Early, late ris­ers make a full cabin on su­pe­rior trip

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE&ARTS - mbarnes@states­man.com

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 …


Joe Starr

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