An Up North Poem

A mayfly landed upon the rim
Of my Tilley hat near the brink of the brim
And it rested there while I mowed the lawn
And it made me think of days, now gone
Of fly fishing, of the line and the flies
The anticipation of the hoped-for rise
Of a fish, of a trout, now the take and the tug
as I stand in the midst of the stream’s cool hug
between lush banks of the far north land
Where I stop to give thanks for the place where I stand
For the fish and the stream as clear as glass
Oh, I’d rather be there than mowing the grass.

And this….

Two weekends ago on a foot bridge over the East Branch of the AuSable I stood with my 5 year old grandson Michael as he held a split bamboo fly rod and let a small fly dangle downstream. A brook trout took the fly and Michael reeled it in, his very first trout ever. His second trout came a couple casts later.

By David W.

Thanks David!

Do you have an Up North story, poem, anecdote, lyric? Did a ghost visit you at your campfire? Did Bigfoot stare at you through the brush?

Tell us about it!

Your UP NORTH Story

Traverse City. Hubbard Lake. Alpena. Harrison. Cadillac. East Tawas. Roscommon. Manton. Mio. West Branch.

Lewiston. Onaway. Mancelona. Fife Lake. Wellston. Frankfort.

Manistee. Otter Lake. Mesick. Leland. Northport. Eckerman. Brimley. Dafter. Hessel.

De Tour Village. Deer Park. Au Train. Marquette.

Pictured Rocks. Ray’s Canoes. Shanty Creek. Drummond Island. Hartwick Pines. Tippy Dam. Au Sable River.

Presque Isle. Thunder Bay. Glennie. Rifle River. Standish. Coleman. Crystal Valley. Bear Lake. Cedar. Suttons Bay. Kalkaska.

Caseville. Harrisville. Kingsley. Indian River. Mackinac Island. Ryba’s Fudge. Arnold’s Ferry.

Sault Ste. Marie. Barbeau. Pellston. Vanderbilt. Houghton Lake. Omer. Oscoda. Grayling.

Clare. Bear Mountain. Harbor Springs. Torch Lake. Higgins Lake State Parks.

Camping. Swimming. Fishing. RVs. Mackinac Bridge. Grand Hotel. Lakeview Inn.

Zilwaukee Bridge. Prudenville. Crump. Fairview. St. Helen. Manistee Lake. Norwood.

Fletcher’s. H&H Bakery. Grindstone General Store. Pines Theater. Deer hunting. Tip-Up-Town.

Powell’s Restaurant. Turkey Roost. Zehnder’s. Al’s Pancake House. Maggie’s.

Petoskey. Gladwin. Cheboygan. Hoeft State Park. Mackinac Bridge Walk.

Almost everyone has an “up north” story. What is yours? Where is up north to you?

If you live in a state other than Michigan, does “up north” mean anything to you?

If you live in another country, do you have an “up north?”

I would love to read your up north story, no matter where you are. Can I include your up north story in “A Coffee State of Mind”? I won’t use your name, unless you don’t mind if I do. I’m pretty good at making up names. (Pete Terkinberry, Quintin O’Dillmotte, Shorty & Hannah Cloverton, Vee Burthrap, Smivvy Stepward, Larry Murfin, just to name a few.)

There is a space below where you can send me your story. Please include your email address. It won’t be published. I’m not selling anything. You won’t start getting a whole bunch of ads about homemade boxer shorts or fishing lures.

Thanks! I’m looking forward to reading your Up North Story!

Cottage Outfitters Hosts Flannel Fest

February 11-12, this Friday and Saturday, is the annual Shanty Days celebration in Caseville, Michigan. If you love winter activities, you’ll love Shanty Days. This weekend is also Flannel Fest at Cottage Outfitters in Caseville!

Jonathon Bibby, owner of Cottage Outfitters, has been working diligently to prepare for Flannel Fest. The cabin room is amazing, and everyone who visits will be immediately captured by the need to stay for a while and enjoy the “up north” comfort.

Flannel Fest is about enjoying the winter weather while wearing a comfortable and warm flannel shirt. Jonathon has a great stock of Up North Flannels from which to choose. Just about any color combination, with many variations of plaid is ready and waiting for you.

