A Transformational Week at Northwind Lodge

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?

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