Three-quarters of Oscoda County’s land is covered in trees, so people don’t buy a place here unless they love wilderness—and privacy. Which is why we’ll just call the downstate couple who went searching these wilds for the quintessential Northwoods getaway, Jack and Jan.
Jack wanted acreage to hunt on. Jan wanted a cabin that reminded her of her childhood vacations on East Twin Lake in nearby Lewiston. That cherished cabin had a stone fireplace, log furniture, knotty pine cabinets in the kitchen and, circling the driveway, a log rail that she often played on. Armed with family photos of the cabin, she’d planned to build a look-alike when they’d found the right property. Several years went by, and nothing was quite right. Then near dusk one day, after hours of real estate hunting, the couple’s realtor took them to a cabin deep in the woods—the realtor didn’t have the key with her, but she told them they’d be able to look in the windows.
As Jan describes in a short memoir she’s working on about the cabin, “We drove farther and farther away from civilization. The woods surrounding the drive were fairylike—fern covering the ground and deer running through the fern. … And then I saw it—the log rail surrounding the drive …”
After a 30-mile roundtrip that same evening to fetch the key, the couple pushed open the cabin door to find a space seemingly out of Jan’s memories—right down to the log furniture and knotty pine kitchen cabinets. The cabin appeared small on the outside, but inside they found six bedrooms—including a loft reachable by a hand-hewn log staircase—and a finished basement.
But by far the most remarkable feature was two arrows shot into the knotty-pine ceiling. They’d been there since 1939, the couple learned later from the grandson of the cabin’s first owner, when the cabin was used as a sportsmen’s getaway for some of the state’s movers and shakers. Among those visitors were the soon-to-be–Michigan Governor Murray Van Wagoner and a Native American chief who, according to lore, sealed a water rights treaty by shooting the arrows.
Jack and Jan have been in the cabin for six years, and the arrows are still in the ceiling. The couple has made only minimal changes, mostly to the kitchen, where they replaced the out-of-date appliances and swapped the old white vinyl flooring with earth-toned antique pavers. Since the cabin was well stocked with wall taxidermy mounts and other vintage sportsman decor, Jan didn’t have to do any decorating. Unless you count the black-and-white photographs of the Lewiston cabin she summered in as a child that she had framed and hung on a wall in the living room. “When people see the pictures they always say, ‘This cabin has been in your family a long time,’” she says. The natural mistake always reminds her of the feeling she had when she first saw the log railing in the yard: finding this cabin was meant to be.
Gaylord Electric, Lewiston, 989-786-3885; light over pool table, Advance Electric, Gaylord, 989-732-2485, advanceelectric.com
Gerta’s Draperies, Inc., Gaylord, 989-732-3340
Stanson Floor Covering & Furniture, Alpena, 989-356-2807, stansonllc.com
Pratt & Larson, prattandlarson.com
Antique pavers, Virginia Tile Company, Farmington Hills, 888-224-0544, virginiatile.com