What a week it was at Northwind Lodge for two different families. Both families had father and son spending time in the woods together. Both families had similar outcomes. One could say that “it must be in the water” but also the air, the land, and the fish.
One dad took his one son out on a guided trip to Wood Lake with my brother Bernie. It was a hellacious day in wind, and my 60 year old brother rowed the father and son around for about 8 hours continually. They caught a ton of fish and upon returning from the day, the kid had questions and some answers. The college-age kid was having doubts about what he wanted to do in life. Back in school, his buddies were suggesting that “a rugged life” is “uncomfortable, very difficult to do, doesn’t make a lot of money”, and the like. The young man was signed up for a degree in forestry and was somewhat doubtful about his plans for his future based on outside influences. In the past, he voiced his doubts to his dad and considered dropping out of his forestry program to pursue potentially “loftier” subjects that perhaps surrounded monetary gain and comfort over the pursuit of happiness. It seems that a lot of today’s male youth prefer the money & comfort of technology while choosing to deride, dare I say, “more manly” pursuits in providing those things the world actually needs for real. Being an “influencer” in social media is kinda shallow in my opinion. The intrinsic value of money earned through accomplishment, exceeds “easy money” earned through followers and likes. At least this is an opinion held by me and my circle of friends.
Then, this kid went on a wilderness day-fishing trip with his dad. The guide has a four-year college degree, can physically do what appears impossible (it’s really not), and does a lot of manly things like have 60+ mosquitos on his back and THEN decides to add a little bug dope. All of this occurring, of course, after walking well over a half mile through the woods over a rough trail carrying gear. Then follow that with two-foot whitecaps while under the power of one human being with a set of oars. At day’s end, everybody returned home safely, a little wind-burned but no worse for the wear. That evening, the son mused about how it is that one guy can row three normal-sized people around, for that that long, in those rough conditions, at his age. After talking about the fantastic day they had, the son told his dad that he’s decided to stick with his forestry program in college. Referencing the day and adventure thus far, this is the way HE wants to live his future life – the outdoor life. Not behind a desk, not afraid of physical work and the rugged conditions it can bring. He wanted to be out in the woods pursuing his own happiness while earning a living doing it.
His dad beamed when he told me this. I also thought it was a moving story realizing how important it is for men to be around real men to bring clarity in a world so confused these days. But it didn’t end there. They went out fishing on the Jasper every single day. With their new fishing skills picked up on their guided trip, they caught lots of fish including three nice walleyes the night before their vacations end. They spent a lot of time in the boat and on the water trolling. The day they got home on Saturday (somewhere slightly south of the Equator), the son called up a friend with a similar small boat, and they took off fishing on a lake near home! Seven days of continuous fishing and on Day 8, even more fishing! His dad saw this and called me up to ask about the boat and motor they used at the resort here because “those are real fishing boats”. I agree. It’s a small, 14′ boat with no extra junk and a 5 HP motor and that’s all they needed to catch fish. Dad began the quest for their own boat upon hanging up his phone. Strike while the iron is hot.
Another party, completely unrelated came to check out after their week long stay. This was another father-son-family bonding adventure with a young lad on Wood Lake. Last year, after the rough Covid conditions and prolonged, forced complications, it caused this family to spend a fair amount of time in the woods based out of their rental cabin here. Dad and son ultimately found their favorite place on Wood lake where they caught everything that swam by – it was a glorious day. Lots of fish and so enjoyable to the point where they named the bay, September Bay. The dad even commissioned me to paint a canvas from a photo with that tree in the water that marked for them “their spot”. For the rest of their lives, they will remember and visit their spot on “their” lake.
This year, they went back there and relived last fall with vigor. After spending the entire week in the woods with his mom, sister and dad, the son declared that this is where he wants to spend his final days – doing this – being in the woods up here. Now, he’s a 12 year old and healthy, so he’s clearly thinking about the distant future. He also said he wants to become a conservation officer so this rugged life without all the trappings of modernity would become his very acceptable life. This is a city kid, mind you. He has wonderful parents and sister, and I presume a nice home. It is clear that both Dad and Mom worked really hard to make a well-deserved, comfortable life for themselves in serving others down there by the Equator of the Twin Cities. Now granted, he’s a 12 year old kid and he may change his mind several times with many modifications to his own plan, but the foundation of his plan for his life has been laid. It’s what happens frequently when one has the great fortune to spend a lot of high quality time with the parents at a small resort in the far north.
This isn’t the first time I have witnessed a transformation of thought with our cabin guests and their youngin’s. I’ve actually observed this for years, many many times but always “after the fact” when they are all grown up and built their lives around their experience here. (That in itself is inspirational.) I’ve heard countless stories of how spending time here at this resort shaped their futures in some meaningful way. This is, however, the first time I have seen it so close and occur with two, unrelated parties during the same week with a very heartening ending of happiness for a foundational life plan. I was fascinated by the “lightning striking twice” in the same resort at the same time and it makes the difficult times of running a resort all the more palatable. Yup – I, too, still question my life plan on occasion until moments such as these. Then I get back on track re-finding my faith in my purpose. “Oh….that’s why I’m doing this as opposed to some other job that pays well.” LOL.
