Lake of the Woods, MN.
At the end of May in 2021, I departed on an epic quest north! I believe this was the furthest north I've been yet - up into the chimney of Minnesota, and so close to Canada that the guy who wished me a happy birthday added 'eh' to the end of his sentence.
I made plans a month or so earlier in the Spring: A two night stay and fishing charter at Arneson's Rocky Point. The resort sits at the tip of a little slice of land jutting into the water. It offers an array of cabin options - 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, 3 bedroom, ect. Our cabin was split into four apartments, two on the top and two on the bottom. Thanks to thick walls, we barely noticed each other!
The cabin was pricy - $300/person (3 people = $900), but honestly, it seemed reasonable. It includes free WIFI, a full kitchen and gas stove, a fridge, and a living room with TV. We were even able to hook up my Firestick to the TV and watch Netflix!
We did get a little surprise in the bedrooms - lots of beds! Three in one room and four in the other, some being bunk-beds. My advice for anyone booking a cabin at this resort would be to read the description carefully and maybe even reach out and ask the resort. If I'd a known the rooms were as big as they were, I wouldn't have asked for a two bedroom and could have saved some money. But on the other hand, don't be afraid to invite a large number of people - the prices go down the more friends you bring!
The drive north was about six hours, plus some stops for gas and food. Nothing beats driving through central Minnesota, forests as far as the eye can see. I'm proud to say we spotted about eight different deer and didn't hit a single one. It may not be as scenic as driving through the mountains or along the costs, but there's stuff to look at! Any lake you pass, there's probably a parking lot to stop and a path to the beach to walk on the stretch your legs.
Our route took us straight through Grand Rapids, which has plenty of places to shop and rest! We stopped by the mall and browsed through the antique stores on the way back home, and I found a few cute little souvenirs. In one of the stores, the clerk was telling a story in an embellished southern accent to another customer. For my peeps from the south - don't worry. Most Minnesotans never make fun of your accents to your face.
The final leg of our journey north was less scenic as we had to drive through farm country. I sat in the back and let my other friend drive for a while. The radio was getting statically, so we fiddled with it until we found a solid station. It was a woman singing, but not in English. I sat up in the back seat and said: "That's Norwegian!" Sure enough, when the song ended, the radio announcer thanked us for listening to Norwegian folk music. There's a lot of Norwegian immigrant descendants in Minnesota, but you don't often hear stuff like that in the cities.
Not long after, my two friends (for some reason I was excluded) got a automatic message on their phones. It was something along the lines of "Welcome to Canada! Texting is free here!" A brief moment of panic ensued as we thought we had accidently crossed the border and committed a felony. But Google Maps reassured us we were still in Minnesota, and I'm sure we never crossed the border any time during the stay. IDK.
We checked in, unloaded the car, got our cold food into the fridge, and then headed to the lodge for dinner. We sat between windows that looked out to a wide expanse of water, a map of the Lake of the Woods area on the wall, and a old fisherman statue in a yellow jacket with a pelican. The walls and rafters were covered in taxidermy animal decoration (including trophy fish probably caught in the lake). There was also a bar, and fishing conversation all around us. As far as the meal itself, I kind of drew the short end. There's plenty of choices: burgers, sandwiches, chicken. For some reason I went with the minced stake that tasted like dry meatloaf, and a side of wild rice. I usually eat wild rice in soup, and I learned the hard way that eating it plain kind of sucks. It has a very strong flavor that I suppose you either love or hate. One cool option the restaurant has is cooking the 'Catch of the Day'. If you had a successful fishing trip, you can bring in your fillets and have them professionally cooked and served to you. I kind of wish I used this option.
