After being serenaded by a symphony of tree frogs and falling asleep to the sound of gentle rain falling on the water, I was awakened that first morning by one of my favorite sounds: the long, haunting call of a loon echoing across a glassy lake.
Later that morning, Andrew and I - each with a kid nestled in our laps - paddled out into the middle of the placid lake in kayaks. We caught a glimpse of white about 20 feet up in a majestic red pine on the shore and instantly knew it was a bald eagle. As we paddled closer, it took flight, soaring overhead for a minute before joining its mate in another tree down the shore.
As the eagles made their presence known, the male loon that had been tracking our path from a safe distance, called out loudly. Almost frantically. And it became readily apparent why: nearby a mama loon sat on a nest in the marshy grasses at the edge of the lake.
Thankfully, no circle-of-life scenes unfolded before our eyes. Instead, we just drifted in our kayaks - the kids being remarkably quiet - and watched two pairs of our state's most striking birds in their natural habitat. We were guests on their turf and for those few moments, we felt like the only humans in a world we are fortunate enough to share with these creatures.
I have written before about the mystical quality of Minnesota lake life. "Up North" is more than just a place; it's a state of mind. A way of life. Something we feel nostalgic for even while we're in the midst of it. It's where we go to relax, recharge, and reconnect with nature.
For me, there is a direct correlation between the remoteness of the location and the quality of that unique Up North experience. Hence the appeal of true wilderness like Minnesota's State Parks and the Boundary Waters. Realistically, though, those spots aren't always easy with small children.
Enter Lost Lake Lodge. My friend, Jill, and I were invited up to this small family-owned resort with our families over Memorial Day Weekend (filed under: amazing-experiences-that-have-come-my-way-because-of-photography). Lost Lake Lodge has all the modern conveniences of any major resort on Gull Lake and then some: pontoon boats, fine dining, even wifi. It's a great place for families with kids, with an old-school summer camp vibe and all of the activities that go along with that: campfires, fishing, scavenger hunts.
But tucked behind the cabins that face Gull Lake, the Lodge has its true hidden gem: Lost Lake. The private lake has no boat launch and no motorized watercraft. Save for the resort's small beach, the shores are completely undeveloped, meaning no fertilizer run-off from manicured lawns, no real signs of civilization, and the old growth forests along the banks are still intact. It's as authentic a wilderness experience as I've had in the BWCA, but we were able to stay in a comfortable cabin instead of a tent and eat farm-to-table salads and braised short ribs for dinner.
I am grateful for the opportunity to visit and photograph this magical place. And I'm already lobbying my family to go back. I have the feeling I'll succeed.
Below are some of my favorite photos from our stay.
( c l i c k t o e n l a r g e )