If there was a leader board for the top Michigan tourists, I’d probably be #1. Well, maybe not in dollars spent, but in time and enthusiasm? Yes. How many tourists visit cities like Burton or Fraser, suburbs of Flint and Detroit, and enjoy it?
Just me, I think.
There were a few cities and parks that got away from me. Places I’d wanted to visit, but then ran out of time and money.
One was Hell, Michigan. But not anymore. I, too, can join the ranks and say, proudly, that “I’ve been to Hell and back”. It’s ready-made for writers like me, a cutesy roadside stop with a colorful name and history. We spit out articles about it way more than we should.
Because, honestly, it’s not worth your time. Yes, that’s right – I said it – Hell, Michigan is a waste of time. There’s a cheesy Halloween-style gift shop and an ice cream shop with generic Hershey’s ice cream. Oh, and a bar and a small, ugly chapel for spontaneous shotgun weddings. That’s about it.
Bruin Lake. (Photo by Al.)
OK, maybe that’s harsh. I did have a hangover, so maybe that discolored my view. I was “camping” with some old buddies on Bruin Lake, in Pickney. You know how modern camping goes – you pitch a tent outside your car, get drunk, and use and abuse the convenient restroom facilities. That’s getting back to nature, and let me tell you, I put back my share of wine, beer, and liquor.
Not that I’m proud of it. I just don’t know how to hang out in a drunk crowd sober. I’m always the fish out of booze.
… Anyway, point is, that was my frame of mind. The crazy twist and turns on the way there probably didn’t help. I wasn’t in the mood for a roller coaster of a two-lane road, but there’s only one road to Hell.
To make matters worse, parking was very difficult, as the lot was overcrowded with rugged biker types. Beards, ponytails, patches, and Harley-Davidson belt buckles – the whole nine yards. The real deal. Which was actually kinda cool, and funny – that they’d all drive out to the middle of nowhere for a family-friendly tourist trap, just because it’s in “Hell”.
Screams Ice Cream, at least, looked nice, with weathered wood and a false front right out of the Ol” West. They were even barbecuing out front. The big sell was that the ice cream was hand-dipped, meaning they scoop out the ice cream by hand. As opposed, I guess, to using a robot or a machine.Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying that you don’t use soft serve.
The different toppings, arranged neatly in a coffin, were fun, with names like “bat droppings” and “ghost poop”. I sprinkled with a liberal hand. There wasn’t much to see. The gift shop was what you’d expect. T-shirts, pens, and skull-themed everything.
The trip ended with a troupe of surly chick bikers asking a friend of mine, a girl, to take their picture. They posed, all smiles, against a wall. Then they shanked us.
No, I’m kidding. We made it out of Hell alive and well. Bikers are nice. Loudmouths, but nice.
You’re probably wondering how Hell got its name, anyway. Legend has it that when George Reeves, a successful businessman in the 1800s with his own mills, tavern, and distillery, was asked to name the community budding around his investments, he answered with some variant of, “Call it Hell for all I care!” So they did. That’s the most common story, though there are others.
If the Hell I saw was any indication, chances are Reeves would agree that the moniker fits more than ever.