I could not help but notice the father-son bond that so often grows here with rocks, sticks, water, wind, fire, and a simple cabin, during the pursuit of fish. Does it always turn out like this? Maybe not in all the cases and life situations, but I really think trying it a couple of times would be a shot well placed. A stay in a cabin here, away from doubt-causing influences, may build character, resolve and integrity plus faith in ones own abilities. Or, you might just have a nice time away from all of the noise. (You know what noise I’m talking about.) But don’t seek any of this with merely a two-night stay. You won’t find it. There is simply not enough time – two days are gone in a heartbeat. You need a week. I’ve observed a lot of guests in the last 50 years. The vast majority of them think a week is not long enough, but it’s a place to start.
Come rent a cabin in the north country and see what it does for you and yours. Maybe, just maybe, your kid will find that life plan clarity he or she’s been seeking. Or, maybe you’ll just have a lot of fun. Who knows?
Still have a good month ahead of us. Come on up and stay!
Last night, a lady who is a guest at Northwind Lodge came by the gallery to see if we had a bigger lasagna pan. My wife Annette was talking to her as I ran up to our house to find a bigger pan. I returned to the art gallery, pan in hand and gave it to our guest. At the same time, I was wondering why anyone would want to bake in this July heat, but they must have it figured out. Off she went to create what would be a very special lasagna. Meanwhile, as darkness set in, lightning flashed and thunder rolled in the distance. Rain was coming but nowhere near enough. I worried about a forest fire in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to morning after a very warm, muggy, night that settled into good sleeping weather after all. I went down to the gallery to make a cuppacoffee, and one of our departing lodge guests came in telling me of a bear roaming around last night. He watched the bear go over to the cabin across the way, stand up and start wailing on the kitchen window. Then the bear wandered around the cabin, checked out the garbage, and headed off to his own cabin. The bear was a good sized bear, standing about 40 inches at the shoulder. Wasn’t fat, definitely lean, but still healthy looking. The bear also wasn’t terribly afraid of humans but finally left for the evening.
The same guest was checking out after a long weekend stay and asked me about the rock -Ely Greenstone- and I told him where he could get a pick-up truck load if he wanted it – for free. He laughed and just wanted a few rocks. So, off he goes and in a half hour, back into the yard he returned. He came in to tell me two things: 1. he found the rocks; and 2. that same bear just walked across the Fernberg road from the Ojibway Lake access road and is heading down our driveway. I acknowledged that I would watch for the bear hoping he would not actually come back. Bears are a pain in the neck.
Then, the phone rang with a guest who was here last week and just returned to her Illinois home this past Saturday. I was talking to Sharon about some really nice photos she took during her stay to use in our social media and website. Wandering with a cordless phone as one does, I looked out the window behind the counter and a good sized bear with a really big head looked up at me through the glass panting in the hot summer air. Big pink gums, tongue, and yellow teeth. I was so close, I could have flossed his teeth for him. He was so tall, that, but for the pane of glass between us, he could have bitten me in the stomach without reaching up. Now, while my wife will point out that my layer of winter fat has not yet left (in my defense, my dog is still shedding her winter coat as well), I don’t really have a gut that hangs to the floor. When I say the bear’s nose comes level with the middle of me, that’s a pretty big bear. He was lanky, healthy looking, and young.
So, I tell Sharon on the phone “Holy crap! There’s a big bear outside the window, I gotta go get him!”, and then I run out the door like a “viking in my last fight before Valhalla” chasing after the bear. I got within 10 feet of his big black rear end and I realized he was just loping along as opposed to running in “full-blown-terror-because-a-crazy-guy-is-attacking”. Nevertheless, not wanting to back down, I continue my charge, roaring and trying to look bigger than the bear. On the hunt, I realized that the phone was still in my hand and I heard Sharon asking if “this was really happening?”. I responded with a “Yup. I’m on this bear’s butt right now.” and she said, “You gotta go!” and we then hung up.
I chased him up the hill past my Dad’s house and finally spotted a rock that I could throw. As he turned off of the driveway aiming for the cover of brush, I let fly with that rock, leading him like a duck on the wing but he disappeared into the broad daylight & bright green as fast as he appeared. (It’s amazing how they can do that. Like a ghost, plus they make no noise.) My rock’s trajectory ended up cleanly shearing off the top of a small white pine as if I struck the trunk with an axe. Too bad it didn’t hit the bear.
My dad was outside, trying to start his 4-wheeler to go down to the lake to see where the forest fire is. While chasing the bear, I hadn’t noticed the blue smoke everywhere. It was either fireworks or lightning but something somewhere was on fire. He watched me running after the bear but was unphased. We’ve both chased a lot of bears at this resort. I returned to my art gallery.
