It was a Friday afternoon and we drove north after shortened work days, which are the best work days. We traversed the Straits of Mackinac via the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge. Our stomachs were rumbling so we decided to stop at the Village Inn in St. Ignace. Every time we’ve been to this cozy diner the service has been exceptionally friendly and the food—their fish ‘n chips and black burger (I get the beef burger, but the black bean burger is incredible)—has been fantastic.
Stomachs satiated, we traveled roughly 40 more minutes until we arrived at the small, quaint town of Trout Lake, Michigan
The weekend’s destination was a surprise…to me at least. Meg, my partner and a masterful secret keeper, had told me to clear a weekend in October because we were going away, and I wasn’t to find out where until we’d arrived at our destination.
Nightfall had descended upon us quickly (because that’s how Michigan’s Octobers are) in Trout Lake. In the dimness of some street lights, I could tell that there was a gas station, a saloon and a grocery store. It was more like a “grocery store” because of its diminutive size, but it worked for sure.
After crossing railroad tracks and passing through some stop signs, we took a left turn off of the main road to travel down a dirt road and cross more railroad tracks.
We bumped our way along a two-track that was a dirt driveway, when we were welcomed by a gigantic two-story white lodge—Birch Lodge. It was surrounded by colorful fall-leaf filled trees with a lake on its shoreline. Even though it was night, that much was seen. I was completely surprised by not only the location, but also by this historic structure that we were about to stay in.
The main door perfectly creaked open and we entered the lodge prior to Jim kindly and calmly checking us in. During this time, we also took the opportunity to meet lodge dog Jack. After our tour and a nightcap, we turned in. Even at night, the property was breath-taking, so I couldn’t wait to see it in daylight.
Birch Lodge opened in 1912 to the name ‘Birch Lodge Hospital and Summer Resort Sanitarium’. It was a place where tuberculosis patients were treated during the early 1900s.
As if the location isn’t unique and beautiful enough, there’s a motel that was built in 1964 situated next door. For any of you mid-century fans out there, this motel is your place. The interior is decorated as if the place was just built. Or, maybe it’s not decorated, I don’t know. It could be that well-taken care of since the day it was completed. Either way, the motel is a time machine.
One of the many benefits of staying in a place like Birch Lodge is that there isn’t a lot going on immediately around it. In that way, it allows guests to enjoy the property instead of guests feeling like they may be missing out on nearby attractions.
During the day, we’d drive north to Paradise and hike at the Vermilion Point Nature Preserve. This is worth it only if you’re looking forward to walking along Lake Superior and enjoy rock hunting. Hopefully, since you’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan, you do.
If you’re not into that scene though, head over to Tahquemenon Falls State Park and take it in. It’s a majestic area with hiking trails and, of course, beautiful waterfalls. Paradise, Michigan is a wonderful spot to eat as it often has restaurants featuring fresh, local-caught whitefish. Know that whatever you do, you’ll have a cozy place waiting for you at Birch Lodge.
If I didn’t mention it already, one of the best parts about Birch Lodge is that It’s quiet. After hiking, we made it back in time to catch the sun setting. As we sat on the back porch, ducks had begun to fly in and chuckle—these particular ducks sounded like they were chuckling to a well-told joke—and the sky color was magnificent.
The hardest part about traveling to Birch Lodge is leaving, but that’s probably a good sign that your trip was done exceedingly well. As we walked toward our car, we could hear the jingle jangle of metal on metal. The sound was from dog tags. We turned our heads to see Jack jauntily trotting toward us as if to say,”Farewell friends.”
Farewell Jack. Farewell.