Why a Lake Michigan Lodge Story?

I write about the tourist lodges and resort towns of the Great Lakes because there is no place like them on earth, and I love them.

A bit of history: Back in the early 1800s, the population of Michigan exploded tenfold as the auto industry and mines required many laborers. Immigrants from Scandinavian countries were joined by people from Europe and the UK, and they all scrambled to settle in. My family came from Cornwall, Denmark, Poland and Ireland. These immigrants cut down old-growth timber and built log homes, lodges and boarding houses that reminded them of their homelands. On their precious days off, they’d travel to “camp” near one of Michigan’s abundant lakes and rivers—to cool off with a swim, and catch their dinner on the end of a fishing rod or stick. The children would nap in the shade of the trees, while the adults would sit and tell stories of their past and present day life. Often, they’d build small cabins and shanties to return to time and again—always to get away from the congested cities, and always bringing with them as many people as possible.

My Aunt Mary had such a camp in the Upper Peninsula, on Big Shag Lake. The upstairs was one big uninsulated room, with blankets cordoning off different sections, and beds crafted out of birch trees. I’d lay in bed at night, often still in my swimsuit, and have dreams about rocking back and forth in a boat, because I’d have spent every minute of the day on the water. This is where my entire extended family stayed when we came north for my orientation at Northern Michigan University. Lakes, lodges, and stories are ingrained in every fiber of my being, and I’m thankful for that heritage. My sister gravitates to the water; my brothers take their fishing rods, campers and tents to the lake every chance they get. My children seek out camp fires, shorelines and woods. And wherever two or more are gathered, we tell the family stories. Over and over again.

2 Comments

  1. Kathy Khajeh-Noori

    Kathy,
    I just finished reading “Shouder Season,” and enjoyed it thoroughly! Your love and familiarity with the Michigan outdoors is infused in your writing! It brings your characters and places to life. The story line was unique, and the characters so very real and interesting. The description of the local town, and locals, seemed familiar. A few times I kept wondering if I could find the Kerby Lodge! I grew up in SE Michigan myself, and had a couple vacations on Lake Michigan, and everything you wrote was spot-on.

    I had a few concerns as I approached the ending, but you wrapped things up so perfectly! I’m really looking forward to the continuing stories about Kerby Lodge, Kay and Luke, and all the others! And I’m looking even more forward to my family reunion next July, on Lake Michigan, in a renovated 1920’s lodge that sounds similar to Kerby Lodge! We’re going to Union Pier rather than further north on the shore, but this lodge was a real find for us who are organizing the reunion.

    So thank you for a great Michigan story! And again, I can’t wait for more!

    Reply
    • kathyellen

      Always glad to hear from a fellow Kathy! Sorry I have been so slow to reply – I have been hard at work writing the sequel to Shoulder SeasonWater Dance. I’m glad I could bring Kerby Lodge to life for you, but don’t try and make a reservation there :). Your family reunion sounds amazing, no better place for making magical memories than the shores of Lake Michigan. Let me know how it goes!

      Reply

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