Our Rental Cabins – Everybody Knows Everything

A few weeks back, one of our new cabin guests checked in and commented on how he really liked our cabin videos because he was able to get a feel for the cabin choices.  He’d chosen Cabin 7 for his stay. When he and his wife arrived, I did what I’ve been doing for years for our new guests and gave him a tour of the cabin.   It only takes a minute and when I was through, he said “Just like in the video.”  I thought that was kinda cool, but didn’t fully grasp what it all meant and I also felt a little redundant.

Today, I took large new party who had rented three cabins and did the same thing.  They arrived ready to pay for their cabin up front which is our general requirement but I usually like to show the cabins first.  In Cabin 2, I was giving a quick history as to why the whole cabin felt a bit crooked and a lady filled in my sentence and then said “Hey!  You’re the voice on all the videos!”.  Again, that was neat but I didn’t grasp the full meaning.

Our cabin videos are pretty simple and a bit shaky because I’m just running around doing very impromptu shots in each cabin with no tripod.  Sure, we could have opted for a slicker presentation with sharper vids by hiring a guy with a professional camera and a large tripod.   Then we could have done some scripts and hit all the key points with a minimum of “ummm’s-ahhh’s and stammering.  That’s all nice and probably holds a lot of appeal to many but that’s not how I roll.   I like the “more real” feel sometimes.  It appears that many of our guests do as well.

All of our cabins have unique features to them from their interiors to their locations around the resort.  Having individual videos really seems to address many new guests concerns and questions in advance.  It has only taken me until now to realize that.  Hence the reason for so many of them coming in ready to check right in and begin their vacation.   They’ve already seen their cabin.

Everybody knows everything before they get here.

You can watch our cabin vids Here

The Sound of Northwind Lodge

Jasper Creek Falls

Click HERE to Play

What you hear is the sound of Jasper Creek as it runs through the center of Northwind Lodge,  This recording was made while standing close to Cabin #7.  You can hear the birds in the background.  Many of our guest have confused this sound with that of rain which caused them to roll over in bed and sleep a couple hours longer.   Years ago a lady asked my mother if we could turn it off for the night.  We always laughed that there was a great big valve upstream that squeaked when you turned it.  That one lady was in the extreme minority.  She was the only one who apparently did not like the sound of water falls.  Oh well….

Island Adventure

rustic rental cabin on island

rustic rental cabin on island

This is an excerpt from a post from Life on a Minnesota Resort which is our “story blog” about living and working for a lifetime on a resort near Ely Minnesota.  If you’d like to read more about staying at our rustic Island Cabin, please follow the link below.

For year after year, this couple stayed on the Island in the small cabin that my dad built in 1962.  It was to be his summer home and for years we called it “the shack”.  It’s a nice little cabin and when I was a kid, we spent many weekends out there in the winter, ice fishing on Jasper, flying kites in the winds of March and being really hot with that old wood stove that would almost drive us out even at -35 F below zero.  When we stayed there with no electricity or running water, our entertainment was whatever old magazines we had to read in the din of the gas lights.  We also had an old, black,  massive, battery-powered,  radio we had that pulled in shortwave broadcasts and AM signals from around the world.  There were hardly any…..Read More


Ely MN Fishing Resorts – and then there’s Wood Lake

I grew up going to Wood Lake as a young kid with my brother and dad.  I also began gudding fishing trips at 14 on Wood Lake when we could use outboard motors.  I lugged many a 3  HP Evinrude down that 180 rod portage over many years.  When the government came in and closed down all motor access due to environmental activism gone amok, we were forced to switch to rowing on Wood Lake.  Over the years they drew the BWCA lines avoiding influential properties while disregarding smaller entities like us who relied upon Wood Lake for our lodge guests along with other businesses who did as well.  I’ve pretty much concluded that their goal was to wipe us out and they darn near did.   When we lost motors on Wood Lake (for the so-called greater good on an obscure lake like Wood lake), we also lost 50% of our returning lodge guests by the following season in 1979.

We had to completely rebuild our business and convince new customers that rowing was much easier than it looks. Well, despite the enemy’s attempt to fold our business, we prevailed. Supporting national environmental causes always wipes out, displaces, or causes hardship to some little family trying to earn a living.  Please remember that.  “Greater good”, my butt.

Animosity towards those who would happily ruin us aside, we found that rowing on Wood Lake actually allowed us to travel further than motors did, all in one day.  With motors, we had a limited amount of  gas.  If we ran out of gas, we’d have to row home!  Is that even possible?  Gasp!  Well, yes – it actually is and it’s a LOT easier than it sounds.  To date, I have rowed myself and two other people (many different folks) for thousands of miles for about 20 years or so.   I ended up actually preferring rowing over using an outboard.  Carrying the oars down to Wood Lake is easier and I never, ever worry about how I’m going to get home.  With oars, I have complete control over the boat far moreso than with a motor.   Plus, as a result of rowing, one develops strong back muscles, impressive arms, and improved confidence about one’s abilities.  Trust me, NONE of this was figured into the 1978 BWCA law and the RARE II rider that closed Wood Lake down to motor travel.

