Historic Birch Lodge

Historic Birch Lodge
Historic Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heart-Break Motel or Bill learns to "Clean"

Print Friendly and PDF While the century-old lodge building is the anchor of the property, the business is known as Birch Lodge AND MOTEL. The last month or so has been an "adventure" in preparing the motel to open for this summer's tourist season. There has been an intensive effort to deal with deferred maintenance.

The motel exterior has been scraped and painted, as have both Bill and Deb . . .

Then there were the windows... lots of storm sash came down and got cleaned and put back up....meanwhile inside....

Some interior patching and repainting has also been done and some baseboards and doors refinished.

Deb has plans to repaint ALL the baths. The shower doors have been removed and are awaiting for the intensive removal of years of caulk. The tubs have the old caulk chiseled out and fresh caulk. New shower curtains are hanging. The tile scrubbed with brush and toothbrush. The bed frames were taken apart and cleaned and reassembled. All furniture was removed to make way for the carpet cleaning.

Commercial carpet cleaners were hired to scour each of the rooms. Drapes have come down and have been washed and rehung-- the rods and hangers of course, cleaned.

And Bill has learned - the hard way - literally at the feet of the master, Deborah, that there are differing levels of clean.
Bill was accepting of "Man-Clean". But no, above that level of clean is "Clean". The motel, however, is taken to the next level: "Deb-Clean". Deborah is not at all sympathetic to Bill's argument that some dirt might be historic and ought to be preserved . . .

As of Memorial Day, we have two rooms ready for guests, another will come on-line by the end of May and a fourth in early June. We anticipate that the other four rooms will pass muster as the season progresses. We have brought in satellite internet (the only option up here in this area of Paradise) - ask Bill how happy he was to crawl around under the lodge to snake cables and dig a 75-foot trench to bury the line to the dish(!?!?).
We have installed a wireless router so that guests can browse the internet while sipping coffee or soft drinks in either the Birch Bar or the Birch Lodge lobby.

We are in the process of having satellite TV installed and it should be up and running with new equipment the first week of June.

Oh and we've just achieved on-line reservation capability at the Birchlodge.com web site.


No wonder we are tired.........maybe we aren't just getting old.....

Now all we need are some guests. How about you?????

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trout Lake Trains and a Train Wreck

Print Friendly and PDF Among the things we most enjoy about saving Birch Lodge are the people we come in contact with who have stories to tell about the historic inn and Trout Lake. Recently we were contacted by Judy, whose great grandfather David Watt was an engineer on the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railroad during its heyday in the early 20th century. We had seen images of a 1912 train wreck at Trout Lake on old post cards and on the internet. But Judy, who came across our blog railroad history entries, forwarded the personal history below that really adds depth and color to the incident. We are pleased to share this with you.

David Watt
David Watt (1858-1945) went to work tending mules in the coal mines in Scotland at the age of twelve. When he was sixteen, his Uncle Wilson took him and four other boys to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. In two years’ time, he became a train engineer.

At that time, his uncle moved to Marquette, Michigan, to take a master mechanics job on a young railroad called the Duluth, South Shore, & Atlantic (DSS&A). He brought all five young men with him. The others had their Scots brogue all their lives, but David said that if he was going to live in America, he was going to be an American! He worked hard to rid himself of his Scottish accent.

David was an engineer for 52 years for the DSS&A, traveling between Marquette on the south shore of Lake Superior and St. Ignace, on the north side of the Strait of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, a distance of about 150 miles.

He was in one bad train wreck in about 1914. Where the tracks of the DSS&A and the Soo Line crossed at right angles, all trains were supposed to stop 400 feet short of the crossing and blow their whistles four times. David did this, but the other train didn’t stop.
Train Wreck at Trout Lake - Note Depot
After he had started up again, he spotted the other train coming at him. He hit the brakes and tried to stop, but when he saw that he couldn’t, he told the fireman to jump off. The fireman did, urging David to jump, too. But David stayed in the cab and applied the brakes.

Train Wreck at Trout Lake
The fireman was only slightly injured, but when the cab was hit by the other engine, David was badly injured. He was pinned in the overturned, burning engine and was badly burned on the face and head by live steam and coals from the open fire box. About twenty minutes after the wreck, the fireman realized that David must still be in the engine. An unknown salesman soaked his coat in water, put it over his head, and went into the cab and pulled David out. David had his left ear burned off and many other scars. The family was never able to locate the brave man who rescued him.

