Michigan Camping and Travel: On the Sidewalks of Hell
Is This Heaven? Masque of the Orange Death
I entered the crowded dimly-lit venue looking for lunch, greeted by the Matre'D's question, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I turned to answer, but before my lips could form the words, he was speaking with another customer. It was popular tourist attraction. I turned back toward the overwhelming aromas that emanated from some heavenly kitchen in the far corner of the cafe.
Immersed in these seductive scents. I sought a table. I found the cafe's gift shop with it's latest French gowns straight from the catwalk - a black room of ebony handkerchief skirts, catsuits, capes, clarinets - everything for autumn.
Aromas from the heavenly kitchen wafted more closely and I wandered toward the back, where I found a grey room filled with the Headstone Representatives' Convention, followed by am orange corner chamber taken up with a conference of coffin-purse salesmen.
Is This Heaven? Masque of the Orange Death
The joint was jumpin'! I couldn't find a table, but discovered a party of Real Estate Agents engrossed in completing sales forms for acres and acres of recreational property in a room of yellowish hue.
Next, A Haberdashery Convention hawking funny hats to magicians crossed my path through a red corridor, but no free table was visible.
The aromas of fine cuisine became overpowering and the heat of the place intense, but now I was caught up in an awards ceremony for Top Paperweight Artists - it filled a room of indistinguishable color.
Completely overcome by each chamber's offerings and the aromas of some food source, I lost color vision and was filled with aromas of something unique. The atmosphere was thick and palpable. Odd dwarfs multiplied and ran though the crowded meeting places, dressed as spiders and bat-things. I had to take action, and quickly.
Practically crawling towards the kitchen that emerged in the crowd, I gasped, "Is...that.... pumpkin ice cream..." The laughing hostess stepped aside to scoop out my lunch and I saw the banner that revealed the truth:
No heavenly kitchen this, but Scream's Ice Cream from Hell -- I WOULD have screamed soon without lunch; but restored by a waffle cone on the cool, picturesque terrace of neon green tables, I did not need such a mundane thing as lunch.
Where the H#ll?
Unusual places of any size are my idea of great travel destinations. Monks Corners and Wonderland in Central Ohio have been some of those places. The first was a crossroads for trade where a shopping center eventually bloomed and the second was, at one time, right out of the Twilight Zone.
Driving through Wonderland one night years ago recalled to mind the TZ episode in which a strange thing with a hank of hair in a pickle jar was passed around with stories and rumors and the question, "Is it a he or a she or a plain old it?" I also thought of the X Files episode of the woman that lived on a mechanic's creeper sled under a bed - but no offense to Wonderland and its former residents; it's been a friendly community. It was just off a large highway, under a bridge and rather out of the way and isolated, right in the big city. Wonderland was a kind of resort community in the early 20th century, became a residential inner suburb, then disappeared except for the Wonderland Church.
Our nation has so many interesting small towns and communities that, while some are not even incorporated, are full of fun people to meet and things to do. Each state of the union probably has it's own book in the "Weird" series: Weird Texas, Weird Ohio, Weird Michigan, etc. Some unincorporated places are becoming the fastest growing suburbs in the country and their odd characteristics are fun features that attract visitors.
So. remembering our pastor's admonition that, "You can walk through Hell if you have to!" That's what I did. I took a couple of friends to Hell, Michigan. They'd been asking for it...
There are no sidewalks that we could find, but one large parking lot runs into the next in Hell. Hell is devoid of sidewalks, so foot traffic, beware!
Pinckney, Michigan and Hell, an Inner Suburb
This particular Hell is full of lakes and woodlands, friendly people, camping, a state recreational area, and about three blocks of hell-bent commercial businesses fronting a lake. You can rent canoes at Scream's, which has a blue door for good luck, a tiny door for little people, and a miniature golf course out back for golf and photos.
The community is pretty far off highway I-75 coming from the north, down a winding wooded road, and I would not want to try to locate it at night; but once you get to Pinckney, you find a huge sign pointing the way, so it's easy from there.
The most hellish part of the route is a confusing roundabout that it is not round, but attempts to lure one into driving the wrong way and down the wrong side of the road. That's around the town of Hamburg. Then a large sign for Hooker Road is amusing and I envisioned a Halloween effigy, a scarecrow night lady or two, tied to it on Halloween.
At our destination, I found that this is the only place I've seen that has both indoor restrooms and outhouses - take your pick! And I've never seen an ADA/handicapped accessible outhouse before - this was the first -- They are ready for everyone.
Directions from Ann Arbor, Michigan:
- In Ann Arbor, take I-94 W via the Jackson MI ramp,
- Take exit 167 for Baker Road (toward Dexter MI) and turn right at the end of the off ramp.
- Turn left on Ann Arbor Street,
- Continue on Main Street and then Dexter Pinckney Road (road changes names);
- After about 8 miles, turn left on Darwin Road and proceed half a mile, then straight ahead on Patterson Lake Road for about 2 miles. You will pass Hell Creek Ranch and the commuinty of Hell will be on the left side of the road.
A Map To Hell
Hell's General Store
This place is a real live country store that outranks other campground stores I have seen across the Midwest. They have a lot of food, drinks, novelties, apparel, camping supplies, and a Post Office.At the Post Office, you can send a charred postcard to a friend. I sent a card to a friend - not only was it stamped "Hell" in red, but also burned around the edges for an added personal touch.
Store personnel will deliver anything you want from their store to your campsite or nearby motel. Many of the T-shirt designs in the General Store are made by a Scream's employee that was on the hit TV show Survivor (Micronesia) - Eric Reicherbach.
Read more about Hell Michigan in the Comic Book of the same name: Hell Michigan by Dan Jolly and Clint Hilinski.
The Gateways of Hell and Scream's Ice Cream
Scream's Ice Cream
My experience at the top of this article was wholely within Scream's Ice Cream. It is a fun icre cream, gift, and novelty shop that features not only holiday decorations and customes, but magic tricks, toys, games, and apparel. You can see them online at: Screams.
Located right next door is Smitty's Dam Site Inn, online at DamSite. This is a casual dining establishment/tavern that is visited often by campers at Hell Creek Ranch rustic campgrounds and other campgrounds in and around the large Pinckney Recreation Area. Groups of motorcycle enthusiasts also enjoy the spot, as we saw on the day of out visit. The food must be good to attract so many people, so don't miss this if you go to Hell MI.
Hell's Half Acre
If you missed the Gibralter Trade Center on the way down to Hell, then you have a second chance for bargain's at Scream's.
Inside Scream's, you find many items not available since Spencer's Gifts went out of business. One particularly amusing item is a bottle of soil from Hell with an explanatory poster. It delineates the content of Hell's Half Acre and it's chemical composition - of course it contains sulfur! A smartly packaged bottle of dehydrated water is also a must-have. If you like magic tricks, there are several spinning racks of tricks that you can take home.
Remember those little sponge figures that you put in water and they expand? Well, in Hell, you can choose any from a dinosaur to Wonder Woman or a new husband - whom you can take down to the Wedding Chapel on site.
Gibralter Trade Centers
Proverbs in Hell
Master poet William Blake penned 70 proverbs of hell and a few seem fitting for the weekend visit recently finished:
- What is now proved was once only imagin'd.
- Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.
- Enough! or too much.
- All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap [Mine was caught with an ice cream scoop, in fact.]
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