Shoreline Of Our Property | Horseshoe Lake, Upper Michigan

Heaven on earth for a ten year old: swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, hotdog roasting, s’more making, forest exploring, fort building, tree falling, wood chopping, canoeing, blueberry picking, rock collecting, picnicking, taking sauna, and relaxing on the front porch with a Lone Ranger comic book or hanging with a friend.

I doubt if Grandpa, when he built his two story, split log cabin back in 1929, ever imagined that he and Grandma would one day be sharing their beloved "Camp" on the shore of Horseshoe Lake and the surrounding eighty acres with their grandson. I know the thought never occurred to me that I’d one day be bringing my own kids and grandkiddos back to the UP (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan so they could make their own memories of Camp.

In the ninety plus years since Grandpa and Grandma Kaarto had the Big Cabin and sauna built, five generations of our family line have crisscrossed the country to be able to travel back in time to an era of icebox refrigeration, hand pumped water, and reading by the light of kerosene lanterns (since upgraded with a bit more modern conveniences).

As I enter the Big Cabin with Jill, our three kids, and their families, I’m greeted with the familiar sight and smells of the kitchen, and I can see Grandma coming around the corner with a plate of muffins, hot out of the wood stove and loaded with freshly picked blueberries.

Folks typically remark, once they’ve seen pictures of Camp, that our description of it being “rustic” is a bit of an unfair characterization. As you’ll see from the photos of the interior of the Big Cabin in the three galleries, the furniture adds to the charm that awaits our guests who have found Camp while traveling, as Jill likes to say, the “Highway to Nowhere” (see if you can name even one city, landmark or attraction in the UP). Everything remains as originally furnished when our grandparents took possession: piano, hand-cranking vintage Victrola phonograph player, stereoscope, mandolin, antique ice boxes, barrister bookcases, bentwood rocking chair. . . not one stick of furniture has been removed or added.

The Big Cabin is located twenty steps from Horseshoe Lake and situated at the end of well over a quarter mile of shoreline bordering our property (note the photo above). The unobstructed 180º view from the front porch is a visual delight for the eyes. Take a left turn off the front porch and follow the path along the shoreline in the shade of the majestic Eastern White Pines. A thirty minute walk is necessary before seeing the first neighbor.

A right turn and a quarter mile walk results in a one lane road through the forest that gives access to Bear Creek and the Little Escanaba River. I'd take my kids, our black Lab, a BB gun, and fishing rods, and be gone for hours as we’d explore and fish, rarely seeing another person.

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Grandpa Otto Kaarto emigrated from Finland to America with his family in 1899 at the age of nine. He married Lilly, and they had one child, Miriam (Mickey to family and friends); she married my father, Dick Evans. Lilly passed away in 1942 and Grandpa later married Hilma Laukka; she was Grandma to my two brothers (Ron and Bob) and me. Grandpa had the cabin and sauna built while he was the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in the town of Negaunee, thirty minutes to the north of Camp. Though he moved his family to Seattle in 1939 and pastored Bethel Lutheran Church in the community of Ballard, he and Grandma returned each summer to their beloved Camp. I had the good fortune to spend three wonderful summers there during my grade school years.

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