The first to arrive, I stepped out of my car, unwittingly swallowed a mayfly and took in my surroundings.
"Am I at the right place?" I ask my mom who was on the other end of the phone. "The sign says 'The Shack.'"
What I was actually standing in front of was a large, luxurious log cabin nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, just a short, five-hour jaunt from Houghton. The lawn was dotted with flowers and shrubbery and the fresh, mowed lawn was framed with beautiful Michigan rocks.
This was about to become a weekend to remember.
For Mother's Day this year, my cousin Michelle suggested we all pitch in and spend the weekend with our moms at her friend's log cabin, which is rented year-round to parties of people or those looking for a quiet honeymoon locale overlooking the seemingly endless lake.
Nine of us were committed to making this the best women's weekend ever, including my mom and her two sisters, their daughters and my best friend and her mom. Although the bugs were out in full-force, the place was breathtaking, and as soon as we stepped inside, we settled in for a relaxing weekend together.
For a month leading up to the Women's Wildwood Weekend, my family and I planned fervently. We exchanged wacky and wonderful ideas over Facebook and planned to make most of our meals in the gourmet kitchen and eat as a family.
I offered to pack a basket of fruit and muffins and anything else anyone wanted. And please, oh please, no one forget to pick up a gallon of milk!
Mom packed two lasagnas and two sausage and swiss quiches. Everyone else brought several desserts, garlic bread, waffle mix and waffle makers, bacon, sausage, coffee, cinnamon buns, chips and dip and more bottles of wine than one party of nine women can drink.
I don't drink, so I polished off that entire gallon of milk myself, and it was easy, given the whole weekend was spent basically sitting around on plush couches swapping stories about growing up, giving each other advice and talking about some of the dumb things men do.
The night we arrived, we took the hike straight down to Lake Michigan (I call it a hike because, I swear, there were about 200 wooden steps down to the beach) where we walked around and took pictures. But what goes down, must come up, we learned, and that was the last trip down to the beach I took that weekend.
Now, I've learned there are several places like this throughout the U.P. - wonderful weekend getaways that allow you to enjoy all the area has to offer. We were just 17 miles from Mackinaw City, so you better believe we spent the whole day Saturday wandering through stores, visiting too many fudge shops and buying each other gifts.
Sunday, we slowly started moving around, reluctant to leave each other and head back to the daily grind (once you wake up to a multi-story window with picturesque Lake Michigan in the background, it's hard to top). Most of the family plopped onto a king-sized bed and shared laughs while bacon sizzling on the stove wafted through the cabin.
I've never laughed so hard, relaxed so well or eaten heartier on a vacation than I did that weekend.
The next day, I was busy designing a picture book to send to everyone, highlighting a fun three days had by all.
The best part will be re-living the whole weekend again during next year's women's weekend getaway.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.