I was ashamed to admit I had never been to the Joyce Estates. I grew up about 10 minutes away from the site (not including the three mile trek in), I love spending hours in the woods, and I work in the log home industry. How I had not yet visited this historic wilderness site of log buildings sitting in my own back yard is a mystery.
A day arose with good weather to ski, and so off I went. I hit the trail late afternoon, so had limited daylight left and a hurry ahead of me. I wanted to get pictures taken before the sun set, and I had a meeting to get out of the woods and into town for at 5:30… so I tried to make good time on the hilly terrain.
The shadows were already lengthening and cast zebra stripes across the double-tracked trail through the woods. I met one couple on their hike back out, but otherwise it was solitude.
It was windy, yet warm enough that I soon shed my gloves and stuck them into the right pocket of my jacket. I may later regret this.
Finally, three miles in, after crossing a creek of open water and a couple of nice campsites for future reference, I reached the Joyce Estates. Numbered marker posts signal the sites of features once comprising of the century-old retreat. I passed some concrete foundations of buildings long-decayed or demolished. At the point and pinnacle of the resort, however, some nice buildings are still intact. Unfortunately, broken windows and other damage from some vandals with no sense of respect, but other areas freshly restored on the buildings.
The main lodge: open, empty, but still standing nicely. I could imagine roaring parties livening up the place on summer nights a hundred years ago. Next door, the master’s private cabin.
The bath house, in great shape, restored, but looking a little too cold for swimming on that February day of my visit.
And more sites that beckoned a revisit on another day when I could capture better lighting, and again in another season when it could be enjoyed differently.
I imagined… what if a wilderness gala were held within the sleeping Main Lodge. A 20’s speakeasy-themed gala in a rustic setting, that would recall the Joyce gatherings a century ago and raise funds for the restoration and maintenance of this special site. Would people attend? Would the Forest Service allow it? Could it be profitable?
I skied back in a hurry as the sun disappeared and my meeting time drew closer. I was about 2.5 miles out, when I was prompted to check my pocket. Somewhere behind me, possibly as far back as the site of the Estates, a glove had fallen out. I turned back and skied maybe a quarter mile, but I was running out of time. I skied out, and got to my meeting, deliberating… return for a nighttime ski or hike under the stars to retrieve my glove? Return the next day when warm temperatures were expected and daylight would be back? Or cut the loss and leave the glove behind.
In the end, I made a decision to go for a late night adventure. It was around 10:30 and I was hiking between the ski tracks and under the bright stars in mukluks. The sky was gorgeous and it was a fun second adventure, but in the end I turned around and abandoned the glove.
Another day, I will return and revisit this treasure that’s been in my back yard beckoning me for too long. To ski, to hike, to camp, to explore, I will forget the Joyce Estates and Trout Lake trails nevermore.