left, Etienne, 8, and Olivier Testa, 10, of Edina,
watch as Pehrson Lodge Resort owner Eric Hanson pull
down the sail of an A Scow sailboat after an
afternoon outing on Lake Vermilion on Wednesday,
Aug. 23, 2017..
across northern Minnesotaís Lake Vermilion on a sleek,
deluxe racing sailboat known as an A-scow is like any
other lake-sailing experience ó only with the adrenaline
cranked up to 10.
group of four friends, along with 4-year-old twin girls,
were seated on the starboard deck of Pehrson Lodge Resortís
fearsome 38-foot flagship, dubbed the Sabre Jet. Resort
co-owner Eric Hanson was our captain, manning the double
tiller near the stern.
get ready to tack," Hanson ordered.
we responded in unison, as the big scow turned through the
west wind. I was in the front of the shallow cockpit, on
bilgeboard duty. I uncleated one rope, ducked low under
the swinging boom and furiously yanked on another rope to
control the lifting foils. Beside me, my friend Peter did
a similar dance with the headsail.
had been a mild offshore breeze when Iíd stepped out on
Pehrsonís quiet dock that day, but the Sabre Jet really
ripped. Then came the big moment: The scow began to heel
to one side, its mainsail dipping toward the water. We
secured our feet and hiked our upper bodies out over the
lake. I felt the burn in my abs. My college friend Liz
expertly hung onto both of her and Peterís twins, Opal
and Liesl, their legs dangling in the wind.
wanted to gaze at all the rocky islands whipping by in
Vermilionís Head of the Lakes Bay, but I had to mind my
ropes. I glanced back at my girlfriend, Sabrina, who wore
a wide-eyed "What have I gotten myself into?"
expression. The life-jacketed twins, already seasoned
sailors, seemed nonplused.
a classic late-summer getaway up north, I had wanted a
little extra: to take sailing to the next level beyond my
two years of learning on the 16-foot "MC" scows
on Lake Harriet with the Twin Cities Sailing Club. But
first, I needed to enlist friends as cabinmates and
crewmates. Conveniently, Peter, a veteran racer with the
Twin Cities club, already had crewing an A-scow on his
bucket list. When I told him the A-scow is the largest of
Pehrson Lodgeís fleet of sailing vessels that guests can
enjoy ó perhaps a unique amenity among Minnesota lake
resorts ó his whole family was in.
"A" is also a uniquely Upper Midwestern
phenomenon. The model was invented in White Bear Lake in
1900 for inland lake racing and is almost exclusively
found on big lakes from Minnetonka to Winnebago. Under
optimal conditions, it can hit 25 or 30 knots or even
more. Itís even the subject of an online documentary
called "The Ultimate Ride."
told us he grew up sailing in Wisconsin and went on to a
career with summer camps in Maine. When he and spouse Mary
Hanson went looking to purchase a camp closer to home, the
century-old Pehrson Lodge, near tiny Cook, Minn., became
available in 1997. Their family has grown up there ever
since ó as has their family-friendly resort, with 28
cabins and townhouses and a new waterfront lodge opening
this summer, with a library, exercise room and expansive
Hansons clearly bring their summer-camp philosophy to
their resort, with organized daily "Camp Twain"
activities for kids, a sandy beach and swimming area,
water-skiing lessons and a motley assortment of kayaks,
paddleboats and sailboards. With some experience or a
lesson, you might also sail a smaller MC scow, or a
catamaran, or a pint-size Sunfish. For the water-averse,
hiking trails reach into the woods, where berry-picking
and bird-watching are encouraged.
helps that Pehrson Lodge is in the western corner of
mysterious Lake Vermilion near Minnesotaís Iron Range
ó the fifth-largest lake within the state, but so full
of inlets, straits, bays, 365 islands and islets and a
state-topping approximately 300 miles of shoreline that it
could take weeks or years to explore it all.
our short stay was subject to the all-too-frequent
heartbreaks of sailing: Day 2 was too wet, and Day 3 was
actually too windy. The good news was that the resort has
plenty to offer for friends and families, even on off
cabin, Chickadee, was a two-story, two-bedroom sanctuary,
with wood-paneled everything and the requisite North Woods
log furniture. (Next time Iíll try to nab one of the
"point cabins," perched directly above the water
on a secluded peninsula.) One evening, Peter grilled
steaks on the patio. On another, we borrowed board games
and magazines from the lodge. The twinsí favorite
amenity was the alcove under the stairs, which served as a
perfect hiding place for reading.
was banned from the hiding place, but during the girlsí
bedtime on Sunday, my girlfriend and I sneaked out and
headed down a county road to the Crescent Bar & Grill,
a quintessential country bar with pool tables, onion
rings, a couple of craft beers on tap and the late Packers
game on TV. We followed that up with stargazing under the
inky night sky.
STORY CAN END HERE)
by the weather on our last full day, we decided to make up
for it with a more traditional resort activity: renting a
pontoon boat. This gave me the chance to see Lake
Vermilionís features at a slower pace. Up on the Range,
labyrinthine Vermilion is more jagged and rocky than the
sandy-bottomed Minnesota lakes Iím used to, with
countless cul de sacs to discover.
Eric Hansonís suggestion, we puttered through a long set
of narrows toward a hard-to-find picnic site on the
remote, northern Black Bay. "Weíve discovered
Canada!" I announced, although we were still 40 miles
south of the border. The cold wind tore across the point,
so we roasted our marshmallows quickly and took shelter on
the leeward side of the piney woods. The twins took off on
spongy ground in search of red-topped mushrooms and
"fairy houses" hidden among the roots of trees.
the way back, I took the helm and circled several large
and small islands, gawking at ones that appeared to be
dream private isles with little hermit cabins. Thatís
when I steered into a potential hazard that I wasnít
accustomed to with southern lakes: a narrow channel with
giant boulders visible in the water. After one or two
close calls, we made it back to the resort, pontoons
we left for home the next morning, I felt invigorated by
the short trip, but most of my Lake Vermilion to-do list
remained. Thatís why Vermilion ó and Pehrsonís ó
may very well become a new personal tradition.
2746 Vermilion Dr., Cook, Minn.
Cabins $200-$800 daily and $960-$4,800 weekly; discounts
through June 1 and Aug. 25-Oct. 15.
Water sports, sailing, water-skiing, fishing boat rentals,
beach, library, game room, internet, childrenís camp
1-218-666-5478 or pehrsonlodge.com.