Early, late risers make a full cabin on superior trip
Dusk virtually kisses dawn during the short nights in northern latitudes. On vacation, this diurnal reality affects late revelers and early risers, especially if quartered together in a forest cabin, as we were recently on the north shore of Lake Superior. Personally straddling these social clans, I found myself tiptoeing around the minor tensions among our party of seven old friends, plus two large dogs.
After all, on road trips, families of all descriptions must negotiate new spaces, shared amenities and altered expectations about planned activities, personal intrusions and domestic duties.
Along for this trip to Lutsen, Minn. — arriving in two large vehicles — were my husband, book editor Griffin School teacher Houston Community College teacher airline steward California tech guru
and Gustavus Adolphus College professor
Complicating matters were our Labs, Nick and Nora, who behaved well in the rented SUV and the pet-friendly motels along the way but lapsed over rules about begging and blocking indoors, foraging and flinging themselves about outdoors.
Yet the points of human contention evolved around the loft-arranged cabin, landed through Austin’s HomeAway vacation rental service. An absence of doors made the card players the kings at night; while the inveterate taskmasters ruled the mornings. And those two tribes collided.
At 5 a.m., the morning group rustled into the kitchen, filling French press coffee makers, reading The Economist and heading out for strolls along woodsy tracks smeared with lupines, daisies, dark-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace and wild raspberries. We startled ruffed grouse, Canada jays, sapsuckers, goldfinches and blackbirds.
At 7 a.m., the three of us — remember I joined both groups — headed to the Moondance Coffee House along scenic Minnesota 61. There, we spent one languid hour a day managing social media, answering e-mails and checking to make sure Texas didn’t slip into the oily Gulf of Mexico.
By the time we returned to the cabin, the late party was beginning to stir. Or not. Sometimes a twitchy “quiet time” extended into the afternoon. Preparing brunch — never breakfast — presented special challenges. Somehow in the end, we all enjoyed the egg casseroles, pancakes, French toast and breakfast tacos.
Early afternoon, we set off on adventures: Hiking Cascade River State Park, wading in frigid Lake Superior, swimming in Caribou Lake and Clara Lake, canoeing and kayaking on Holly Lake, heading up Eagle Mountain (the highest point in Minnesota) or down the slopes of the Lutsen Mountains aboard the Alpine Slide attraction.
Before dinner: a long reading siesta. On our summer and winter reading weeks, my friends don’t take up the same books by design, but three chose the delightful novel “The Siege of Krishnapur” by J.G. Farrell. Overlapped for me were Katharine
Graham’s “Personal History” (complex woman, tale well told); Edmund Wilson’s “To
Continued from D the Finland Station” (history of Marxism, reads like a thriller); Alistair Horne’s “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962”; Dashiell Hammet’s “Crime Stories and Other Writings” (blunt words, punchy stories), Donald C.
Farber and Robert Viagas’ “The Amazing Story of The Fantasticks” (tons of Austin lore); Jacques Gernet’s “A History of Chinese Civilization” (overwhelming for a Westerner): and Jacques
Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life” (astounding erudition).
Don’t be fooled into thinking I finished these works. My goal on vacation is to consume at least 100 pages in each volume, thereby assuring I’ll complete them upon return to Austin.
Reading was often interrupted by a little social dance: Should we market in a coastal town? Who would cook what? Could we agree on a time to eat?
Five of the gathered seven cabin-mates are pretty accomplished cooks — the other two aid efficiently — with definite ideas about how to grill, steam, bake, fry or sear. Minor sparks flew. Some pressure was relieved by a birthday dinner out at the ultra-green Angry Trout in Grand Marais.
After dinner, a few votes would be cast for movies, but more often than not, Hand and Foot Canasta won out. This fiendish distraction brooks no interruption. Still, not everyone wanted to play, Between mountain explorations, home-cooked brunches and late card games, Kip Keller finds time for reading. at least not until 4 a.m., just before dawn.
Eventually, the hardiest revelers, who happened to double as the thrill-seekers during our daytime adventures, rubbed up against the earliest risers, who preferred gentle walks and drives that brought us in contact with moose, fox, chipmunks, beavers (or their dams) and a lanky canid that I identified as an adolescent wolf, but a companion assured me was just another coyote. Eruptions were inevitable. “Why don’t you expand your known universe?”
“Why don’t you read something more substantial?”
“Why don’t you use an indoor voice in the morning?”
It all worked out. We are old friends, after all. You don’t let minor frictions affect old friendships any more than family relations.
Now about that wolf …