We fulfilled a lifelong dream 18 years ago and bought a small vintage log cabin on Balsam Lake, just across the border in northwestern Wisconsin.
Filled with knotty pine and warmed by a stone fireplace, it was the perfect place to raise our children. But down at the water’s edge there was something we loved even more: an original boathouse with guest quarters. Ringed by tall windows, and lined with more knotty pine, the boathouse even has a tiny bathroom. It’s a rare site on Minnesota lakes, but as with beer and bottle rockets, our neighbors to the east are just a bit more relaxed with their rule books.
When you sleep in a boathouse you don’t just feel like you’re next to the water; you feel as if you are actually floating on it. After the loons end their evening serenade, the lapping water lulls you to sleep. You hear every splash from a jumping fish. To heck with modesty: We encourage our guests to never close the shades, lest they miss the expanse of stars above or, better yet, the occasional northern lights. And there’s no need to stop at the border fireworks stores when seemingly every weekend night features a different blazing rocket display from one cabin or another across the lake.
If the loons don’t wake our guests, our morning ritual will. In the bottom of the boathouse is a small, antique wooden speedboat. And there is no better time to enjoy its gleaming mahogany goodness than in the early morning when the lake imitates glass. When that vintage flathead motor burbles to life, and we roar off across the bay, it’s time to wake, grab a cup of coffee, park yourself in an Adirondack chair on the dock, and wait for your turn for a thrill ride, knowing you just had one of the best sleeps of your life.
But the best show in this lakeside theater happens in the fall when the trees explode in color, the sunrises and sunsets become noticeably more intense, and seemingly everyone is back in the city. We extend the boathouse season as long as we can, with a stack of wool blankets at the ready, waiting to winterize the woody until we’ve squeezed out every last weekend on the water. And come winter, well, we’re always tempted to add a few more blankets and spend the night just to say we did.
Bruce Bildsten, minneapolis