Story & Photos by Kim Rickey
Finally, after 25 years, our dream of owning a cottage on a lake came true! On May 29, 2015, we bought our cottage on Manistee Lake, near Kalkaska, Mich. My husband had been vacationing in this area since he was a child, and he first brought me there in 1992, when our daughter was 2 years old, and I fell in love.
Never, did we think we could ever have a place of our own on an all-sports lake.
We started our search online in the fall of 2013 through home-search websites. After getting preapproved for a home loan, we had a realtor line up several cabins for us to look at during our vacation in July 2014. Unfortunately, we came up empty, as the cabins either didn’t fit our criteria, or they had offers pending. Talk about being disappointed on the ride home. I knew our window of opportunity would be closing because the prices were climbing!
But we kept looking for the next year and looked at several more in April 2015. I made an extra trip early in the year with my son Nico in hopes of beating the rush and finding a place before they were all gone.
We closed on our cottage the next month.
Our place is 728 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom that includes laundry. When I first saw it, it was a flashback to the 1960s. But, I was able to visualize what it could be, and that sealed the deal.
We completely gutted most of the cottage, except the bedrooms, down to the studs. In the process, we discovered that quite a few mice and chipmunks had taken up residence over the years – proof that the previous owners didn’t spend that much time at the cottage.
We installed everything new: electrical, plumbing, furnace, windows, a bathroom with laundry, a kitchen, well and septic. In the living room, we built a tray ceiling to make it feel bigger and then added a ceiling fan. In the bedrooms, I painted the dark green paneling a light gray after applying two coats of primer.
Manistee Lake is an 828-acre water body, with the deepest depth being 16 to18 feet deep, depending on the snow/rainfall amounts of the year. It’s a true all-sports lake, meaning you can have pretty much any sized boat on the lake (within reason): kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, PWCs, ski boats, pontoon boats and fishing boats.
In the winter, there are many snowmobile trails close by, with parks and forests all around. Also, ice fishing.
When we visit our cottage, it’s all about reconnecting with family. While today’s world of technology is great, it’s still better to be face to face with the people you love. And our little cottage provides that for our family. In fact, the last time we were there, we were playing Uno with no phones allowed! Otherwise, we just enjoy hanging out together, telling stories, fishing and sitting around bonfires.
We also make day trips to the towns of Leland, Northport, Suttons Bay and Traverse City. We visit wineries, beaches and our favorite shops like: Cherry Republic, Leelanau Cheese, Grand Traverse Pie Company and M22, and the newly discovered The Cheese Lady.
Even though we currently live outside of Chicago, we feel most at home when we arrive at our cottage. When the time comes, we hope to retire here. Beyond that, we have already told our kids to never sell our cottage because we worked too hard to get it!