Written By: Nicklaus Suino
Have you ever dreamed of renting your own private island?
Can you imagine how special it would be to spend a week on a private island?
What if I told you there was such an island within a 30-minute drive of Ann Arbor?
You’d probably think I was crazy, but in fact there is one! It’s called “Ashkay Island” after the names of the owner’s two daughters, Ashley and Kayley. And it really is only about 30 minutes from Ann Arbor – at least the way I drive! You’d probably drive fast too if you were going to this awesome place.
The truth is, I was badly in need of a quiet getaway with my family. I had spent about 6 months planning for the move of one of my businesses (Japanese Martial Arts Center), and finished the majority of the move over a 5-day stretch of 16 hour days. I had slept only about 3-4 hours a night in the weeks leading up to the move. I kept telling myself I wasn’t stressed, but waking up every few hours to run through the checklist and showing up exhausted said otherwise. Afterwards, my friends said, “you may not have known how stressed you were, but we could tell!”
Once the majority of the move was done, a big part of the emotional burden was lifted, but I was exhausted and having trouble finding joy in things I usually love to do. Luckily, I’d been planning this getaway for a few months, and with a lot of help from Andy Bobo (the owner), I arranged for us to spend Thursday through Sunday on Ashkay Island.
We arrived around 4pm on Thursday with a carload of food and activities for our daughter. We loaded everything onto the pontoon boat, locked the cars, and fired up the boat motor. It started on the first turn of the key, by the way, which should mean something to you if you’ve ever spent much time around motors and water.
As soon as we pulled away from the dock, it was like a huge weight had lifted! Nature was all around us, waves lapped at the pontoons, wind blew through our hair, and we all broke into big grins. In five minutes we pulled up to the dock at Ashkay. We unloaded our supplies, carried them into the house, and fired up the woodstove. Ahhh!
That first night was as far away from the stress of everyday life as you can get. We hiked around the island, went for a boat ride, heated our dinner on the woodstove (we could have used the gas stovetop, but my wife loved the idea of warming up her chili with the heat from the oak logs). We watched the autumn woods change color as the sun set, listened to ducks and geese, and watched blue herons and sand hill cranes search for food. We all slept like babies through the quiet of the night.
One of the charms of Ashkay is that you can be almost as rustic or as modern as you want to be. The off-the-grid cottage is beautiful with wood walls and high end fixtures throughout. The stove and hot water are run on propane. The heat, air conditioning, lights and TV run on electricity powered by solar panels on the roof. There are two lovely bathrooms. On the main floor there’s one bedroom, and on the loft second floor there are beds to sleep 8-10 people. If you want to watch a football game while the kids watch a DVD, you can stay downstairs by the woodstove while they watch upstairs. If reading by the fire is more your speed, there’s a fire table on the deck and an amazing view of nature across Iron Mill Pond. Our visit was in late October and we chose to heat the cottage entirely with the woodstove, but you could just as easily run the heater to keep things warm.
My wife and I both woke up early on our first morning at Ashkay. The morning started out foggy but, as the sun rose, the fog gradually burned off. We sipped our coffee by the stove with the sliding doors open, listening to the world wake up, and were delighted to see a deer swim up to our dock from the mainland! She may have heard our daughter’s laughter, because she hid under the dock for half an hour before deciding to swim back to shore. We got a few photos of her peeking out from under the dock!
A tribute to the well-appointed cottage is that we were able to host a group of friends for dinner, prepare the food, enjoy dining and chatting, and everybody was able to do things they enjoyed – hiking, kayaking, sitting by the campfire, or watching football. There’s something wonderful about being able to pick your friends up from the dock on a pontoon boat and – honestly – something nice about being able to drop them off after a night of camaraderie. Reading by the woodstove before bed and sleeping in the deep quiet of the island are things we won’t soon forget.
Each of us seemed to find our favorite things to do on Ashkay. Our daughter spent a lot of time on the swing that’s suspended over the shore. My wife loved keeping the woodstove stoked. I enjoyed being in a place where work seemed far away. Our friends loved the boat ride, the campfire, the late night walks around the island, and the kinship of dinner around the huge dining table.
I think we all shed a tear on our last boat ride back to the dock. The memories of Ashkay – the sunrises and sunsets, the campfire, the fall colors, the sounds of migratory birds – will stay with us for a long time. I can’t recommend a visit to Ashkay highly enough ... if you ever get the chance to spend a few days or a week, don’t miss it. I know our family will be back the first chance we get!
You no longer have to leave Washtenaw County to enjoy a luscious, ecologically green, private island getaway. Call (734) 732-2138 today to book your getaway!