Now, are there times when one wishes a motor was handy?  Sure.  When it ‘s windy and you are caught in 3 foot waves a motor would be excellent to have.  But, you don’t have one, so you have to plan your day, your route and your escape plan.  Sometimes your escape plan is to park it on shore and wait until the wind dies down.   No motor makes you smarter and stronger which is another thing the Sierra Club never planned on happening. To go to Wood for a day, plan on packing a lunch, (no aluminum cans – plastic is fine for pop).  You should have a small pack to carry stuff.  We can get you one here at the lodge.  You’ll need the key for a boat and also the oars.

Things you need to remember:  a landing net, stringer, tackle box, rod/reel, rain gear, hat, sunglasses, sun screen, bug dope, no flip flops or Teva-style sandals unless you like tearing your toe nails off on rocks, camera.  If you have or can access AT& T, your cell phone will work on Wood. Here’s a video from Wood Lake when it was pretty rough out.   It’s not always like this, but it can be, so remember that planning your day can be helpful.

Ely MN Fishing Resorts – Northwind Lodge on Jasper Lake

When you stay at Northwind Lodge, you re probably going to go fishing for our great bass, northerns and sunfish in Jasper Lake.  It’s not unusual to catch 4-5 lb. small mouth bass and 5-6 lb. large mouths.   What can really make the day exciting is catching sunnies and having the northerns tear them off before they get into the boat.   They usually become pretty active in early June and sometimes the northerns can be ferocious and huge.

Jasper Lake is noted for it’s big weed beds and our fish love to hang our in them.   Everybody in in there along with the occasional big walleye cruising under cover.  But, some of our biggest fish have been landed in the shalllows using top water lures.  When the northern pike are hitting top water and bass spinners, it’s all you can do to NOT be fighting a fish.  The big ones are particularly hard on your equipment.   Lures aren’t cheap so we stock for sale a Finesse Leader that is a 30 lb, super fine leader that won’t chase away the other fish in the lake but gives you a greatly improved chance of landing the northern pike of a lifetime as well.

Finesse Leader
Finesse Leader from Red Rock at Northwind Lodge
Connie Wegisin
Connie W. 2014 – Jasper Lake


Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Neil S. with smallmouth bass
Neil S. with smallmouth bass off the dock

Geocaching Ely MN – What the heck is it?

Pronounced:   gee’ oh cashing

  • the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website.

Get your cell phone or GPS, pick a cache that somebody hid somewhere and go find it.   It’s like a treasure hunt where you search for the treasure but leave it behind for someone else to locate.  Some are easy, others more difficult to locate.  Once you find the cache, you sign the log book and mark it down in you phone’s log.  There is more information on the site

Never did this before?  Here’s a quick video on how it is done:

Here are a few Geocache sites for the Ely, MN area.

It’s a great way to spend and afternoon when you aren’t fishing or hanging out at the beach.

Ely MN Resorts and Rental Cabins the old fashioned way

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.

Rental Cabin #3 gets an upgrade

New roof and insulation package last fall to a new interior ceiling this spring, rental Cabin #3 got an upgrade.  There’s a bunch of cutting and nailing going on and the end result in the last part of the video.  I was happy with the end result.  It’s a neat little cabin.

Grab your significant other and come up for a week on the edge of Jasper Lake at this particular Ely MN resort!  218-365-4512


Suckers Spawning

Suckers Spawning

Suckers Spawning

It was Sucker Fest at Northwind Lodge on May 5th and for about two days.  I was working in Cabin 3 when I went down to Jasper Creek to to see if the suckers had come up the creek in the morning.   None were present.  A bit later in the day, they decided this day to be their day.

The water was low in the creek to begin with so the suckers were pretty shallow.   Suckers like hot weather if they can get it in the spring in northern Minnesota, and they will usually pile up in the creek.  There were some bunches of males and females – males have a subtle to not-so-subtle stripe on their sides and tend to be a bit smaller.  Sometimes, it is hard to tell just by looking at them.

I  went down to the creek with my sidekick, Delilah leading the way and the video sums it all up.

The next day, the temps dropped into the 40’s and then freezing and the suckers completely disappeared from the creek.  Then, somebody pulled the beaver dam out of Jasper Creek up at the culvert of the highway and the water became very high.  a major temperature drop combined with fierce rapids pretty much shut down the sucker spawn for 2015.  What you see in the video was the spawn for the season.  This is a good thing as we’d like to see sucker numbers drop as a lake will only support so many pounds of fish and every sucker removed opens up a space for another game fish.

Delilah had fun while it lasted.