After dinner, the place looked a lot like it does in the picture above. It was sundown, and a little chilly. We walked along the shore and the rock walls, watching the pelicans and seagulls. When we got back to the cabin, it was Netflix time. I accidently got my friends addicted to a new show on Netflix, Ragnarok. The show takes place in Norway, following a small family that returns to a small town. After an odd encounter when an elderly gentlemen, the eldest son, Magne, discovers he has strange abilities, like super speed and strength. The town they live in, Edda, is home to Jutul Industries, a company run by a wealthy family who seem to run the entire town, including the school. As time goes by, Magne and his brother start to realize strange things are happening in Edda, with the Jutul's at the center of it. The show is a drama, with a bit of action and some comedy. Two seasons are currently on Netflix, and I encourage anyone with an interest in Norse Mythology to give it a look! We also watched Norsemen, which is, summed up - "Game of Thrones meets The Office". For clarification, it's mature themes, violence, and imagery, loaded with satire about the Vikings and Medieval society. To finish off the night, one of my friends watched to watch a horror movie, so we went with Hush. It was a great thriller about a deaf women who lives alone in her house in the woods, becoming the next target of a serial killer. Lots of suspense with a clever heroine at it's center. Although, I was a little disappointed because the killer had no motivations other than killing for fun/sport. I understand that's how some serial killers work, but he went through so much trouble to try and get this girl who kept escaping.
Next morning, despite our late movie night, I was up early to make myself a birthday breakfast of pancakes and eggs. The eggs came out horribly, and we had forgotten to bring syrup, but the important thing was we ate something. The morning was cold, so we asked the charter if we could head out at noon, when the sun came out. We all bundled up in multiple layers, although it wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be. Our captain didn't say much, but he seemed nice. We went far out beyond the bay, to a spot where a lot of other fishing boats were gathered. We started jigging along the bottom with minnows and leached (I know how that sentence sounds but I have no idea how to rephrase it). For those who don't know: jigging is a fishing term for using a jig, like the photo below. You attach your bait to the hook, let it sink all the way to the bottom, and then slowly drag it back. The jig bounces and jerks, enticing a fish to bite.
I think our guide caught the first fish - a sauger. At the end of the day, we all ended up catching fish. My one and only catch was a sauger too small to keep, but it was still fun to wrestle. One of my friends caught their first walleye. It was a pretty big one, too. When I asked them if it was fun reeling it up, they replied "no, it was terrifying." My other friend also caught a keeper walleye, as well a small fish barely bigger than the bait that she hadn't even realized had bitten. I think I came close to catching a big walleye (brace yourselves for my one that got away story). It almost felt like a snag - something caught my hook and then didn't move. The anchor was down at the front of the ship, so the back where we were fishing off of swung back and forth. I felt the tug, my pole bent, and I started reeling, but I didn't feel any sort of movement. The guide came up ready with a net, but then the line went slack again. When I reeled up I was missing my bait. I would confidently right this off as a snag that ripped the bait off the hook, but the thing it: I never caught on anything again. No weeds. No sticks. No rocks. And we stayed in the same place. Think what you want, but that is suspicious.
We returned to shore around five with a cooler full of fish. Our guide filleted them for us, and delved a (literal) bag of fish to our cabin. I was a little disappointed, because part of the joy for fishing for me is getting hands-on with the fish I get. Picking them up from the next, removing the hook, and then admiring them for a big before placing them back in the water or in the live-well. Our guide didn't even ask if we wanted pictures with them, or if we were alright netting ourselves. It might have been a policy of the resort, that guides had to handle the fish to limit accidental releases or miss-handling. But I'm sad my friend with the trophy catch didn't get a picture.
We put the fish in the fridge and drove to the nearest town (20mins away) for some supplies. They wanted to bake a cake for me, and I needed a pair of tongs to fry the fish. I knew it would have been easier to give the fish to the restaurant to cook, but I wanted to do something myself, and I'd fried fillets before. I was confident. Until the oil started smoking. Since it was a gas stove (open flame) it was tough to regulate the temperature of the oil. I kept having to turn it on and off, and I ended up trying to cook too much of the fish at once. But, they turned out mostly cooked, no one choked on bones, and the cabin did not catch fire. I'd call that I win.
That night we watched more Netflix, and in the morning, we packed our stuff back up and headed home. It was a great trip, and a great birthday to spend with friends! I recommend this resort for anyone with a love for fishing with lots of friends to share the adventure with. Be warned: there's not much else to do. In the summer it may be warm enough to go for a swim, or if you have your own boat, you can use the boat launch. Just remember to be safe, and try not to accidently invade Canada! You can watch Netflix, or bring card/board games to pass the time! There is not much to explore besides the shore. Did I mention every cabin has it's own grill, fire, and picnic table?