Unplugged and Off-the-Grid ~ Exploring by Canoe (Part 4)

The weather was gray and wet, and often windier than one would like for taking the canoe out for a relaxing exploratory paddle of the surrounding lakes.  And there is something to be said for just enjoying the beautiful spot where you’ve set up camp, and kicking back with that good book or fishing rod in hand.

We did set out one day to explore the nooks and crannies of Long Island Lake.

Long Island Lake map

The boys set off on their own, map and compass in hand.  I thought about the fact that as parents we are so used to having that electronic tether to our children now — the cell phone that provides the ability to send off a quick text to say, “I made it safely” or “We decided to head to the beach and then I’ll be home.”  While it provides much comfort when children begin their solo outings and begin traveling farther afield, it is so important as a parent to have the ability to let your child spread their wings without that leash attached.



My husband and I headed out on the lake later in the day, and had a bit more luck with fishing, landing a northern pike.

Fishing on Long Island Lake, BWCA

Northerns can be tricky to filet and quite bony to eat, so we ultimately decided to throw him back and let him swim to see another day (particularly since the hoped-for shore lunch fish fry was going to be a bit sparse with only one fish to share among the four of us).

Fishing on Long Island Lake, BWCA

We spotted a canoe or two in the distance, and paddled by an occupied campsite, but otherwise had the lake to ourselves.  That is the magic of the Boundary Waters.

Shoreline of Long Island Lake, BWCA

In northern Minnesota, we are fortunate to see American bald eagles on a routine basis. I always feel a sense of awe when I see one perched in a tree, sitting in its enormous nest, or soaring above in the open sky, no matter how often I see this majestic bird.  

A pair of eagles must have been nesting nearby, as the boys saw the two of them perched in this dead tree along the shore, but by the time we paddled close to it, only one remained. Frequently during our stay on Long Island Lake we would see one or both of the eagles perched in one of the burned out trees from a fire several years ago, or flying low over the lake looking for their next meal.

With weather uncertain, we turned back for “home”, paddling at a leisurely pace.  We had the evening ahead, watching the loons and the eagles, enjoying the solitude.   

Long Island Lake island campsite, BWCA

Ciao! ~ Kat

Other posts in this series:

Coming soon:  Part 5, The Call of the Loons

The Allure of Minnesota’s Cabin Culture

What is it about going to “the cabin”?  So many residents of Minnesota already live in rustic, nature-filled settings, yet are eager to pack up the car and head out to “the cabin.”  If it is not their own cabin, or their family’s cabin, then it is their friend’s or neighbor’s cabin.  In Minnesota, it seems that everyone knows someone who has a cabin.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes facts and figures on Minnesota’s many waters.  Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” which is somewhat of a misnomer, for the state actually has 11,842 lakes which are 10 or more acres in size.  Of Minnesota’s 87 counties, only four of them do not have a natural lake within their borders.  Minnesotans have to try hard NOT to go to the lake or to the cabin.

Perfect view with book in hand

My husband grew up in Minnesota and that cabin culture is part of who he is.  While I could be content puttering around my gardens “in town” to unwind, or just renting a cabin on a lake for a weekend once a summer to get my fix, it became increasingly important to my husband that we find a little spot of land on a lake that he could call his own.  And isn’t marriage all about compromise?

Casting off the dock 

For several summers we simply pitched a tent on our little lake parcel, enjoying our private campsite, fishing from shore or taking out the canoe.  The boys were just starting school and we still had most of our weekends free from scheduled activities.  We eventually had a simple cabin shell constructed, doing finishing work in stages and completing the work ourselves when our skills allowed.  As our boys grew older, schedules became busier, and time for all of us to get to the cabin on a regular basis is harder to come by, and so that time is all the more treasured when we have it.  

Loon pair in northern Minnesota

The simple pleasures are what makes the cabin a special place — watching the loons float by and listening to their haunting calls, sitting among the birch and pine with a book in hand.  When the boys were younger, they would craft imaginary strategic games and play them for hours in the woods.   

