This story is done in “mezzo-fumetti” style – drawings with photographic backgrounds – because that’s the only way I could do justice to the scenery. Apologies for the characters getting in the way a lot. :)

I have fond childhood memories of camping at the state park, but didn’t realize at the time that “camping at the state park” wasn’t necessarily about lining up RVs in a wooded parking lot near the beach on a holiday weekend. Depending on the location, specific campground, and day of the week, state-park camping can be a relatively solitary experience. Jay and Jason take advantage of that… and for exhibitionist Jay, it’s like visiting paradise.

I freely admit that I am not entirely sane. I suffer from a variety of problems, most of which take the form of anxieties and phobias. Acrophobia (fear of heights) is near the top of the list. It isn’t an altitude thing… I can go up to the 50th floor of a building with no problem, I love the view from a tall hill, and I’m OK in a window seat at 30,000 feet in a plane. But as soon as I’m in a position that I could possibly somehow trip or slip or lose my grip – no matter how unlikely – I panic. It isn’t a problem that seriously impacts my quality of life – it’s easy enough to avoid those kinds of situations most of the time – so I haven’t tried to get help with it. But from time to time it hits me, like on page 5 here.

Long-time readers will probably recognize the setting of page 8. It’s the titular locale of “Cabin in the Woods“. Reading that story involves some “spoilers”… but not really. You’re meant to know what’s talked about in that tale before reading this one, to more fully appreciate what’s happening here. This story kinda gives short shrift to the time at the cabin – a few days covered in a single page – but after the six pages dedicated to the Cabin in the other tale, I figured the less said the better.

People from west Michigan grumble about people – Michiganders and outsiders – whose picture of the state consists entirely of urban Detroit. “We’ve got beaches too!” they point out. But meanwhile, they often have no clue just how little they know about the state. Across the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula (“da UP”) are the second-largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi (after Niagara), and the beautiful rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, which pages 9 thru 11 show off.

The Gay Bar is a real bar and grill, located in Gay, Michigan (on the Keweenaw Peninsula, several miles northeast of Houghton and Hancock, on the road to nowhere). It is not a gay bar, it’s simply the Gay Bar. The hamlet of Gay is one of many small settlements in the Upper Peninsula clinging to the map since the region’s mining industry evaporated, and I think the bar is the only business left. It does sell a selection of t-shirts and such, as tourist mementos, some of which are funnier than others.

The state parks, national lakeshores, and the cabin in the woods were all good parts of this trip, but the main event was Isle Royale National Park, starting on page 12. It’s the biggest island in Lake Superior, with no roads and no year-round human habitation. It’s the only national park that shuts down entirely for the winter, because it’s so inaccessible. And it gets fewer visitors in a year than Yellowstone gets in a day. It’s great!

For better or for worse, there’s something about getting out of your usual setting and off in the wilderness with someone, that sets the stage for conversations that might not otherwise happen. Alone with just your thoughts and another person, you get a chance to talk about things that don’t come up in day to day life.

But I kinda cut Jay off there, eh? Probably shouldn’t have.

“Great Outdoors” is the longest JAQrabbit Tale I’ve told so far (unless you count the 24-page 24-hour comic I did a couple years ago, which was a bit… rough). It’s one of the “landmark” tales in the series, the kind of episode that a TV series would save for a season finale or something, and that’s why I scheduled it to close out the second year of this series.

It’s a landmark because – other than the epilog that takes place several years later – it’s the last Tale that Jay appears in, chronologically. He’ll still show up in newly-published Tales down the line, but not in any that take place after this one. You’ll have to connect the dots yourself… the loss of Jay is one story I won’t be telling here.

As I alluded to, this post marks two years since JAQrabbit Tales launched, on Labor Day in 2014. In that time I’ve posted almost 300 pages of comix and pin-ups. It’s been a tremendous amount of work so far, and I have to thank the other artists who’ve helped me get here (alphabetically): Choklit Daddy, Drubskin, J. Marshall Freeman, Marvin Mann, Rick Worley, Tim Twelves, Tom Bouden, and Zlatan Marić.

The series is far from over, and I’m looking forward to telling many more Tales. Next week I’ll be launching a temporary format change for the series, which I hope will be a fun change of pace. To the handful of you who’ve been here from the beginning, thanks for sticking with it, and to those who’ve joined us since then, I hope you’ll stick around for the Tales to come!