Why Leelanau Blog

Bohemian Memories

Submitted on 1/31/08

Bohemian Road (CO 669) crosses M-22, and heads straight until it hits Lake Michigan. You will know the road ended because there is actually a sign there that says, “Road Ends.” Trees line both sides of 669, and Shalda Creek cuts through the road about a quarter of the way down. If you know what to look for, you can see shadows of the past as you drive down this road. All you need to do is look for the footprints left in time. Sometimes, they have blown away, but if you look close, you can see that there are stains that have been left behind, unable to be erased.


Look for a large space between the trees; these are the remnants of old driveways. They were never paved, but you can see where the woods break for a minute and then pick back up. When you walk down those driveways, you will find squares where a house used to be. The floor of the woods looks the same, sandy and covered in pine needles, but for a certain square footage, it is flat, there are no trees, and you can see that once, there was something here. In these cabins, people lived, kids played, dogs named Sparky ran free, and memories were made.  Now, every year, there is one less house, and slowly but surly, the people that remember these houses will disappear. This year, a small gray cabin with a brown deck will disappear. It will be the last cabin on this stretch of 669, and when it is gone, the woods will go back to a natural state. This cabin is special because I knew the man that built it, and his family has the same name as the stream that cuts through the land and deposits salmon in the Big Lake. In the same way that the Salmon return to that creek to begin again, I have returned, year after year, to this place of my youth. Returned, in an attempt to find a smell, a dock post; a moment in time. A chance to see something sacred in the ordinary. And when I look in those spaces, I like to think that maybe, one day, I can be there again… at a small gray cabin, with a brown deck, playing with friends and not worried about anything. So when you drive down this road and others like it, and you see a break in the trees, remember that this was someone’s home, and each break is filled with moments in time. And then, when you swim out into the world, always know there is a place to return and remember. The houses may be gone, the land was never ours, and we are but renting time, but you can return and remember, for no one can take the memories.

Dennis Whalen, Allen Park & Lake Ann (Picture by Jere Brown, “Thoreson Road“)

One response to “Bohemian Memories”

  1. Very moving…You’ve left me full of thoughts, without knowing how to put them into words. The key word, though, is memories, those we have and those others will have when we are gone.

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