Ludington State Park

IMG_4349Ludington State Park is mind-blowingly awesome. I don’t mean to throw
some serious hyperbole at you, but we just visited a state park that
seriously has its act together, both from a mother nature and
management standpoint. It has everything from  verdant hardwood
forests to crystal clear waters (lakes and streams), all with a
delightful midwestern charm. This was our clan’s farthest foray to the
north and we liked what we found.
Frieda Goes North, Slowly
We settled on a name for our camper, Frieda. Justine named the RV in
honor of her late Grandmother, who was quite a delightful women.
Driving north from Indiana, the  landscape slowly changes from
flat-ish farmlands into rolling hardwood forests. The area around
Ludington has some larger hills in the 1000-1500 foot range which
provides some relief for the eyes from the endless corn and soybean
fields of Indiana. We had planned on taking smaller state roads North
which are much more enjoyable in an RV that tops out at 60, but due to
poor mapping advice from Siri, we ended up on the freeway. As we drove
north, the crowds began to subside and the air began to smell of woods
and fresh air. The girls did well on the drive with minimal meltdowns
for the first couple hours, after that…

Campground Living
During our honeymoon, 11 years ago, one could simply pull into a park
and find a campsite. In today’s modern internet age, everything is
booked online. It takes a bit of adventure out of the trip, but it is
nice being able to scope out the campsites before hand. It always
sucked to get stuck close to the bathrooms. With that in mind, Justine
spent quite a bit of time last Spring picking out campsites. Our site
at Ludington State Park did not disappoint. We had a lovely shaded
site which backed up to a sand dune and then Lake Hamlin beyond that.
The park abounds with wildlife. Sparky could barely handle the amount
of chipmunks, raccoons, and deer that roamed the campground freely.
After only two camping trips, the girls have come to be seasoned
little outdoorsy girls. They aren’t afraid of being covered in sand,
mud, and smelling of campfire smoke. They roam around catching bugs,
playing in the sand, and using their imaginations. Both girls demand
to help split wood and start the campfires. They love finding little
sticks to feed the flames.
We are still fine-tuning our camping set-up and trying to streamline
the gear that we bring. Space is at a premium and the goal is to
minimize weight in the camper. As I unpacked gear after the trip, I
had to ask myself if I needed that single-fin surfboard, a skateboard
and both of my kiteboards…
Good Times in Nature
We split our time between trips to the beaches of Lake Michigan and
Hamlin Lake. Lake Michigan was a short bike ride away and Hamlin Lake
basically butted up to our campsite. Our little Happy Clan rises
early, regardless of bedtimes…We awoke with the first chirping birds
and streaks of sunlight. Coffee is promptly made and Sparky is
released (on his leash) into nature to harass any creatures bold
enough to remain in his range.
The best part of our little camper is the fully functional
kitchenette. Every morning I whip up eggs, toast, breakfast meats, and
whatever else my ladies request to fuel the morning. On the past
couple trips, we’ve been up, finished with breakfast, and onto
adventuring before the rest of the campground even stirs.
At Ludington State Park, we started each day’s fun with a bike ride
along the bike trail to the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. The
bike trails wind through beautiful forests replete with wildlife. On
our morning rides we saw everything from placid does munching on ferns
to large families of wild turkeys scrambling through the underbrush.
The beaches were fairly clean with golden sand. The water was Key West
clear, if a bit chilly, and perfect for wading little ladies. A
benefit of early rising is that the crowds are still snoozing in their
sleeping bags while the best part of the day is melting away. We had
the beaches to ourselves each morning. We were able to throw up the
3.5 meter trainer kite to get some kite practice, while the girls dug
holes and threw sticks for Sparky.
After our morning sessions along the beautiful shoreline, we returned
to camp for a second round of breakfast and mischief. The woods was
filled with chipmunks and birds, much to the delight of Sparky. He
would lay on a rug watching the chipmunks scurry about, several ran
right past his nose as he snoozed. Evie and Alba love the unstructured
play around the camp. They do everything from catch bugs to make mud
puddles. They have even started to team up and try to catch little
chipmunks. They haven’t succeeded, but I’d put money on them catching
a chipmunk in the near future.

Kiteboarding and “Chasing the Wind”
The whole purpose of this trip is to get some time out on the water
learning to kiteboard and progressing skill-wise. The wind didn’t
really cooperate, as it was way too light for most of the trip. I was
able to get out for a couple hours on our first afternoon, but the
wind was too light and variable (10-12kts) for the 9m kite I brought
out. It was a good learning experience, if a bit frustrating. In
developing my grant proposal I did quite a bit of research into
kiteboarding and the ideal conditions. Watching Youtube videos, it
seemed like the wind was always pumping and progress happened quickly.
I’m beginning to learn that the learning curve is much steeper than I
first thought. There are so many factors that go into getting a solid
kiteboarding session ranging from wind speed to wind direction, all
the way to beach conditions and crowd factors. Everything from rigging
the kite, launching, and the actual riding takes quite a bit of
practice and muscle memory. As a competent surfer and decent sailor, I
understand the components…but putting the pieces together is quite a
complicated task. I guess, if it was easy then everyone would be doing
Part of the grant proposal asks the teacher to reflect on the ways
that following through on the grant will help one become a better
teacher. As I learn to kite, I’ve had to accept my role as a learner.
Many of my students come into my classroom with reading deficits that
have been acquired over the past 9-10 years of schooling. In learning
to kite, I’ve had to step out of my comfort and accept the fact that I
will fail many times before I eventually succeed and become a
proficient kiter. I’ve had to go back to my initial lessons and think
through the instruction I was provided. In the same way, my students
will need to accept their limitations and work through them in order
to become proficient readers. The initial struggles are real. I’ve
spent hours searching out spots, rigging my kite, working out
launches, and then had to bail on the session due to family time
constraints, wind dying, or simply drifting too far down wind close to
Learning is a lifelong process. Anything worth mastering is worth
practicing. As a teacher, I enjoy working with my students and helping
them become better readers. I think that many teachers often stay
inside their comfort zones and have forgotten what it is like to
muddle through an activity that others make look effortless. In the
same way that I make reading look simple to my students, there are
kiteboarders that make kiting look simple, like taking a leisurely
ride along the shore. Engaging in this learning process has been
extremely frustrating at times (just ask my wife about my rant after I
snapped one of my lines), but it has also been extremely rewarding. As
I continue to progress, I hope that I can use these experiences to
better connect with my students and provide encouragement.
Keep checking back for more updates as I begin to explore local
kiteboarding spots close to Fort Wayne. I don’t want to give any
secrets away, but the spot I’m going to check this afternoon is
surrounded by Amish farms…


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