Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy (Frozen) New Year

We greeted the new year with a few days of solitude on the North Shore, where the stars are bright at night and the steam rises from the frothy lake into the frigid air all day. It’s an annual pilgrimage to a land without computers, telephones, or televisions—just a little music at dinner time, and the roaring of waves or the silence of the deep forest broken by the guttural caw of a raven or the chatter of a distant squirrel.

Dinner time itself can become a little more elaborate, especially when the very cold weather cuts the skiing short. (The pimento salad with capers and garlic was especially tasty.)
Driving up the backroads into the hills above the lake at -15 degrees to an empty parking lot, we began to wonder if there was anyone out here except us. I neglected to pack my Norwegian fish-net long johns, but it doesn’t matter much. Yet a double hat and a good scarf are essential.

The cabin we stayed at was a few miles north of Lutsen, and we made it a point to “do” a few of the nearby trails, which included sections of Deer Yard, Moose Fence, Bally Creek (where wolfs and moose are spotted fairly often, or so we’ve been told) and the Cedar Woods loop at Cascade River State Park. (The afternoon sun cutting through the crisp air into the shadows of those mighty cedars was sublime.)

The lodge above our cabin had a hot tub and we made use of it every day to cut the chill that had crept in during the ski. The cabin itself had a number of minor flaws, and one major one: the floor was covered with bright faux-wooden plastic strips, which clashed with the rustic charm of the rest of the cabin and undercut its coziness. Because the aged floor was pitched at a slant and the chairs were on wheels, it was also difficult to sit at the table without drifting off toward the opposite side of the room. An oval rag rug would have improved the place immeasurably.

I’m not complaining. But one of the requirements of any cabin is comfortable seating. How else are you going to make a dent in that large stack of books you’ve brought along?

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