My family’s cabin story started back in the 1930s when my grandparents, Duane and Bert Abrahamson, drove up to northeastern Minnesota from Bloomer, Wis., looking for a good place to fish.
They ended up stopping at Balsam Grove Resort on Poplar Lake on the Gunflint Trail, which was owned by Carl Brandt and his wife, Alis. That one fishing trip turned into many trips Up North each summer and a generations-long friendship with the Brandt family. As Alis said many years later, “They came to fish but turned into family.”
My dad, Pete Abrahamson, spent a lot of time up at the resort as a kid with the Brandts’ three boys, Paul, Jerome and Carl Jr. In the 1960s, Carl Jr. and his wife took over the resort and renamed it The Nor’wester.
That’s how I remember the resort when my parents took all of us kids Up North for those magical weeks of swimming in the ice-cold lake, jumping from one big rock to the next along the lakeshore until all of our shoes were wet, and the occasional treat of going fishing with the grown-ups.
Those weeks usually included my aunt, uncle and cousins and my dad’s business partner and his family. The kids outnumbered the adults four to one. One weekend, in a move to preserve their sanity, the adults put eight girls from the three families in one cabin for the weekend. Unfortunately, a bat was also staying in the cabin and the peace our parents had envisioned was shattered when we all ran from it screaming.
Fast forward to 1985 when my dad struck a deal with Carl Jr., and built his own cabin near the resort. Relatives and friends spent long weekends working on the place, and before it was enclosed, they slept in the backs of their pickup trucks or in an old bus my dad had converted. (My husband fondly recalls spending a sleepless weekend in the back of a truck being practically eaten alive by the “no see ’ems.”)
Drilling a deep enough well in the rocky ground at the new cabin was a problem. We spent a weekend there after the cabin was enclosed, but before the water problem was solved. After a couple of days without a shower, my sister and I were feeling pretty grungy. A thunderstorm popped up, and rain water poured off the pitched roof. My dad looked outside and a light bulb lighted over his head. He said, “There’s your shower, girls!” My sister and I stood on the front deck in our swimsuits and lathered up in the cold rain, and that was the beginning of my father’s cistern system.
My parents are in their 80s now, but still spend many weeks up at the cabin over the summer. They usually aren’t alone, what with six kids and 17 grandchildren, but they wouldn’t have it any other way!
Lisa Zwiefelhofer, Hudson, Wis.