Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My first stay at an Up North Minnesota lake cabin September 22, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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THROUGH THE PLEATED SHADES, lightning flashed like a strobe light outside the cabin. Soon thunder rumbled, not loud and crashing, but slow and ramping in volume. I willed myself to shut out the light, the sound, to fall asleep here in this place nestled in jackpines along the shore of a lengthy lake four hours from my southeastern Minnesota home.


Downtown Park Rapids features two rows of parallel parking down the middle of the street and diagonal parking curbside on both sides.


Randy and I arrived in a flush of rain after an afternoon in Park Rapids, a resort town abundant in shops and quirky in its center of the street parking. Already I loved this place, despite the grey skies and near constant rain.

Yet, this was not my vision of our first-ever stay at a Minnesota northwoods cabin. But when you can’t control the weather, you can either choose disappointment or embrace the situation. And I was determined to make the best of our visit with friends Jackie and Rick.


Jackie, right, took this selfie of the two of us. Photo courtesy of Jackie Hemmer.


When Jackie invited us to their cabin, I accepted with the enthusiasm of someone who has always wanted to experience this quintessential Minnesota activity of “going Up North to the cabin.” Our friends made us feel as comfortable as if we were family and long-time friends. We are neither. I met Jackie several years ago after connecting with her via blogging. She and Rick live some 40 miles from us in Rochester. Jackie is a nurse by profession and a blogger with strong photography skills.


Randy and I, left, with Jackie and Rick. Photo courtesy of Jackie Hemmer.


We joke that we could be sisters given our shared interests in photography, barns, cemeteries, country churches, small towns, gravel roads and much more. We are women of faith, mothers of three, grandmothers and wives who are grateful for loving and supportive husbands of 35 years. We each birthed sons who weighed nearly 11 pounds. Jackie beat me by two ounces.

Mostly, though, we have that natural connection of conversing with ease, of laughing and enjoying each others’ company in a developing friendship. Previously, the four of us had gotten together briefly several times. This weekend at the cabin would forge our evolving friendship.


With Rick at the wheel, we head across the lake. Photo courtesy of Jackie Hemmer.


Given the weather, we mostly sheltered inside the cabin peering through spacious windows toward the grey lake and rainy skies. We laughed and talked with barely a lull in the conversation. When the weather broke for a bit Saturday morning, I suggested a boat ride. I surprised all of them. I had to overcome a general uncomfortableness on water to board a boat.


As the boat picks up speed, waves trail behind.


I appreciate that Jackie and Rick honored my request that we not venture too far from shore. Eventually I felt comfortable enough to ask Rick to increase the boat speed. The distractions of my camera and Rick’s history tour of the lake along with Jackie’s encouragement made for a pleasant ride. There’s something to be said for friends who are supportive and loving.


Watching Randy relax and unwind from work gave me much joy. We needed this vacation.


That evening, after dining on grilled steak, we clustered around the dining room table for a game of Outburst. Boys against girls. We laughed and talked and laughed some more between munching on caramel corn from Molly Poppin’s Gourmet Snacks in Park Rapids. Before 11, we were off to bed and I slept well without rumbling thunderstorms.


Only a few boats were on the lake Saturday morning.


As wonderful as the cabin experience was, I had hoped to spot a loon. Sunday morning while looking across the lake, I noticed a black floating shape with the seeming distinctive curve of a loon. Jackie handed me binoculars while she fetched her glasses. Through the lenses, we confirmed a loon sighting. It would have to do—this lone loon in the distance. I was thrilled.


A grouping of loons. Photo by Jackie Hemmer.


That evening, hours after our mid-morning departure, Jackie texted a photo of seven loons with this message: Saw about 15 loons on the lake tonight just beautiful!



Just beautiful. That summarizes, too, our weekend stay with friends who blessed us with a delightful time at their Up North cabin.


FYI: Click here to read Jackie’s blog, “Who Will Make Me Laugh.”

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos by Jackie Hemmer are also copyrighted and used with her permission as noted.


32 Responses to “My first stay at an Up North Minnesota lake cabin”

  1. I read your post as I looked out similar windows to a similar view- mine is of Sandusky Bay though. And sea gulls and Canada geese. I have a friend who many years ago visited her husbands family in Msine and has loved loons ever since. Enjoyed reading about your fun visit

  2. Your cabin is Beautiful! Sounds like a good time was had by all!

  3. Valerie Says:

    I’m so happy for you Audrey. It sounds like you had a great first-time experience at a cabin up north.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Rainy days are big part of the Up North experience, often times a respite from the sun and sand of the beach. It is a time to read, play cards and “head into town”.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    What an absolutely wonderful trip you had . The pictures are beautiful as always (yay for a healed shoulder) and the narrative details what a wonderful time you all had. Thanks for the link to Jackie’s blog. Hopping over –I have noticed her comments on yours and never visited hers so today that changes.

  6. I do miss the lakes, the loons and the nights around the campfire. I was heading into work yesterday and the flock of green parrots flew over – noisy flock that they are – beautiful birds though. Thanks for the memories my friend 🙂 Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

  7. Doesn’t remind me a lick of the old “Cabin” remembered from my youth… Big difference in so many aspects.. Beautiful bit of relaxation, well deserved by you and Randy.

  8. Don Says:

    Loved the pictures and commentary, sounds like you had a fantastic time up north! A good friend that I have known and flown with for years just moved to Menahga MN which is about 12 miles from Park Rapids, small world! Now I have even more reasons for moving! I will certainly check out Jackie’s blog, thanks for the link!

  9. treadlemusic Says:

    Shall I state the obvious???? That’s certainly a tad more than the “cabin” I envisioned!!! And “Hello!” to Jackie and Rick!!!!! You all look like you’re having so much fun, in spite of the slightly “off” weather…..BUT…..you were able to be “up North at the cabin”!!!!! Growing up, such goings on was not on any agenda. Lovely spot. I’m not familiar with that area.

  10. Littlesundog Says:

    What a lovely post. I hope that you and Randy will have other vacation trips. It melts my heart that you find joy in seeing Randy relax and get a reprieve from the work that he does. So far I have met two blogger friends, and I am sure you and I will connect one day too. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

  11. Susan Ready Says:

    I love how despite the rainy weather you did indeed embrace the time here in the northwoods and in turn had fun,took some risks with a boat ride and able to see some loons.

  12. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    What a beautiful lake to kick back and wind down at.

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