When Dan and I found the ad for this campground, we called the realtor to get some information. Of course, the realtor had glowing things to say about it. My question to him was “If the campground is so successful, then why do the people want to sell it?” His response was “They are going through a divorce.”
About a week later (in August 1992), Dan and I drove 380 miles from our home to view the closed North Country Campground. What the realtor had NOT told us was that the State Health Department had closed the owners down in 1989 (3 years earlier) and it had sat unattended all of that time. (Please note the spelling of the park from when the previous owners had it. Once we purchased it, we had “debt collectors” coming out of the wood work trying to get paid from “North Country Campground”…so we changed it to one word, Northcountry Campground. Then when we added the cabins, we changed it to Northcountry Campground & Cabins. About 3 years ago, we added Clementz’s in front of the whole shebang so it is Clementz’s Northcountry Campground & Cabins)
You could not even begin to distinguish where the campsites were supposed to be; the grass hadn’t been mown in 36 months. There were all kinds of strange weeds and wildflowers and trees all over everything. But there were huge beautiful white pine trees, and balsam firs, some maples. If we really stretched our imagination, we could see what this place would look like with a LOT of TLC.
The reason the park had been closed was due to a lot of infractions incurred by the previous owners….the worst of which had to do with the sewage lagoon system. After a couple more quick round trips and a lot of phone calls back and forth to various agencies that we would be dealing with, we decided to quit our jobs downstate and take the plunge. In the meantime, I had been offered a job at the financial institution where we were getting the mortgage from in Newberry.
We had a HUGE garage sale before moving, and then rented a good size U-Haul to move our “stuff” up here. We had already moved our 5th wheel up so we could live in it on the weekends that we had been coming up. We had SO MUCH STUFF to try to fit into this little 900 square foot home! A lot of it ended up being stored in our 5th wheel! Not only was there work to do in the campground, but we had to fix the home up a bit too. There wasn’t even an office/lobby area.
After we stuck a WHOLE bunch of money in to upgrading the lift station and making it legal, we then slowly started tackling the campground, the bathhouse and our home. We had to have a brush hog in order to clear out the campsites and get rid of a lot of trees that had grown up where we did not want them. The only really GOOD thing about the place (that was what we referred to it back then) was that all of the sites were pull through sites and they were LARGE sites.
We slowly started replacing the electrical pedestals from having 20 amp fuses to actually having 30 amp breakers. When we purchased “the place”, there were 8 full hook ups, 8 water and electric, 16 just electric and 18 rustic sites. There are now 8 full hook ups, 24 water and electric, 8 just electric and 10 tent sites. We made changes and improvements in the bathhouse (too bad we didn’t have a digital camera WAY back then!). We put a larger pump in the well (Our water is excellent. Guests have told us we should bottle it and sell it!). We built a pole barn, put a new roof over the shop/garage (which use to be a grocery and bait store). Put a new roof over OUR heads, got a lobby and office built. Lots of repairs made here and there…and with all of this that we were trying to accomplish, I had to decline the job at the local bank.
I think it was around 1995 or 1996 that we decided to build two little log cabins. This was our first REAL experience of doing carpentry work together. It was a learning experience…I learned that I would not so much as help Dan put together a bird house after that project was done. Talk about grounds for divorce! We started construction in April and had our first rental in July (we even worked during a late season snowstorm the end of April!). Not only was there the actual construction of the cabins, but we had to put in a septic tank (which we made large enough so we could safely add another 3 cabins if we wanted to) and run water lines to the cabins. Around this same time we added CATV hook up to most of the campsites.
The next year, I had settled down from my “learning experience” and told Dan that we needed to add on to our home; we needed a dining room separate from the small kitchen area and I needed more cupboards. My learning experience from this project was ya don’t try to hold a 4’ x 12’ piece of drywall on the ceiling with your head while standing on a ladder waiting for hubby to get it screwed in place. My neck hasn’t been the same since. I once again said “NO MORE BUILDING PROJECTS!! It puts too much strain on our happy home!”
I gave myself a couple of years to get over “no more building projects” when I came up with the idea that we should turn part of the garage/shop/storage area into a rental unit. So, we were off to the races once again! This time we got a drywall jack hold the drywall in place…but boy when you do the walls and the ceiling, that is a LOT of mudding and sanding! We managed to get through THAT project without too many harsh words or me threatening to walk off the job. By this time, I was becoming an accomplished carpenter. Of course, we had to put in a septic system for the Little Lodge (that is what we call this rental) and run water to it. We added a deck to it and put a privacy fence around the yard.
After a couple more years, we decided to add on to the cabins so we had to find someone who could try to match the existing logs and cut them to the dimensions that we needed. Ya wouldn’t think adding on a 7’ x 14’ addition could be such an undertaking! But some of the logs were slightly warped, which made it hard to get everything perfectly square. These two little additions were a REAL challenge…even for Dan! Once again, we didn’t kill each other but I did once again tell him that was the last building project that I would EVER be involved in! I don’t think that I was ever so relieved over the completion of ANYTHING as I was that project. I’m sure, deep down, Dan was glad it was over too and I really don’t think he wanted to even so much as build a bird house…at least not for 10 years. OH! And we added a deck to each cabin. That wasn’t so bad.
We kept improving on the park, improving the playground…doing little things that others probably wouldn’t notice; things that needed to be done. We actually looked forward to our Trailer Life inspections. Our goal was for each year’s inspection to be better than the previous year. There are things that a park gets “marked down for” that will ever prevent us from attaining a perfect 10 (either with Trailer Life OR Woodalls for that matter). For example; the first couple of years we were inspected we were told we needed to spruce up the entrance; plant flowers, hang baskets of flowers, put in large rocks and paint them. I advised the inspectors that they should not rate U .P. campgrounds as if we had the climate of California and that I HAD flowers planted that year and it frosted mid June and killed them all. And as far as the “large rocks”…talk to MDOT about that. There is such a thing as a right of way. I’m sorry, but I think some of the things are just plain picky. Two years ago, a set of inspectors from one of these places was going to mark us down because they heard an airplane fly over and figured we were near an airport (which you have to be a certain # of miles from an airport to get a “good rating”.) Yes, there is an airport in Luce County…it is LUCE COUNTY AIRPORT…COUNTY being the operative word here. It isn’t a place for jets to land and take off. There was a small private plane that happened to fly over that day. I guess I should be glad it wasn’t the search and rescue helicopter! We will never get a complete 10 rating because we are not going to build false walls to cover up the plumbing in the laundry or to hide the water heaters. We personally think that the organizations that rate a campground should spend more time on cleanliness of the park and facilities, how knowledgeable and helpful the staff is…things like that. But, we don’t write those books! So, yes we loose points because the water lines are exposed in the bathhouse, and because the bathhouse walls are painted blocks instead of tile. I’d rather be cleaning painted block walls than trying to replace broken tiles!
Well, I will continue on with this story another day because this is enough of my rambling for you to have to read in one sitting!
Our New Normal
4 weeks ago