Into The Wild
If you’ve been spending more time recharging your smartphone than your own internal batteries, heed the call of the wild and disconnect your mental USB cord. Load up your Denali with a lively bunch of fellow voyageurs, a case or two of Molson or Labatt’s, and a deck of cards, and head up north for a well-deserved weekend in the pristine wilderness.
Wiley Point Wilderness Lodge
If you’ve got walleye (and muskie, northern, lake trout, crappies, perch, and sturgeon) on your mind, set your GPS for Lake of the Woods, self-proclaimed “walleye capital of the world.” Within seven hours of the Twin Cities you’ll be at Wiley Point, a family-owned five-star destination fishing lodge on the northwest side of the lake. Settle into the luxurious lodge or one of the comfortable cabins and take to the lake with your guide. According to local lore, women tend to outfish the men, due to their innate sensitivity (and willingness to listen to their guide). After returning with 22-inch walleye, 50-inch muskie, and other trophies, stretch out in the exercise room or relax in the hot tub. After cocktails and dinner, play a round of BS poker, supposedly invented at Wiley Point, where players lie as shamelessly about their cards as the fish that got away. Sister resorts Totem Lodge and Yellowbird, both about 30 miles from Wiley Point, offer equally luxurious experiences for families, couples, weddings, corporate groups, and other events. Lodging and fishing for four people, based on three nights/two days, from $625 per person. Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada, 800-66-TOTEM, totemresorts.com
One of the four major lakes in the 218,000-acre Voyageurs National Park, Rainy Lake covers 212,000 acres. About 300 miles from the Twin Cities, Thunderbird Lodge is located just beyond the park’s entrance. Set up camp in one of the private cabins and hire one of the local fishing guides. After you enjoy the morning catching walleye, your guide will clean, filet, cook, and serve your catch for a classic shore lunch. After returning to the marina, you can relax in the lounge with fellow anglers, a flat-screen TV, and a jukebox, then savor a hearty dinner of walleye almondine, steak Oscar, or other specialties. On your way back to the Twin Cities, stop at the Bronko Nagurski Museum in International Falls and pay your respects to the NFL legend and this town’s most famous native son. Lodging for four from $310 per night, fishing guide for four from $500 a day. International Falls, 800-351-5133, thunderbirdrainylake.com
An easy four-hour drive from the Twin Cities, Crane Lake is the southern entrance to Voyageurs National Park and the western gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Since 1931, Nelson’s Resort on Crane Lake has been a destination for anglers, boaters, and families who appreciate the rustic, comfortable cabins on the water’s edge, hearty meals, (including the legendary Scandinavian smorgasbord), and excellent fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, and muskie. When it rains, the tough still go fishing, while the less obsessed seize the opportunity to relax in the sauna, the game room, or the library. Three nights’ lodging, meals, boat, and guide (gas and bait extra) from $743 a person. Crane Lake, 218-993-2295, nelsonsresort.com
For the ultimate escape, head to Thunder Bay, Ontario, 10 hours from the Twin Cities, and climb aboard a vintage de Havilland Otter or Beaver float plane. The pilot will drop you off on a remote island with your own log cabin and no other human beings, or transport you to one of five rustic lodges, complete with staff to prepare your meals, fuel your boat, clean your fish, and tidy your cabin. Amidst the boreal forest with more black bears than people, you’ll spend long, quiet days with a local Native American fishing guide who’ll show you where to find 52-inch northern pike, 22-inch walleye, 24-inch brook trout, and other Canada-sized trophies. After dinner, celebrate with a glass of scotch and a cigar, and bet the price of the trip on a round of Texas Hold’em. Airfare and four nights’ lodging in an outpost cabin from $1,150 per person; in a lodge from $1,750 per person. Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, 888-465-3474, wildernessnorth.com