Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Rainbow Lodge After the Fire

There are few things as strange as having your place burn down.  I know this.  It happened to us.  Yesterday, it happened to the people who own Rainbow Lodge, the motel deep in the deep of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the place on the fabled Two-Hearted River where ordinary Joes could feel like Hemingway for a day. The Duck Lake Fire had overcome Rainbow Lodge and it was gone.  Just plain gone.

Today we drove out H-58 east of Grand Marais, MI, to take our dogs for a walk in the forest and we saw the sign for Rainbow Lodge – Rent Canoes on the Big Two-Hearted River – 33 Miles. Every time I see the sign I think of Hemingway’s alter ego Nick Adams getting off the train in Seney and hiking all those miles with his knapsack full of cans of pork and beans.  I don’t think Hemingway really hiked all that way – I think he just liked the name – Two-Hearted River.  I think he really went fishing in the Fox River, but does it matter?

Big Two-Hearted River at Lake Superior

Rainbow Lodge wasn’t fancy.  Don’t think it was a big, beautiful log cabin with stoked fireplaces and glittering candles.  I never stayed there but it looked to me like a typical U.P. place which mostly means neat and clean shelter.  Thin walls, double beds with sensible bedspreads, big, fat TV’s sitting on dressers, and free coffee from the urn in the lobby in the morning.  Its charm was its existence not its ambience.

The aftermath of a fire is indescribable. We were gone when our house in Grand Marais burned down and we didn’t come back for two months because people told us there was nothing to see, nothing to save.  But when we came back, we saw plenty.  We saw shards of the blue dinner plates sticking up through the snow.  We saw the embroidered edge of a pillowcase.  We found whole tiles from the upstairs bathroom.  And we saw nails and glass everywhere from when the house blew apart from the heat.

It was sickening in a strange, archeological kind of way.  It was interesting finding these things and remembering how a few months before they were part of an intact house.  But it was also so awful.  What we had was gone.  There was nothing there but little shards that would fit in a cereal bowl.

So I am sad for the people who own Rainbow Lodge, the folks who kept Two-Hearted River a place people could go and imagine themselves with a knapsack and cans of pork and beans.  I wonder if they are finding the shards of dinner plates that just a few days ago held people’s suppers.  I don’t have to wonder if they are sad because I know they are. I know, too, that folks who drove up from lower Michigan or came from other places are very sad that the place that made summer special and their adventures real is gone.

There is just nothing like it – having your place burn down.  I know.  It happened to us.  We started over.  I hope the Rainbow Lodge owners do the same.


Here’s news about the Duck Lake fire current as of 5/30/12:

7 Comments on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow

  1. Pingback: No Bear Today | Red's Wrap

  2. I liked that you mentioned that you didn’t go back to your burned home because your friends said there was nothing to see, but when you did go back months later, you saw so much.
    A section of our town burned down some years ago–20 houses or so. Folks sifted through the ashes just to find some reminder–any reminder–of their lives.
    Your essays are very thought provoking.

    • Part of not going back was not wanting to see it. A local guy sent us time series pictures of the house burning. I looked at them once and put them away. Even though we rebuilt, we still find little snippets of the old house. It’s a really strange thing.

  3. We’ve spent many summer weekends camping at the Two-Hearted, picking stones and taking pictures. Our family – my husband and I and our three children would hike up the hill into the woods and take a picture of us by a huge old pine. We took the same picture every year. I hope the tree is still there. We loved looking at the agates at the lodge and looking for items we forgot to bring or just wanted to purchase for the fun of it. I hope they rebuild, it just woudn’t be the same with out the Rainbow Lodge. We hope that we can still go to the campground in August as we plan every year…

  4. Yes, So Sad! Thankfully the owners are OK. My wife and I stayed at the campground there at the mouth for a number of years. I proposed to her there on the beach. The lodge store was our “supply station”. I hate to even think of how horrible the area around the river must look now. It was so beautiful! Yes….I do believe that Hemingway “borrowed” the name because of the romantic quality. The story just would not be the same if he used Fox! :>) But, it does not matter. My favorite short story of all time! The Rainbow name means alot to us as my wife and I had a double Rainbow appear over the ocean the moment we were married on a bluff on the island of St. Croix.

    • That’s a wonderful story about the rainbow. There are so many people who are attached to that part of the U.P. – wild and beautiful. I sure hope the Rainbow Lodge owners rebuild.

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