Boys in the woods

Even in recent years, the cabin is still a place where teenaged boys can find the time and space for some creative play — garbage can lids turn into shields against stick swords and the battle ensues!  Boys will be boys at any age.

Never too old for imaginary play

Summer months bring lazy days, launching into the water to cool off and enjoy the seemingly endless depths of the lake.

Summer lake time

Cabin time is almost synonymous with fishing time — sometimes from the dock, sometimes from a boat on the lake itself.  When the fishermen in my family land a big one, I hear the frantic call from the dock — “GET THE CAMERA!”  I rush down to the dock, camera in hand, quickly snapping a shot or two before the big guy is released to enjoy another day.

Northern Pike: The one that didn't get away

Cabin time is time to just hang out, use your shirt as your hand towel, and let the layer of dirt act as additional sunscreen.  The boys have great immune systems and no allergies to speak of, which I chalk up to a healthy dose of dog fur, dirt and grime over the years!

Sizing the day's catch on the dock

The cabin is the ideal spot to hang with man’s best friend.  Running down the tree-canopied roads . . .

A shady run with the dogs

. . . watching the fish swim by the dock . . .

Best friends on the dock

. . . or tolerating an extra player during a marathon game of Monopoly.  Cabin memories, all of them.

Monopoly:  the black lab version

As days draw to a close, the colors play across the lake’s surface, and a person cannot help but pause and reflect. An owl may call through the dark woods — like the Barred Owl with its unmistakable call:  “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”  The wolves may howl in the distance, the deer may quietly meander down their well-worn path to the lakeshore, and the frogs join in chorus to sing their evening songs.

Contentment on the dock

Perhaps it is that evening sauna that relaxes a person as it purges the body’s toxins, or just as likely it is the other aspects of the cabin that create the restful escape — no urge to run to the grocery store and stock up for the week, no temptation to go into the office and get caught up at work, no running here and there with concerts, sporting events, conferences, social activities, and all the other details of our daily lives that sometimes leave us feeling tired and worn, even as we enjoy them.  Sleep at the cabin is somehow more restful than anything experienced “at home.”

Sunset on the lake

Numerous articles recently have highlighted the importance of escaping our multi-tasking world:  spend some time in green space to ease brain fatigue  (per the New York Times), take a break from multitasking to return to the essence of our humanity (per this video from KarmaTube), untether from our smart phone leash (per this column from Sam Cook).  Only by doing so can we fully appreciate the simple beauty of the world, . . .

Peaceful paddle at sunrise

. . . and be fully present while spending time with each other.

Paddling along the lakeshore

What is it about Minnesota’s cabin culture?  Come and experience it for yourself and you will understand.

Hammock at the cabin

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy and Travel Theme: Animals

As I started to pull together photos for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, finding those images that reflect what makes me “Happy,” I noticed a recurrent theme — the pets who have been part of our family throughout the years.  So often, they were part of the happy memory, frozen in time through a snapshot.  We believe in adopting our companions from the local humane society or rescue league, and sometimes the animals may join us in the later part of their lives, resulting in a shorter tenure with our family.   They frustrate us at times and can be naughty beyond belief.  They romp and play, they snuggle and dry our tears.  And, whether their time with us is short or long, their unconditional love is timeless — what more do we need to be happy?  I cannot imagine our family without these furry companions!


Coincidentally, the submission for the Weekly Photo Challenge also satisfied Ailsa’s Travel Theme challenge this week, which was Animals (click here for more information on the weekly Travel Theme).  Wind Against Current also combined the Weekly Photo Challenge with the Travel Theme Challenge, which helped to inspire my combined challenge response.  Details on WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge and how to join can be found here.

Ciao! ~ Kat B.

Weekly Reflection of Gratitude: Children

“A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” ~ Francois Rabelais

Peaceful evening fishing off the dock on a Minnesota lake
Peaceful evening fishing off the dock on a Minnesota lake

I am grateful for my boys who rarely let anyone dump water on their fire!

Ciao! ~ Kat B.