Historic Birch Lodge

Historic Birch Lodge
Historic Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Birch Lodge - See you in April!!!

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The trees were bare, wintry skies moved in and the cabin became too cold to live in. We realized it was time and closed up the resort for the season - and yes, WE WILL REOPEN next April.
We winterized the lodge and motel by draining and blowing out ALL the pipes - ugh - Bill is beginning to think restoration back to a period BEFORE indoor plumbing might be an attractive option!

We knew it was time because the county road commission was placing the snow-stick/sapling-guides along the edges of the highway right-of-way (these are a low-tech way to keep the plows on the road when there are blizzard white-out conditions). One is at the left of the image here - along with another good winter-is-coming-marker, the golden tamarack trees.

So, among other activities, we stacked the picnic tables up against the motel and broke out the snow blower attachment for the lawn tractor (although Randy, from town, does the heaviest plowing with his 4-wheel drive pick-up truck).

We couldn't help but chuckle about one recent development - now that we are closed for the season, the Canadian Northern Railroad has reconstructed the track crossing near the resort entrance, and the smooth, paved drive is ready to receive, uh, deer?

The closing of the property seemed at times frenetic, compounded by the fact we had moved into the motel temporarily where we could have reliable heat and frozen plumbing was less likely. It was kind of cramped and we were feeling it really was time to leave. However, with all the great people we met this year and the fond memories we have from sharing this special place, we found it difficult to lock up the gate. Even our furry family members weren't at all happy to be leaving, especially Polly (ever seen a Basset sulk?).

We keep repeating, it won't be that long until we return and reopen for guests. Just keep clicking your heels together and repeat, "There's no place like Birch Lodge! There's no place like Birch Lodge!!!!!!" (Geez, does this make Deb the Wicked Witch of the West? Of course not, hmmmm, maybe Wicked Witch of the North??? Guess that makes Bill a Munchkin . . .)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Birch Lodge Late Season is Prime Time

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While the temperatures remained in the 50s, Bill decided to scrape and paint the somewhat neglected members of our Birch Lodge structural "family." The entrance gates, which closed for the season November 1 and will be the only public face for the property until next April, were scraped, primed and painted.

The outbuildings behind the lodge had bothered us because they were along the drive leading to the main lodge and impacted visitors' first impressions. They looked run down. The fish cleaning shed got a new roof and painted trim, while the bait shop, the workshop, and the barn/laundry were washed, had siding firmed up and were also scraped and primed (although the bait shop's recent vintage light tan siding panels and window frames were stained brown).

Finally, the light tan paneled pole barn near the cabin, the first building visitors see entering the grounds, was stained brown to give it a more aged appearance and blend in more with the setting.

Unfortunately, much of the stain ended up on Bill, which also gives him a more aged appearance - although he will NEVER blend in with his setting!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wildlife Visitors at Birch Lodge

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Trying to wrap up last-minute work around the property, we have had some feathered and furry visitors "looking over our shoulder." The unmistakable call of trumpeter swans echoed over Trout Lake as an adult and three adolescents arrived to rest before journeying further south. They've been on the lake for over a week. We'd like to think their calls are offering us moral support . . . Or are they laughing???

Some of our "lake-sidewalk supervisors" are more circumspect. In a bare earth area near the lake about 100 feet from the old lodge, a deer or small moose left evidence of a night-time visit.

When we went into the cabin to take a break, we noticed movement in the swale between the lakeside ridges - a covey(?) of grouse was sauntering through. (Look closely in the center of this image to see one of the birds.) This picture was taken through the cabin window(!)

And to think - all the bird hunters who were here this year spending all day out in the woods with mixed success - Guess the grouse knew where they'd be SAFE!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

'Scrutiny on the Bounty' at Birch Lodge

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Seasonal weather has returned,and Autumn is in full force -literally - with 40 mph winds. Quite a change from the sunny 70s we had just a few days ago. We're ready to throw in the towel on our attempt at UP agriculture. We tried a garden, but to be honest, our thoughts and efforts were generally occupied with that other undertaking on our 20 acres here in Trout Lake. Yes, in case you could not recognize it, that's a garden in the image to the left (with thornless raspberries behind).

So, how did we do? Well, you can be the judge from the pictures above. Pitiful. We'd be OK if we could live off the raspberries and the little apple tree that's producing kick-butt tasty fruit (in the picture below, right) near the motel.

In sum, looks like it would be rather lean times if we had to live off the "bounty of the land" as did the pioneers up here. Anyone depending on our "green thumb" would be perfectly justified if they'd mutiny. Heck, we'd probably join them! We have to hope and pray we are better stewards of historic buildings than of tomatoes, squash, and peppers.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Peaking" at Fall at Birch Lodge

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We enjoyed peak Fall color this week at the lodge. We were nearly fully booked as guests arrived to experience nature's artwork.

The view driving east to town was great as was the color heading west from our place along the county road.

