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Cabin 9

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Cayla as a child with a fish she caught

It’s funny, but when I say I grew up fishing, the bulk of that occurred over a one-week period at a rental cabin near Brainerd, Minn.

As we got older, there was an annual Memorial Day Canada fly-in with Mom and uncles and sometimes Dad would take us on quick weekend camping trips to Mille Lacs.

But I think often of Cabin 9 at Pine Terrace Resort and how for only being there seven out of 365 days, so many of my core childhood memories happened there.

It was always the week after school got out, so for us Minnesotans it usually fell around mid-June.

I’m sure part of it was just the nostalgia of being a kid with no responsibilities, but it just felt like a whole week where we could fish to our heart’s content, partake in a few rounds of miniature golf, swim, take shopping trips to town, eat too much ice cream and play pool in the rec building if it was raining.

Every night, no matter how late we were out fishing, Grandma and Grandpa were up waiting to play Rummy Royal when we got back.

Cayla as a child on a swing

We stayed up past bedtime snacking and were up early to grab some of the local donuts and hit the lake again.

We’d call when we were on our way home for lunch and Grandma would get the “macaronis” going.

I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but in my memory, it seems like we were always happy.

Of course, today I realize that’s probably because there were adults planning it all, paying for it, and doing all the work behind the scenes.

Life was good.

We’d usually fish the big lake in the morning on the “real boat” but then often afternoons were when Jake and I would paddle around in kayaks, him leaving me in his wake.

Or when Jake turned 12, he was allowed to take out the little boat with a stern-mounted trolling motor if he stayed in sight of the cabin.

And once a week, we walked down to the clipboard and sign out a boat for Beaver Lake, a 20-acre lake the resort had private access to and left two boats on a dock for guests to use.

Caylan's brother as a child getting into a boat

Dad would lug a trolling motor and battery down the grassy path (which was always ridden with mosquitos on the walk out) and we’d cast our Texas rigs for what we presumed to be world-class largemouth bass.

The panfish would slowly pile up in the fish basket at the end of the dock as the week went on.

Some of the small ones, deemed “Charlie Brown’s” by Grandma, would be covertly released by Dad when the time came for the fish fry.

Dad, Jake and Grandpa would head down to the resort’s fish cleaning station to do the dirty work.

Dad would do a standard fillet, while Grandma and Grandpa preferred to keep the skin on and scrub the scales off.

In those days I had little interest in the process and could usually be found far away trying not to smell or think about the demise of my fish.

Throughout the week, the woods and water would be buzzing.

We’d see turtles laying eggs on the side of the little gravel road to the cabin, loon babies riding their mom’s backs, lady slippers blooming, dragonflies emerging and sunfish spawning.

The family on the steps of a cabin

Sometimes, still to this day when I can’t sleep, I try to picture myself in the cabin’s twin bed, window open as a summer thunderstorm rolled in or the crickets and loons serenaded me to sleep.

No worries in the world and nothing but another day of adventures when I woke.

Mostly I write this because it’s about that time of year.

Sadly, we lost grandpa since last June, and as I navigate motherhood, I hope so badly to create those kinds of memories for Fischer.

I don’t think Cabin 9 is in his future, although a nostalgic trip back would be special, but Mom has since purchased a cabin not too far from the area and perhaps little Fisch too can grow up with carefree core memories of Minnesota cabin life – a truly special experience unique to the land of 10,000 lakes, and undoubtedly influential in who I became, even in just seven days a year.

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