29 June 2019

"Up North"

I'm back from my visit to the north woods of Minnesota, and I think no photo captures the experience better than the one above - a conventional suburban car-keys holder repurposed to hold swatters for the whole family.

My destination was a traditional campground owned and operated by my aunt and subsequently by my cousin and their families for the past 50+ years.  It's located in Longville, Minnesota (home of the famous summer Turtle Races).  Longville is a small town (fewer than 200 year-round residents) that thrives on three-season visits by people like me coming up from "the cities."

A campground like this could not be developed nowadays in Minnesota.  This one surrounds a manmade lagoon which was created by dredging a lakeside wetland (which gave the location its original name off "Austin's Swamp.")  Current Minnesota shoreland management standards preclude disturbing wetlands, and homes on riparian land are now required to have lots 125' wide, with dwellings set back 75 feet from the ordinary high-water mark.

At "retro" sites like this (grandfathered in when new regulations were established), residents can step out of their trailer, walk 50 feet to the boat and head out fishing for the day.  For a summer season the rates are perhaps $20-25/day, with flush toilets to city septic, hot showers, a modern fish house with freezer for the guts, pets allowed.  What more can you want?  I never locked my door when I was out for the day.  The residents know one another, because the vast majority stay here summer-long or bounce back and forth from a city.  When I walked through, they recognized a stranger and greeted me with "you must be the cousin from Wisconsin..."

And these are serious fishermen.   The lagoon connects by a channel to Girl Lake, which connects to the larger Woman Lake chain.  The boats start heading out at 0530, and they will cheerfully spend the entire day catching-and-releasing, keeping just enough for dinner.  

I'm always bemused to see "fishing boats" with 75- or 90-horse motors, because in my childhood weekends "up at the lake" our family boat was a wooden 14-footer with a 7.5-horse Evinrude motor which would barely lift the front of the boat when you cranked it all the way up.  But it was great for trolling and drifting (these modern aluminum boats get blown every which way on a windy day, too fast for a proper drift over a bed of walleyes).

But the big motors do allow these guys to explore, visiting distant part of the lake or the chain of lakes, and the next day they load it on a trailer and go to a different lake to catch some other kind of fish.

My time up north these days is seldom spent on the lake; I'm more in the woods feeding the mosquitoes (but only one tick the whole time I was there).  Some neighbors have planted lupine, but late June was too late for me to see and photograph the spring ephemeral wildflowers.  And I was probably a couple weeks too early for the ladyslippers.


My most interesting discovery in the woods was the proximal half of a humerus.  You can bet I looked around carefully for the skull (in part because that humerus was not much different in size from my own).  I brought it back to Madison, and a local vet here opined that it was likely from a coyote.  This was in a woods where a wolf was seen this past spring, and I'd bet this particular bone is more likely wolf than coyote, because at least the coyotes in our neighborhood here in Madison are more gracile, and this is a fairly robust bone. 

Anyway, I'm back.  A couple days to get recombobulated, and then the blog posting will resume. 


  1. Glad you got out and got a reset. sometimes you just gotta do that! glad to see you back!

  2. Thank you for sharing pics of your relax-cation! I always love those posts.

  3. Welcome back. Your last few paragraphs made me smile.

  4. That looks like a beautiful spot for a holiday.

  5. Great post! This is the type of summer trip that I had as a child. I am fortunate that I have access to a rustic cottage in Northern Wisconsin. We have river frontage and lots of fish, mainly trout! Good that you got a recharge! Be well.


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