ADVENTURE OF THE WEEK!
This week’s AOTW brings us out-of-state to northern Minnesota – a small town on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), Canda’s southern border, and the gateway by water to Voyageurs National Park called Crane Lake, Minnesota.
This trip came about, as many do, with the two of us shooting texts back and forth about places we want to go and see some day – the Boundary Waters being one of them. Travis hunted with a group of men last year in Colorado, one of whom owns a resort in Crane Lake. After a couple phone calls, it seemed like a great weekend trip during Covid since it met all the criteria for us – a small town within driving distance (7 hours from Madison, WI) and able to properly distance ourselves from others and still have a fun holiday weekend exploring the outdoors.
Extra bonus points go to the owners and staff at Pine Point for following all CDC guidelines and going above and beyond to keep guests safe. Feel free to ask them about what they’re doing – we’ve seen it in action and can vouch for it all.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon, kicking off the July 4th holiday weekend. The resort where we’d be staying isn’t accessible by car, so we parked in a lot in town and were greeted by a complimentary pontoon boat shuttle. The amount of things we packed for 3 nights was embarrassing and a bit cringe-worthy watching the staff load it all on board. Due to Covid, we were asked to provide our own bedding and towels – fine by us, as we’re a little snobby in that department but just added more bags to pack and haul. We also packed all our own food and beverages since we were unsure what we’d be able to buy up there.
Our cottage was a direct waterfront 2 bedroom, 1 bath with small living room, kitchen and deck and boat slip out front. We stayed in the Oak cottage, which was the only one available at the time of booking and was a bit tight for our group of 8 but we made do. It’s nothing fancy but it served it’s purpose the whole weekend, despite no air conditioning and 90+ degree temps!
We equated this to an old-school 1980’s summer – a weekend spent at the lake, no TV, limited cell service (they do have some wifi internet), having fun the old-fashioned way. The resort has a main lodge which did have quite a few convenience items like ice, charcoal, milk, eggs, etc. Fishing licenses, gear, and bait are also available to purchase. They actually just charge it to a tab on your cottage, which made it really easy to run and grab things as we needed them.
There is a large dock near the boathouse for fishing, along with each cottage having it’s own boat slip. Throughout the weekend, a lot of fishing was done with a few good catches. The kids had a greater interest in fishing this year, which is always fun and exciting to watch them try something new.
An group campfire each night, along with several different activities each day throughout the week, is also provided.
A large beach area with some lounge chairs, paddle boards, kayaks, and toys was the group favorite and we had it to ourselves most days! (Normally, they’d have a big water trampoline and inflatable rafts).
Normally, Crane Lake would have a big town parade. However, this year they did a boat parade that we were able to watch from our resort. The town did end up having a street parade the evening of July 4th, but we didn’t attend. Instead, we let the kids stay up late watching fireworks over the lake, with the full moon and fireworks reflecting on the water.
The resort also has boat rentals and we were able to secure a pontoon boat rental for a day. The dads went out fishing for a few hours at dawn one morning into some backwater channels – apparently there is a “portage” area where you load your boat and a pulley/track system moves your boat across land over to another lake.
The owners had the guys take a quick map-reading course as they explained how the buoys and water channel system works, as it’s not super intuitive. They were able to point out some great beaches and hikes (more later). We loaded up and headed out on the pontoon for the afternoon.
After some fishing, we moved north into the channels and chain of lakes that border with Canada. We’ve done our fair share of boating and seen many beautiful lakes, but this was so unique with all the little islands.
We were able to pull into a small beach area on Namakan Lake called “My Island”. There is a day-use site (not to be confused with the private campsite we mistakenly pulled into first… whoops!). We had the whole area to ourselves and it was absolutely perfect for a few hours, until a rainstorm had us running into the woods for cover! Always an adventure.
After the hot days in the sun and unusually warm temperatures for up there, the cool nights were a nice relief. We spent the evenings sitting on the deck or fishing from the pier and boat.
Overall, it was the perfect weekend for these uncertain and weird times. This trip allowed us all to get away together, spend time relaxing, force ourselves to avoid the media coverage of this pandemic, and enjoy each other’s company while exploring a new place. Some great memories were made and we’re planning to make this an annual summer tradition after meeting many people who have been visiting for years (one adult woman has visited every summer since she was 3!).
We love to explore new places but like the familiarity of returning to a location of tradition each year. Anyone else have a place like this they look forward to returning to each year?
Make sure to check out Pine Point Lodge, Resort, and Motel in Crane Lake, Minnesota and tell them we sent you! We had such a great experience with every staff member we met and can’t recommend the area enough! Until next year, we’ll live vicariously and follow along on their Instagram account @pinepointlodge.