Joyful Simplicity – Part II 7/29/2012

I’ve always been awed by someone’s ability to build a house from the ground up – no contractors, no outside help except family and friends.  How do you take a bare piece of ground – in this case, solid rock – and construct a family home –  this one replacing one lost to a fire.  And how do you do that – not in the city where logistics are relatively simply – but in a remote area of Canadian wilderness reachable only by boat.  The mind is boggled.

But that’s exactly what happened in the spring of 1977, when Brad’s dad and other family members – when available – set to work constructing Twin Pine Lodge II.

Monday – our first morning at the camp. Donna and Ted sip coffee, and Bear gets some early morning hugs.

The climb alone – from the floating dock to the cabin site – would have been enough to deter me from even considering a “rebuild” at the location of the original camp. And that climb comes AFTER supplies are brought over on a small steel-bottomed boat from the mainland.  But that ‘s what Brad’s dad set out to do , and that’s what he did – very successfully.

I found myself wandering around the cabin on more than one occasion, trying to imagine the work involved in building the new cabin.  Every piece of wood – large, small and medium-sized – came over by boat and was hauled up that rocky hill.  Brad said, “My dad could build anything. Except for most of the furniture, everything you see was built by hand – including the kitchen cabinets.”  Brad’s dad built those in Florida and brought them to Canada in a van.  It took three trips to get them all north.  He did all the electrical work and all the plumbing.  He also left detailed instructions and drawings of HOW everything had been done and how everything worked – instructions Brad still refers to, even now.

The large family room stretches from the kitchen all the way across the width of the house.  Built-in beds like these are in two corners, offering a place for reading, afternoon naps, or evening sleep – all under an open window with curtains blowing in the pine-scented breeze.

The stone in the fireplace was recovered from the original log cabin. There are three bedrooms and one bathroom. And “just in case” – there is an out-house nearby that is fully functional (I skipped going quite that rustic).

One of the many amazing stories Brad told was about the installation of the septic tank.  Five tons of rock were delivered to the dock at Willisville and divided into three piles based on the size of the rock.  Brad and his dad loaded the rock into as many 5-gallon buckets as the boat would hold without sinking, and they’d motor to the cabin dock.  Then they would manually haul those buckets up the hill to the site of the septic system  . . . . FIVE TONS of rock.

Living that close to nature means using extraordinary means to keep “critters” out of food supplies. Brad’s grandmother and mother started the tradition of keeping just about everything that was to be consumed in large glass jars with screw-on lids. The pantry held shelf after shelf of those jars.

There IS a TV set in the cabin, but no cable or satellite.  They use the tv to watch movies, and there are drawers and drawers full of VHS tapes and DVDs.  Besides movies, there were many other choices for after-dinner (or any other time) entertainment.

Reading – there are books everywhere – in corners, on bookshelves, on desks, and in baskets . . . . collected and read by family members in the thirty-five years the cabin has stood. Donna brings up at least five books each summer. Family and friends bring their own or pick out one that is already there. The books come and go over the years, but there are always hundreds to choose from.

Games –  you name it, the Prudens have it. There are several game-playing tables throughout the cabin – like this one hand-made by Brad’s dad.

Puzzles – like books and games, there are many to choose from, and one is always sitting on a table, just waiting for someone to sit down and add a few pieces.

Brad’s high chair – used by him when he first was brought to the cabin as a three-year old. Now it has served Donna and Brad’s daughter Meredith, and many nieces and nephews.

“Over the hills and through the woods” from Brad and Donna’s is Charlton Lake Camp, owned by Brad’s sister Lori and her husband Mark. It’s been their dream to own and operate a camp in Canada . . .

. . . and the camp had a “no vacancies” sign up when we arrived.  Business is good.

On Monday we took the pontoon boat out, and Brad and Donna gave us a tour of the lakes and camps in this part of the La Cloche Mountain range.

It was amazing to see the cliffs of quartzite rise up out of the clear water of the numerous lakes we boated through.

Each lake flows into the next through what they call “narrows”.

A sweet little cabin next to a tiny waterfall. At night, I would think this would look just like a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Can’t even think about what it would take to reach this place. Talk about remote!

