My husband and I lucked out last weekend and were able to rent a 10-person cabin for two nights at a park not far from our home. The cabin was located in Waterloo Recreation Area, which is a sprawling playground including 11 lakes, two modern campgrounds, a rustic campground, an equestrian campground, several public boat launches and a variety of cabins/structures to rent for overnight adventures. It’s the largest state park/recreation area in the “lower” mitten of Michigan.
In the past, we’ve rented the yurt structure at Green Lake, and last year, we rented the camper cabin at Portage Lake. You can read about the camper cabin trip here: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/hebontheweb.blog/17413
If you want electricity/heat and access to modern bathrooms (in season), you can rent a “camper cabin” at the Portage Lake campground, if you want more of a tent camping experience but don’t want to actually set up a tent – you can rent a yurt at the Green Lake rustic campground, and if you’re bringing a Brady Bunch sized family you can rent one of several rustic cabins, which accommodate 8-20 people. The cabin we rented looked like this and could accommodate 10 people:
Outside the cabin, I really enjoyed the private area we had for our campfire and picnic table. Our cabin (one of three in our section) was at the end, so we had only the woods on one side our cabin. I enjoyed chilling out in my reclining camp chair and listening to my “jams” on my little mp3 player and battery powered speakers. I also made a noble attempt at a “creepy” selfie:
My only real “complaint” about the cabin was a lack of lantern/light hooks. There was nothing on the ceiling for lanterns/lights, like I’ve encountered in other rustic cabins I’ve rented. I adapted by using my own supply of battery lighting so that we didn’t have to curse the darkness when the sun set:
All of the rentable cabins are a short walk to Mill Lake:
If you want a slightly longer walk from the rental cabins, you can hike to the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, which connects to a variety of hiking/nature trails – including the 33.9-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail (popular with backpackers).
A majority of the old camp’s buildings are still boarded up, though they don’t all appear to be falling into ruin (the exterior stain looks like it is being reapplied regularly).After our first overnight, we took a short walk on the grounds to see the other buildings. There are multiple signs posted stating that security cameras are in use (which I hope is a strong deterrent for vandals).
The whole experience last weekend felt like two things to me – stepping back in time – and it also felt like being at my old Girl Scout summer camp again! The place I attended summer camp in the early 1980s has since been sold to a private owner (Camp ‘O Fair Winds in Columbiaville, MI near Lapeer). None of the old camp buildings/structures still exist. Being able to walk this old camp gave me a strange sense of closure! And according to my husband, gave me a little “spring in my step!” He said he really enjoyed watching me explore the grounds so enthusiastically.
“It was fun watching you bouncing around and taking all of those photos,” he told me later. Uh…OK! What did he mean by “bouncing?” I don’t “feel” very bouncy these days! Eye of the beholder?
Mill Lake Outdoor Center Scenes
The cabin we rented last weekend was part of a sprawling camp complex that was built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. Over the years, the cabin buildings (I counted 12 of them still standing), dining hall/kitchen building and other auxiliary buildings were used primarily by youth groups, until 2000, when budget cuts brought it all to a halt. It was only in recent years that an effort (led primarily by volunteers and donations) to rehabilitate/renovate a handful of the bunkhouse-style cabins allowed them to see new life – and visitors – again.
I think it’s great that a few of these cabins have had some life pumped back into them and can be enjoyed by people seeking unique, no-frills overnight accommodations (what better way to distance yourselves from others during a plague)? I’m not confident that the whole complex will become a bustling place for visitors anytime soon, but having a place like this less than an hour from my home? Hell yes! I’d definitely rent one of these cabins again!!!