Sunday, August 13, 2017

Old School Cabins have at Home Appeal

Bud's Cabins in Lovells has a homey feeling. 
     Recently, I stumbled on a website for some newly renovated tourist cabins near Mackinaw City, right on the beach with a view of the bridge.  I hope to see more such revivals of old cabins, which for many years fell out of favor with travelers.
     While we've seen a revival of ''buy local'' that hasn't seemed to have spilled over into the world of  lodging in Michigan. I wish it would. Cabins and small mom and pop motels are usually owned by a local family or business person who spends money to move the local economy forward. While writing my Michigan travel guide, Michigan: An Explorer's Guide, I was required to only list locally-owned establishments. It made me a devotee of them. They are listed in the book,
     Small cabins give you an Up North feel, especially if they have wood paneling. They also offer more privacy than a motel or hotel. That little extra space between them makes for better neighbors. They feel like a small, cozy home, where you can leave the beer cooler on the porch and hang your fishing waders or bathing suits up to dry. So much the better, if they have a small kitchen and kitchen ware. A home cooked meal is a joy on the, and a break from the constant dreariness of burgers and pizza.
     When I'm traveling through the state to update my Michigan: An Explorer's Guide book, I check out big hotels, small mom and pop motels, but when I settle down for the night, I try finding a tourist cabin.
     There use to be more of them in the 1960s and 70s when I started travel the state, but got a bad name and became untrendy for many years. My wife was one of those cabin haters. I'd pull up in front of a place and tell her: "Think about it." She didn't spend much time contemplating the subject. The answer was always the same. A simple "no."
     But not everyone was like my wife, so some cabins have survived. I've got many of them listed in my guide. The publisher wisely has a policy of not including chain hotels and motels. We all know what it's like inside a Super 8.
     Here's a list of favorite cabins around the state from the guide, in no particular order. Many resort-style cabins require you stay two days or even longer. Check their websites, which I've included, for more information.

     Penrod's Cabins in Grayling. Stretching along the Au Sable River, the brown log structures have knotty pine interiors and rustic, log furnishings, and have the feeling that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Some have kitchens and there are picnic tables and grills. A great place to stay after a day on the Au Sable River. They're close to downtown, and rental canoes are available.

     Pere Marquette Lodge in Baldwin. There are five cabins and one house for rent along the Pere Marquette River. They have knotty pine interiors and some have kitchens. There are also grills. They are fairly old, but clean. A great place to crash after a day on the river either fishing for canoeing. They'd also be a fun place to just crash to get away from the world.

     Sunset Cabins in Grand Marais, Upper Peninsula. These are quintessential U.P. cabins with beach access and a view of Lake Superior. They're tucked away in a secluded area, but call early, many are booked well in advance.

      Bud's Cabins in Lovells. Located  just north of Grayling on the north branch of the Au Sable, the three cabins are a throw back to the 1940s when deer hunters and anglers didn't want to do much more than keep the rain off their heads and get shower. There wasn't a TV set in the one I rented, but there's a lovely deck on the river to kick back on at the end of the day. They're closed in winter.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Reconnecting with maps

Old Friends

I was driving east of Grayling when I looked at my fancy new IPhone and found there was no connection. The GPS was useless. Being an old guy, I carry a set of Michigan county maps, a regular state map and a selection of guide books. Print isn't dead. Any way I like the looks of old coffee and bourbon stained maps. They bring back good memories. --- Jeff Counts, author, Michigan: An Explorers Guide

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sylvania Lake Solitude

Paddling in the Sylvania Wilderness Area can be family friendly, if you plan your trip well. 
     The term undiscovered is too often used when describing a travel destination. There are few places that fit that description, but the Sylvania Wilderness area near Watersmeet in the western Upper Peninsula comes close. Visitors will find people there, but there's enough lake paddling to spread out the crowds and give paddlers hours of solitude. It's Michigan's version of the famed Boundary Waters and it's less than a day's drive from the Twin Cities, Chicago and Detroit.
     The 18,327-acre area has 12 lakes and attracts families seeking a wilderness experience as well as seasoned paddlers looking for secluded lakes. You could travel for a month in the area and not see the same place twice.
      The chain of lakes is a perfect area for a canoe, which offers families stable boats for children and large carrying capacity for camping gear. Clark and Crooked lakes offer secluded campgrounds and easy access. Boat launches for those lakes are located at parking lots. Portages to a dozen other larger lakes can range from 0.25-0.5 mile and are not the type of trips you'd want to take small children on.

 For more information, go to:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Testament of a Fisherman

 John D. Voelker, right, was a best selling author from the Upper Peninsula, penning "Anatomy of a Murder" and other fiction, along with essays on trout fishing. His "Testament of a Fisherman" is an often quoted passage. Voelker and his fishing companion, Louie Bonetti, left, paused for a photo in the early 1940s while fishing the Yellow Dog River near Ishpeming. 

Testament of a Fisherman
By John D. Voelker, A.K.A. Robert Traver 1903 -- 1991

Editor's Note: This is something  I read once a year. Voelker used the pen name Traver because in that era being a writer wasn't seen as a dignified trade. Voelker  was an attorney in Ishpeming and later a Michigan Supreme Court judge. 

     I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant -- and not nearly so much fun.