A Taste of Cabin Life on Lake Vermilion

Neither of us grew up with a family cabin.

As we’ve moved back to our home state, I’ve a deep longing to make up for 34 years of cabin life.

I never felt this longing before. Friends would tell me they were “going up North.” I generally knew where Up North was, but didn’t really know what they did.

In hindsight, I get why my folks didn’t want to own a cabin. Still, I’m intrigued by cabin life and feel drawn towards Northern Minnesota.

Our friends graciously invited us to their family cabin for a weekend.

We headed up north after work. It was daylight when we left and dark upon arrival.

Heading north on I-35 towards Duluth, you’ll drive past my favorite billboard for a restaurant called Norman Quack’s, a duck-themed restaurant, advertising Quackatizers. You’ll also drive past the exit for Tobies, a favorite stopping point for cinnamon and caramel rolls, past Duluth and into the Iron Range cities of Virginia and Mountain Iron.

On some of our long drives between St. Louis, Missouri and the Twin Cities, before we knew we’d receive a transfer home, the song below played on the radio. It makes me think of how the trees become  taller as you head north.

Well some take the road to Damascus
Some take the road to hell
I’ll take highway 1 to the evergreens
And everything will turn out well
-Glen Phillips, “Courage”

From the Virgina/Mountain Iron exit, we drove into Cook County, Minnesota where we weaved down a gravel road until we reached a dock. In the darkness, we could see the light shimmer off of the water and outlines of darkness where there were trees, but nothing else.

The next morning the rising sun illuminated the water. For the first time we could see the vastness of the lake and hear the loons call. It looked completely wild, except for the occasional little docks peeking out between the shoreline’s curves.

The sun rose over the water and drank early morning coffee on the deck. This was the first time we heard a loon call outside of the MN Lottery radio commercial.

Sure, Jake and I may have forgotten bug spray, sun screen, and sensible water shoes. One of us may have asked if a loon call was a wolf and what people are supposed to wear on boats.

Either way, we are very grateful for the opportunity to experience Northern Minnesota cabin life. I’ve always thought my happiest place was somewhere in California where I could see the ocean. It’s funny how this happy place may have been Northern Minnesota all along.


  1. katie

    I’m glad you got a taste of northern Minnesota! As someone who grew up in “cabin country” everyone’s idea of what to do at the cabin is a little different. For some its about all day drinking, for others its about fishing and swimming, and some are basically living resort life.

  2. Beth Ann Chiles

    What a lovely place you visited!!! I am taking bets on who thought the loon was a wolf ….

    • Jeni

      you are probably right!

  3. Will @ Road Tips

    You guys were close to Tower, MN which holds the distinction of having the all-time lowest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota at -60 F. But Tower still doesn’t match nearby Embarrass which regularly reports the coldest overnight temperatures in the Lower 48 during the winter.

    • Jeni

      We’ll avoid during the winter maybe:)

  4. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

    Now I want to go! Your post is making me really excited for our Clear Lake Yurt stay at the end of the month now. 🙂

    • Jeni

      Can’t wait to hear about it!

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