Growing up on an isolated farm in Indiana, I didn't have many friends. Many days were spent walking the woods with my dog. Then I found books. I was soon discovering far away places with explorers like Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Jim Bridger. As I grew older, these heros changed to more modern day ones as I scanned the Geographics for wildlife articles and read about wildlife pioneers like David Mech, Maurice Hornocker, the Craighead brothers and Mardy Murie.
Also, around that time, John Denver was singing about the Rocky Mountains. I had just graduated from high school, so I got a factory job, saved my money, bought a van and headed west to see what he was talking about.
After seeing the mountains, living in Indiana really didn't make sense anymore. Cindy and I met that next year and after some more factory time, we got married and headed west. For the next couple of years Cindy and I traveled up and down the Rockies. We'ld summer in Alaska and Canada, then winter in the Southwest, picking up work now and then to get us back on the road. Somewhere during our travels I came across a Readers Digest Condensed version of "A Place in the Woods". We soon sought out and read more of Helen Hoovers books, but reading "A Place in the Woods" got us to looking for our "place" and eventually brought us to Silver Gate. Now here we are, 27 years later, still living the life Helen Hoover showed was possible all those years ago.
Last month, as we returned from a road trip to visit family in Indiana, Cindy and I made a side trip to take a long overdue journey. We headed up to northern Minnesota and the Gunflint Trail. We would attempt to find the little cabin where Helen Hoover and her husband Ade lived when she wrote "A Place in the Woods".
After spending the night in Duluth, we started early the next morning full of anticipation. Was the cabin still standing? Would the owners let us on the property? Would the actual "place" live up to what we read in the books? We tried not to think of what lay at the end of our journey and instead enjoy the incredible scenery the coast of Lake Superior provided us.
Two hour drive took us to Grand Marais and the beginning of the Gunflint Trail. Here one gets a feel for the NorthWoods. We drove through stands of pines, cedars and tamaracks. Past the white barked birch and aspens. Ponds were everywhere and each seemed to hold a beaver lodge. We expected a wolf, moose or bear with cubs to step out on the highway at any moment, (Oh, did I say Cubs?), but neither did. Forty five miles and we saw a sign for the Heston Lodge. Knowing the Lodge was close to the Hoover Cabin, we'd earlier contacted Barb and Greg, the current owners. They would show us how to find the cabin.
At the end of the dirt sideroad lay Gunflint Lake. And over-looking the lake was the Heston Lodge. A man carrying an armload of boards came walking by. Turns out this was Greg. As we brought up the Hoover Cabin, he informed us his grandmother was a good friend of Helens and Ades. He also knew Helen and had even bought her old car. Eventually, we got around to the location of the cabin. It seems the owners of the property for the last 33 years were Les and Liz Edinger. And there's a chance they may be there now.
We thanked Greg and told him to tell Barb we had stopped by. Nervously we started back up the dirt road to the driveway he told us to look for. Soon we stood before a beautiful home tucked back in the trees. We climbed the steps to the door and I knocked. Someone moved around inside. We waited anxiously. Would they ask us to leave? Would they even understand why we were here?
A tall thin man opened the door and I began explaining our being, ending with would it be ok if we looked around a bit?
He looked at us, smiled and said, "I'll get my shoes".
Before long we were strolling down a leaf covered path to the cabin. Along the way Les pointed to a small black shed.
That was the chicken house where the Hoovers housed the Crown Prince, Bedelia and Tulip, their three chickens.
Soon we stood beside the cabin. It had been completely remodeled with an addition added to the front. I spotted something fastened to a tree. "What's this?"
Les grinned, "it's where Helen nailed a turkey bone for the birds to pick at".
Of course! We'd read about in in her book. But that was fifty some years ago, and it's still here!
He let us in the cabin and began showing us around. His wife, Liz, came in behind us and the couple began teling stories of their life here in the early 80's.
Time passed quickly as we talked of their lives, our lives and the Hoovers. It was surprising how simular we all were.
Eventually we walked down to the lake. Here at waters edge set the Ice House. I pointed to the burned walls.
Les nodded. "Yes, that's from the fire."
"The fire" is how "A Place in the Woods" ends. And here is is, unchanged. Les told me he wanted to repair the little building but Liz would not let him touch it.
How about that?
By the way, Liz turned out to be the sweetest lady we'd ever met. Between her and Les, we gained much more insight than we ever imagined into the Hoovers lives. Of course they improved and remodeled the property and buildings, but they also preserved certain sites that are so important to us "Hoover Pilgrims".
Before we left, Les and Liz invited us into their home to share with us a large scrap book about the cabins history. Many photos and even notes from writing the books were revealed.
Finally we had to reluctantly move on.
But one more treasure lay a bit farther down the Gunflint Trail.
A museum about the early settlers. And inside a corner was dedicted to Helen and Ade Hoover, with her books and his drawings on display.
Helen Hoovers books can still be purchased today. "A Place in the Woods", "The Years of the Forest" and "The Gift of the Deer" are still being printed in paperback. But I would suggest purchasing them used in hardback on Ebay. She also published "The Long Shadowed Forest", "Great Wolf" and "The Good Woodsman" and "Animals at my Doorstep". All released in the mid 60's.
One more note:
A large cedar tree grows against the edition Les added to the cabin. Over the past 30 years it has grown to lean of the roof and could cause problems in the coming years. But, this is Peters tree. Often referred to in "The Gift of the Deer". Les and Liz just can't cut it down.