Fifteen minutes later, two girls came from their cabin talking about their bear experience. I thought they meant about last night. Heck, no – right now. The bear I chased, headed – over the meadow and through the woods – to their cabin – AGAIN. This time, he was loaded for lasagna. I made a beeline for their cabin with one of them noting how fast I can walk.
Now, in hunter/tracker mode, I saw how he came from the backside, past the kitchen window screen and cracked pane from his handy work of the prior evening. From there, he went to a smaller, higher, living room window to mangle that screen. Upon realizing it was too high and small to fit through, he headed around to the front, moved some deck chairs, climbed up on the picnic table and pushed in the big screen of the open window into the room. Then, with the casual impunity that only a bear can muster, he walked in, knocking over a lamp, and using a recliner for easy entry. He went to the table, swatted a box fan out of the way, and ate the remaining half of somebody’s chocolate bar leaving on the table, an empty wrapper. Then he knocked over a half a cup of coffee, licked it only a little (musta been Starbucks) and moved on. He walked the 12 feet into the kitchen and knocked over a bag just outside of the bedroom of the two girls who were in the cabin, in that room, at that time. (Think about that particular experience. LOL) Their parents were in town and had taken their dog with them. The girls had heard the window screen buckle when the bear was coming in. From behind their closed door, they screamed loudly and then proceeded to follow the instructions on the wall for a fast exit out the fire escape window. They were prepared to BALE OUT! One of them pushed the window screen and it released just as it was supposed to do. (It was a good test for me.) The next part is fuzzy but I think they stuck their heads out the escape window and saw the bear exiting back outside onto the deck from the window, retracing his steps. He actually went out the same way as he entered for which I am most thankful. Both girls headed over to tell me about it at that point.
When their parents returned, I surmised to their mom that her lasagna must be really exceptional and the bear was impressed to the point of a second, in-depth, look. While I was there working on the screen damage, one of the girls came out with a plate of said lasagna from last night for her lunch.
And, now I know why the bear was so persistent. That lasagna looked delicious. Then, just like a black bear stepping into the sunlit woods, it too, was gone.
Always be safe. Bears are not pets and they are not our friends. They are most definitely wild animals . As a definitive rule, we want to keep plenty of distance between us and bears AT ALL TIMES. While they may not look it, bears are incredibly strong, very agile, and quite fast. They also swim pretty good, too. They can turn on dime in demeanor and also physically. They usually make no noise when they walk. This event ended well with nobody getting hurt because they used their heads, made noise and planned an alternative exit strategy to stay safe. That is how we want every story at Northwind Lodge to end. When we have a bear at the resort, I will always be chasing it away and our guests should do the same. Yell, scream, wave your arms and throw rocks. We need the bear to associate general unpleasantness with every human it encounters. If it begins to feel comfortable around humans, we have to put it down. Finally, NEVER, EVER, intentionally feed the bears. He will always want one more marshmallow than you have left in the bag. Feeding bears intentionally results in one less bear on the planet 99.998% of the time. Please consider the bear’s life when you really want a photo and will do the absolutely wrong thing to get it.
Commissioned piece for a public library. I’ve pretty much been painting seven days a week years now. It never gets old.
I’m in my studio painting commissioned art for clients and a friend messages me that he just shot a 10 pointer and could use my help gutting it because he’s only gutted one before. I changed my boots, grabbed a knife, a little saw, a gallon of water and my deer hunting cap so I wouldn’t get my butt shot off as easily from newbies walking around with deer rifles. (Nobody was out there there, but just in case.)
I jump in the van, and get to him in a desolate parking lot about 8 minutes from his phone message to my arrival. There he is with a 10 pointer that he managed to wrestle up into the box of his truck and he’s not without some physical issues. I’m still amazed that he got that buck into the box of the truck. That dude is pretty tough. It was a larger deer.
He said he was at another landing wandering around and 50 yards away, there is a deer facing directly at him. He couldn’t tell if it had antlers because the brush was too thick and in hazelnut brush, everything looks like it has antlers. So, he just waited, gun up and watching. After an eternity, the deer turned his head and that which could have been hazelnut and alder brush became antlers. He squeezed off a round, dead-center-chest. A hop and a drop.
Upon gutting it, I could see what a great shot it was. He sheared the top of the heart off and removed a lobe of the liver. There would be no chasing around in the brush with a textbook shot like this. I marveled and envied his good shooting fortune. Most of the deer I’ve shot are running by me at a weird angle and usually going 70 mph with a jet-pack strapped to their backs. Then I would have to run around with them. As per my friend’s request, I saved the heart, liver and found one kidney. He’s eatin’ tonight, lucky dog!
And now, I’m back in my studio painting people’s beloved pets on acrylic discs. How strange our “normal day” must look to somebody not from here.