A dirt road winds its way uphill and disappears into a dense forest. A weather-beaten sign entices Frank and I to enter and see “the best view of Michigan’s twin lakes”. I think it’s a ruse. There is something lurking in those dark woods, waiting to pounce. Something evil. Dark. With fangs. And fins. I hate fins.
Frank doesn’t care. He has a four-wheel Jeep and an urge to get stuck. So up we go, me clinging, as usual, to the door that I’ve partially opened, enabling a quick getaway should anything spring from the trees. Frank is well aware of my yellow streak. A streak so long and wide I’ve looked jaundiced most of my life.
But nothing sprung and, after awhile, I relaxed. The road came to a dead end and whatever view might have been available at one time was now blocked by trees. We turned to head back to the main road but then…I saw it. A gate. Partially open and overrun with vegetation, but I spied it because…well…I was still looking for menacing fins.
For whatever reason, I cannot resist hidden doors, gates, archways. Dirt roads scare me because I see bears, cougars, deer (seriously, a pissed off deer can be dangerous), but doors and gates suggest dwellings once inhabited by people. People with stories, histories, secrets.
In our defence we didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs so through the gate we went and this is what we saw;
At least, this is what my eyes saw.
I’m a very hairy person (fortunately it’s mostly blonde or I’d be in a carnival somewhere in Russia), but every one of those hairs was standing at attention. I told them to quit being silly and got out of the Jeep because it was, the reasonable part of me pointed out, a beautiful spot. You could see the lake from the front porch.
And it was totally deserted. Had been for quite a while, by the length of the grass, but not so long that it was in disrepair. Weed whackers and wheelbarrows were in full view. Frank and I came to the reasonable assumption that the owners were simply in town and would be back shortly. So we skedaddled. But later on…
Okay, we need some back story here. Why were we wandering around the back woods of Michigan? Because Frank can only sit around the parking lots of Michigan for so long.
From the start. Every year a bunch of us Canadians meet a bunch of them Americans in the parking lot of the Lewiston Lodge in Lewiston, Michigan. It started fourteen years ago and has continued faithfully because, when you only see each other once a year, it’s hard to get sick of one another. And it is so freaking fun it should be illegal.
I’m not sure of everybody’s last name (the Americans, that is. Known the Canadian contingency most of my life). Can never remember exactly where they live, only that it’s somewhere near Detroit. But I love each and every one of them dearly, and look forward to seeing them with an anticipation rivalled only by visiting my family.
It started when our friends, Robin and Allan, turned their classic car into the Lewiston Lodge parking lot, looking for a place to spend the night before the Lewiston car show. And there were the Americans. All sitting on chairs in the parking lot. They invited Robin and Allan to join them, being your typical friendly Michiganders, and the rest is history. When Allan and Robin returned to their home town they told their friends what a great time they had, what wonderful people they met, and eventually, we all migrated down there over the years. Frank and I have gone for six years, and now it would take an extreme emergency for us to miss it. Back to the story…
It’s Sunday and everyone is set to leave the next day. We’ve had a big supper, speeches about how much fun we’ve had, congratulated the owners of the cars that won in the show, congratulated Gary who took home the pool trophy, and we’re heading back to the parking lot because that is where we spend a lot of our time. I know. Sounds dreary. But laughter doesn’t care where it happens. We’d have sat by the lake but the flies were bad (and it’s a longer walk to the fridge and the bathroom) so we sit, in a circle, on the hot pavement, moving when the sun does to find some shade, and we laugh. Lots.
But a few of us decide we should take a walk first. Walk off the big meal. They heard Frank and I talk about this lodge we found in the bush and they want to see it. So I load as many as I can into the Jeep (it’s a TJ, ended up with five of us and we were cramped) and headed up the road. I’m driving, Tom (American) shotgun position, Carol (American and really, too sweet to be hanging out with the likes of us), Marlene (Canadian and my BFF since we were sixteen) and her brother, David, who insisted on taking pictures that made the Blair Witch Project look like a Disney movie.
I wasn’t sure if the owners might have returned by then but when we pulled into the driveway, the place was still deserted. Emboldened because now I had back up, we all got out and investigated the place more thoroughly. It was so strange. It looked like who ever owned the place just got up one morning and decided to leave. We all cupped our hands to the windows and saw wood furniture, old but in good shape, and Oriental looking carpets. Wash bowls in the kitchen and old-fashioned lamps. Very spooky. Tom started to drag one foot and pretend he was Lurch…
All I know is we were laughing, having a good time, until we started wandering further into the bush. We saw another building. We, of course, had to check it out. Carol kept telling us to stay together because that’s how it would start picking us off. Never explained what “it” was, but we knew. The guy with the ski mask. The guy with the chainsaw. The guy with the hook instead of a hand.
I don’t have a picture of the cabin, wish I did, and what was probably the original dwelling before the lodge was built. It was also locked (I tried all the doors), and it also had the look of only recently being left. It was in good repair but it looked…lonely. Then Marlene noticed another building, further away. So off we went. It was more run down, probably a storage shed or an old barn, with holes in the sides, holes we probably could have gone through only some time along the way, without us noticing, the weather had turned. Clouds grayed the skies and before we could investigate further, the rain started. So we ran, back to the Jeep, David taking pictures of me fleeing through the woods in a brightly coloured sun dress and sneakers, running as if chased besides something other than raindrops. We packed ourselves into the Jeep and headed back to the lodge, never once seeing anything that could have remotely hurt us in any way but still feeling like we had narrowly missed being discovered by a mentally deranged caretaker with a penchant for hunting knives.
According to the folks we talked to around Lewiston, this lodge was the home of the World’s Championship of Croquet. Not even remotely scary. Then had apparently become involved in some sort of domestic dispute and not used in many, many, years. Of course I Googled it when I got home and this is what I found:
which, in my books, makes it even more mysterious.