Into the Woods: CP 2023 Part 1 of 2

Kevinj's avatar

(Press play on the musical interludes as you read for the full trip-report experience)

*disclaimer: this part of the trip report has nothing to do with amusement parks. Also posted on CBuzz.

Let’s go Back

Back before kids and jobs and incomes, my wife and I got our first platinum passes. Just two crazy kids looking for a cheap way to stay near the point. We found a place called East Harbor State Park (close to Marblehead), bought a tent, and started a tradition of tent-camping while opening and closing the park with our passes. Just look at those two young newlyweds. Nary a grey hair on my head.

Fast forward 19 years, and the kids (now 15 and 11) want to go camping for a summer getaway. And they want the old-school, in-a-tent, campfires-with-hot-dogs-and-smores-experience. Our (19th) wedding anniversary is in mid-June, so we thought, “what better way to celebrate than book a 4-night camping getaway back at good ol’ East Harbor State Park?” What better way indeed. The plan was to set up camp on day 1 (Sunday), and figure it out from there; hopefully just hitting up Cedar Point Monday – Thursday at will and enjoying the park. The best laid plans…

Should we Talk about the Weather? (or, “how I learned to understand Clark Griswold on a personal level”)

Setting up Camp

We don’t need to talk about the government, but we should talk about the weather. In order to snag a good site we had to book our reservation at East Harbor way back in March. Leading up to our first night (June 11th), it had not rained a single drop in Ohio in 24 straight days. Check-in was at 3:00 PM. As the fates would have it, the forecast was indeed calling for rain that day, because of course. Not only that, the rain was supposed to start right around 3:00 PM. Mind you, I had two tents and an over-the-picnic-table shelter to set up. I am not lying when I say that the exact moment we pulled into East Harbor, the sprinkles started. By the time I had set up the two tents, that sprinkle had turned into a steady rain. By the time I had the picnic shelter it was a downpour. The rain ceased, and we thought maybe we were in the clear. See how pretty?

But the best was yet to come. We headed out to Crabby Joes to get some seafood for a nice first-night dinner. As we ate the rain seemed to pick up, and as we drove back to the campsite the rain got a bit harder...

Turns out, not only was this first rain in a month significant, but it was really significant to the tune of about two inches. Now, being the smart man I am, I had researched ways to keep dry in a tent during hard rain, and I came across a helpful tip that putting a waterproof tarp under the tent is a great way to keep water out. What I failed to consider was that when one is setting up multiple tents in a steady rain one tends to not scope out the best spot, and I had set up both tents under a tree (because that’s helpful, right?) on somewhat lower ground. With a waterproof tarp under both tents. Any guesses where this is headed?

Enter the Griswold

We fell asleep to what I remember as a light rain. Calm. Serene. Around 1:30 in the morning my wife woke up and said she had to use the restroom (which means getting out of the tent, grabbing the flashlight and heading to the restroom which is thankfully only about 40 meters away). Of course I awoke as she did, and I remember her saying she thought the floor of the tent felt wet, which I dismissed as maybe being a little condensation. Then we both quickly realized that the light rain we fell asleep to had become a monsoon, with 25 mph winds. We also quickly realized that there was a significant amount of water in one corner of the tent. Where is this water coming from?

Then she looked outside and saw that the picnic table shelter had blown over on its side and was starting to blow away. So I stumbled to slip on my sandals and run out into the (thankfully warm) dark rainy night to chase down the shelter in an effort to grab it. I was wet. Partially clothed. The wind was howling. A father and husband in a desperate attempt to salvage night one of what was supposed to be a romantic nostalgic getaway…

With the wind and rain blowing, I managed to wrangle the shelter into something resembling a stable structure, hammer it into place, and collapse into the tent while the rain and thunder only got worse. All the while wondering in the back of my mind what this water in the tent was all about, but also remembering that tomorrow was supposed to be a nice sunny day and out first of four days at that place on a lake. So I fell asleep…for about 2.5 hours.

When the sun woke us up early in the morning (of our anniversary), I realized there was a significant amount of water in the tent. I also finally figured out where it was coming from. Turns out, when a genius puts a waterproof tarp under a tent on lower ground, that tarp only serves to collect water creating a reservoir underneath that will slowly leak into the tent. So I sprung into action donning boxers shorts quickly removing everything from our tent while fellow campers watched, drying out the tent, and moving it to a much better location with no tarp underneath.

Needless to say, I was both moving as fast as I could while using some foul language as the (mostly senior) neighbors watched. But alas, success…I had moved the now dry tent to a much better spot. The air mattress was safe, and it was only 9:00 AM. The weather was forecast to be somewhat decent and a tired but relaxing day at the park was still in the cards, right? Right?

Then the girls woke up and let me know they felt some water in their tent.

At this point, I was channeling my inner Clark Griswold. It was the morning of our anniversary, and a windy monsoon and my idiotic placement of tarps under out tents had totally circumvented what was supposed to be a nice relaxing 5-day trip into the woods. While I started to inspect the damage inside the girls’ tent, an older couple who was camping in an RV beside us came over to my wife and let her know that they had heard (and watched) us struggling during the night. Turns out they spent years of their life camping around the United States (every state aside from Hawaii!?) and only recently did they give up tent-camping for a luxury RV-style of camping just because of getting older, etc.

This couple invited us into their RV, made us coffee and cooked breakfast for us and our girls. I can’t tell you how much just that cup of coffee meant at that point, much less the food they cooked for our girls without knowing who we were. They said they saw themselves at a younger age watching us struggle with our tents throughout the night and told us stories of their own camping adventures, which included adventures of surviving tornados in the south.

This act of kindness was a sign of things to come. Which may or may not include the return of the MAC…

Promoter of fog.

DRE420's avatar


I can’t tell you how much just that cup of coffee meant at that point, much less the food they cooked for our girls without knowing who we were.

So far, this right here was to me the highlight and bright spot of your story. How heartwarming to know there are still good folks out there.

Last edited by DRE420,
Dvo's avatar

Great story so far, Kevin. I grew up in Cincinnati, and staying at East Harbor was always part of our summer Cedar Point tradition. We would drive up one day, set up our tents, and get an epic wiffle ball Home Run Derby going. Then I would always wake up waaaay before the rest of the family the next morning and read that year's Getaway Guide to get fully pumped for the park. It's fun to look back, but I also appreciate that I'm no longer limited to one day per year at the Roller Coast. :)

384 MF laps
Smoking Area Drone Pilot

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