Write On: Deer Lake, Minnesota
October 3, 2020
by Skylar Thingvold, CollegeEnglish 11, Mrs. Didrikson
The tall, skinny trees surrounding the winding lakeside road welcome us as we arrive at the wooden cabin hidden at the top of a hill away from everyone else. The smell of pine fills the air as we step out of the car and the chipmunks and birds greet us with noisy chatter. I walk into the cabin and the familiar sound of the creaky screen door slams behind me. A second later the big picture window in the living room reveals the green-blue lake peeking through the lanky pine trees while the sun stays high in the sky even at six o'clock at night. We are the first to arrive at the cabin, we unpack and get situated into our rooms while we impatiently wait for everyone else to arrive. The kids get the loft upstairs and all the parents have their rooms downstairs. Once everyone arrives we are ready to start our annual family lake vacation.
The summer sun beats through the white linen curtains onto the old hardwood floors. The warm breeze flows through the open window along with the sounds of the birds and squirrels. The coffee is brewing on the counter in the kitchen, the gurgling sound of the pot prepares me for the smell wafting through the cabin and into all the bedrooms. I crawl out of bed reluctant to go for my daily run. I quietly sneak downstairs careful not to wake my cousins, I am always the first to wake up on vacation. I sit outside with my mom, aunt, and grandma and we admire the sun reflecting off the glass-like water just down the hill as we plan for the day to come. I get up off the wooden and worn Adirondack chair and begin my morning run along the lake road we drove down last night. When I get to the public beach I know I have run two miles, I turn around and pick up the pace so I can quickly make it back to the cabin to cool off with a big leap into the crystal clear lake. On my way back I appreciate all of the nature surrounding me. The thin pine trees allow me to catch glimpses of the two lakes - Deer Lake to my left and Moose Lake to the right. The run to the top of the hill where the cabin is perched is the part I dread most. After I make it all the way up my grandma cheers me on like I am finishing a marathon. I run down the wooden steps onto the dock and straight into the cool water without hesitation. After my cool down I head up the steep hill lined with wooden blocks we use as steps, I stop halfway at the hammock and relax until breakfast is ready. The loons sing while a painted turtle makes her way up the hill to lay her eggs. The chipmunks scutter across the steps while I watch pontoons as they cruise by, with passengers riding along while chatting on their "coffee cruises". I head up the stairs to the cabin where my dad is outside frying bacon on his portable green Coleman stove. We sit at the gray wood picnic table to enjoy the view, and the meal and plan out our day some more.
After breakfast, I change into my swimming suit and head down to the docks and layout on the back of the white and blue pontoon to perfect my tan. Evy and all my other younger cousins come running down the long and shaky wood dock, they grab their fishing rods with tiny hooks and put corn on them to try to catch some of the sunfish hiding under the dock and boats. The adults always take their sweet time while getting down to the dock and we very anxiously wait to get into the boat so we can enjoy the hot summer day in the crystal water. Hayden and I are the oldest cousins so we take the speedboat with some of the other older cousins out while the adults and younger kids pile into the pontoon. Our first stop is Mermaid Rock, a beach with a large rock sticking out of the water off the edge of the beach like in The Little Mermaid. When we were younger my twin cousins and I would fight over which one of us got to pretend to be a mermaid first. Mermaid Rock is not far from Bear Island - an island shaped like a bear, but it is also rumored to also have black bears living there. It is a large island where many people beach their boats and sometimes hike the hills through the trees. My favorite was always to swim really far out into the lake and race my brother back to the red and white speedboat. I often scared him by saying there are muskies under him and they are going to nibble on his toes but instead that made him go faster. Now I usually chill on the back of the pontoon. But when the beers-bee poles come out I jump straight into the water. Hayden and I have always been the reigning champions - maybe because we are the only sober ones who know how to play!
After chilling at the beaches we decided to go grab the skis and the kneeboard. My favorite is kneeboarding, I first learned at our family friend's lake. Now at Deer Lake, we go two at a time which is a lot of fun. We attempt high fives and spins together with the occasional wipeout. When I am by myself I try jumps and spins, but sometimes they do not always go according to plan and I usually end up face planting into the water, but I guess practice makes perfect. I'm not that great at skiing but my dad is pretty good and can make it a good show. He makes it fun to watch him wiggle in and out of the wake and spray the docks of some of the people we know. But the most extreme sport we all love participating in is... tubing!
Tubing is the most exhilarating part of the trip. I am convinced that my dad's main purpose in life is to make us fear for our lives while we are on that tube. One summer Hayden and I convinced my dad to take us out. It was a gray, cloudy, windy day and looked like it would rain soon, but I convinced my dad to take us out just before the rain started. He was going pretty easy on us for the first part. We had a few wipeouts from the boat wake when he would drive into it. But, as we were coming back we were headed in a straight line for the cabin when all of a sudden we hit a wave and a gust of wind caught us from under the tube and we hung on for dear life, but that wind threw us straight up ten feet into the air. I remember watching Hayden fall off the tube and splash into the water while I still hung on. Unfortunately for me, I was still hanging on when the tube flipped on its way back down from the heavens and I was greeted with a hard whack on my back from the wake and the air flew out of me. When my dad came back around to pick us up he was laughing so hard while Hayden and I were struggling to get the air back into our lungs.
When we get back to the cabin the adults go up the hill to start making supper - ribs, and corn on the cob, the greatest lake food ever. Us kids stay down on the dock, some of us take the paddle boat, and our fishing rods out to the yellow and blue floating dock in the middle of the bay. We catch bass when we cast towards the weeds and a few walleyes too. Then, Bradyn was fighting up a fish that was very aggressive and was bending his rod in half, and right when it was at the surface we could see the four-foot muskie break the line with its sharp teeth and swim back down the deep dark water. We never see muskie in the bay, but the next day we saw what we think was the same muskie right next to the dock eating the sunfish we catch for fun.
We are called up when supper is ready, to set up the picnic table with fruit and vegetables and make sure to leave room for the big platters of ribs and corn. The BBQ sauce from the ribs is over everyone's faces and fingers. We start a fire and sit down after supper is all cleaned up. I bring out my guitar and started to play "Hallelujah" while my two cousins started singing the lyrics. We have been perfecting that performance for years and it has been everyone's favorite part of the night. I play more music and the chords echo across the panel of liquid glass at the bottom of the hill. We enjoy campfire stories and games while we roast marshmallows over the fire to make s'mores with caramel cubes, Reese's peanut butter cups, or Ghirardelli chocolate squares. Gourmet s'mores are Auntie Bonnie's specialty.
All of us play night games, light sparklers, and sometimes go for nighttime boat rides while the adults hang out and chat around the raging fire. Life could not get any better than spending time with your family at the greatest place on earth. One by one everyone retreats back to the beds they woke up refreshed in that morning so we can repeat it all again tomorrow. The crickets and the loons sing their lullabies for us as we all drift into dreams and still feel the rocking of the boats under our bodies.