When friends invited us to visit their cabin on Rainy Lake, we jumped at the chance to see their place and the famed lake on the border of Minnesota and Canada. Like us, they have a “true cabin,” with just the basic amenities and lots of character. But the similarities end at the shoreline.
As soon as we arrived, we were recruited to outfit the boat for an afternoon on the lake. With respectable waves and the sheer size of the lake, a good sized boat and motor are a necessity. Theirs is an old workhorse of a boat, but stable and large enough to take us across the expansive open waters. And hold all the fixings for our adventure. We soon began to learn what Rainy Lake was all about.
Lesson number 1. A boat ride on Rainy Lake can take all afternoon and still cover only a tiny fraction of the lake. With 360 square miles of water, almost 1,000 miles of shoreline and about 2,500 islands, there are endless areas to explore. Our friends took us to their favorite spots, starting with the dam and waterfall. There we clambered down to the base of the falls to see the thundering rush of the water from the recent flooding.
Lesson number 2. It’s like being in the Boundary Waters. The tall pines, rocky outcroppings and lack of population all reminded me of the solitary feeling one gets in the Boundary Waters. In all of our wanderings we spotted only two other boats. We saw plenty of scenery, fascinating birds and natural beauty instead. And there was always something new around the next bend.
Lesson number 3. Shore lunch doesn’t necessarily mean fish. The first step was selecting an appealing island. We then built a rock fire scar (that was a new term to me), hunted down dry wood and started up a fire to cook our lunch – brats. They were mighty tasty cooked in the open air with a beautiful view of the lake from our perch on a huge rock.
Lesson number 4. Bring along a photographer husband to catch the magical moments. Rich was in his element with birds in abundance, and we all got a kick out of “bird island” with its population of pelicans. The best part was watching their comical take-off as we approached.
Lesson number 5. The lake is best appreciated when seen through the eyes of those who love it. Our friends have gotten to know Rainy Lake through four generations of cabin life. Our tour narrative was rich in stories woven with family history.
The only fitting end to this day on an amazing lake was a sauna. In this case, a wood-fired sauna which proved to be blistering hot. That was enough to get me into the lake. Jumping off the dock into chilling water over my head was both a shock and relief. All part of the Rainy Lake experience.