New this year for Flannel Fest is a line of comfortable and warm hats called, “Trappers.” There are several colors available, like the one in the photo with buffalo plaid and fur.

Cottage Outfitters continues to be the place where folks love to shop for items for their home and cottage. Jonathon is a master at creating spaces that evoke feelings of comfort and peace. Not only is he a great designer, he’s one of those special people who will make you feel at home, no matter who you are.

During our visit today, I was really excited to see a big display of Sander’s Fudge Topping! Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? Everyone knows Sander’s ice cream toppings. I have to admit, fudge is my favorite, but the caramel is fabulous!

If you have never owned a flannel shirt, which, I think, is almost impossible to believe, you are in for a real treat. If you can imagine wrapping yourself in something that gives a sense of comfort, warmth, home, and “up north,” then you’ve just found a flannel shirt. The only problem will be you won’t want to take it off.

If you head for Caseville for Shanty Days, or just to get away for a while, make sure to stop at Cottage Outfitters and enjoy Flannel Fest. Say hello to Jonathon. But then again, he’ll say hello to you first, I’m sure.

Wednesday Whys: Up North Camping and Stuff

Camping is a conundrum, isn’t it? I mean, think about the conversations before a camping trip. Especially for those who have never done it before. That conversation might go something like this.

“Honey, I have a great idea!”

“Oh? What is it?”

“Well, I thought we should pack enough clothes for the kids to last for seven days. We’ll pack up clothes for ourselves, but maybe we won’t need as much.”

“Alright, but why would we do that?”

“Well, I thought maybe we would pack up the kids, the dogs, the lizard, and the chinchillas, and go away for a week.”

“Where are we going to go?”

“Well, I thought we would go camping.”

“Go what?”


“Why would we do that when we have perfectly good beds to sleep in and a house to stay in?”

“Well, I just thought it would be good for us to get away.”

“Where are we going to sleep? What are we going to eat? What are we going to stay in?”

“I have it all planned.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of. You haven’t answered my questions.”

“We’re going to sleep in bags in a tent.”

“What? What kind of bags?!”

“Sleeping bags!”

“We don’t have sleeping bags, do we?”

“No, but we’ll get some.”

“And what about eating? What are we going to eat? And how are we going to cook food?”

“Honey, we’re going to eat the same food we eat here. We’re going to cook on a stove. We’ll keep the food in a cooler with ice in it. We’ll use a screen tent with a picnic table in it to keep us out of the rain…”

“Wait. Keep us out of what?”

“The rain. Not that it’s going to rain, but just in case it does, we won’t get wet.”

“What kind of a stove are you talking about? We don’t have a stove that works outside.”

“It’s a gas stove that sits on top of the picnic table.”

“I’ve never heard of a gas stove that sits on top of a picnic table. Do we have one of those?”

“No, but we’ll get one.”

“What are we going to sleep in?”

“A tent.”

“What kind of tent? Why a tent? Why can’t we sleep at a hotel? Then we wouldn’t have to cook outside, eat outside, and probably get soaked in the rain. Do we have a tent?”

“No, but we’ll get one.”

“Ok, wait. Let me get this straight. We’re going to buy a tent because we don’t have one. We’re going to buy sleeping bags and a stove that works outside. Do we have a cooler?”


“But we’ll get one, right? We’re going to pack up everything we own, including the animals, leave our comfortable home with our beds, refrigerator, stove, table, couch, chairs, carpet, lights, bathroom… Wait! Wait just a minute!! What about bathrooms?!!”

“Well, that depends on where we go. But what I want to do is bushwhack.”

“Bush what?!”

“Bushwhack. It means we go somewhere in the woods where there isn’t anything but nature. No electricity, no running water, nothing.”

“What about bathrooms?! How do we go to the bathroom?!”

“Well, we dig a hole…”

“That’s it! Nope! Not doing it! If you want to go bushwhack, you buy yourself a bag and a tent and go bushwhack all you want. We’ll be right here when you get back!”

I love camping, don’t you?

Up North Life

I wonder how many times the words “up north” are spoken by people who live in Michigan.

