Way up north, near Grand Rapids, MN (about 33 ½ miles  NE, to be exact), we have had a cabin since 1979. It is on Round Lake, and among the many ‘Round’ Lakes in the state, but this one is special. Mostly because of the many wonderful times our family has visited and played on its shores. It is a 200-mile drive up there, so we don’t get there as often as we would like. Last Saturday afternoon, our daughter, Rose, and her daughter, Julia, age 7, and I, headed out to spend a few days on a ‘girls’ vacation. Needless to say, Julia was excited, and before we were down the road a few miles, she asked, “Are we there yet?” Our car was loaded down with ‘stuff’ to do, books to read, toys for the water, suitcases, enough food for an army, two fishing rods and equipment, and a ten-year old Bichon Frise dog, with black and white curly hair and a very sad look on his face. He should have felt pretty special, since he was the only male allowed on our ‘girl’s vacation. His name is Willie.
This Grandma is not used to having dogs around, and was a little skeptical about how things would go. Poor Willy had to occupy what space was left between the back and front seats and Julia’s car seat and all the ‘stuff.’ The Map We followed the little map I had written down (instructions from Al) on how to get there. We were hoping to get into the ‘boonies’ area before it got too dark, since there are a lot of different roads to take near the cabin. Soon I felt this soft fur near my neck and on my shoulder. Willie had made himself comfortable in between the car seats so he could see where we were going. He pretty much kept this position between naps on the floor in back. I think I made a friend! If Willie didn’t need a stop, one of us did, so we had lots of breaks along the way. This friendly dog is new to the family and we were not quite sure what to expect, so every slight sound or movement on his part, we would take him for a walk! On one of them Rose walked him on the side of the road in her bare feet and found there were some sharp thistles in the grass. Needless to say, there was some hopping around and Julia spent part of the trip helping her mom and Willie pick out the ‘stickies’. The Cabin We reached our destination after dark. The last few miles were nervous ones for me, as I was afraid we might miss a turn-off. I would say, “Are you sure we’re on the right road?” Rose’s exasperated answer always was, “Yes, Mom, I know how to get there. Just relax and let me do the driving. I think she was telling me nicely to ‘bug off,’ so I tried keeping my thoughts to myself. The yard light near the cabin was not working for some reason, so it was quite dark as we debarked our loaded car and carried stuff in. First on the list was turning on the electricity in the cabin, which, of course, required a flashlight, which Rose was wise enough to have with her. Directions said, “push all the buttons on the little metal cabinet to the left of the door.” A little hesitantly, we performed all the steps, hoping everything would work as planned, and that we wouldn’t goof anything up. Then came the challenging time when we needed to start the pump in the pump house, so with flashlight in hand and walking pretty close together we forged on, checking from left to right to be sure there were no bears or wolves around. All this time we had the crumpled instructions clutched tightly in hand, as these were things we usually left up to the men in the party. Turning on the water heater, opening the faucets and turning on the gas was really pretty easy. I felt a little silly afterwards for being so nervous about it., Wonders of Nature Every trip we make up north is accented by how many deer we can see along the way. This trip there were only two. Rose spied one along side the road while driving, and another near the cabin while on one of her walks. While driving the last time we were up north, Al and I had to stop to let a beautiful doe cross the road near the cabin. We stopped along side of the country road between heavy woods and watched, as the doe just stood there looking at us and moving her lips. We thought she was ‘talking’ to us, so we talked back. Then we noticed a tiny fawn slowly come out of the woods behind her and make her way across and next to her mom. Amazed, we knew then who she was talking to, when suddenly another fawn came across the road. The mother hesitated seeming to check that they were okay, and then all three walked off into the woods. We were blessed with beautiful 80 plus degree weather, so it was great for splashing in the water for Julia and sunbathing on the dock with reading material for Rose. Julia said, “Mom, your tanning the old fashioned way!” Me, I brought along a comfortable chair and set it in the trees a ways and it was cozy just observing everything and reading my book. What could be better than a wonderful breeze, good company, a faithful old dog at my feet, and nothing else to do? Round lake was completely empty of boats and fishermen at times. The wind kept the water moving restlessly about, and the neighboring pontoons were bobbing gently up and down waiting for someone to use them. A group of ducks settled a little to the north of our dock, waiting for us to go away so they could be free to go where they wanted to. Two large loons bobbed and fished a ways off the shore, having a great time. Looking for a fish to brag about!! Julia and I needed to dig some bait for fishing. We have a compost heap where we deposit our tons of leaves every fall, and it is perfect for collecting worms for bait. We got the shovel and a little can to put them in and headed down to the large mound of leaves. Having pulled a muscle in my leg earlier that week, I was hoping Julia would be anxious to pick up the worms, but she informed me ‘Oooooh no!! We compromised, and Julia took her little shovel and did the digging, and I slowly and carefully would pick them up. Needless to say this took a while. We managed to accumulate enough bait for a few casts and when evening came, we planted chairs on the end of the dock. As soon as one hook was baited, another one was there ready for another messy worm. The time went fast, and so did the worms. Julia got one small fish that sadly was not a keeper. Rose’s bobber soon went down and we watched anxiously as she pulled in something big that flashed some white before it escaped back into the lake. It was probably a Walleye, and we were pretty disappointed, but excited too, thinking we could get it back again. We had no such luck, and after a while our patience ran out, and we decided to try again the next evening. BIG Ice Cream Cones Another ritual we need to do every visit north is buy ice cream cones from the Scenic Pines Store across the road. The cones are huge and very good. Julia and I, with cones in hand, noticed on the counter there were some small bottles that looked like medicine bottles. In them was some colored artificial bait that was supposed to work ‘wonders!’ Next to them were a couple photos of people and the fish they had caught with the bait. I thought that fake bait would be neat to have and, best of all, no bending to pick up worms! When I looked at the price, and it was $10. I changed my mind and Julia and I decided to ‘think about it,’ and left. After discussing this back at the cabin, we went back and proceeded to splurge and give it a try. After all, it was a vacation and we wanted to see if we could come home with something to brag about. We picked the pink bait, since that is Julia’s favorite color. When evening came, a full moon was hanging in the sky just above the trees. The sky was blue behind it, but a little above it, dark clouds were moving in. we headed to the dock hoping to ‘catch a few’ before the rains came. We quickly cast out our lines and waited for something BIG. Well, we caught absolutely nothing this time and before we knew it, it started to pour. Not enough time to give the pink stuff a fair trial. The small campfire was quickly extinguished, and we ran to get everything inside. We had planned a wiener and S’more roast, but it was not to be, so we cleaned up and made them in the house on the stove. We found they tasted pretty good this way too! It poured ‘fishhooks and hammerhandles’ all evening, and our little party was pretty exhausted and retired early. We have a steel roof on the cabin, and the sound from the raindrops just rocked us to sleep as we dreamed about the ‘one that got away!’ In the morning sure enough, the sun was shining and it was time to say ‘goodbye’ to Round Lake. After clean up time, we headed home. Willie slept most of the way, worn out from all those long walks he had been on the last few days. We were refreshed, but still fishless and happy to be getting back home again. Julia said from the back seat, “Thanks, mom and grandma for this ‘awesome’ girls vacation!” Rose and I had to agree, that it truly was ‘awesome!’  Willie just sighed in the back seat.