Right about now, I’m sitting on the pristine sandy beach at Fisherman’s Island State Park, feeling the strong summer breeze coming off of Lake Michigan, smiling like a maniac—chin turned up toward the sky.
This is just about as good as it gets. Where my heart sings and my soul finds its home. Where from a very young age I learned about the beauty and power of nature. Where the miracles of all of that came to life right before me.
I’m talking about Charlevoix—up north where the Great Lakes State’s multitude of assets shine in all their glory.
For all of my life, this has been my vacation home. My dad discovered the area shortly after he and Mom were married in the early 1950s. It was still mostly rugged wilderness, dotted with a few rustic log cabins on Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix. We stayed in both. The first were super rustic cabins on Lake Michigan owned by the Woods family, who had kids close to our age. They also had a pet fox, which we found so exotic and interesting. It was injured and abandoned as a baby, so they nursed it back to health for a season.
As we grew up and needed more space, we switched to a duplex house on Lake Charlevoix. Initially my sisters and I were very unhappy with the move. We loved the old-fashioned rustic log cabin. It was so different from our pristine home in Livonia, and seemed absolutely filled with adventure. And it was. But like any place in the woods, it was also home to some mice. Mom didn’t like that one bit, and that was part of what prompted the move.
Of course, we ended up loving the Lake Charlevoix place, what with the lake out front and the woods behind. It’s where I learned to gather wild berries for our cereal in the morning, and where we all learned to water ski—something we weren’t able to do before because of the ocean-like waves of Lake Michigan.
Because Livonia was—and still is—a “bedroom community,” we were also enthralled with the town of Charlevoix itself.
The four-blocks-or-so of Main Street boasted a dime store, drug store, party store, bakery and book store. There were gift shops, too. Open only during the summer months. Many of them would be gone when we returned the next year. Some of them made it, and one still exists today.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Murdick’s Fudge Shop, which was originally located on the corner of Bridge and Park streets, I believe. That historic building has since been sold, and Celeste Murdick’s Famous Fudge shop opened up down the street.
When the folks would go shopping in town, my sisters and I would spend the entire time watching the Murdick brothers transform what looked a lot like thick brown gravy into delicious, creamy fudge. They’d pour the hot concoction onto gleaming marble topped tables and swipe it to and fro with what looked a lot like a flat shovel. We were fascinated at their adept movements, never once did one drop of soon-to-be fudge drip down the sides of the tables. The aroma was intoxicating, mouthwatering and almost torturous because we wanted to have some so badly.
We’d get to, too. The folks always bought a box of fudge for us to have while we were on vacation.
Though the Woods’ cabins on Lake Michigan and the duplex on Lake Charlevoix exist no longer—both properties sold and developed into high-end condo units—I feel fortunate and blessed to have such intimate memories of a place that still makes my heart sing.
So I’m off, enjoying the natural beauty and rugged glory of big water and wild nature at Fisherman’s Island State Park, smiling as I remember the past and dream about the future.
Email Catherine at cminolli@pageone-inc.com.