On Tuesday we left Maddie and Bear at the cabin and rode over to Little Current, which is on Manitoulin Island.  To access the island requires timing your trip off or on with the swinging bridge that connects the island to the mainland.  Now when Brad and Donna started talking about “swinging” bridge, I thought about a rope bridge, but this was a little more technical than that!

The bridge as it looked after we had just crossed . . .

. . . and how it looked after “swinging” around to allow boats to go through on either side. It opens for 15 minutes each hour, and boats too tall to pass under (which are most of them) line up on each side to get through before it closes again.

The marina on Manitoulin Island . . . . .

. . . where we spotted this sign at the Yacht Club about the Mackinac to Manitoulin Island Yacht Race, which was just last week.

Back at the cabin, we picked up Maddie and Bear and hit the lakes for one more afternoon of beautiful water, weather, mountains and skies.

Our three days and nights with the Prudens was beyond words in serenity and comfort.  Even though we live on an island and can walk into the woods for solitude, the fact that Mackinac is a resort community means a trip downtown will mean mingling – at least during the day – with thousands of visitors.  This summer has been busier on the Island than any of the other four we’ve spent here, and that is a wonderful thing for the merchants.  For those of us who like our quiet times though, all those people can be a little overwhelming at times.  We returned to our Island relaxed, renewed, and rejuvenated.  Donna and Brad have asked us to return anytime, and I’m sure we will.

Living on Mackinac Island is surely a step back in time to a simpler lifestyle, but visiting that remote area of Canada almost made Mackinac look like New York City.  The stillness at night was complete.  We were amazed there seemed to be no wildlife playing the usual “woods” symphonies.  There were no frogs or crickets playing harmonies outside – just this amazing . . . quiet.  Sitting on the porch at night in a rocking chair and seeing a sliver of moon reflected over the still water caused my muscles to relax into mush, and my heartbeat to lower into almost-sleep mode.

Joyful simplicity.  We went, we enjoyed – we’ll take more of that please!

Random Photographs from Canada

Looking from the screened porch to the not-screened porch.

View from the porch steps.

Lots of exercise for “all” the kids!

Lake Frood at twilight.

Twin Pine Lodge II from the water – almost hidden by the trees.

“The sun was so bright, I had to wear shades.”

Sliver of moon.

Joyful simplicity.

Personal note:  So much to tell you about this week!  This past Saturday night, I was one of the speakers at the annual Shepler’s Tweet-Up (a gathering of social media folks – Facebook, Tweeters, Pinterest, Bloggers, etc.), and this year it was held on a ferry cruising around the Straits and under the Mackinac Bridge!  That story is coming up on Wednesday.

And . . . . drum roll please!  The Harlem Globetrotters (yes, the real ones) will be playing two exhibition games on the Island on Tuesday at the school.  On Monday (tomorrow), the Tourism Bureau invited me to go along for Media Day with the Globetrotters as they tour the Island for the first time.  They will be doing all kinds of fun things like visiting Murdick’s Fudge, the Grand Hotel, the new stable, and the fort.  First thing in the morning, they will be playing basketball on the deck of Shepler’s Sacre Blue freight ferry as it brings them from St. Ignace to the Island.  And I’m going to be right there in the middle of all of it with my trusty (oh please, let it be trusty!) camera.  They’ve asked me to blog about Media Day, and I said YES, YES, YES!  I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  That will be coming up on Friday!

And . . . . . . Blake arrives Friday for a 10-day stay on the Island!

It’s going to be a great week here, and the best part will be getting to share it with all of you!

See you on Wednesday!  God bless.


22 thoughts on “Joyful Simplicity – Part II 7/29/2012

  1. BEAUTIFUL photos! I love the “sliver of a moon”. Your friends’ cottage and its location look like such a wonderful getaway place.

  2. I just caught up on your last two posts. Thank you for sharing. The photos are lovely. I’m sure you two needed the rest. You and Ted are so very busy on the island entertaining, volunteering, exercising and keeping up with the doggies! I don’t know how you do it all. Not much time for relaxing.

    I’m so glad you had a chance to “get away from it all” by going to such a remote and beautiful spot. Beautiful scenery and lovely cabin. Love Bear with his “shades” on! And also the shot of Maddie’s ears flying while on the pontoon. I wonder if they missed hearing the horses. I loved that sound when they went past the condos. Sure a good time was had by all!

  3. I’ve enjoyed catching up on your recent posts – the island pictures and description are just wonderful – such a peaceful place! Glad you had such a nice visit. Happy Monday!!

