There was a lot to be nervous about heading into our trip to Van Buren State Park in Southwest Michigan in July. It would be the first camping trip in about two years, and we had a toddler in tow. It was a record summer for heat, and the forecast for our trip was daunting--multiple days in the mid-90s.
We had booked our three-night trip months in advance. Van Buren is a popular spot--just two hours from Chicago in the popular Harbor Country of Southwest Michigan. So it wasn't a surprise that the campground was full. Our spot was on the fringe of the campground and didn't offer much in the way of shade. We set up our tent at the edge of a forest and nabbed some shade for the morning hours. The friends we were meeting there had a nice corner spot that largely was forested--we spent much of our time at their site.
The highlight of Van Buren is the beach, which is wide and sandy, at the foot of a steep dune. The water felt great every time we went in. My friend Cub parked a lawn chair in a small pop-up shelter. From the water, he appeared to be a light-beer-swilling monarch, overseeing his sandy realm from his beach hut.
The heat persisted for two days. Amazingly, a weak cold front moved through, accompanied by morning thunderstorms. It cooled everything just enough and we had a wonderfully cool morning to sleep in, and yes the toddler slept in, too. Even when the seams broke on our tent, we stayed dry.
All in all, it was a great trip. We explored the town of South Haven and drove past a number of u-pick blueberry farms. We got to know the scenic Blue Star Highway that runs along the coast north of Benton Harbor. The trip proved that it's worth going even in the worst weather conditions.