The North Woods

Minnesota is many things. Prairie. Lakes. Cities — think Minneapolis/St. Paul. Small towns — think Lake Wobegon. Rivers — the Mississippi begins here after all.

Minnesota is also forest, and trees cover a huge chunk of the northern part of the state. I live in a middle ground of sorts that’s not exactly prairie but not forest either.  We have trees, but they are nothing like the towering old growth forests of the north. I have a new appreciation for this after our getaway last week.

From Tuesday to Thursday we left the farm for a near exact 48 hours. We loaded the Subaru with coolers of food and bags packed with sunscreen, clothes, swim wear, and bug spray. Lots of bug spray. Plus running shoes for me. Before I even started loading JR had enough fishing gear to fill the whole car. We did squeeze everything in, and then we drove north to meet our friends who graciously invited us to their cabin. We hadn’t talked through a lot of details, so I didn’t know if this was a resort, lake home or what. As we followed the directions it became clear this was off the beaten path. Eventually the two lane blacktop became winding dirt roads, and we were in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest.

A stunning lake and towering trees greeted us when we finally pulled up to their family cabin. Built in the 1920’s, this beautiful spot looked rustic but was comfortable and charming. 

 The cabin was full of lots of useful supplies, and there were even four bikes in the shed. We spent several hours touring around the forest trails and never saw another soul.

In the national forest the roads were dirt and the bike trail was paved. Really. 


The beach below the cabin was amazingly sandy and beautiful. The waves and wind were crazy intense on Wednesday, but that didn’t stop the boys from fishing and even tipping over their canoe. Luckily they were still in a nice and shallow part! 


Yes, it really was cool enough for long sleeves. I also went for a solo run in the morning, and feeling the forest so close on all sides was unlike anywhere I’ve ever run. I never considered putting an earbud in because I was so content to listen to the rustle and sway of thousands of trees. This part of trail was actually the road. For cars.


I did scare up a large deer toward the end of my run, and I thought that would probably be the most exciting wildlife of the trip. Of course I was wrong.

On our way home we were driving south and talking about the fish market we would stop at about halfway. I was at the wheel and taking sips of coffee here and there. It was heavily wooded to our left, and suddenly I realized an animal was in the middle of the road. As I slowed down I was trying to figure out what it was. A long black shape on all fours, it didn’t look like any dog I’d ever seen. I was trying to decide if there was such a thing as a huge black bobcat when suddenly I knew. I think JR and I both shouted out at the same time, “It’s a bear!” 

JR tried to get a photo, but the bear casually lumbered off the other side of the road before that could happen. It wasn’t a full grown bear but probably the equivalent of a teenager. At least it was big enough that I wasn’t expecting to see mama bear following behind. I know Minnesota has plenty of black bears, but not in our area. I’ve never seen one in the wild before. I do know I’m glad I was in the car instead of on foot in my running shoes. And I’m also very glad this stately bear avoided being road kill. 

Now we’ve had our quintessential trip up north for the summer, and I already can’t wait to go back sometime. The forest has a way of calling. 

What is your favorite summer vacation?

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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