Breathing Deeply Up North

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“Any adult who spends even fifteen minutes with a child outdoors finds himself drawn back into his own childhood, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.” -Sharon MacLatchie

As the school year comes to a close and Minnesota’s weather becomes downright splendid, it’s time to breathe deeply and slow down. Our family’s weekend trip to the Boundary Waters was just the invigorating, deep breath we needed over Memorial Day.

We spent Thursday through Monday with some very dear and generous friends at their family’s picturesque cabin on a lake that’s an entryway to the Boundary Waters. 

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What a relaxing and refreshing trip!  I can’t begin to explain how restful our time was. How is it that one sleeps so much better snuggled beneath thick covers on a cold night in a cozy log cabin? The first night I actually dreamed I had overslept until noon — and I certainly felt as though I had — but it was really only around 7 a.m. when I awoke! The kids — there were seven of them ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years — also slept remarkably well. Such a blessing!

Feeling so rested, we packed in a number of activities between the meals and the s’mores and the popcorn and the ice cream. We canoed, kayaked, pontooned, hiked, fished, enjoyed campfires, and played games. We had a remarkably wonderful time being together as a family, sharing time with our friends, and soaking up all the splendor of God’s creation up north.

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We had close encounters with a bright green frog, loons, hummingbirds, chipmunks (or “chick-munks,” as Laurel says) and other wildlife. No moose or bears, though. That probably would have been a little too exciting, anyway!

One highlight for me was watching Linnea make little sailboats out of sticks and leaves. She made a little marina on a rock along the shoreline. It was precious. She played and played near the water, and she even fell in the lake once and got a whole pant leg wet. The water was about 50 degrees.

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Another memorable highlight was Laurel asking if we were “car hiking” as we drove through the woods to the cabin. What an unusual comment! The drive was quite beautiful.

Laurel and all the other kids really seemed to love traditional hiking — on foot — especially with a walking stick. We hiked two trails in the Superior National Forest; both were just the right length for all the pairs of little legs.

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Saturday we ventured off to Grand Marais. We did quite a bit of rock exploring along the north shore of Lake Superior. The rocks there are dark and jagged and great to climb.

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We threw many rocks into the water and stuffed a number into our pockets. We were blessed with uncommonly warm weather for that area, sunshine and a light breeze. We stopped for lunch and ice cream at Sydney’s, stocked up on fudge in an assortment of flavors at Beth’s Fudge, and found kid-sized paddles, camping gear and other treasures at the Lake Superior Trading Post.

Back at the cabin that evening, Laurel played with a little birch canoe Michael made for her while we were in Grand Marais.

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Sunday morning we all loaded up into canoes and the kayak for a trip into the Boundary Waters. Just as our family pushed away from the dock, Michael noticed a leak in the canoe. I was thankful that he noticed the two cracks then while the duct tape was still nearby and not later when we might have been really taking on water in the middle of the lake! Anyway, we portaged the canoe over to a different lake and then paddled around a tiny island. The girls really wanted to explore the island, which was only slightly larger than our mini-van, but there really wasn’t a good place to land the canoe, so we headed back to the portage. There Michael spotted a loon nearby and alerted everyone. Linnea, who was once again climbing on the rocks along the shoreline,  got distracted looking for the loon and fell in the lake again. This time both pant legs were soaked, along with her socks. It was a cool and soggy return trip for her, but she managed to save her cry of embarassment until she was putting on dry clothes back at the cabin. She nearly ran out of dry clothes! Bless her heart. I commended her for being brave and reminded her that now she has a great story to tell about her first trip to the Boundary Waters!

Later that day we made an excursion to get water from a spring nearby. All the kids excitedly filled their water bottles with the fresh, cool water bubbling out of the ground. The water tasted so refreshing, and it symbolized our trip!

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Sunday afternoon we inadvertantly mentioned going home; both girls burst into tears. Oh no! Then when we started saying our goodbyes to our friends Monday morning, the tears never ceased. All the way to Grand Marais, anytime Laurel or Michael or I mentioned anything about the trip, Linnea sobbed, “Stop talking about the cabin! You are making me cry!”  And she did cry. She finally recovered once we stopped to check out Smoky the Bear at the ranger station in Tofte.

Monday evening we arrived home just before dark — our pockets still full of rocks and our hearts full of memories to treasure for a lifetime.

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