Historic Birch Lodge

Historic Birch Lodge
Historic Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter at Birch Lodge

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Easter afternoon found us at Birch Lodge. The weather was beautiful, and we packed the left-over ham and potato salad, and planned to stay a couple of days. The weather was beautiful, and we took advantage of it to walk the grounds and make plans for the coming summer. (By the way, the photo of the Tundra Swan I took here last week, but it was too pretty not to use!)

At the north end of the beach, Bill spotted a fresh beaver cut stump. Years back the river at the other end of the property had a beaver dam across it, but it has been a while since there had been any fresh beaver activity. Beaver can raise havoc on property, but coming from downstate, we still think they are something to see.

When we got back down to the motel we heard a familiar kee-kee-kee and looked up to see an osprey hovering on the wind above us. By the time we got the camera he had perched in a tree along the river behind the motel.

Later, a second one flew over the wood line and they both disappeared from sight. I always remembered osprey here, and it was nice to see them again.

Sunset was beautiful, and kept getting better.

The next morning, I happened to notice a motion in the water from the motel window. The beaver was swimming by on his way to work... I managed to get one photo before he smacked his tail and was gone. A fitting start to our morning as we needed to get our "tails" in gear and get busy as this guy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whitefish Point, April 2011

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The weather was nice so we took a quick trip to see what was happening up on Whitefish Point, north of Paradise, MI. At Birch Lodge, the water from the river at the end of the motel drains into Big Trout Lake, and has kept an area of water open in front of the motel and lodge. We noticed some Common Mergansers, Tundra Swans, and Canada Geese there, and thought we should see what birds were visible at Whitefish Point.

Although the snow was pretty well off the ground in Trout Lake, MI, just an hour to the North, the snow was still about 7-8" deep. The sunny blue sky also abated, and a strong wind had picked up from the north off of Lake Superior. Whitefish Point is always one of my favorite places to go. As you approach Whitefish Point the vegetation seems almost tundra like, but just south of the Tahquamenon River this gives way to beautiful piney dunes.

We were hoping to see some migratory birds at the point, but not much was flying. The trails were roped off to discourage foot traffic. They were doing night time netting and banding of owls, and did not want their pathways disturbed during the day. The observatory gift shop was closed. We still enjoyed walking out to the lake shore to the North. The beautiful stones always seem other-worldly. On the horizon, beyond the edge of the ice, a freighter was making way on Lake Superior.

The Whitefish Point Light is a functional light as well as an interpretive museum. Also closed on our visit, but this wasn't our destination today, and we will return another day.

Our efforts to see migratory birds were rewarded when we stopped along the mouth of the Tahquamenon River.

Small flocks of mergansers and waterfowl were visible on the bends of the river.

But our favorite sighting was of this Great Egret wading along the drainage ditch right along the road.

The birds are definitely on the move, and we will return in a few weeks to do some more serious birding then.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hemingway in the Upper Peninsula: Seney and Trout Lake

Print Friendly and PDF Hemingway in 1918 Ernest Hemingway visited Michigan's Upper Peninsula in 1919 after he returned from the Great War, travelling from St. Ignace to Seney. This image shows the author in 1918, a year before his UP trip.

The trip became the inspiration for "Big Two-Hearted River," one of his early - and semi-autobiographical - stories featuring a war veteran, Nick Adams, who travels to a remote area and finds the wilderness restorative.

Jack Jobst presents a detailed account of Hemingway's Seney adventure in his article Hemingway in Seney. Hemingway traveled northward from the Straits on board the St. Ignace Branch of the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad, and would have disembarked at Trout Lake to make a connection with a west-bound DSSA train. We are not sure how much time he spent in town, but he certainly would have spent a bit of it at the depot, built in 1907, and which still exists today. Trout Lake Depot Historic View Trout Lake Depot

It is also possible he may have taken the short jaunt out to Birch Lodge - one can dream - although unlikely. But you can bet we will be searching through old guest records for any mention of the young war veteran.

From Trout Lake, Hemingway would have traveled to Seney, and disembarked at the depot. This small depot, built ca. 1890, still exists in town but has been moved and serves today as Seney's Museum and Historic Railroad Museum. Seney Depot The Museum focuses on the town's colorful logging era history and also offers exhibits relating to Hemingway's visit to the area.

Seney is situated on Hemingway's primary objective, the Fox River - and its wealth of trout. Hemingway undoubtedly caught many fish during his visit, an inspiration for his successful literary alter ego, Nick Adams, who successfully fished on the Fox's riparian alter ego, the Big Two Hearted River. Fox River

Both the Main Stream and East Branch of the Fox, today, offer fine fishing for brook trout, with natural reproduction aided by stocking by the Michigan DNR. Some 18 miles of the Fox Main Stream north of Seney have been designated a Michigan Blue Ribbon Trout Stream.

The river, which multiple sources indicate is little changed from Hemingway's time, is easily accessible from Seney and from many points along roads in the vicinity.Fox River View North of Seney Seney is just a little over an hour from Birch Lodge, so when you visit the area you can retrace the steps of Heminway and try your luck catching some brookies on the Fox.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Birch Lodge Historic Rehabilitation - Interior

Print Friendly and PDF Birch Lodge Lobby As we get in to the nitty-gritty of bringing the lodge and motel back from the brink of extinction we have a number of decisions to make. Most hinge on how to bring the place up to code and the level of accommodations guests expect, and yet retain the historic character that makes Birch Lodge so special. Last year we worked on the exterior. Our focus now turns to the interior. There are those things we will obviously retain, and there are those that just as obviously we will not. Then there are those in that infamous gray area in between where the decision is not so clear-cut. Here are some of the rehabilitation considerations and issues we face at Birch Lodge. (Please note that the images here are BEFORE views . . .)

