Staying in a nice cozy cabin in the northwoods of Minnesota on a lake, away from crowds, noise and pollution. Breathe in that fresh, northern Minnesota air the morning after you’ve slept like a log all night long. I just heard on Saturday one of our short-stay cabin guests regretted that their schedule would not permit them to stay for a longer duration. They were in rental Cabin #5 and slept like a stone. They were even a little late getting out the door because I think they were somewhat reluctant to leave. The guy REALLY liked that cabin with the view and the knotty pine.
I grew up in the resort business right here at Jasper Lake Resort. In 1982 we renamed it Northwind Lodge as it has been called for 33 years now. From my earliest days to the present, the resort business has been a major, all consuming of my life. As a kid, I grew up with a new batch of people living on our property every Saturday. They were from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and from as far away as New York City and Los Angeles, California and all other places in between. I traveled the world through the eyes and words of our guests. I heard funny stories, terrible tragedies, and life lessons that stuck with me to this day. In exchange, we traded tales back with stories of bears and hippies and crazy things we’d seen on the portages and lakes surrounding Northwind Lodge . There were guests that I hoped would come back because they were just plain fun when they were on vacation here. The Kaufman clan from Bensonville, Illinois, the Dundek family from Oak Lawn, the Kusynskis from Hickory Hills, the Edwards from Indianapolis, The Freyfogles from Urbana, the Webbs from Racine, the Niskas from Mountain Iron, the Walkers from Iowa, are only a few of the many who made “work” not seem like “work”. Over the years, I’ve concluded that being a resorter is not really a job. It’s more of a lifestyle and every week, we get to see the extended family come and go. As a kid, we really got attached to many of our guests and waving goodbye on Saturday was usually a very sad moment. But there was never much time to lick wounds and be bummed because a new batch friends and family would be arriving at 3 PM and new week would again begin.
We had then, and still have now, a vast majority our customers to Northwind Lodge who call their cabin “home” for a week or two each summer. A large percentage of our cherished guests have been staying here at Northwind Lodge for three generations spanning 30-50+ years! Many of our guests also stay in the same cabins for literally decades. What is really enjoyable is when an entire full house of guests all know each other and can’t wait to get together for another year. They all know each other and go fishing together, sometimes watch each others grand kids. (Many third gen’s here), go out to dinner or just sit down by a campfire at the beach. It’s then like a small, quiet neighborhood. The nice part is that everybody comes, goes, and participates at will with no obligations and they all seem to have a good time.
Still today, we do cabin rentals at Ely MN the old-fashioned way. We rent the cabins and our guests entertain themselves by doing those resort things like hanging out at the beach, reading a real paper book, going fishing and swimming, going to town for an evening out, taking day canoe trips into the BWCA and returning back to their cabins. The one ultra-modern thing we have at Northwind Lodge is WIFI in all the cabins. We fought it for years, but unfortunately, the “new” people coming in have “issues” if they can’t be “connected” all the time. (Yes – I’m being a bit dismissive in my comments about being connected all the time. Take a break – you’ll live, literally. Maybe, don’t let your time here slip by, but, if that floats your boat….) Well, they can now remain “connected” because we have WIFI all over the main resort. One of our guests is an IT guy and he worked his magic. I’m still hoping that the computer-addicted will fight the urge to stay in the cabin all day doing mindless facebooking and surfing when they could be in kayaks and on stand-up-paddle boards instead. I can understand if they need to get online for work or to contact family or make a telephone call through Gmail. But in my humble opinion, no one should let the week slip by staring at that digital demon when there is a beautiful lake just out the door. Everybody can already do that at home. When in the woods, be in the woods. It’s an experience that is very hard to find in any metro areas.
Since I grew up here, I already know that it is beautiful especially with the creek going through the yard and access to the lake in about 90 seconds or less from all the rental cabins here at the lodge, but I’m used to it. What really brings me out of my somewhat jaded view is hearing it from our guests. This year in particular, I’ve heard “how beautiful it is here” many, many times. When I hear that, I always wonder what it must be like where they are from. My guess is that their backyard is also beautiful but in another way, perhaps. Obviously, what makes it so special here is the pristine nature of the place. We’ve been here for 76 years now with 71 of those years as a licensed resort. Everything that was here then is still here now along with the traditions, memories and experiences of our many wonderful guests and friends.
You ought to give us a try, as well. Two nights is our minimum stay requirement and it is really not enough time to let it all sink in. Instead of packing in an extra Vegas trip where you can relax with hundreds of others sitting by a pool while getting annoyed by someone who may have imbibed a bit too much or on a cruise where you can stand in line waiting for food that someone sneezed on, maybe come to the north woods and prepare to be blown away by the lack of people. We also have a lack of street lights, timberwolves that howl in the distance, bears that occasionally snort around the cabins and loons who call all night long just to make sure you know they are still there. (It was only in recent years that I suddenly realized that some of our guests are freaked out by the lack of street lights. Sorry, we are never adding street lights, ever. Get a flashlight and suck it up!) I cannot emphasize enough what it is like to wake up on a sunny or rainy morning in a cabin tucked away in the northwoods of Minnesota. In fact, it’s hard to accurately describe. One needs to experience it in person to actually understand it. It will make you regret the end of your stay so enjoy it while you can and get a calendar. Most of our returning guest “X” off the days like a prison sentence until the day they are released and can get back to their rental cabin at Northwind Lodge.