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Each summer we head up to our favorite place in the world for some rest, relaxation, and religion. Camp Lake Louise (formerly Lake Louise Baptist Camp) is really on Thumb Lake, but our camp and the Methodists across the lake all call it Lake Louise and apparently have for generations. For our purposes, we’ll call it Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is a 150-foot deep spring fed kettle lake, probably formed by retreating glaciers, not too far from Boyne Falls, Michigan, off C-48. Since there’s little run-off and it is not fed by rivers or streams, the water is always crystal clear. Much of the land surrounding the lake is owned by the Methodist church and used as a camp and retreat center, some is owned by the Baptists, there’s a small public access beach, and the rest is residential and forms the Lake Louise Christian Community.

But beyond the technicalities is the true spirit of this place. Most of us who go up year after year–many of whom have gone up since they were children, with parents who went when they were children, and so on back to 1930–find that no place on earth has so tight a hold on our hearts as Camp Lake Louise. The interiors of the little brown cabins that have sat upon their stone foundations since the 1930s are completely tattooed with names and dates of the thousands of people who have slept, worked, played, and prayed there. And round about March or April I start thinking about Lake Louise.

Not being a Baptist (do Lutherans have summer camps?), I was first introduced to this place as a teenager. My then boyfriend, now husband, had gone most of his life, as a camper, a cabin leader, a bass player in his old band, and would eventually go as a pastor. But I went at the behest of one Pat Ankney, a women who pulled all the levers and switches behind the scenes back in my little hometown of Essexville, Michigan. This imposing woman (and I mean that in appearance and in personality) came to the Kmart I was working in early in the summer of 1998 and told me she had somewhere she needed me to be that summer. And when Miss Pat tells you where to go, you go.

As you can imagine, I was not upset to trade the flourescent lights and mind-numbingly boring days of the discount retail world for water, woods, sunshine, and more stars than I’d ever seen. So I worked–hard–for $25 a day doing dishes, cleaning the girls’ bathhouse, and keeping an eye on all the kids on the waterfront. Getting a tan is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Since that time, many momentous events have happened at Camp Lake Louise. My husband proposed to me on the beach in the middle of the night. I was baptized as an adult in the clear waters of the lake. Our son laughed for the first time in our room in the Administration Building when he was just six weeks old. A year later he took his first steps beside the outdoor basketball court. Dear friends are made there.

And on Saturday we will be packed in the Explorer on our way to parts northward, dropping the dog off at my sister’s house north of Elk Rapids and then heading east to our favorite place on earth.