Summers on Lake Kabetogama

Summer is winding down, so I thought I’d reminisce and share memories from my summer family vacations. Every other summer, we would drive up to Minnesota and Canada. We’d stay in a rustic cabin on the lake to go fishing, explore nature, and relax in the great outdoors. I recently found an old diary detailing my August 2016 trip to Lake Kabetogama. I wrote in the diary as a way to share that summer with Mike and let him know I was thinking about him while we were apart.   

I hope you find some amusement from these passages, and now you’ll have a splendid itinerary if you ever travel up north!

August 1, 2016

The first stop we always make on the 10 hour drive to Minnesota is Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in the Wisconsin Dells. We ate a very hearty breakfast, complete with buttermilk pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage links and ham, camp fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and our favorite, apple cider donuts! Our tummies are always pleasantly full and satisfied afterward. One of the most quirky traditions we have when visiting Paul Bunyan’s is to have our fortunes read by Zoltar, the psychic machine. Mine told me I needed to find a balance between work and play – I guess that’s what this family vacation is for!

August 2, 2016

Today we drove into International Falls to run a few errands. On these trips we always stop at Border Bob’s, one of our favorite souvenir stores. We also pick up walleye there if we anticipate not catching any fish!! (Don’t tell the other fishermen I said that!)

On the way back, we stopped at KAB Outdoors store in Lake Kabetogama. One side of the store sells bait and tackle, and the other side sells ice cream. So the same cashier who scooped out our minnows for fishing also scooped out my Superman ice cream…ewww.

Later that evening, we went boating on the lake. We didn’t have any luck fishing, so we zipped around the islands instead. It was lovely to see the sunset and to hear the loons call. 

Every night on these vacations, we eat a full fish dinner, which consists of walleye, cooked cabbage, baked beans, applesauce, and beer. Yum!

August 3, 2016

Today’s goal was crossing the border into Canada to visit Kenora, Ontario. I was delighted by the number of Inukshuks we spotted along the way to guide us. Inukshuks are lifelike figures of rock, erected by the Inuit, and are symbolized as a meaningful messenger. Pronounced IN-OOK-SHOOK, the Inuit word means “the image of man” and it serves as an eternal symbol of friendship and how we can rely on others to help guide the way.

Once we arrived in downtown Kenora, we ordered two extra-large cups of chips, a.k.a. French fries coated in salt and malt vinegar, from Ye Olde Chip Truck. The truck has been around since 1957, and it is so popular now that they’ve added more chip trucks around town!

No visit to Kenora is complete without pictures in front of Husky the Muskie, which is a huge fish statue overlooking the harbor. They have done a lot of work to renovate this area over the past couple decades, and it looks beautiful. 

On our drive back, we visited Rushing River. The river cascades over rock gouged by glaciers in a series of rapids. The rapids are so fast and loud that they are truly a sight to behold – nature at its finest! I would love to sit on the rocks and have a picnic right by the rushing water someday. 

August 4, 2016

It was too windy to go out on the boat this morning, so we stopped at some of our favorite tourist traps in the Lake Kabetogama area instead. Our first stop was the Pine Ridge Gift Shop, which is full of knick knacks and trinkets. I think I will buy their wild blueberry honey and wild blueberry tea as gifts to bring home! 

The gift shop is also known for their bakery items and specialty mochas. I made the mistake of trying their new coffee flavor, Wildfire Mocha, which contained notes of dark chocolate, salted caramel, and GHOST PEPPERS! I will not be drinking that again anytime soon…

Next we visited the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center of Voyageurs National Park. It is a little museum that teaches visitors about the water, animals, plants, geology, fur trader, settlers, history, and scenery of the area. It is a fun, educational journey!

Later that evening, we bought supplies to make our own campfire on the beach. We roasted marshmallows and ate s’mores. After a day full of wind and rain, it was nice to enjoy the still lake and its calm waters. 

August 5, 2016

Today we ventured out on our boat to visit the secretive Ellsworth Rock Gardens, which is tucked away on an island in the northeastern part of the lake. As far as I know, you can only get to the rock gardens by boat, which adds to this historical landmark’s charm.

The Ellsworth Rock Gardens were created in the 1940s by Chicago carpenter Jack Ellsworth. He used to travel to Minnesota with his wife, and over 20 years, he used art and engineering to create a complex, terraced garden on a prominent rock outcrop. Ellsworth constructed 62 terraced flower beds on the outcrop, which he filled with more than 13,000 lilies and other flower varieties. He then accented his garden landscape with over 200 abstract rock sculptures. Many of these sculptures resemble animals, tables, monoliths, gateways, and spires. It is truly a magnificent sight to behold, and it makes me feel like I am in a hidden corner of the world.  

Do you have any fond memories from family vacations? Where would you like to travel? Share your adventures in the comments below!

Images sourced from:

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. (2020, September 11). Operating hours & seasons. Retrieved September 19, 2020 from https://www.nps.gov/voya/planyourvisit/hours.htm

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. (2018, December 15). Showplace of lake kabetogama. Ellsworth Rock Gardens – Voyageurs National Park. Retrieved September 19, 2020 from https://www.nps.gov/voya/learn/historyculture/ellsworth-rock-gardens.htm

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