A Sentimental Minnesota Sap Goes to the Cabin

For a Minnesotan like me, it doesn't get much better than this.

For Minnesotans like me, it doesn’t get much better than this.

A remarkable amount has changed in my life since Labor Day weekend, which was the last time I got to spend time at my parents’ cabin in northern Minnesota prior to this weekend.

I’ve switched jobs twice since then — from City Pages to Fox 9 to working at the Capitol. But more significantly, one of the two people most responsible for building my family’s beloved Round Lake getaway with his bare hands — my father — was diagnosed with cancer.

Read also: Tribute to a Nashwauk Legend, 60 Years Later

There were bigger concerns, but when my dad was hospitalized in early January before he was diagnosed, I wondered whether we’d have the opportunity to spend time together at the cabin again.

Lord knows the place wouldn’t be the same without his presence, not to mention his handiness. The cabin is largely a world of his creation, and as anybody who has been up there can tell you, it’s certainly one he should take a lot of pride in.

I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself among immediate family members when I say that some of my favorite memories are of good times spent up there in rural Bigfork. With both my parents being teachers who didn’t have to punch a clock in the summers, I basically grew up there for part of the year until I could drive. My brothers and I played baseball on local teams, befriended kids who lived nearby, and made each other tap out innumerable times to pro wrestling moves we’d glean from VHSs we’d watch together.

Thankfully, my dad’s treatment has gone as well as anybody could hope, so we were able to get “up north” much sooner than I would’ve thought in January.

Talking a walk

Talking a walk

The Scenic Highway that connects with our dirt road.

The “Scenic Highway” where it connects with our dirt road

In recent months, a couple different friends who aren’t from around here asked me what it is about us Minnesotans and our cabins. I can only speak for myself, but for me it represents a simpler place, steeped in my family’s history, where I can spend time with loved ones and disconnect from the digital world that dominates my life here in the city.

It’s a getaway where I can think clearly, read books without distraction, relax, forget about the phone, and spend quality time just hanging out with people I don’t get to see often enough during the day-to-day grind required to make a living.

I’m very blessed to have access to a place that, amid all the changes life brings, always seems to stay the same — just as I want it to be.

I find myself feeling heavy melancholy whenever I’m up there and the time arrives to hop back on the highway and drive back to hustle and bustle of Minneapolis. That’s not anything new — I remember bringing fallen Round Lake leaves back to Forest Lake as a end-of-summer souvenir when I was a kid — but the developments of this past winter made me feel it more acutely than ever yesterday. In a perfect world, I’d love to be able to freeze time and chill up there indefinitely.

That’s not possible, of course. In fact, even getting up there for a week at a time has involved more vacation time than I can claim in the years since I left school.

But in the end, whether it’s an hour or ten years, I suppose all we can do is cherish whatever time we have to spend time with people we care about. Us Minnesotans are just a little luckier than most in that we often have the opportunity to do it at cabins.

In that respect, you can’t ask for weekends better than the Memorial Day I just enjoyed. And thankfully, unlike the last time I left Round Lake, this time there isn’t a winter in between now and my return.

Here’s to continued health and many more cabin trips with the family, including Max and Marty, who I swear have a much better time up there than this picture suggests:


  1. Rita says

    So sorry to hear about Bob. Please tell him and your mom they are in my prayers — you and your brothers too. Great pic of Round Lake! Some of my favorite memories are times spent with your family at the cabin going way back to when there was no cabin, just a little camper trailer.


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