, 18-hole mini golf course, skate park and one-mile paved hiking trail.

To promote healthy and active lifestyles in all ages and abilities, Oakland County Parks and Recreation opened the new, universally-accessible Paradise Peninsula Playscape at Waterford Oaks County Park (pictured above). The playscape is now open 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. through Sept. 15. Hours will be adjusted seasonally.

To promote canine activity, Oakland County Parks and Recreation also opened the new Red Oaks Dog Park in Madison Heights, featuring 5.2 acres of fenced areas for dogs to run off-leash; a picnic shelter; and a
60-space paved parking lot.

The parks system is also celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Orion Oaks Dog Park with a Yappy Birthday Party on Aug. 1 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Families and friends can enjoy the Red Oaks and Waterford Oaks waterparks with lower rates and Splash Bonus days.

Splash Bonus Free Open House and After-Hours Aquatic Adventure is available 7:30 – 9 p.m. at Waterford Oaks Waterpark on July 21 and Red Oaks Waterpark on July 28.
Although waterpark features will not be available after-hours, guests can enjoy special activities, including: GO! Paddle and GO! Fish adventures; duck races on the slides; puppet shows; big wheel races; and free popsicles. Free entry and special activities are only available after-hours.

Golfers of all ages can compete in tournaments throughout the month. Youth through age 18 are invited to golf in a 9-hole Junior Golf Tournament on July 25 at Red Oaks Golf Course. Registration is required one week prior to event.

Men and women ages 50 and better are invited to golf in the Champion Tour, a 9-hole competition on July 30 at Springfield Oaks Golf Course. Registration and payment are required one week in advance.

For event registration, maps and more, visit

Michigan boy gets Yellowstone wish granted

This summer, Zachary Sheehan and his family will be packing their camping gear as they head to Yellowstone National Park — Zachary’s dream come true.

Zachary’s wish was granted through a generous donation by Mainstay Capital Management to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. Zachary is an 11-year-old boy from Plymouth, Michigan living with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. 

Along with his dad, grandfather and brother, Zachary will be staying at Hibernation Station in West Yellowstone. They will be doing a lot of sightseeing as well as attending a "Chuck Wagon Cookout." Zachary said he chose this wish because he thinks Yellowstone is a beautiful place and has always wanted to visit it. Plus, he said he can’t wait to see all the animals!

This wish couldn’t come at a better time, as Zachary and his family will be able to set the complications of their everyday life aside and concentrate on being a family.

David Kudla, CEO of Mainstay Capital Management (pictured above with Zachary), recently presented Zachary with a backpack filled with all the camping essentials including binoculars, granola bars, compass, water bottle, bug spray and sunscreen.

"Zachary’s wish is a perfect example of the simple joy that can come from taking in nature’s beauty and spending quality time outdoors," Kudla said. "I was so touched by his enthusiasm and appreciation for one of our nation’s most spectacular national parks. I am very excited for Zachary and his family and am grateful for the opportunity to make his wish come true."

Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy is the most common and most destructive form of muscular dystrophy. The cells that make up the muscle tissue are continuously dying. These cells are in turn consumed and digested by the body’s own protective cells (much the same way bacteria are). Eventually, this leads to a progressive wasting away of all process of continual repair. Currently, there is no known treatment or cure for the disease. Although children may undergo intense physical therapy, many will have problems with basic movements such as getting up off the floor, getting out of a chair, climbing, etc. As a result, many children will have walking aids such as crutches, braces or wheelchairs.

Since its inception in 1984, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan — a chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America — has brought joy into the lives of thousands of people in our Michigan community through its important wish-granting mission. This year Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan celebrates its 26th birthday.

What recession? KOA reports best ever figures

Kampgrounds of America Sets Records during Fourth of July
Camping Leader Sees Best Camper Attendance in 48-year History

A record number of campers were hosted by Kampgrounds of America parks during the Fourth of July weekend.

The 475 campgrounds in the KOA system welcomed more than 20,500 camping families on Friday, July 2, making it the largest single registration day in the 48-year-old camping company’s history.

“Kampgrounds of America has been serving campers at our top-ranked campgrounds throughout North America since 1962,” said KOA’s CEO Jim Rogers. “After nearly five decades, we’re more popular than we’ve ever been.”

Last weekend’s registration record was 8 percent higher than that for Fourth of July weekend in 2009. Typically, the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend holidays are the highest check-in weekends of the year. With a record July Fourth Weekend in the books, the outlook for the rest of the summer looks bright. KOA’s advanced reservations for the 2010 summer season are already 11 percent ahead of the same time last year.

“We had a record summer in 2009, so it’s easy to see why we are very optimistic about not just this summer, but the camping and outdoor recreation sectors in general,” Rogers said. “More and more families are discovering that camping is a fun, affordable outdoor vacation option that they can enjoy close to home. With the largest campground network in North America, there is sure to be a KOA close to where our campers want to be.”

The July Fourth Weekend results were high despite depressed camper numbers along the Gulf Coast, due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the recent Hurricane Alex.

Rogers said campers shouldn’t take camping’s popularity to mean that campgrounds are crowded.

“With more than 70,000 sites for recreational vehicles and tents, as well as all of the wonderful Kabin and new full-service Lodge accommodations we have available, we still have plenty of room, but advanced reservations are always recommended,” he said.

For more information on Kampgrounds of America, or to plan your next family camping trip, go to

Sweet & Sour Ribs

From the "Big Book of BBQ" comes a delicious recipe I just had to share.

Sweet and Sour Grilled Ribs
Prep: 15 minutes
Grill: 2:30 hours

1 (11.5 ounce) bottle of sweet and sour sauce
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 lbs. beef ribs or spare ribs
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Stir together the first four ingredients. Set sauce aside.
2. Prepare a hot fire by piling charcoal or lava rocks on each side of grill, leaving center empty. Place a drip pan in center. Coat food grate with cooking pray and place on grill.
3. Sprinkle ribs with salt. Arrange ribs on food grate over drip pan. Grill, covered with grill lid, 2 /2 hours to 3 1/2 hours or until ribs bend easily, basting with sauce twice during the last hour and keeping temperature between 225 degrees and 250 degrees. Makes 4 servings.