About five years ago we told our two teenage sons that we might invest in a small family cabin in western Wisconsin.
They were excited, as you might guess, but with a caveat. “We’ll still go to Burntside, won’t we?” they asked, referring to the one week each July when we pack up the car and head north toward Ely and the historic nearby resort named after one of Minnesota’s most beautiful lakes.
We made our first visit to Burntside Lodge in 2006, hoping the trip would become an annual family tradition and give our boys a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of the Iron Range and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Mission accomplished.
This July we’ll spend a week in Cabin No. 9 for a 10th year, drawn back by the beauty of the setting as well as the cherished friendships initially made that first summer with five other families who book their cabins the same week each year.
The yearly reunions with our Burntside friends — who come from hometowns as near as Duluth and as far away as Oklahoma City — become more meaningful with each return trip to the 7,313-acre lake that environmentalist Sigurd Olson called a “composite picture” of the northern wilderness.
Our shared affection for that composite, more than anything, is what binds our group. We treasure the clean, cold lake with its more than 100 islands and rocky shorelines. We relish the sunsets and hunker down in our log cabins to watch the show when storms roll in from Canada, roiling the lake but never spoiling the day.
We’re drawn to the lodge for the great food and ambience, but also for the elevated views of the water. We’ve loved learning about the history of the lake and the 102-year-old resort, which has been owned by members of the LaMontagne family since 1941 and been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988.
For one week each summer, we mostly turn off technology, look toward the lake and listen for the loons. With any luck, they’ll keep calling us back.
More information: Burntside Lodge, on the southern shore of Burntside Lake near Ely, Minn., has 21 cabins. In high season, two-bedroom cabins start at $295 per night (1-218-365-3894; www.burntside.com).
Scott Gillespie is editor of the Star Tribune’s editorial pages. • 612-673-4516