  4. I’m so glad you got to enjoy a bit of the Canadian magic that is called “the family cottage”. Sadly, they are rapidly becoming extinct. The high taxes, the provincial laws that seem to change daily combine to deter all but the very wealthy from owning such pieces of paradise. At one time, cottages could be passed down from one generation to the next; now, it’s all but impossible for the next generation to afford to keep them. So, wonderful cottages such as these are sold off, razed and monster homes (built by those for whom money is no object) are put in their place. However, for a couple more generations, we are going to be able to enjoy a small piece of heaven on earth. Even the more remote townships are being “taken over” by those with many bucks – which in turn means more regulations and higher taxes – and so the cycle goes. Lucky gal getting to go to Manitoulin Island! I’ve passed by there countless times, by the Tobermory ferry route, and by the northern Ontario highway route – yet still haven’t been able to organize a trip TO the island. Those who go are always eager to return. Thanks for sharing another of your wonderful adventures with us. I could smell that fresh northern air through your words. Have a good week.

  5. Thank you for letting me visit Canada with you! It looks like an awesome, wonderfully quiet and peaceful place. Love the cabin and what a talented man Brad’s father was, not to mention a “hard” worker.
    Can’t wait to hear all about the upcoming events and then family time…yeeaaah.

  6. Brenda,

    All I can say is “awe inspiring” because if I had been there, I would have been in awe the whole time when I thought of the building of the house, getting to the house, seeing the water and the hills and “listening” to the quiet. Such a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  7. Zounds like a lot of work, building a cabin. I thought all you did was call and ask a builder to build what your wife wanted built. Say hi to Ted and the boy and girl.

    • I wish! It doesn’t work that way. I just finished building a roof over our 10×24 deck on the west side of the house. At almost 74 that’s quite a job. Well, I’ll have to confess. It wasn’t just me. My oldest son did most of the work, with a lot of help from another son, a grandson and friend and my brother in law. But I did it. Please don’t tell anyone the truth. You do have one thing right though. It was my wife’s idea.

  8. Wow-lucky, lucky you! And lucky Ted, Bear, and Maddie. What a beautiful place. As always your words took me right there.

    Looking forward to hearing about the Globetrotters. I met a couple of them when they were in Ann Arbor for an event. They sat at the bar of the restaurant I worked at for a couple hours. Well, they didn’t really sit, they wandered around and chatted with all of the kids who were there that night. It was

    • Oops-computer problem interrupted me… Anyways it was just awesome to watch those huge guys with the kids and all of the smiles on their faces.

  9. What an experience! I cannot imagine building a home that required that much work. We are so spoiled these days. Great photos and story. Would love to experience all that peace and quiet! Just a side note: I received my copy of Historic Cottages of Mackinac Island today – am so excited! Can’t wait to read through it!!! Thanks for the suggestion.

  10. Donna & Brad are very adventureous! I like the slow pace while visiting mackinac island but it is always comforting to know that I can go out to eat and get my munchies with just a few steps. I am not sure how I would get along spending an entire summer in such remoteness but it looks wonderful. You may have said it in your blog but how long did it take to build the cabin. I can’t even imagine!

  11. Such a beautiful place! It looks so peacful and the cabin is just lovely!! I am so glad you and Ted got to go and enjoy the time with your friends! I will be on the island Aug 5 thru Aug 9. what day are you working? I would love to meet you! Take care! Michelle

  12. It was wonderful to read and then see the cabin in the woods. I have to admit it was with a tear in my eye I did so. My father-in-law was a talented man like Brad’s father. He built most of their house on Lake Michigan including the cabinets, the hardwood floors etc. My husband remembers living in the basement for more than a year as a teen while the upstairs was completed. The big stone fireplace, the natural pine walls reminded me of this home we spent many happy times at.

  13. Just discovered your blog! We love Macinac Island! We are going this week! Looks like the weather is beautiful! I really enjoyed this piece…thanks for sharing!

  14. What an insanely your friends have.made for themselves. The surrounding.nature is fabulous. Relaxation abounds. Thanks so.much for sharing.

  15. Hey Brenda – thank you for sharing your trip with us. What a beautiful place and the remoteness, without tourists, must have been a nice break! I love to see that your pups were invited too!

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