The lake put on quite a show, with good color to the west and south over the lake, and our beach was also enveloped.

Perhaps the best show, however, was put on by the sun, with spectacular displays of light and texture. A little competition never hurts.

Which is better - the color of Fall or that of night-Fall?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stop and Smell the Roses and Critters at Birch Lodge

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With all the planning, budgeting, construction, and better-than-expected business at the motel, we sometimes forget what a wonderful place Birch Lodge is, because we don't take the time to just sit down and look around. Should a person feel guilty about watching a sunset?

If we tire of looking out on Trout Lake (Well, NEVER!!!), we can jump in our kayaks and paddle up the stream off the end of the motel to Little Trout Lake and look for nesting osprey and eagles. How many times have we done this this year - twice???

Every day we see all kinds of wildlife without even trying. We hear loons call most every day and have watched a pair raising its young. We were going to step out our cabin door, and were greeted by a Pileated woodpecker - impressive!

Maybe we should take a hint from our domesticated family. They take the time to enjoy their "purrfect" surroundings and "lap it up".

Friday, September 30, 2011

Biking in Trout Lake and the Eastern U.P.

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Birch Lodge is located on an officially designated bicycle route as presented at the Eastern Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission website (under GIS maps, MDOT Eastern UP Bike Map).

Since Labor Day we've had three bicycling groups pass through and stay at the Motel. Two of the groups have been from Adventure Cycling, a nationwide group that sponsors tours including several across northern Michigan (website: AdventureCycling.org).

All the groups enjoyed the funky motel and historic lodge as well as the grounds. Using different sets of muscles after a day on the road, some took the Birch Lodge kayaks out for a spin on the lake and others went to the Birch Lodge Swimming Beach for a dip.

At night, they sat around our fire pit and exchanged stories.

For a short time we were "tagged" at the road entrance - letting fellow bikers know we were the place to stay. We've been told they will spread the word about Birch Lodge to fellow bikers and to be ready for their return next year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Birch Lodge Interior Progress

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We have been scraping off old paint, washing as much of the underlying calcimine paint off the plaster as possible, and priming with EXPENSIVE sealer. Work has progressed on the second floor lobby that opens out onto the porch deck. And, Hoo-Boy, those were some ugly looking walls after the prep work for painting was completed!!! We don't know why the walls appear brown on the base layer - was it a function of the calcimine aging, or were the lobby walls originally a brownish tint? In some places it does scrub off. Same story in the dining room.

We've painted the walls a cream color for now. We will anxiously await to see if the new paint does adhere to the newly prepared base. Might make for an initeresting Spring!

And just when you thought the fun was over, we're also working on the dining room!!! The same scrape-scrub-rinse-seal-and-paint routine. (But, is anything about this Birch Lodge place ROUTINE???)

In addition, our electrician has begun rewiring the first floor, after our explicit instruction and supervision to disturb the lodge's historic fabric as little as possible.

SEPT-ember, Tanks for the Memories

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Well, have you missed us? We have been somewhat remiss in our bloggly duties. A whole lot has been going on. Or, perhaps I should say a "hole lot" . . . We are the proud owners of a shiny(?) new septic field with not one, but TWO tanks, WOO-HOO!!!

The old Birch Lodge septic tank was metal and in poor condition. We decided while we replaced the brown water tank we'd also bring everything up to code and install a gray water tank in case we, or subsequent owners, decide to re-open the commercial kitchen. So, huge 1200 and 1000 gallon tanks and field were installed northwest of the lodge. Sadly, a few trees had to go.

We have to console ourselves with the fact we now have a simply dandy place to put up the steel gnome cut-out croquet wickets we found in the back of the barn.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fall Colors at Trout Lake, MI

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The calendar may still say it is summer, but we know it is now fall. The first leaves are starting to change, some subtle gold and burgundy are giving color to the backdrop of green that surrounds Birch Lodge.

The birch trees have not started to color, nor have the sugar maple that make such a statement with their orange and red colors, but we know it will come soon. The nights have been dipping into the forties and the sunlight has taken on that strong low autumnal glow as it sets, illuminating the bark on the birch with a Maxfield Parish-like glow.

The fall flowers are also now in full bloom.

The native goldenrod, asters and the joe pye weed along the lake rival any perennial bed.
Lake edge blooms

Less showy, but still favorites of mine are the orange jewel-weed and white turtle head blossoms.

Birch lodge has always been a special place to see the colors in the fall. The wind often goes still in the morning, and the gold of the birches, and orange and red of the maples on the Birch Shores peninsula are reflected in the mirror-like water. So beautiful. Also, the fall is a time of quiet here, most of the cottages on the lake are summer homes, and after Labor Day, most of the owners close their cottages and head south.

Our season is slower after Labor Day, but we plan to stay open as long as weather permits, hopefully into November. The heat is on in the motel, and if you have a chance, come on up and see the beauty of fall here. The kettle is on, and I'm getting in the mood for some pumpkin spice cookies!