In Minnesota, when someone has another house, usually smaller than their “real” house, sometimes on a lake or in the woods, it is called a “cabin.” But in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that place is called “camp.”
Growing up, I wanted a cabin. I wanted a cabin in northern Minnesota, where my friends’ families had cabins just a few hours drive from our houses. What our family had was a camp near Marquette, Mich. Getting there required seven hours of driving if traffic was good and we did not make many stops. When I tried explaining where exactly our camp was, my friends would always ask “Is it near Detroit?”
Our family would go up every summer for two weeks. One week was just for our family, and the second week was shared with our cousins from South Carolina. Yes, their drive was actually longer than ours — a lot longer. I always wondered what their friends in South Carolina thought of the location of their “camp.”
My mother and her sister grew up in Ishpeming, Mich., and their father was a carpenter for the Cleveland Cliffs Mining Co. In 1942, my Grandpa and Grandma began spending weekends carving out camp with their bare hands. Land full of birch, pines and blueberries was cleared for a road, a small cabin, an outhouse (with two seats!) and a shed, all carefully made by my grandparents. A log cabin was later moved to the property for more sleeping space.
My two sisters and I, who almost killed each other during those long car rides, have now raised our own kids with trips to camp every summer. Our time at camp is spent so differently now than the time my mom and aunt spent there growing up. My mom does not remember being there without working. Tubing, water skiing and endless games of Uno were not activities my grandparents could have imagined. It was a labor of love, and my family is so blessed to have our camp in the U.P.
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