Time spent with family at the cabin is cherished

Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 10, 2015

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

Whenever I make that first visit to the cabin, I expect a few surprises.

This past week, my wife, Jean, accompanied me to our cabin for the first visit of the season. I always expect the unexpected because in past years I have been greeted with downed trees or winter damage to the roof or chimney.

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This time, Jean and I were pleasantly surprised by an uneventful first visit. After settling in, Jean cleaned the inside of the cabin, while I busied myself raking leaves and putting our small boat on the trailer in anticipation of the next visit.

One evening as Jean was sitting on the deck, she called out to me to come quick because there was an animal out there that she had never seen before. I came out just in time to see a large porcupine walking away from the cabin past our wood pile toward the woods. It was definitely on a mission and never once did it look back. I had never been that close to a porcupine before, so I had never realized what a nice-looking animal they were. This is just another example of why I like having a cabin in the north woods.

We sighted numerous deer on the way up on this trip, which should bode well for hunters in the fall. On our first day, Jean walked down to the lake and was greeted by the resident beaver swimming back and forth in front of the dock.

Over the years, we have seen deer, wolves, a badger, many eagles — both bald and American — and a variety of birds. On this trip, we had numerous visitors to the feeders, including purple finches, black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, three species of woodpeckers, blue jays, sparrows and robins that weren’t actually at the feeders but just hanging out.

One year, we arrived at the cabin late at night. As we unloaded the truck, we could hear wolves howling in the distance.

We also have numerous waterfowl visiting the lake, and there is nothing more peaceful than listening to the loons calling during the night. One year, a skunk visited the area, but luckily it hasn’t been a recurring thing.

Yes, if you are an outdoors lover, a visit to this area of the state will definitely be worthwhile. If you like to camp, there are numerous national forest campgrounds in the area that offer campsites at a very reasonable price. The Chippewa National Forest has many nice campgrounds, and some lakes within the forest offer first-come, first-serve campsites for free.

Our cabin sits just three miles north of the small village of Talmoon, which boasts the oldest bar in Minnesota. Across the road, there is Little Turtle Lake store, which is a convenience store that offers everything from gas and propane to groceries, bait and tackle, fishing and hunting licenses and souvenirs. It also has the best waffle cones in the area. It sounds like an advertisement, but it’s not meant to be. I just appreciate the convenience of the store and the nice folks who own it.

While I was raking the yard, I took a break and sat on the bench that we have facing the lake. As I looked at the trail going down the steep hill to the lake, I could almost see the grandkids as they busily ran up and down that hill to fish or swim in our little lake. While they were growing up, they loved spending time at the lake. They were down there from the time they got up until darkness chased them up to the cabin.

I don’t know how many nights those kids spent fighting the mosquitoes while cleaning fish by lantern, but they did it. Never once did they complain because it was all good. Trevor, my oldest grandson, never spent a lot of time in the cabin. If he wasn’t fishing, he was changing line, tying on new lures or rearranging his tackle box.

I have a few pictures of the time that my son, Brian, and I and went up to clear the land with grandsons Trevor and Taylor so we could build the cabin. It was a lot of work, but those boys worked hard. Between the four of us, we got the spot cleared and were eventually able to start building. When we started building, Brad and my grandson, Dylan, were also there helping us. I guess that this is why our cabin means so much to me. It’s been a family venture. Although it’s not a mansion and still doesn’t have running water, we did finally get electricity a few years ago. We actually didn’t have any plans on getting electricity any time soon, but the opportunity presented itself, so I had to take advantage of it.

As I sat looking down that trail to the lake, a sad feeling came over me. I realized all too well that those times we enjoyed with the grandsons are gone and will not be coming back. The good thing is that the memories of those times will always be there to enjoy whenever I want to dial them in.

Muskie talk

The May meeting of Cross Roads Chapter 54 of Muskies Inc. will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Eagles Club in Owatonna. The program is our favorite lure night. Members are urged to bring a couple of their favorite lures to show and tell about them. Meetings include updates, door prizes, raffle and lots of musky talk. You need not be a member to attend. Bring a friend, and help improve musky fishing in southern Minnesota.

Until next time, the weather is getting nice and the fish should be biting, so take some time to get out and enjoy the great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.