The cottage was located at 609 Peninsula Trail, about 10 miles outside of town. You took Four Mile Road to Hammond, banking right on High Lake Road. It’s an easy road to whip down: straight, open air, with rows of cherry trees, farmland, and meadow passing you on each side.
Just past Peegeo’s Pizzeria, a wall of trees rises out of the fields and meadows—tall, old pines—and the straight road begins to wind around a cluster of lakes that appear just as soon as you enter the forest. You pass the East Bay Fire Department and Courtaids General Store before reaching the cottage.
Small, square, dark brown, white shutters. Six pine trees in the front, one off to the side. There was no driveway so you parked between the shoulder of the road and the steep drop-off, a hundred feet or so, down to Spider Lake. In the winter there was always a ridge of snow there, left behind from the plows. It put my anxious mind at ease.
The entrance was on the left side of the cottage, off of a deck that tucked in the trees and overlooking the lake. Your footsteps creaked on the old wooden planks, which never failed to announce a new visitor.
Inside, the walls were wood paneled—not the cheap kind found so often in the basements-turned-rec-rooms of Midwestern homes in the 80′s and 90′s, but the real deal. Different size planks of knotty pine, with unique grooves and textures, and knots all still in place. There was an old iron wood-burning stove in the corner. These features were offset with a drop ceiling and somewhat uncomfortable berber carper, but the end result was still enchanting. Like you were a part of the old stories Hemingway used to tell of the area; his own family cottage, Windermere, an hour north.
You walked in to the living room from the front door. There were two bedrooms in the front of the house, a bathroom at the end of the hall—just a toilet and a sink—the shower was downstairs. Above the toilet, an embroidered sign: “In this land of snow and sun, we don’t flush after number one.” In the back was an eat in kitchen, with a small table overlooking the lake.
Downstairs was another bathroom with no toilet, just a sink and a shower, as well as Grandpa Don’s workshop and a small nook with bunkbeds. Later, an addition would be added downstairs to the back — a sunroom that smelled like cedar until the very end.
Walking out from downstairs, there was a small mezzanine with a grill. A few steps further down was a shed containing our fishing equipment and water toys. 30 winding steps further down, you ended up at the lake. It wasn’t like the lakes further downstate with sandy beaches. The water, which was obscenely clear—butted right up against the bank, which was held in place by old trees that, over time, began to lean over the water, and in some cases, falling in completely. The result was a playground for trout, bass, and bluegill, all of which you could easily see swimming around.
The summers were refreshing, even when it was hot. The winters were snowy and cozy and warm. There were trails to explore. Islands to visit. Water to play in.
609 Peninsula Trail was an excellent place to be a kid.