September 4, 2007 -- Still at Camp Soldner.
The Huron Mountain Club
People love secrets and conspiracies. At least they love talking and speculating about them, probably because they can say or claim anything they want and no one is likely, with any authority, to refute what they're saying.
Seeds of a lovely little conspiracy are here in the U.P. in the form of a very exclusive, private, and secluded camp called the Huron Mountain Club (HMC). There's very little public information available on this organization; they have no website; even pinging Google returns almost nothing of authority or use. I can find no list of members. Yoopers are full of stories and lore about the place; how they've tried to float a boat or wade up the public waters of streams that flow from the property -- only to be stopped and turned away by security guards; how the place is used to influence members of the Supreme Court or the Fed.; how they're plotting the future course of the United States; cooking "meth; or building shelters to survive the apocalypse. Whatever they're doing it can't be good for the rest of us, can it?
Depending on the source, the club owns somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 acres of original old-growth forest in the Huron Mountains area of the U.P., right along Lake Superior and northwest of Marquette. If true, and apparently that part is, it would be one of the largest tracts of primeval forest in the Great Lakes. The club has a private security force that keeps the public out.
About 1890 or so, a small group of wealthy people, mostly from Marquette, Detroit, and Chicago, established the club. The original charter supposedly restricted membership to 50 full members, who are permitted private cabins on the property, and a like number of associate members. All members have access to a modest club house or lodge which is visible from the waters of Lake Superior.
I did find an interesting story about Henry Ford, who also had considerable holdings of forest land in the U.P. to provide wood for Ford cars (dash boards?, "woody" sides? talk about vertical integration!). Well the story goes that in the 1920's Henry wanted to become a member of the Huron Mountain Club. But the membership roster was full and he was put on waiting list where he'd have to wait for an opening, which, as you can guess, didn't sit at all well with him.
At the same time, the state was planning a new road through the Huron Mountain area of the U.P., a road called M-35. Big portions of the road through the area were already done and were on the official state highway map. The Huron Mountain Club didn't want the road, probably feeling it'd bring the public too close to their private retreat. Old Henry took up the cause for the club and, through influence, power, payoff, or whatever other unknown means, was able to get that portion of M-35 canceled and removed from the map. Shortly thereafter he was made a full member of HMC and build a cabin costing $100,000 -- a huge sum in 1929. The portions of the road that was already done was given to the county or township and to this day there are no paved roads anywhere near HMC. You can read more about the M-35 saga on the Michigan Highways website.
Is HMC something we should be concerned about? My guess is that the club is mostly a place for members to get away, find solitude, and enjoy nature. The small membership makes it possible to keep news and public information to a minimum. The members aren't doing anything that most of us would be doing if given the chance. It's probably far more benign than the conspiracy stories you hear around the campfire up here.
But conspiracies are so much fun.