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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Iceland Impressions 2

May 7, 2013

“We do not take a trip, a trip takes us.”
— John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charley

Paved path following the coastline near Keflavik

Paved path following the coastline near Keflavik

One of my favorite things to do on my travels is to simply walk or drive around, see what presents itself, and take photos.  So on my stopover in Iceland, I donned walking shoes and set out from my lodging at the Hotel Keflavik and followed the paved path along the coastline.  I walked for about four miles before I turned around to come back, and I did not even reach the end of the path.  I felt like a solitary walker, so few people did I meet en route.

I fell in love with the tidy, modest-sized houses, with their red and blue roofs.  One yellow house was particularly cheerful.  I felt that, in comparison, our huge sprawling houses in the U.S. are too often ostentatious and wasteful.

The red-roofed houses of Keflavik

The red-roofed houses of Keflavik

Blue roofs, Keflavik

Blue roofs, Keflavik

Cheerful yellow house along the Iceland coast

Cheerful yellow house along the Iceland coast

Two historic "summer houses" in Keflavik

Two historic “summer houses” in Keflavik

Downtown Keflavik, how tidy and clean

Downtown Keflavik, how tidy and clean

Along the path was a restored cottage called a “Stekkjarkot.”  This sod-covered dwelling was typical of those from the mid-1800s.  The family who lived here would have made its living from the sea.

Stekkjarkot near Keflavik

Stekkjarkot near Keflavik

Keflavik is a sea town, with fishing boats and working harbors.  Very picturesque.

Breakwater leading into a harbor

Breakwater leading into a harbor

One of Keflavik's harbors

One of Keflavik’s harbors

Weathered blue shed

Weathered blue shed

Fishing boat seen from a bluff

Fishing boat seen from a bluff

After walking four miles in one direction, I returned to the hotel and then walked in the other direction, through the town, and up a bluff where I followed a hard path of volcanic rock along the cliffs.

Hard path on the bluff over Keflavik

Hard path on the bluff over Keflavik

Coming back down, I passed this woman basking in the spring sunshine like a seal on a rock.  (Don’t we all celebrate the return on light and warmth in the Spring?)

Welcome back sun!

Welcome back sun!

I ended my day by swimming with the locals at Keflavik’s public swimming pool.  For one-twentieth the cost of the Blue Lagoon, I enjoyed four or five warm soaking pools/hot tubs, a lap pool, a big general swimming pool while around me families played in the kiddie pools and water park with giant slides into yet another pool.  And then I splurged on a dinner of Icelandic lamb.  A perfect day.

My dinner of Icelandic lamb at the restaurant in the Hotel Keflavik

My dinner of Icelandic lamb at the restaurant in the Hotel Keflavik

 

 

 

 

 

 

May your summer be filled with red letter days!

Lucifer crocosmia

Two pots of strikingly red geraniums brighten this yard.

Hummingbird feeder, no hummers

Ethereal poppy

Boat rentals at Green Lake

Ubiquitous red stop signs

Rainier cherries, Pike Place Market

Raspberries, Pike Place Market

Fire engine red

Red chairs in the pavilion at Olympic Sculpture Park, with “Encounters with Water” wall art

The Seattle signature (muted) wardrobe brightened by a red beach bucket

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing on the waterfront, South Lake Union

South Lake Union is a refurbished area of Seattle.  The Amazon headquarters are located there, as well as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  The Museum of History and Industry will move there in 2012.  My friend Carol and I explored the neighborhood recently.  It is a great spot for water recreation on a sunny day.  You can watch float planes landing and taking off, and the Center for Wooden Boats offers free public sailing on Lake Union on Sundays year round.  (You can link here for more information: http://cwb.org/.)

Families enjoying the small beach at South Lake Union

Compass on the Arthur Foss, a 100-year-old tugboat, open for tours

Reflections of masts in the waters of Lake Union

Center for Wooden Boats

On the dock, Center for Wooden Boats

Messing about in Boats

July 26, 2009

Ballard Bridge at sunset

Ballard Bridge at sunset

Boat lit by the setting sun

Boat lit by the setting sun

Barge and tug at sunset

Barge and tug at sunset

When it come to boating and being on the water, my husband agrees with Rat from Wind in the Willows:

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.  Simply messing . . . In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter.  Nothing seems to really matter, that is the charm of it.  Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”
     — Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows

My husband and I took his boat out after supper and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset on the water.  Ahhh, summer.