By Pete Wurdock

Property owners around Muskallonge Lake have their own little slice of heaven. Deer Park Lodge is certainly one of those places.

After nearly 30 years the previous owners, Mike and Monica Brown turned over the keys to Rick and Kristi Jackson seven years ago. It was a challenge and a risk for the Jacksons, but they knew in their heart it was one they had to take.

Deer Park Lodge feels like one of the Upper Peninsula’s best-kept secrets. The lodge’s cabins are always full in the summer; a time when most people think the U.P. is at its best. But snowmobilers and ice fishermen keep the lodge full in the winter.

Deer Park Lodge is open year-round with reduced hours in the winter. But if you book a cabin and make the drive, you can literally leave with nothing but the clothes on your back and you will still have a vacation to remember. It is also the perfect and affordable day trip for residents of Newberry where they can fish, explore, swim, relax or play on the sandy beaches of Muskallonge Lake.

Rick and Kristi love what they are doing, and it shows.

“I’ve always been an outside girl and Rick is completely an outside boy,” Kristi said. “I am so lucky and I am so blessed to be here.”

Kristi formerly had a Chiropractic business in Corunna and Rick owns McConnell Sand and Stone, specializing in sand and gravel dredging in the Great Lakes region. For now, Rick unevenly splits his time between his business downstate and in Deer Park.

“Even though my career with the drag lines continues to grow, more and more Deer Park feels like home,” Rick said. “We love when anyone walks through our door and no matter who it is we all have something in common, and that’s enjoying the abundance of nature to be found all around us.”

Rick said working with Kristi in the store is the closest thing he’s ever had to an indoor job.

The store is stocked with literally everything you need for a day trip or a week-long vacation. They sell beer, wine, an assortment of liquor, and enough food for three square meals a day.  Cabin guests do their own cooking and each room comes with linen and all the necessary kitchen utensils. They also have clothing, light hardware, ice, books, RV accessories, propane, firewood, souvenirs, a laundromat, Wi-Fi, camping supplies, maps, fishing and game licenses, boat rentals and everything a fisherman needs for a successful trip, including tips from Rick on the hot fishing spots on the lake. Kristi also offers Chiropractic services on site.

Summertime is a time for family at Deer Park Lodge.

“I love the interaction with the kids,” Kristi commented. “They make being in the store so much fun!”

“I’ll tell you one thing I love about the store,” Rick reflected. “It is when I see the excitement of a young boy bringing a lure up to the counter, especially a hammered copper Daredevil because this lake likes hammered copper and I know that boy is going to catch some fish and have great memories of being here.”

While staying at Deer Park Lodge, guests have nearby access to some of the best destinations in the U.P. for fishing, hunting, hiking, rock hunting and star gazing. The neighborhood is just a few minutes from easy access to Lake Superior, and it’s in the middle of some of region’s best snowmobiling.

Deer Park neighbor Roy Czopek said he’s seen Deer Park Lodge change hands many times, and says it’s great to have the Jacksons in the neighborhood.

Patricia Huffman, a traveler from Washington DC made a stop at Deer Park as part of her U.P. tour with her four cats as passengers.  “Coming here was part of my bucket list,” she explained. “Last year I was out west and it was so dry so this summer I decided I was going to go where there was water. I love it here!”

Rick loves interacting with locals and guests alike, and having a job that’s immersed in the outdoors. But Kristi is his favorite part of it all.

“The best thing about being here is spending time with my wife,” Rick said. “She’s the reason I leave and go to work and she’s the reason I call this place home.”