“Are we going up north this weekend?”
“We’re taking a vacation up north.”
“We have a cottage up north.”
“I wish we had a cottage up north.”
“How much would it cost to get a cottage up north?”
“We’re going canoeing up north.”
“We’re hunting up north this season.”
“Why can’t we live up north?”
“The fishing is better up north.”
“Remember that little restaurant where we ate up north?
“Do we have to go to Florida? Can’t we go up north? It’s closer!”
“The trees are so pretty up north?”
“Where is up north?”
“We’re going where? Saginaw? That’s not up north! Gaylord is up north! Why can’t go to Gaylord?”
“You’re not up north until you get to Mackinaw City.”
“You’re not up north until you get to St. Ignace.”
“Marquette is up north.”

I wonder how many people in Michigan don’t care about up north. I guess not many. Probably everyone who has lived in Michigan most of their life can tell a story about being up north. I sure can.

I think my parents were born up north. Actually, my mom was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My dad in Detroit. But my dad must have had enough up north experiences growing up that he tried to pass them on to us.

Several years ago, I learned my dad would have been raised in Amherst, Nova Scotia, if my grandmother hadn’t refused to go. My grandfather left Detroit to go back to Amherst because his mother was dying. When he returned he told my grandmother he was moving the family to Amherst. She said, “I’m not going. My children are not going to grow up in Canada.” He went back. Amherst, Nova Scotia is way, way up north. I never met my grandfather, even though he lived twelve years longer than my dad.

Most of our family vacations were up north. Traverse City, Grayling, Cadillac, Hartwick Pines, Marquette. There was one memorable fishing vacation to Canada that remains high on the all-time-best-memories list.

My brother and I went fishing with our dad to Wawa, Ontario, for a week. I never caught anything. I don’t remember whether my dad did or not. We went in June, so the black flies nearly carried my older brother and I away. It was close. If it hadn’t been for the boat anchor, I think the flies would have taken me to the woods for dinner. Instead, they had to chew on my ankles. When we returned home I looked like I had golf balls in my socks.

Since we had such a terrific time, the next summer my dad decided to take us back to the little cabin in the Wawa woods, but this time included my mom and three-year-old sister. My mom was a pretty good sport on other up north trips. She slept in a tent, cooked on a kerosene stove, sat by the fire, and always looked pretty. So, my dad convinced himself taking my mom and sister to black fly heaven would be wonderful.

The cold rain soaked us as the 15 hp Johnson pushed the small row-boat to the cabin. My dad took as much luggage as he could with my brother and I on the first trip. The second trip was more stuff. On the third trip he brought my mom and sister. Mom was crying, dad was quiet, neither of which was a good sign.

The next morning my parents packed up. After three boat trips to the car we drove all the way back home, a silent trip of 390 miles and seven hours. My dad gave the boat he borrowed back to the neighbor. We never went fishing again. Never talked about it, either. As I recall, all of the family vacations after that summer included hotels.

We have carried on the up north tradition with our own family. Unlike my mother, my wife loves camping, and so do I. The draw of sleeping in a tent is not as strong as it once was, especially since we owned a camper. Why do I say “owned?” Well, that’s another story.

Our first camper was a 15 foot Nomad we purchased from my wife’s mother. The little trailer sat in her yard at her cottage for eighteen years. We loved that little camper. We used it frequently over several years. Finally, lacking a vehicle to tow the trailer, we sold it.

Our second camper was much nicer. It was a twenty-five foot Rockwood Pioneer, double-axle trailer. What a beauty! We used it right away and I discovered all the things I didn’t know about owning a camper. The first time I emptied the waste tanks, black water spewed from a crack in the hose. I quickly closed the valve and we went to find a new waste hose.

Over several years, we only used the trailer about five times. We could no longer pull the camper with my old pick-up. The vehicle we purchased, just to pull the camper, turned out to be a lemon. A very large, juicy, yellow, over-ripe lemon.

On a warm day last spring, I decided it was time to pull the cover off the camper. Standing at the top of the aluminum ladder, as I was rolling the cover back, the main legs of the ladder folded in and I fell. Luckily, I missed the ladder when I landed on my side. I thought I broke my wrist, and I definitely cracked ribs. My wife heard me yell and came running. We laughed a little bit after I was able to stand up. I said, “That’s it! We’re selling the camper, and tomorrow we’re going to look for a new car. We were successful with both.

Up north is a feeling that’s hard to explain. But everyone who knows up north knows that feeling and will do anything they can to get it back. I know I will.