This summer marks my 10th as an Up North-er.
Growing up in East Lansing, lots of friends and neighbors had places in this abstract Michigan destination they all called “Up North.” If we ever visited, I can’t remember. I just knew they all disappeared most summer weekends, and that was that.
“Why do I need another place to clean?” my mom always said whenever I asked why we didn’t have a summer cottage.
Then I “married” into a family deeply rooted in the Up North life. They have generations of history on a slice of heaven called Sage Lake in Ogemaw County, midway between West Branch and East Tawas. So now I do too.
Most summer weekends (and many in the spring and fall), we dash out of town, Fred Flintstone-style, just after 5 p.m. on Friday and join the caravan headed north on I-75. We’re rewarded with two days of a mini vacation at our 1926 log cabin overlooking the lake.
Gradually I’ve gotten into the rhythm of the cabin season. I’m better about keeping lists of what we need to buy and pack to take up each spring (Stop with the nail polish. Why do you need so much nail polish at the lake?). I’m excited to haul out the endless parade of lawn furniture, I love the “nesting” that goes on as we move back in for six months of fun. And I even enjoy the process of closing it down for the season, ready to settle in for weekends at home in #lovelansing, catching up on all the local fun we missed while we were having our up-north adventures.
Still, I think of myself as a newbie when we get up there each spring. Two doors down from us there’s a woman whose cabin was built by her father in the early 1940s. She’s been spending summers on the lake for 70-plus years. A few years ago, she shared pictures of herself with friends in front of our cabin in the 1947. They’re such a gift, as are her stories about what life has been like at the lake all these years.
Are there chores up north? Heck yeah. And some of the work is physically harder than anything we’d do at home (yep, we still put our own dock in each spring and take it out a little too late each fall). But the payoff is enormous. The stars are too numerous to count. The water – whether looking at it or floating on it – is reliably relaxing. There still isn’t any wi-fi and our cell signal is only OK, which just means less time spent with our heads in our phones.
So, yes, it is another place to clean. It’s another bed to make. The dishes have to be washed by hand. We haul our laundry and recycling back to Lansing each Sunday. And with an 88-year-old log cabin, something always needs updating or replacing or fixing. But I’m grateful my partner instituted the mantra, “Get one thing done, do one thing fun,” so we never do too much working – or shirking.
The reward is the satisfaction of having a place we love that’s just far enough away from home to keep us from obsessing about anything we should or could be doing in Lansing. We’re too busy having fun Up North.
Now I get it.