The Birch Bar The Birch Bar - What a cool place! We hope to keep it as original as possible, although that will probably mean dismantling and reinstalling portions of the back bar and "over-bar" to replace wiring and plumbing, and hopefully not disrupting the birch back wainscoting too much. Birch Bark Wainscot We will not be able to salvage the stained and torn funky wallpaper, but hope to find a suitable replacement. Birch Bar Wallpaper

Seeburg Selectomatic 100 There is a jukebox in the Birch Bar that "almost works" and will need to be repaired, as well as this,a second non-working machine - a Seeburg SelectoMatic 100(!)- that we'd like to restore and return to the bar.

Lobby Telephone Booth In the main lobby there is an old wood telephone booth. The pay phone was removed a while ago (it worked up into the 1980s). We will retain the booth and have thought about installing a phone there so that guests might experience "phoning home" the old-fashioned way. Word to the wise - this vintage apparatus will not accommodate "plus-size" individuals.

Birch Lodge Heat Plant We still are considering how to deal with heating and cooling. The current heating plant, hot water boiler system installed in the 1920s appears beyond salvage. However, whatever we decide, we plan to retain the room radiators to help augment the vintage feel of the place. Birch Lodge Radiator

Knob-and-Tube Wiring and Calcimine Paint The other major infrastructure issue is electrical and wiring. While many of the original light fixtures survive, they are serviced primarily by knob-and-tube dating to the 1920s. We would have had the county building inspector out earlier but we were afraid he might be an older guy who would have had a coronary when he looked around . . . Actually, we are thinking of retaining some of the exposed knob-and-tube after the electrical upgrade - non-functional, of course - as another one of those "little things" that reinforce the vintage feel of the lodge.

Plaster Failure The old plaster walls are cracked and some areas of the ceiling have failed. We plan to repair the plaster as much as possible, using plaster washers where necessary, although we may resort to 3/4-inch drywall for ceilings with massive plaster failure.

Needs Paint As for paint - it's not as easily addressed as you might think, aside from the fact that we are going to need some REALLY GOOD primer. A bigger challenge is that most of the walls (and ceilings) are peeling badly (see ceiling in knob-and-tube image above) and Deb's research reveals that this is probably due to applying paint over the original calcimine-based paint. We will need to remove the surface layers AND seal or remove the original calcimine if we want to avoid a repeat.

Colorful Rug Runner While the hardwood floors will need to be refinished, they aren't in horrible shape. We'd like to retain the vintage rug runners that line the halls, again for vintage feel, but also functionally to deaden sounds. While the current runner is a colorful "statement" that we hope to reuse, we discovered it overlays an original runner that is a wonderful art nouveau pattern. Art nouveau carpet runner

Block-and-Tackle Ice Box Access The kitchen was renovated during the early 1970s and we're not sure how much upgrading will need to be done there. However, one thing we surely will retain is the former walk-in ice box (now used as a small pantry) complete with its surviving block-and-tackle ice access.

Birch Lodge Basement 1911 Builder Scribe The basement - we don't even want to go there. Literally. But we certainly will not molest the initials and date scribed by one of the lodge construction workers in wet concrete on the basement stairs "W.H.S. 8-27-11".

So, as you can imagine, we will have our hands full. Our objective is to conserve as much as we can - except, unfortunately, when it come to our bank account!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise, MI; April 2011

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With the beautiful weather, we set out on a road trip to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. This is located west of Paradise, MI and is about an hour north of Birch Lodge and Trout Lake, MI Although much of the snow had melted around Trout Lake, and there was some open water on the lake, more snow was still on the ground up at Paradise, perhaps a foot on the level. The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is open year round, and has cross country ski trails through the woods. Also open year round, is the restaurant and gift shop. Technically, these are on private property in the park, and are not part of the park, but they are a nice addition. A good place for a nice lunch and hot coffee, they also serve their local brew. Our destination was of course the falls. We thought with the melting snow, they would be flowing well, as they were. In the heart of winter, they can be frozen, creating a fantastic ice sculpture. The trail to the falls was snow covered, and it was sad to see that the mature beech trees that once lined the paths have died and been cut down due to the invasion of beech bark disease. Another invasive species attacking our woodlands. The hemlocks along the river are still there, and their beautiful canopy frames the river and falls. I first visited the falls when I was three, and over the years I have visited and marked our changes. If you have never gone here you need to. It is lovely, and the power and sound of the falls needs to be experienced. It is the third largest falls east of the Mississippi River. It is over 200'across, and has a vertical drop of almost 50'. There are also the Lower Falls, about four miles down river, which is more of a series of waterfalls, divided by an island. A trail which connects the two winds through the woods and along the river. Remember though, if you choose to hike the trail that you need to be prepared to hike back. In any event, whatever time of the year you visit, spend the day and explore the area. Thereare lots of birds to see, and possibly even a moose if you are lucky. The Park has a wonderful video presentation of the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, please follow the link and listen, and plan your next trip today!