Sunday, May 31, 2015

Life on the Island on Jasper Lake

Kelly & Joanne arrived today along with their young son, Walker.  Today's journey for them began in Memphis, Tennessee.  They boarded a jet plane bound for Duluth, MN and buckled in for a ride at over 500 miles per hour from the land that is hot to the land that is not.  Duluth, Minnesota which sits on the shore of the world's largest air conditioner had to be a change from the ambient temps of Memphis.  It was at Duluth that their journey northward continued to their final destination of Northwind Lodge or more accurately the island out on Jasper Lake.

Kelly and Joanne first made it to the Island for their honeymoon, many moons ago.  We've know them for every last one of those moons. When we first met, Kelly was in a residency for psychiatry and Joanne was working on a higher education in mathematics.  Today, she teaches and Kelly probably analyzes and assesses or whatever psychiatrists do.

For year after year, this couple stayed on the Island in the small cabin that my dad built in 1962.  It was to be his summer home and for years we called it "the shack".  It's a nice little cabin and when I was a kid, we spent many weekends out there in the winter, ice fishing on Jasper, flying kites in the winds of March and being really hot with that old wood stove that would almost drive us out even at -35 F below zero.  When we stayed there with no electricity or running water, our entertainment was whatever old magazines we had to read in the din of the gas lights.  We also had an old,black,  massive, battery-powered,  radio we had that pulled in shortwave broadcasts and AM signals from around the world. There were hardly any FM stations back then and after dark, the AM signals almost always came in stronger from great distances. It had a five foot tall antenna on it and about fifteen different radio bands that changed by pushing one of the fifteen buttons.  We used to listen to Quito, Ecuador and Little Rock, Arkansas, and somewhere in Texas.  Every now and then, an outside noise would demand that we turn down the radio and listen to what was making noise under the sparkle of endless stars through the crisp, but biting winter air.  Wolves on the mainland again, or maybe on the ice.  Sounded like five or six of them howling in jubilance.  It's always a slightly unnerving sound to humans after their taking down a midnight deer and celebrating their victory.  We'd know more the next day with the telltale signs marking the not un-gruesome event on the ice.

For the Baltich family as is the case for all families, life evolved and got in the way of staying at The Shack.  So, there it sat lonely for many years until we began to rent it out to lodge customers because, for more than any other reason, it seemed like such a waste that someone wasn't able to enjoy the sounds of the wind in the needles of the white pines that towered overhead and the feel of the cool breeze as the wind cut across the water and through those trees.

Many, many couples stayed on The Island over the course of numerous summers and winters.  Cross country skiers spent the weekends and our summer visitors would spend the entire week.  It was a common occurrence that we did not see the Island People but more than once or twice per week in the summer months.  The vast majority went into "vacation hiding".  Every now and then, someone from the resort would head down to the beach to see if there was movement or signs of life by their canoe having shifted positions or their gear sitting on the shore

Kelly and Joanne were similar but would stop in more often than some.  They were always enjoyable to talk to and we all shared many laughs as we traded life stories over the years. One story included the blowdown of 1999 at 12:15 on the Fourth of July.   The two had just stopped in having paddled across from the island only minutes before.  Then the wind picked up.  Annette was in the house closing the windows and could hear and see the Island fade completely from view as the wall of wind, picked up water from the lake like horizontal rain.  She said it sounded like a freight train driven by banshees going by the house only a quarter mile away.  I ran down to the lake and saw the water being lifted up with massive white caps roaring to the east where whitecaps have never been before.  Kelly and Joanne 's canoe was on the beach and I thought about grabbing and pulling it to safety.  It was all of 30 feet in front of me, but as the wind and the rolling waves increased, I chose to stand among the limber ash trees and not risk stepping into the fray. A bent up canoe was a small price to pay, I figured.   The canoe never moved while the lake behind it was in complete and utter pandemonium.  The wind blew so hard, that the mixed-in rain passed through the zipper of my raincoat leaving me completely soaked as if I'd worn nothing at all.  I went back up and found that Annette already with K & J in the basement of our home for the 15 minutes that the straightline winds attacked our region.  We waited and listened unsure of what was going to happen next.   And then, like it began, it was finished. We all walked out into the silence of normalcy wondering what just had happened.  Fortunately, it just missed us but wreaked havoc and devastation on the roads and homes just beyond Northwind Lodge.   Everybody but us was without electrical power for almost 2 weeks.  We were very lucky. 

As the years passed,Kelly and Joanne were blessed with their son Walker, and for a while, staying at The Island at Northwind Lodge, had to take a back seat to growing the kid into a more mobile unit.  But, Walker got bigger and back to Northwind Lodge they came.  The Island has had less people set foot on it than most of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  It is a veritable pristine island with a very low human impact.   Part of that is because we really protect it from humans and we've never been really big on developing property.  While it probably has great value, that piece of land surrounded by water is part of our home.   Over all the years of renting the cabin, we only allowed  up to two people to stay there at a time.  It's seven acres of  land with very few human feet on the vast majority of it.  We've also never allowed pets with the exception of our dogs Rex (deceased) and currently, Delilah who set her feett on it for the first time on May 30, 2015.

It's a small, hand-made cabin and it is crowded with more than two people.  The one and only exception to the rule is Walker.  He is now grandfathered in since his mom and dad well know and accept the space limitations plus, we know them and they understand the Island.  Over the years, we've been very fussy about to whom we  rent the cabin.   It's a magnificent experience and we would not want to see that changed.



Looking at Northwind Lodge

Just Offshore of the Island

Looking east to the narrows of Jasper Lake

Looking north to the Island from Northwind Lodge beach

The deck on the cabin and looking west


Western view outside of the cabin



Approaching the Island on Jasper


Inside the cabin

Standing at the water's edge facing north

Another view


Kitchen living area

Island Log - many stories

Hand written tales of adventure

From the deck looking south east

From deck looking northwest

Trail to the outhouse

Trail to the outhouse

Standing at western  shore looking east

The heat source - don't need it in the summer

Island table and window facing west


From deck looking south to Northwind Lodge


You could stay here, too!  It's like camping in a really solid tent with screens windows and a kitchen.  "Roughing it" means no running water or electric lights, but we now use batter lanterns and the gas lights are still there as well.  The water is quasi-running water.  When you are out, you have to simply run over to the mainland and fill up right at the beach.  It's pretty simple and still a terrific experience.  You'll be amazed at how much fun you'll have there!

Visit our Ely MN resort website, Northwind Lodge - Click here