Christmas morning. We all gathered around the wood-burning stove for our “Secret Pirate” gift exchange. Santa couldn’t make it to Ely, but the pirates did. Gifts were opened: a climbing grip exerciser, some sock yarn, an emergency bivy sack. Then we all suited up and went out skiing for the day.
Maybe not a super traditional way to spend the holiday, but it worked. My husband, a few friends, and I spent a few days in a rustic cabin just east of Ely, in northern Minnesota. It was fairly remote, and the cars went a full 5 days without moving from their place. Cell phones didn’t work and there was no internet.
The cabin was nice. In this case, rustic meant no running water and a wood-burning stove for heat. The outhouse was equipped with an insulated seat and looked out on a beautiful view of the snow-covered woods. We pumped our own water from somewhere underground where things weren’t frozen, and dumped our grey water from dishes back out into the woods.
It was a lovely way to spend a week. Temps were cold and crisp. Snow was abundant. We broke trail with our skis to the lakes nearby and through portages to more lakes. Sometimes everyone would go out, sometimes we’d break up into smaller groups. By the third day our trails were well established and easy to ski on, so it got more fun as we went!
Every day we watched the thermometer on the deck. It felt a bit like an adventure to see how well we could keep ourselves warm skiing when it read 0F, -10F, -15F. Turns out that as long as you keep moving, it’s not that hard. And starting out with warm things hung by the fire doesn’t hurt either.
The cabin was situated on a little pond, frozen over like all of the lakes. On a particularly clear day, we went out onto our little pond and launched rockets that Seth and I had built. Seth’s rocket was a smashing success. We got 7 or 8 launches out of it. Mine, not so much. Two parachutes melted and the rocket made a crash landing back onto the thick snow. The rocket that worked though? Awesome. I’ve never shot model rockets before. It was fun, and we couldn’t have had a more gorgeous day for it.
So, we skied, snowshoed, launched rockets, ate good food, and drank whiskey. We read books, knitted hats and dishcloths, talked, played euchre, stoked the fire, and generally enjoyed the silence and remoteness of where we were. A lovely way to spend the holiday.