We can surmise that our property, established as the Birch Lodge Hospital and Summer Resort Sanitarium, would have been involved in treating Mr. Watt and anyone else injured in the wreck. Recall that Dr. E.D. Ford opened the lodge in 1912 and was probably Trout Lake's only doctor at the time. Because Dr. Ford died later on that same year, Mr. Watt might have been one of the few patients ever treated at the lodge during its short tenure as a hospital.

Here are some historic post card views of the wreck:
Trout Lake Train 1912 Wreck Historic Post Card View

Trout Lake 1912 Train Wreck Historic Post Card View

Trout Lake 1912 Train Wreck Historic Post Card View

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trout Lilies, spring wildflowers and Trout Lake, MI

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There seems to be a preoccupation here in the spring with trout. Trout opener is the last Saturday in April, which also coincides with the first blooms of the trout lilies. Where better to see them than in the woods around Birch Lodge, at Trout Lake, MI.

Some sources say trout lilies got their name because they blossom about the time of trout season, others say that the speckled leaves are like the markings of a trout. I only know that I love seeing their yellow blossoms spread through the floor of the woods in the spring.

Properly called Erythronium americanum, the trout lily is also called the dogtooth violet and adder,s tongue. They can be found in the woods generally in areas of leafy humus slightly on the damp side. Some garden cultivars are available in the nurseries now, but most of these are a slightly different species to our native flowers. The plants grow from a small bulb or "corm" which is about 4-6" below the soil. In plants that are too undeveloped to bloom, a white root-like growth will be sent out above the ground, which will root and develop a new plant.

The corm that the lilies grow from are edible, but please don't eat them. From seed to flower takes seven years of growing to develop a bulb large enough to produce a flower!
Typically they can be found blooming with other spring ephemerals like Dutchman's breeches and spring beauty.

Some other flowers found in the woods that bloom at the same time are cut-leaf toothwort and blood root.

This particular blood-root is a double blossoming cultivated one from my wild garden.

On the edge of the wood the hepatica and arbutus are also in bloom.

The arbutus smell wonderful, when the air is still their perfume fills the air, but most days you will have to get down on your knees to smell them. Do it! you may look a bit undignified, but hey, you are up north, who's looking?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The North Country Trail

Print Friendly and PDF North Country Trail Sigh There are several access points to the North Country Tail within a dozen miles of Birch Lodge and Trout Lake, MI. The North Country Trail is longer than the Appalachian Trail and traverses seven states, a long segment of which passes through Michigan.

North Country Trail Blue Markings
This trail system was developed through the National Parks system, and is largely constructed and maintained by volunteers. In our area the trail has good signage at the points where it crosses area roads, and the passage way of the trail itself is designated by light blue paint marks on trees along the trail.

In the Eastern Upper Peninsula, the trail runs almost parallel to M-123 from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior. Segments of the trail are described by the group of volunteers that maintain it through the Hiawatha Shore to Shore trail association.

This week, after working at the lodge we took a drive on H-40 east of town, to the access point at Trout Brook Pond, which by the way is stocked with trout. This is HSS Trail Head #3, and this segment of the trail goes to Soldier Lake about 18 1/2 miles to the north. (The HSS note that this segment of the trail provides good areas for morel mushrooms!)

Trout Brook Pond
At first, we followed a two track in through the pines to camp site on the south west point of the pond (really a lake). What a beautiful spot! The trail crossed a foot bridge, and climbed a hill overlooking the pond.

We next stopped at the Trail Head a little further to the east, an improved road with a boat ramp. This provides a good parking area and easy access to the trail between the pond and Biscuit Creek, which lies about a 1/4 mile to the north. (Biscuit Creek is also a designated trout stream.)
Biscuit Creek
Biscuit Creek
After exploring the area a bit, the sun was getting low so we headed back to Birch Lodge. Checking the map, we decided to go the "scenic route" via Spur Road, which crosses Biscuit Creek over an "improved" road, and turning west on the sandy two track which follows the Pine River.

North Country Trail Trout Brook Pond Map
Oddly, although we have done a great deal of exploring the woods in this general area, we had never visited the Pine River. There are a number of nice access points to the Pine River along this trail, the river is well down-cut, and there are beautiful stands of pine along the bluff edge. At one point, we discovered evidence of an old logging dam. It is a very beautiful area, but it was getting late. We will have to pack a lunch, and hike the trail and explore this area another day.

Pine River, Chippewa Co., MI