Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Up North at the lake cabin September 29, 2020

The residuals of sunset tint the sky and the water on Horseshoe Lake.


JUST OVER A YEAR AGO, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law purchased a lakeside property in central Minnesota with a guest cabin. That bonus cabin, located a short walk from the year-round lake home, was among the main reasons they chose to buy this place. They wanted to invite family and friends to stay.


We fished from the dock while others fished from boats. Randy caught three fish. My solo catch got away after it flipped out of Randy’s hand on the dock. I then found a net.


What an incredible blessing the cabin has already proven to be to many in the family, especially during a global pandemic. Randy and I recently spent several days at the cabin, our third stay there in a year, and our first time without any other family. It was exactly what I needed. A respite. A break from reality while immersed in nature.


Signs like this mark lake properties in the central Minnesota lakes region. I find these collections, and signature art at the ends of driveways, to be visually, artistically and historically fascinating.


A speed boat flies across the water on the opposite side of the lake.


On the weekend of our September visit, neighboring lake properties remained unused. Nice and quiet, just how we like it.


Unlike many Minnesotans, I did not grow up with trips Up North to the cabin. I didn’t even grow up with vacations, except two—one to Duluth at age four and the other to the Black Hills of South Dakota around age ten. Such is the reality of a childhood on a crop and dairy farm, where the cows don’t allow for vacations. Randy grew up the same way.


Skies opened to beautiful blue reflecting on the water. We lounged lakeside for awhile.


Because of that and because, even as adults, we’ve vacationed minimally (due to cost and few vacation days until recently), we deeply appreciate, enjoy and delight in this time at the family lake cabin. We are experiencing something—time off and time at the lake—that many take for granted.


Pines border the driveway into the lake property. This scene is so Minnesota northwoods.


The central lakes region of Minnesota feels vastly different from life in Faribault south of the metro. And that’s exactly the point of getting away to the cabin. There I feel much more connected to the natural world. By the lake. By the family of resident eagles. By the crowded woods of thin pines that stretch tall and lean along the driveway into the lake property. By the rush of wind through those pines.


Chairs on a neighboring dock…


Combined, all of those differences create a sense of peace that only nature can deliver.


Randy cooks an evening meal of buffalo burgers, bacon and vegetables over a lakeside campfire.


Our brother-in-law has chopped plenty of wood for campfires and fireplace fires.


Even though the weather during our most recent visit was sometimes cool and exceptionally windy, Randy and I spent most of our times outdoors. Fishing. Hiking. And, in the evenings, pulled up to the warmth of a campfire. Oak chunks flamed before burning to red hot coals and embers. We talked. And sometimes just sat, lost in our thoughts. One evening we listened to band music carrying across the landscape from a nearby bar and grill.


A daytime view looking to the pine tops.


After our campfire time, before heading indoors, we paused to look skyward. To the stars filling the night sky. Beautiful in the lack of light pollution. Bright points in the inky darkness. Earlier in the summer, we showed those same stars to our four-year-old granddaughter, who was staying with us at the cabin along with her family. Isabelle was “too excited to sleep,” she told us. So outside we went to view the stars. Not that that helped settle her excitement. But why not take our granddaughter outside in her pajamas to see the stars?


Randy takes a quiet walk along the beach.


Such moments are part of a cabin vacation. Or any vacation. As Randy and I stood under the starry sky in September, we remembered that moment with Izzy and how we look forward to future stays at the lake cabin with our family. Building memories. Memories we never had, but which are now making. Because Randy’s youngest sister and her husband are sharing their piece/peace of heaven with us, their family. We are grateful.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Up North at the lake cabin”

  1. Washe Koda Says:

    Way back when during my electrician days those signs were invaluable locating a project on all the many many different lake access roads (before the little green ‘rural fire district’ address signs 😉 Thanks for sharing 🙂 🦆

  2. Ruth Says:

    What a lovely post telling of your respite. And I love that you showed your granddaughter the stars. So much to be grateful for. Bet Randy’s campfire meal was delicious

    • Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that hold the deepest meaning and memories. Like showing Izzy the stars.

      Randy’s grilled meals always rate as delicious. He grills every weekend on our charcoal Weber grill. Year-round. I appreciate the break from cooking and welcome his simple, tasty meals.

  3. Beautiful photos and thoughts- thanks for sharing the peace of a getaway.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    It’s wonderful your relatives invite family and friends to use the cabin. What a wonderful gift.
    Northern Minnesota is a special place!

  5. Nothing like a cabin on a lake in Northern Minnesota at this time of the year when the leaves start to fall and the nip in the air. So many do not even realize how special those places are. Hopefully you get to visit again soon.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I am so happy for you and Randy to have this family cabin to enjoy, what a blessing. ANOTHER thing we share now is cabin memories! I love hearing about the time you spend there, and I know the excitement of grandkids and what fun it is for them to be “up north”. I have so many fond memories as a kid going to our good friends cabin near Motley Mn, and Rick with his family on Longlake in Park Rapids. I would love to see more photo’s of the cabin if it’s allowed.

    • I’ll need to check with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law on photos. For now I’ve intentionally been careful about what I show in pix.

      I am very much looking forward to many more stays at the cabin, building wonderful family memories. You started it all by inviting Randy and me to your cabin. That was a gift, too.

  7. Lara/Trace Says:

    I sure miss signs like that in Wisconsin, too. It’s refreshing!

    • I haven’t traveled into the lake areas of Wisconsin, but I would certainly expect these types of signs, as you note. I agree, there’s just something about these signs. Distinct. Homey, Creative. Meaningful in representing generations of families going to the lake cabin.

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