My father served in the United States Navy and won the war in 1945. At least sometimes we thought he had. Coming home from an exciting, ship-sinking battle in the South Pacific, he never again really seemed to want to stray too far from home turf. My brother and I (both love to travel) used to joke about “the ol’ man” whose idea of a vacation was a cargo tent with no floor or windows, stuck up at the end of some rutted two track where the peoples weren’t. This would be no fancy “pick a site, put your money in the envelope, use our fire pit, ready built outhouse, and pump your water from our well” camp. This was a tall grass, loaded with skeeters, cook your steak on a stick over a crackling fire affair far from the maddening crowd and beyond the reach of those dudes in the DNR hats. Anywhere north, never south, and with a ready supply of beer and trout preferred.
Maybe that’s where I got the bug. I recall taking my last family vacation with my mom and dad and our Airedale; and I know it was the summer of my 16th birthday. I can remember that because I turned 16 while we were gone and there was a car with my name on it waiting at home in the drive and I was stuck riding around Michigan’s UP with the family mutt. Oh, it was a cushy enough trip with rented cabins replacing the old green canvas tent and we still stopped at roadside tables so that dad could make his bacon and egg sandwiches on the old Coleman gas stove, but I was riding for days and all I could think about were those huge tailfins on my waiting ’59 Plymouth.
That last trip made more of an impression on me than I thought and though I never again vacationed with my folks or their dog, I found myself returning to the shores of “Gitche Gumie” to marvel at the vista, walk along its cliffs, watch the waves on the rocky shore, and yes, fish trout and eat steak on a stick over an open fire. I carried light camping gear in my pickup and camped where Hemingway reportedly did (There was no sign of him, must have gone to town or something) enjoying the sound of the Whippoorwill’s on the far side of the Fox River.
As a young married man I had earned my wings and flew an absolutely pristine PA-20 once owned by the late Richard Collins (N125RC) back and forth to the Superior country often. I kept a battered old Oldsmobile loaded with light camping gear on the grass field at Grand Marais and would make the 6-7 hour road trip, in only 2 or so hours by air. I was stylin’! Later, I even leased a small cabin with all my stuff left in it for a year at a time. It always felt like a time machine to me; leave home right after work, jump in the Pacer, and sit down at the bar in the Sportsman’s for a whitefish sandwich in about 3 hours. From urban sprawl to the middle of nowhere and plenty of light left to set up camp and maybe feed the fishes.
Time marched along and things changed. Life took many twists and turns. At this point with an ATP in my pocket I found myself in the middle of the Pacific flying pilgrims around the caldera of Kilauea and running a growing air tour and air taxi company. Working in Hawaii was indeed one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I loved living and flying there more than anyone can believe. Still, the Great White North tugged at me. When fall came to the Islands (we knew it was fall because the natives began wearing sox) the smell of the Hemlocks and the sounds of migrating geese filled my dreams. I longed for a chance to see a tracking snow and sit in the deep woods hunting deer again. The twists and turns continued and a half dozen or so years later I found myself back where I had started from (nearly) and well within reach of the Land of Hiawatha once more.
I made use of my proximity to “up there” and armed with a comfortable Maule M-5, began to enjoy the trips North once again and on a pretty regular basis. Simply by chance one day I followed some real estate signs down an overgrown dirt road. At its end was a small cabin and outhouse, and fifteen yards beyond those; a trout stream laughing its way over a rocky bottom. The owner was in the middle of packing out after a few days at the little camp in the woods and after speaking with him briefly, I knew that this was the place I had been looking for, for a long time. In just 24 hours I had made an offer and had it accepted. I had my own piece of wilderness to hunt and fish over and come and go as I pleased. No neighbors anyhwere, and some times of the year the logging road to the place was so bad that it intimidated even the locals; and they aren’t scared off by much. Home at last.
It’s been over a decade, one ex-wife, and a couple different airplanes since then. The place has grown from a one room shack, to a shack with a screened porch (we still have mosquitos), a bath house with flush toilet and hot shower, gas range with oven and broiler, a full sized gas refrigerator (no more pulling the bacon out of the ice water in the cooler) and a storage barn full of all the tools it takes to make or repair anything located there. It is a completely self-contained, off-grid, (doesn’t even have an address!) very comfy, extremely quiet camp located directly in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by hundreds of acres of absolutely nothing.
Another birthday has come and gone and I am a bit longer in the tooth. I feel like I have been in one place just a bit too long. I have lots of “want-to” swimming around in my head and I can see that time on this planet gets shorter every year. It is time for me to move on. I guess I am addressing the need to clean off my bucket list, although until just now I hadn’t even realized it for what it is.
So reluctantly and with great anxiety, I have placed the Camp on the market. It is there for someone who loves the outdoors and the gurgle of the stream, drumming grouse, the tug of a trout on the line, the smell of a fresh frost on a fall morning, and the quiet fall of snowflakes from a star filled sky.
I have no place to put most of the things I have acquired there over the years so the property is “turnkey.” Whoever wants to love it next, gets it all.
I am attaching a brief video of the place with music straight from the region. Hope you enjoy. (Asking has been reduced a bit since the video was made.) Please share this with your firends.
Author: Tom Speerstra
Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and Pappy “the dog” Boyington.