Plaque hanging on the wall of my sister's cabin

Plaque hanging on the wall of my sister’s cabin

To Minnesotans, “Up North” is a state of mind.  For me it evokes fantasies of hot summers on cool lakes, vacation cabins nestled in the woods, contemplative fishermen watching their bobbers.  During my childhood I would overhear people talk about going “Up North” and it stirred longings to escape our land-locked farm with its interminable chores.

On my recent visit to Minnesota, I finally got a taste of living on lake time Up North.  My youngest sister and her husband have a new cabin on Big Turtle Lake near Bemidji (which is about 5 hours north of our family farm in southern Minnesota) — and it has a guest room!  Staying in this quiet, peaceful place for the first two nights after my arrival was the perfect start to my vacation.  I couldn’t help but unwind listening to the lapping of the water against the dock, watching the ever-changing clouds move across the sky, hearing the haunting call of loons across the lake.

Sunset over Big Turtle Lake

Sunset over Big Turtle Lake

Sunset reflections with reeds

Sunset reflections with reeds

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My sister and I went kayaking on the mirror smooth lake in the early hours before breakfast and again near sunset.  This was my first time kayaking, and although I couldn’t seem to paddle in a straight line, I loved it!  In the heat of the day, we waded into the reedy lake and swam to cool off.

Kayaks, Big Turtle Lake

Kayaks, Big Turtle Lake

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Watercolor sketch in my travel journal

The cabin itself was set back from the lake, but a wall of windows gave a view of the lake through a line of trees.  To get down to the lake, we walked across a marshy patch on a wooden boardwalk.

View from the cabin windows

View from the cabin windows

My watercolor sketch of the view

My watercolor sketch of the view

Boardwalk down to the lake

Boardwalk down to the lake

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Watercolor sketch of boardwalk

Dock and boat

Dock and boat

My experience living the lake life was almost exactly as I had imagined it all these years.  Even the mosquitoes stayed away for the most part — a few bites couldn’t mar my enjoyment.  I hope to be back!

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Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Four short trails provided access at different parts of the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  Each allowed closer access to the painted hills.

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The Painted Cove Trail took us on a nature walk around a rounded clay hill.  We stayed on a boardwalk for most of the short trail.

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Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Another trail, the Red Hill Trail, took us to yet another painted hill.

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We had timed our visit perfectly.  The rains held off until we were on our drive back north to Washington.  The rain came in cloud bursts, so heavy that once I had to pull off the road until the rain let up.  As we crossed the Columbia River into Washington, a vibrant rainbow appeared, seemingly giving a final blessing to our trip.

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

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And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

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