Steaming cup of coffee in hand, I step out from the warmth of our little log cabin and into the crisp air on the back deck. The subtle sound of the sliding door opening is enough to startle the small herd of six white-tailed deer grazing in the field ahead. Thankfully, they don’t run away.
I take a moment to close my eyes and breathe deep, soaking in the sunlight on my cheeks. The sounds of birds overhead and the splashing of a fountain in the distance surround me.
It’s this moment that confirms: serenity and simplicity run deep at Barothy Lodge in Walhalla, a true wilderness haven along the Pere Marquette River.
Revel in history
The historic West Michigan Pike has served as the main vein of the state’s west coast for more than a century. City dwellers, road trippers and entrepreneurs have traveled up and down U.S. Highway 31 since the early 1900s in search of the perfect place to “get away from it all.”
Historic lodges and accommodations, like Barothy Lodge, have served as a much-needed respite near the coast, while also continuing to capture and preserve the rich and timeless history of the land, buildings and people of West Michigan.
After my coffee, I set out to explore the pristine property, which includes more than 8 miles of trails, 7 miles of river and a whole roster of recreation activities, including a pool, frisbee golf course and stocked trout ponds. As I walk, I can’t help but picture families and fishermen from decades past — sipping drinks on the porches and casting their lines upriver.
Dr. Arpad Barothy, a Chicago-based neurosurgeon and Hungarian immigrant, first purchased the property that sits 20 miles east of Ludington from the timber companies in 1889. The 65 acres of land were originally used as a site for his medicinal herb and plant farm, which he operated until 1892. After discovering a number of natural springs located on-site, he transformed the property into a wellness retreat around 1893 — offering his guests not only a relaxing place to unwind, but also the opportunity to cleanse their bodies by drinking the spring’s “healing mineral water.”
I happened to stumble into one of the mineral springs on my walk. The artesian well that once bubbled up naturally out of the ground is now enclosed and protected under a simple wooden gazebo, which was restored and preserved by the present-day owners, Rod and Carla Hall, and their family.
Unwind at the retreat
Continuing on my journey, I wander across wooden footbridges and down winding concrete paths to scope out the many cabin and lodge accommodations. Ranging from floor plans that can sleep four to 21 people, I was amazed at the variety of rental options.
In 1967 after the Hall Family purchased Barothy Lodge, they started to expand its acreage and renovate the property’s historic buildings. Now 300 acres of land bordering the Manistee National Forest, Barothy combines the best of modern amenities while preserving the resort’s integrity as a true wilderness retreat.
A total of 15 rentable cabins and lodges span the property. A number of original buildings, including the property’s historic tavern, “Duffy’s,” the original farmhouse, the “Main Lodge,” and a one-bedroom log cabin (which I had the pleasure of staying in), have been renovated but still preserve their historic character.
Refresh on the river
Winding down my walk around the resort, I find a seat on a wooden bench at the edge of the peaceful Pere Marquette — the crown jewel of the Barothy Lodge. The sounds of the rippling water and the quiet stillness of nature surrounding me are almost enough to lull me into a deep sleep.
Whether it’s a fisherman hoping to sink their hook, an adventurer searching for nature to explore or a family hoping to soak in a summer vacation — Barothy Lodge will continue to dazzle travelers with its century-long history stamped in time.
Check out more historic retreats along The Pike:
- Sweethaven Resort, Union Pier
Tucked away in more than 9 acres of wooded property in Harbor Country, Sweethaven Resort has hosted city dwellers for summer getaways since the 1920s. Escape and enjoy an authentic Michigan summer in one of the resort’s six original, yet refurbished cottages.
- Watervale Inn, Arcadia
What was once an abandoned lumber town in the late 1800s is now home to the historic Watervale Inn, a sleepy “vacation village.” Guests can rent one of the more than 20 unique accommodations, including the original inn, casino or a smaller cottage, to enjoy true Lake Michigan living.
- Ranch Rudolf, Traverse City
Since 1922, Ranch Rudolf has hosted and entertained travelers at its 195-acre property along the Boardman River in the Pere Marquette State Forest, just 12 miles southeast of Traverse City. Visitors can stay at the nine-bedroom bunkhouse, motel, or the tent and RV campground, and enjoy the simplicity of farm life on the ranch.
Featured image by Crystal Media Strategy