Sometimes you come home from a weekend getaway, just a simple camping trip, and ask yourself, "why did I do that?" It's not that you had an exceptionally bad time, you even had a few laughs, but in retrospect you just wonder what you did wrong.
Such was a weekend of camping at Starette Lake state forest campground with my sister Judy and my two kids in July 2000. As we pulled into camp, we dutifully read the signs saying something like, "find any open site and set up camp; your camp host will be around to register you." Sounded simple enough. So we found our site, set up camp, and, like usual, I was able to back the pop-up camper into the angled spot only with the help of my son Nick. It was wooded and seemed peaceful enough. It had been overcast earlier, but the forecast promised no rain.
Our neighbors across the road were pulling up camp about that time. They had to head home early for some reason, and confessed to us that they had never paid the camping fee. The camp host had never been around. Surely the camp host would become more of a presence with the weekend now upon us. That wasn't the case.
The next morning, after only a few hours of sleep thanks to partying neighbors to the west and a whip-poor-will at four am, we took a short ride around to other campgrounds within the state forest around Minocqua. We thought maybe we would find a camp host at one of these who could register us. Nope, no luck with that.
But of course when we got back to camp, there was a note telling us to check in at Razorback campground. When we went there, again, no camp host. About that time we decided that we wouldn’t worry about being law abiding citizens. If we camped for free for the weekend, no one could say that we hadn’t tried.
As we were pulling out, though, a state forest truck was pulling in and we were able to flag the guy down. Finally we were registered and legal. Or so we thought.
As we were heading home on Sunday, with a sticker in our windshield, we thought we would drive through one more state forest campground to check it out as another prospect for a different camping trip. We got busted there by an angry state forest guy (who even had flashing lights on his truck) because the sticker the guy from the day before gave us had only been good for that one day and not the whole weekend. Sorry, I am not going back to any of those places.